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Engaging the Surveillance System: Cognitive, Emotional, and Physiological Responses to Inappropriate Leader Displays

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Abstract:

This paper reports on an experiment designed to assess viewer responses to the nonverbal behavior of the president in the context of compelling news events. Subjects were shown a series of four news story-presidential reaction audio-visual sequences that varied by story topic, level of emotion, and degree of appropriateness. Cognitive, emotional, and physiological measures were used to assess subject responses to news story-presidential reaction message sequences, including heart rate, skin conductance, the Self-Assessment Manikin affect scale, recognition memory, and facial EMG (electromyography) indexing smile and frowning muscle activation. Results indicate that evaluations of the display’s appropriateness seems to moderate how much attention is given to the display, the affective direction of viewers’ facial muscle activation, and the level of autonomic activation, or arousal. The EMG data showed that viewers frowned in response to positive expressive displays that followed intense or positive news. Smiling activation correspondingly decreased for positive displays that followed intense news. These counterempathic results shed new light on the capacity of leader displays to influence viewers of political news. While much EMG and physiological research has focused on emotional congruent processes, e.g. positive reactions in response to positive facial displays, this study demonstrates the effects of incongruency in political display behavior. A political leader’s smile is no guarantee of a positive evaluation. If deemed inappropriate to the news context, negative consequences arise from what is viewed as a clear violation of nonverbal expectations. Recognition memory for verbal information in the news narrative also suffers such that encoding of factual knowledge is impaired. It is argued that leader displays that violate viewer expectations remain a likely source of voter doubt.

Most Common Document Word Stems:

display (152), news (102), emot (73), reaction (63), respons (62), leader (60), negat (55), intens (49), posit (47), imag (37), appropri (36), valenc (34), facial (34), activ (33), presidenti (30), viewer (30), express (29), communic (29), polit (29), p (27), report (27),

Author's Keywords:

inappropriate communication, leader expressive displays, nonverbal behavior, facial EMG
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MLA Citation:

Bucy, Erik. and Bradley, Samuel. "Engaging the Surveillance System: Cognitive, Emotional, and Physiological Responses to Inappropriate Leader Displays" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Marriott Hotel, San Diego, CA, May 27, 2003 <Not Available>. 2009-05-26 <http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p111536_index.html>

APA Citation:

Bucy, E. P. and Bradley, S. D. , 2003-05-27 "Engaging the Surveillance System: Cognitive, Emotional, and Physiological Responses to Inappropriate Leader Displays" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Marriott Hotel, San Diego, CA Online <.PDF>. 2009-05-26 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p111536_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: This paper reports on an experiment designed to assess viewer responses to the nonverbal behavior of the president in the context of compelling news events. Subjects were shown a series of four news story-presidential reaction audio-visual sequences that varied by story topic, level of emotion, and degree of appropriateness. Cognitive, emotional, and physiological measures were used to assess subject responses to news story-presidential reaction message sequences, including heart rate, skin conductance, the Self-Assessment Manikin affect scale, recognition memory, and facial EMG (electromyography) indexing smile and frowning muscle activation. Results indicate that evaluations of the display’s appropriateness seems to moderate how much attention is given to the display, the affective direction of viewers’ facial muscle activation, and the level of autonomic activation, or arousal. The EMG data showed that viewers frowned in response to positive expressive displays that followed intense or positive news. Smiling activation correspondingly decreased for positive displays that followed intense news. These counterempathic results shed new light on the capacity of leader displays to influence viewers of political news. While much EMG and physiological research has focused on emotional congruent processes, e.g. positive reactions in response to positive facial displays, this study demonstrates the effects of incongruency in political display behavior. A political leader’s smile is no guarantee of a positive evaluation. If deemed inappropriate to the news context, negative consequences arise from what is viewed as a clear violation of nonverbal expectations. Recognition memory for verbal information in the news narrative also suffers such that encoding of factual knowledge is impaired. It is argued that leader displays that violate viewer expectations remain a likely source of voter doubt.

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Document Type: .PDF
Page count: 28
Word count: 6955
Text sample:
Leader Displays 1 Engaging the Surveillance System: Cognitive Emotional and Physiological Responses to Inappropriate Leader Displays The human face is a potent vehicle for emotional communication that both expresses the affective state and behavioral intention of the communicator while conveying important social signals to observers. Thus a smiling face that projects feelings of happiness at the same time signals a social message of reassurance thereby discouraging aggressive or flight responses in others (Masters Sullivan Lanzetta McHugo & Englis 1986).
as a feature of communication competence. Appropriate communication according to this conceptualization avoids violating interpersonal rules of conduct and “abides by the contextually generated normative expectations of the conversants” (Cupach & Spitzberg 1983 p. 365). 4 Isolating Clinton’s nonverbal behavior provided greater experimental control than presenting both his image and voice. Research of President Reagan’s display behavior has shown that effects are stronger in image-only media conditions than when Reagan’s image was accompanied by his voice (McHugo et al.


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