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Engaging the Surveillance System: Cognitive, Emotional, and Physiological Responses to Inappropriate Leader Displays
Unformatted Document Text:  Leader Displays 9 Because inappropriate displays constitute a type of nonverbal expectancies violation that invites closer scrutiny of the source and prompt deliberative cognitive processing resulting in increased thought-listing comments, they should elicit more attention and arousal than appropriate displays. As expected nonverbal communication that is routine and anticipated, appropriate displays should be unlikely to place such demands on cognitive capacity. Building on Gray’s (1987) theory of anxiety, Marcus, Neuman, & MacKuen (2000) describe two affective subsystems in the brain responsible for processing environmental stimuli, the disposition system and the surveillance system. The disposition system is implicated in learned routines that occur within familiar contexts and constitute an individual’s repertoire of habits. Events and stimuli that fall within the range of prior experience and meet normative expectations are processed by the disposition system largely outside of conscious awareness and elicit varying levels of enthusiasm. The surveillance system, on the other hand, is activated by novel circumstances or threatening environmental events that represent a mismatch between expected and observed events. When the surveillance system is engaged, habitual routines are suspended and attention shifts to the novel or threatening occurrence so that learning can take place. Heightened levels of anxiety are likely to ensue, “signaling that the moment has come to look for some new solution to novel environmental circumstances” (Marcus, Neuman, & MacKuen, 2000, p. 57). Indeed, many scholars have suggested that humans are hardwired to automatically attend to anxiety-eliciting stimuli owing to their survival relevance (e.g. Zajonc, 1984; Shoemaker, 1996). Given that inappropriate displays have been found to invite close scrutiny of the president’s nonverbal behavior, produce critical

Authors: Bucy, Erik. and Bradley, Samuel.
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Leader Displays 9
Because inappropriate displays constitute a type of nonverbal expectancies
violation that invites closer scrutiny of the source and prompt deliberative cognitive
processing resulting in increased thought-listing comments, they should elicit more
attention and arousal than appropriate displays. As expected nonverbal communication
that is routine and anticipated, appropriate displays should be unlikely to place such
demands on cognitive capacity. Building on Gray’s (1987) theory of anxiety, Marcus,
Neuman, & MacKuen (2000) describe two affective subsystems in the brain responsible
for processing environmental stimuli, the disposition system and the surveillance system.
The disposition system is implicated in learned routines that occur within familiar
contexts and constitute an individual’s repertoire of habits. Events and stimuli that fall
within the range of prior experience and meet normative expectations are processed by
the disposition system largely outside of conscious awareness and elicit varying levels of
enthusiasm.
The surveillance system, on the other hand, is activated by novel circumstances or
threatening environmental events that represent a mismatch between expected and
observed events. When the surveillance system is engaged, habitual routines are
suspended and attention shifts to the novel or threatening occurrence so that learning can
take place. Heightened levels of anxiety are likely to ensue, “signaling that the moment
has come to look for some new solution to novel environmental circumstances” (Marcus,
Neuman, & MacKuen, 2000, p. 57). Indeed, many scholars have suggested that humans
are hardwired to automatically attend to anxiety-eliciting stimuli owing to their survival
relevance (e.g. Zajonc, 1984; Shoemaker, 1996). Given that inappropriate displays have
been found to invite close scrutiny of the president’s nonverbal behavior, produce critical


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