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Engaging the Surveillance System: Cognitive, Emotional, and Physiological Responses to Inappropriate Leader Displays
Unformatted Document Text:  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). Over the course of human evolution, facial displays have evolved to serve such socially functional purposes in face-to-face groups. With the rise of television as the dominant medium of political communication, the effects of expressive leader displays have arguably been augmented due to the widespread use of close-up camera technology, the tendency of news to focus on dramatic situations, and the aggregate size of the viewing audience (Masters, Frey, & Bente, 1991). Never before have leaders been in such frequent, and close-up, visual contact with followers. For viewers, televised displays of the president can serve as a heuristic, or judgmental shortcut, for assessing presidential performance (Bucy & Newhagen, 1999; Sullivan & Masters, 1994) and, by extension, the functioning of government. Compared to institutions and other political structures that are difficult to visualize, images of leaders “are easily recognized and function as effective information processing cues” (Masters, Frey, & Bente, 1991, p. 378). The power of evocative leader displays derives from the extraordinary sensitivity humans, beginning in infancy, show to differences in the facial behavior they observe (Babchuk, Hames, & Thompson, 1985). Research in cognitive neuroscience has found that once a facial image is presented, perception of that

Authors: Bucy, Erik. and Bradley, Samuel.
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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). Over the course of human evolution, facial displays have
evolved to serve such socially functional purposes in face-to-face groups. With the rise of
television as the dominant medium of political communication, the effects of expressive
leader displays have arguably been augmented due to the widespread use of close-up
camera technology, the tendency of news to focus on dramatic situations, and the
aggregate size of the viewing audience (Masters, Frey, & Bente, 1991). Never before
have leaders been in such frequent, and close-up, visual contact with followers.
For viewers, televised displays of the president can serve as a heuristic, or
judgmental shortcut, for assessing presidential performance (Bucy & Newhagen, 1999;
Sullivan & Masters, 1994) and, by extension, the functioning of government. Compared
to institutions and other political structures that are difficult to visualize, images of
leaders “are easily recognized and function as effective information processing cues”
(Masters, Frey, & Bente, 1991, p. 378). The power of evocative leader displays derives
from the extraordinary sensitivity humans, beginning in infancy, show to differences in
the facial behavior they observe (Babchuk, Hames, & Thompson, 1985). Research in
cognitive neuroscience has found that once a facial image is presented, perception of that


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