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Nonverbal behavior and political evaluation: an analysis of the speechmaking of Hugo Chávez

Sterling, Joanna (2012) Nonverbal behavior and political evaluation: an analysis of the speechmaking of Hugo Chávez. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The nonverbal behavior of politicians has drawn increasing attention from academics and laymen alike. Recent work (McHugo et al., 1985; Masters et al., 1986; Way & Masters, 1996; Glaser & Salovey, 1998; Stewart, Salter & Mehu, 2009) suggests that a video broadcast of a simple glance at a watch or a roll of the eyes has potential to influence electoral outcomes. Can the nonverbal behavior of political leaders communicate information about the political context or the state of a country’s affairs as well? One hundred university students watched brief segments (45-90 s) of televised speeches by the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez. Three were selected from a time when Venezuela was experiencing difficulty and three from a time when affairs were going well. To control for the possible influence of linguistic content, participants were non-Spanish speaking and all audio was filtered to remove intelligible speech (750 Hz low-pass filter). Participants viewed the six video segments and rated the emotions displayed on five-point ordinal intensity scales following each video.
Primary hypotheses were 1) Correlations between emotion ratings will be more consistent with ethological models of the social functions of nonverbal behavior than with social psychological models of valence and arousal (e.g., emotion circumplex (Larsen & Diener, 1992). 2) Following Bucy and Newhagen’s (1999) findings on emotions as heuristics, emotion ratings will differ between political contexts. And 3) Self-report judgments of going well or going badly will be consistent will actual political context. Support was found for an ethological model of emotion perception, hypothesis 1. The relation between emotion ratings and political context, hypothesis 2 was confirmed. For hypothesis 3, self-reports failed to judge political context accurately; however, participants rated their confidence in making these judgments as relatively high. These findings suggest that emotion ratings reveal political context in ways that viewers are not consciously aware.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Sterling, Joannajls220@pitt.eduJLS220
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairCohn,
Committee MemberPerez-Linan, Anibalanibal.perez.linan@gmail.comASP27
Committee MemberGreenberg, Martingreenber@pitt.eduGREENBER
Committee MemberCerully, Jennifer Ljlc57@pitt.eduJLC57
Date: 18 January 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 18 November 2011
Approval Date: 18 January 2012
Submission Date: 7 December 2011
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 44
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: nonverbal behavior, emotion, appropriateness, heuristics
Date Deposited: 18 Jan 2012 19:43
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2017 06:15


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