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Engaging the Surveillance System: Cognitive, Emotional, and Physiological Responses to Inappropriate Leader Displays
Unformatted Document Text:  Leader Displays 6 between observed and expressed emotion. In the Dartmouth studies of viewer responses to President Reagan, contagion of self-reported emotion was significantly influenced by prior attitude: viewers who were cool toward Reagan reported negative feelings on a posttest paper-and-pencil instrument regardless of whether his expressions were positive or negative. 2 However, on a physiological level, these same viewers evidenced emotionally congruent responses as measured by facial EMG and skin conductance; their corrugator and zygomatic muscle activation literally “mirrored Reagan’s expressions” (McHugo, et al., 1985, pp. 1522-1523). Leader Appropriateness and Viewer Emotion Apart from conditioning studies conducted by psychologists, there has been little research on the influence of contextual factors in the evocation of counterempathic responses in viewers. One potentially influential contextual variable is communicator appropriateness. An important but overlooked aspect of political behavior, appropriateness is a situational communicative trait that can be manifested in the verbal and nonverbal communication of political leaders (Bucy, 2000). 3 Unlike personality traits, which are tendency focused and viewed as lasting psychological dispositions that motivate a person to behave in a certain way, situational traits such as appropriateness are event focused and surface in specific contexts such as conversations or, in the case of politics, debates, speeches, interviews, press conferences, or other interactions that may feature in political news coverage (see Cupach & Spitzberg, 1983). A previous study investigating the processing of President Clinton’s expressive reactions to compelling news events found that viewers assessed Clinton’s nonverbal behavior in terms of its emotional appropriateness (Bucy & Newhagen, 1999). Viewers

Authors: Bucy, Erik. and Bradley, Samuel.
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Leader Displays 6
between observed and expressed emotion. In the Dartmouth studies of viewer responses
to President Reagan, contagion of self-reported emotion was significantly influenced by
prior attitude: viewers who were cool toward Reagan reported negative feelings on a
posttest paper-and-pencil instrument regardless of whether his expressions were positive
or negative.
2
However, on a physiological level, these same viewers evidenced
emotionally congruent responses as measured by facial EMG and skin conductance; their
corrugator and zygomatic muscle activation literally “mirrored Reagan’s expressions”
(McHugo, et al., 1985, pp. 1522-1523).
Leader Appropriateness and Viewer Emotion
Apart from conditioning studies conducted by psychologists, there has been little
research on the influence of contextual factors in the evocation of counterempathic
responses in viewers. One potentially influential contextual variable is communicator
appropriateness. An important but overlooked aspect of political behavior,
appropriateness is a situational communicative trait that can be manifested in the verbal
and nonverbal communication of political leaders (Bucy, 2000).
3
Unlike personality
traits, which are tendency focused and viewed as lasting psychological dispositions that
motivate a person to behave in a certain way, situational traits such as appropriateness are
event focused and surface in specific contexts such as conversations or, in the case of
politics, debates, speeches, interviews, press conferences, or other interactions that may
feature in political news coverage (see Cupach & Spitzberg, 1983).
A previous study investigating the processing of President Clinton’s expressive
reactions to compelling news events found that viewers assessed Clinton’s nonverbal
behavior in terms of its emotional appropriateness (Bucy & Newhagen, 1999). Viewers


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