Political, psychology, use of force, emotion, emotions, major uses of force, operational code, diction, president, presidential, speech, verbal analysis, content analysis, affect, affectual intelligence, emotional intelligence, aggression, passivity, blame, praise, decision, decision making, behavioral economics, foreign policy decision making, political psychology, state of the union, news conferences, news, conferences, debates, presidential debates, presidential debate, presidential news conferences, president's emotions, measuring emotion, measurement of emotion, quantify emotion, leadership traits, disposition, schemas, heuristics


The global context of decision making continues to adapt in response to international threats. Political psychologists have therefore considered decision making processes regarding major uses of force a key area of interest. Although presidential personality has been widely studied as a mitigating factor in the decision making patterns leading to uses of force, traditional theories have not accounted for the emotions of individuals as they affect political actions and are used to frame public perception of the use of force. This thesis therefore measures expressed emotion and cognitive expressions in the form of expressed aggression, passivity, blame, praise, certainty, realism, and optimism as a means of predicting subsequent major uses of force. Since aggression and blame are precipitated by anger and perceived vulnerability, they are theorized to foreshadow increased uses of force (Gardner and Moore 2008). Conversely, passivity and praise are indicative of empathy and joy respectively, and are not expected to precede aggressive behavior conducted to maintain emotional regulation (Roberton, Daffer, and Bucks 2012). Additionally, the three cognitive variables of interest expand on existing literature on beliefs and decision making expounded by such authors as Walker (2010), Winter (2003) and Hermann (2003). DICTION 6.0 is used to analyze all text data of presidential news conferences, candidate debates, and State of the Union speeches given between 1945 and 2000 stored by The American Presidency Project (Hart and Carroll 2012). Howell and Pevehouse's (2005) quantitative assessment of quarterly U.S. uses of force between 1945 and 2000 is employed as a means of quantifying instances of major uses of force. Results show systematic differences among the traits expressed by presidents, with most expressions staying consistent across spontaneous speech contexts. Additionally, State of the Union speeches consistently yielded the highest scores across the expressed traits measured; supporting the theory that prepared speech is used to emotionally frame situations and setup emotional interpretations of events to present to the public. Time sensitive regression analyses indicate that expressed aggression within the context of State of the Union Addresses is the only significant predictor of major uses of force by the administration. That being said, other studies may use the comparative findings presented herein to further establish a robust model of personality that accounts for individual dispositions toward emotional expression as a means of framing the emotional interpretation of events by audiences.


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Graduation Date





Houghton, David


Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Sciences


Political Science

Degree Program

Political Science; International Studies








Release Date

August 2019

Length of Campus-only Access

5 years

Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences; Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic