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Exposure to Mediated Political Conflict: Effects of Civility of Interaction on Arousal and Memory
Unformatted Document Text:  8 inserting phrases such as, "I'm really glad Bob raised the issue of …," or "I don’t disagree with some of your points, Bob, but …," before calmly making clear their own positions. Each candidate fully observed the interpersonal norms of civility, not only in their own speech, but also by waiting patiently while the other person answered, and paying attention to the opponent while he was speaking. In the uncivil versions, the candidates used the same script but inserted gratuitous asides that suggested a lack of respect for and/or frustration with the opposition. Example statements included; "You're really missing the point here Neil," or "What Bob is completely overlooking is …". The candidates also raised their voices and did not apologize for interrupting one another. Nonverbal cues such as rolling of the eyes and rueful shaking of the head from side to side were also used to suggest lack of respect for what the opponent was saying. Voices also were raised when conflict intensified, in contrast to the persistently calm voices of the candidates in the civil version. A pretest on all eight issues confirmed that the two versions were perceived as significantly different on three different measures of civility. Pretest subjects were asked to rate the exchange on each issue on scales ranging from quarrelsome to cooperative, friendly to hostile, and rude to polite. The uncivil versions of the issue exchanges were consistently perceived as significantly less polite, more quarrelsome, and less friendly. Although we refer to the two versions as "civil" and "uncivil”, it should be noted that relative to contemporary political talk shows, these stimuli would not be viewed as extremely hostile. However, in most programs, political pundits rather than actual candidates are involved in the fray. Candidate exchanges tend to be more moderate, in part because of the fear of backlash. Relative to exchanges between candidates and members of Congress, these portrayals were highly realistic and well within the range of what people expect of congressional candidates. No subjects questioned their authenticity. The second manipulation was made possible by a multiple camera shoot. For each exchange of opinions, one camera maintained a medium range shot of the actor’s entire upper body, while another camera maintained a tight facial close-up. The tapes were edited using the same conventions as a typical talk show, but in the close-up condition, after an initial shot establishing the set and location of the candidates and moderator, the shots used were almost exclusively those from the close-up camera. In the medium shot condition, no tight close-ups of the candidates were used and the cameras used the medium frame with an occasional long shot that included the entire set. In summary, the original tapes were edited into four different versions that were either civil or uncivil in tone, and that either created the impression of moderate distance between the viewer and candidates or a close "in the face" experience of the same conflict. Procedures. The procedure was roughly the same for both experiments. After human subjects consent was obtained, subjects filled out a pretest questionnaire. Subjects then viewed 4 issue exchanges, randomized for order of presentation. After each 5-minute videotape, a short paper and pencil questionnaire was administered that assessed open-ended and assisted recall of arguments presented by both candidates, This procedure was then repeated for each of three additional tapes for the other issues.

Authors: Mutz, Diana., Reeves, Byron. and Wise, Kevin.
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inserting phrases such as, "I'm really glad Bob raised the issue of …," or "I don’t disagree with
some of your points, Bob, but …," before calmly making clear their own positions. Each
candidate fully observed the interpersonal norms of civility, not only in their own speech, but
also by waiting patiently while the other person answered, and paying attention to the opponent
while he was speaking.

In the uncivil versions, the candidates used the same script but inserted gratuitous
asides that suggested a lack of respect for and/or frustration with the opposition. Example
statements included; "You're really missing the point here Neil," or "What Bob is completely
overlooking is …". The candidates also raised their voices and did not apologize for interrupting
one another. Nonverbal cues such as rolling of the eyes and rueful shaking of the head from
side to side were also used to suggest lack of respect for what the opponent was saying.
Voices also were raised when conflict intensified, in contrast to the persistently calm voices of
the candidates in the civil version.
A pretest on all eight issues confirmed that the two versions were perceived as
significantly different on three different measures of civility. Pretest subjects were asked to rate
the exchange on each issue on scales ranging from quarrelsome to cooperative, friendly to
hostile, and rude to polite. The uncivil versions of the issue exchanges were consistently
perceived as significantly less polite, more quarrelsome, and less friendly.
Although we refer to the two versions as "civil" and "uncivil”, it should be noted that
relative to contemporary political talk shows, these stimuli would not be viewed as extremely
hostile. However, in most programs, political pundits rather than actual candidates are involved
in the fray. Candidate exchanges tend to be more moderate, in part because of the fear of
backlash. Relative to exchanges between candidates and members of Congress, these
portrayals were highly realistic and well within the range of what people expect of congressional
candidates. No subjects questioned their authenticity.

The second manipulation was made possible by a multiple camera shoot. For each
exchange of opinions, one camera maintained a medium range shot of the actor’s entire upper
body, while another camera maintained a tight facial close-up. The tapes were edited using the
same conventions as a typical talk show, but in the close-up condition, after an initial shot
establishing the set and location of the candidates and moderator, the shots used were almost
exclusively those from the close-up camera. In the medium shot condition, no tight close-ups of
the candidates were used and the cameras used the medium frame with an occasional long
shot that included the entire set.

In summary, the original tapes were edited into four different versions that were either
civil or uncivil in tone, and that either created the impression of moderate distance between the
viewer and candidates or a close "in the face" experience of the same conflict.
Procedures. The procedure was roughly the same for both experiments. After human
subjects consent was obtained, subjects filled out a pretest questionnaire. Subjects then
viewed 4 issue exchanges, randomized for order of presentation. After each 5-minute
videotape, a short paper and pencil questionnaire was administered that assessed open-ended
and assisted recall of arguments presented by both candidates, This procedure was then
repeated for each of three additional tapes for the other issues.


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