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Audience Perceptions of Background Nonverbal Behaviors Displayed by Candidates in Televised Political Debates
Unformatted Document Text:  Background Behaviors: 6 Method Participants Undergraduate students (77 males and 102 females) taking introductory public speaking courses at a large western university received extra credit for volunteering to watch a video and complete a questionnaire. Stimulus Materials Because factors such as advertising, a person’s political affiliation, and past experiences with candidates might affect a person’s perceptions of candidates in a real debate, for this study such extraneous factors were controlled by producing four video segments featuring two candidates, unknown to the participants and engaged in a fictitious student body presidential debate at a community college. Both speakers were white male graduate students, aged 27 and 33 years. All four videos contained the same 48-second introduction shot showing both candidates at their respective rostrums while a moderator introduced them (the moderator was heard, but not seen). The four videos also shared the same footage of the incumbent candidate making his opening statement (the text of the speech ran 3 minutes, 18 seconds). 2 The four videos differed, however, in the role they afforded the speaker’s opponent. Two of the videos displayed no background disagreement on the part of the nonspeaking opponent, and two displayed different degrees of background disagreement. Specifically, the videos represented the following four conditions: 1) the speaker in a full-screen format that did not show the speaker’s opponent (hence, no disagreement); 2) a split-screen format which showed both the speaker and his opponent with no reaction by the opponent (i.e., the opponent was “stone faced”); 3) a split- screen format which showed both the speaker and his opponent with moderate disagreement (see below) by the opponent; and 4) a split-screen format which showed both the speaker and his opponent with constant disagreement by the opponent. In the last two conditions, disagreement with what the speaker was saying was indicated by having the speaker’s opponent engage in silent behaviors such as shaking his head from left to right, rolling his eyes, smirking, and mouthing words (e.g., “What?”). In the last condition, these behaviors were nearly continuous,

Authors: Seiter, John.
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Background Behaviors: 6
Method
Participants
Undergraduate students (77 males and 102 females) taking introductory public speaking
courses at a large western university received extra credit for volunteering to watch a video and
complete a questionnaire.
Stimulus Materials
Because factors such as advertising, a person’s political affiliation, and past experiences
with candidates might affect a person’s perceptions of candidates in a real debate, for this study
such extraneous factors were controlled by producing four video segments featuring two
candidates, unknown to the participants and engaged in a fictitious student body presidential
debate at a community college. Both speakers were white male graduate students, aged 27 and 33
years. All four videos contained the same 48-second introduction shot showing both candidates
at their respective rostrums while a moderator introduced them (the moderator was heard, but not
seen). The four videos also shared the same footage of the incumbent candidate making his
opening statement (the text of the speech ran 3 minutes, 18 seconds).
2
The four videos differed,
however, in the role they afforded the speaker’s opponent. Two of the videos displayed no
background disagreement on the part of the nonspeaking opponent, and two displayed different
degrees of background disagreement. Specifically, the videos represented the following four
conditions: 1) the speaker in a full-screen format that did not show the speaker’s opponent
(hence, no disagreement); 2) a split-screen format which showed both the speaker and his
opponent with no reaction by the opponent (i.e., the opponent was “stone faced”); 3) a split-
screen format which showed both the speaker and his opponent with moderate disagreement (see
below) by the opponent; and 4) a split-screen format which showed both the speaker and his
opponent with constant disagreement by the opponent. In the last two conditions, disagreement
with what the speaker was saying was indicated by having the speaker’s opponent engage in
silent behaviors such as shaking his head from left to right, rolling his eyes, smirking, and
mouthing words (e.g., “What?”). In the last condition, these behaviors were nearly continuous,


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