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Exposure to Mediated Political Conflict: Effects of Civility of Interaction on Arousal and Memory
Unformatted Document Text:  2 Exposure to Mediated Political Conflict: Effects of Civility of Interaction on Arousal and Memory Abstract This paper presents results from two experiments about viewer reactions to televised political disagreement. The purpose was to examine arousal responses to politicians engaged in face-to-face political debate, and to examine whether production characteristics of televised portrayals alter memory after viewing. Using videotapes of political talk shows created expressly for these experiments, results showed that the less civil versions of the same exchange of political views created greater arousal in viewers as measured by skin conductance levels. Likewise, those who watched the talk show from a close-up camera perspective experienced greater arousal than those who watched the same exchanges shot from a medium camera distance. A second experiment focused on the consequences of heightened arousal for memory. Consistent with the literature on arousal, memory for the main emphasis of the exchange – the candidates’ differing issue positions – was enhanced by the highly arousing, uncivil presentations. But memory for details – the arguments underlying those same positions -- was suppressed by the highly arousing presentations. Although recall of issue arguments consistent with respondents’ own opinions was not affected by the civility of the exchange, subjects were less likely to recall the opposition’s arguments in the uncivil, as opposed to the civil, condition. We discuss the implications of these findings for the producers and consumers of political television.

Authors: Mutz, Diana., Reeves, Byron. and Wise, Kevin.
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Exposure to Mediated Political Conflict:
Effects of Civility of Interaction on Arousal and Memory
Abstract
This paper presents results from two experiments about viewer reactions to televised
political disagreement. The purpose was to examine arousal responses to politicians engaged in
face-to-face political debate, and to examine whether production characteristics of televised
portrayals alter memory after viewing. Using videotapes of political talk shows created
expressly for these experiments, results showed that the less civil versions of the same
exchange of political views created greater arousal in viewers as measured by skin
conductance levels. Likewise, those who watched the talk show from a close-up camera
perspective experienced greater arousal than those who watched the same exchanges shot
from a medium camera distance. A second experiment focused on the consequences of
heightened arousal for memory. Consistent with the literature on arousal, memory for the main
emphasis of the exchange – the candidates’ differing issue positions – was enhanced by the
highly arousing, uncivil presentations. But memory for details – the arguments underlying those
same positions -- was suppressed by the highly arousing presentations. Although recall of
issue arguments consistent with respondents’ own opinions was not affected by the civility of
the exchange, subjects were less likely to recall the opposition’s arguments in the uncivil, as
opposed to the civil, condition. We discuss the implications of these findings for the producers
and consumers of political television.


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