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Engaging the Surveillance System: Cognitive, Emotional, and Physiological Responses to Inappropriate Leader Displays
Unformatted Document Text:  Leader Displays 4 group of researchers at Dartmouth (McHugo, Lanzetta, Sullivan, Masters, & Englis, 1985). Consistent with ethological (animal behavior) theory, Reagan’s displays were categorized into three socially significant types: anger/threat, fear/evasion, and happiness/reassurance. Facial EMG results indicated smiling during the president’s hedonic, or happiness/reassurance displays, and frowning during his agonic, or anger/threat and fear/evasion displays. Changes in skin conductance, a measure of physiological arousal, showed the most activation during anger/threat displays and the least during happiness/reassurance displays. In other words, observing Reagan’s smile led to autonomic relaxation on the part of the observer, a finding that Lanzetta et al. (1985) speculated might account for Reagan’s reputation as the “Teflon president” to whom no devastating criticism could stick. Notably, this pattern of findings was consistent regardless of how warm or cold subjects felt toward the president, as assessed by a feeling thermometer rating scale. 1 Interestingly, facial muscle activation was greater for the image-only media condition than when Reagan’s image was accompanied by his voice, a finding perhaps explained by the neuroscientific evidence pointing to the specialized processing that facial images undergo and the fact that in image-only media conditions no other input reaches the limbic system (Masters, 2001). Counterempathic Responses Despite the biological predisposition to recognize and respond analogously to facial expressions, not all reactions to expressive displays are emotionally congruent. Some may be incongruent, or at odds with the emotion being displayed. Such counterempathic responses are the result of a discordance between a model’s and observer’s emotional responses (Englis, Vaughan, & Lanzetta, 1982). Both contextual

Authors: Bucy, Erik. and Bradley, Samuel.
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Leader Displays 4
group of researchers at Dartmouth (McHugo, Lanzetta, Sullivan, Masters, & Englis,
1985). Consistent with ethological (animal behavior) theory, Reagan’s displays were
categorized into three socially significant types: anger/threat, fear/evasion, and
happiness/reassurance. Facial EMG results indicated smiling during the president’s
hedonic, or happiness/reassurance displays, and frowning during his agonic, or
anger/threat and fear/evasion displays. Changes in skin conductance, a measure of
physiological arousal, showed the most activation during anger/threat displays and the
least during happiness/reassurance displays. In other words, observing Reagan’s smile led
to autonomic relaxation on the part of the observer, a finding that Lanzetta et al. (1985)
speculated might account for Reagan’s reputation as the “Teflon president” to whom no
devastating criticism could stick. Notably, this pattern of findings was consistent
regardless of how warm or cold subjects felt toward the president, as assessed by a
feeling thermometer rating scale.
1
Interestingly, facial muscle activation was greater for
the image-only media condition than when Reagan’s image was accompanied by his
voice, a finding perhaps explained by the neuroscientific evidence pointing to the
specialized processing that facial images undergo and the fact that in image-only media
conditions no other input reaches the limbic system (Masters, 2001).
Counterempathic Responses
Despite the biological predisposition to recognize and respond analogously to
facial expressions, not all reactions to expressive displays are emotionally congruent.
Some may be incongruent, or at odds with the emotion being displayed. Such
counterempathic responses are the result of a discordance between a model’s and
observer’s emotional responses (Englis, Vaughan, & Lanzetta, 1982). Both contextual


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