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Exposure to Mediated Political Conflict: Effects of Civility of Interaction on Arousal and Memory
Unformatted Document Text:  7 emotional content of the interaction and away from the political content, less substance is recalled because viewers are unable to process, rehearse and store information in memory. Simple information, on the other hand, such as who was on which side of the issue, should be better recalled when those differences are dramatized with uncivil interactions. Methods Study Design. The central experimental manipulation in both studies was the extent to which politicians exchanged political viewpoints by violating typical norms governing face-to-face civil expression. In two experiments using adult subjects, we evaluated viewer responses to televised representations of oppositional political views presented in a laboratory setting. We examined two dimensions of presentations: (1) the extent of civility or politeness in expressions of differences, and (2) the extent of perceived interpersonal distance between the viewer and those expressing the views. We expected that the ways in which dissonant views are typically presented on television (uncivil exchanges with extensive use of close-ups) would work against their capacity to produce memory for details of the arguments, while improving memory for who stood where. For stimuli in both studies, actors were hired to play the roles of the two congressional candidates. A professional studio talk show set was used to tape a mock informal political debate. Subjects were told they were viewing two candidates running for the 5 th District seat in the state of Indiana. While seated around a common table, a moderator directed questions to the two candidates. The cover story was that Bob Lindzey and Neil Scott, the candidates for an open congressional seat, were invited to appear on "Indiana Week In Review" in order to familiarize potential voters with their positions. In order to present the same content in civil and uncivil versions of the debate, tele- prompters were used to insure that the actors stuck closely to a script. The script drew on arguments drawn from interest groups that were for and against eight different issues. The issues included increases in funding for NASA, free trade and fast-track authority for the president, Congressional action about internet privacy policy for consumers, the Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act, regulation of the tobacco industry, taxing retail sales on the internet, repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, and whether public service experience is important for congressional candidates. All of these issues had been in the news at the time of the taping and the experiments. Candidates were assigned to opposing sides on each of the issues. In order to avoid subject fatigue, only a subset of four of the eight issues was used in each experiment. Experiment 1 included disagreements on regulation of the tobacco industry, taxing sales on the internet, repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, and whether public service experience is important in Congressional elections. Experiment 2 used the exchanges about free trade, mental health insurance, internet privacy regulation, and NASA funding. Each issue exchange was edited so that it was roughly 5 minutes in length. Two versions of each exchange were recorded. The candidates expressed exactly the same issue positions in both versions, and offered exactly the same arguments in support of the positions. But in the civil version the candidates went to extremes to be polite to the opposition,

Authors: Mutz, Diana., Reeves, Byron. and Wise, Kevin.
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emotional content of the interaction and away from the political content, less substance is
recalled because viewers are unable to process, rehearse and store information in memory.
Simple information, on the other hand, such as who was on which side of the issue, should be
better recalled when those differences are dramatized with uncivil interactions.
Methods
Study Design. The central experimental manipulation in both studies was the extent to
which politicians exchanged political viewpoints by violating typical norms governing face-to-
face civil expression. In two experiments using adult subjects, we evaluated viewer responses
to televised representations of oppositional political views presented in a laboratory setting. We
examined two dimensions of presentations: (1) the extent of civility or politeness in expressions
of differences, and (2) the extent of perceived interpersonal distance between the viewer and
those expressing the views. We expected that the ways in which dissonant views are typically
presented on television (uncivil exchanges with extensive use of close-ups) would work against
their capacity to produce memory for details of the arguments, while improving memory for who
stood where.
For stimuli in both studies, actors were hired to play the roles of the two congressional
candidates. A professional studio talk show set was used to tape a mock informal political
debate. Subjects were told they were viewing two candidates running for the 5
th
District seat in
the state of Indiana. While seated around a common table, a moderator directed questions to
the two candidates. The cover story was that Bob Lindzey and Neil Scott, the candidates for an
open congressional seat, were invited to appear on "Indiana Week In Review" in order to
familiarize potential voters with their positions.
In order to present the same content in civil and uncivil versions of the debate, tele-
prompters were used to insure that the actors stuck closely to a script. The script drew on
arguments drawn from interest groups that were for and against eight different issues. The
issues included increases in funding for NASA, free trade and fast-track authority for the
president, Congressional action about internet privacy policy for consumers, the Mental Health
Equitable Treatment Act, regulation of the tobacco industry, taxing retail sales on the internet,
repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, and whether public service experience is important for
congressional candidates. All of these issues had been in the news at the time of the taping
and the experiments.
Candidates were assigned to opposing sides on each of the issues. In order to avoid
subject fatigue, only a subset of four of the eight issues was used in each experiment.
Experiment 1 included disagreements on regulation of the tobacco industry, taxing sales on the
internet, repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, and whether public service experience is important in
Congressional elections. Experiment 2 used the exchanges about free trade, mental health
insurance, internet privacy regulation, and NASA funding. Each issue exchange was edited so
that it was roughly 5 minutes in length.
Two versions of each exchange were recorded. The candidates expressed exactly the
same issue positions in both versions, and offered exactly the same arguments in support of the
positions. But in the civil version the candidates went to extremes to be polite to the opposition,


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