Visual primes and EU identity : designing experimental research

Cram, Laura and Patrikios, Stratos; Lynggaard, K. and Löfgren, K. and Manners, I., eds. (2015) Visual primes and EU identity : designing experimental research. In: Research Methods in European Union Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke. ISBN 9780230363052

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There has been considerable attention paid to the role of symbols in forging identification with and support for the European Union (Bruter 2003, 2009; Laffan 1996; Manners 2011; Mclaren 2006; Shore 2000). Detailed empirical analysis is still, however, required of the following: i) the extent to which such symbols carry implicit messages about European Union identity; ii) the type of messages that different symbols convey; iii) the effect that exposure to these symbols in different contexts might have on political preferences. The authors employed an experimental approach to establish the extent to which implicit visual reminders of EU membership, from images of ceremonial flags to more mundane, functional symbols (like passports and driving licences), prime particular - affective or instrumental - associations, and how these associations may shape EU-related attitudes. Our motivation came from Billig’s (1995: 59) observation that: 'no one asks how many stars and stripes the average American is likely to encounter in the course of the day. Nor what is the effect of all this flagging.' Our analysis sought to measure the effect of visual cues that prime the EU on attitudes to the European Union. This chapter discusses the theoretical puzzle addressed, the details of the research design, the contribution of this approach to our understanding of the nature and consequences of EU identity and potential further applications of this type of experimental approach in the field of EU studies.


Cram, Laura and Patrikios, Stratos ORCID logoORCID:; Lynggaard, K., Löfgren, K. and Manners, I.