Volume 2, Issue 2
  • ISSN 2211-4742
  • E-ISSN: 2211-4750
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This study examined audience perceptions of a political candidate’s credibility and likeability as a function of varying the candidate’s responses to an opponent’s nonverbal disparagement during a televised debate. 412 participants watched a purported televised debate between candidates for mayor in a small city in Utah. In all six versions, one debater engaged in strong nonverbal disagreement during his opponent’s opening statement. His opponent responded to the nonverbal behavior with one of six decreasingly polite messages. Results indicated that more direct (i.e., less polite) messages increased audience perceptions of the speaker’s expertise and character compared to providing no response. The results also showed a significant interaction between response type and audience member’s level of trait verbal aggressiveness. The “indirect” and “on-record with redress” responses led to stronger perceptions of speaker composure and extroversion for members high in verbal aggression and the “off the record” strategy led to higher perceptions of extroversion and composure for members low in verbal aggression.


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