Big Surprise! Voters Place More Emphasis on Non-Verbal Cues Than Substance

Now who would have guessed it?  A new study finds that non-verbal behavior has counted for more this election season than substance.

Hmm.....Could they be talking about Trump?

 "When style obscures substance: Visual attention to display appropriateness in the 2012 presidential debates,” recently published in the journal Communication Monographs, and highlighted in the National Communication Association’s newly released research digest, Communication Currents, examines the consequences of appropriate versus inappropriate nonverbal behavior as displayed by candidates during presidential debates, reports.

Trump's insulting of the pope and flopping his comb-over around, twisting his lips in disgust at Cruz, and pumping his fist in celebration of himself matters more than the fact that, when asked how he'd increase the country's ability to fight terrorists, simply says, "It will be great"?

I'm moving to Canada.

Communication researchers Zijian Harrison Gong of the University of Tampa and Erik P. Bucy of Texas Tech University describe inappropriate political nonverbal behavior as facial displays and gestures that are not compatible with the intended message or tone of the setting in which they occur. For example, during the 2012 debates between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, viewers criticized the president’s nonverbal behavior in the first debate, which focus group participants characterized as “unprofessional” and “unpresidential.” Critics said he avoided eye contact and smirked at some of Romney’s comments and that, while he occasionally winced when under verbal attack, he did not fire back.

In an eye-tracking experiment, researchers found that people tend to fixate on inappropriate nonverbal behavior more often and for longer periods of time than they spend focusing on appropriate behavior. The researchers also found that people remember the substance of candidate statements better when they perceive candidates as behaving appropriately but the inverse can be expected when candidates are perceived as behaving inappropriately.

 So how do we explain Trump's rampaging poll numbers?  To me just about everything he says is gross and inappropriate.  But then, I'm not voting for him.

According to the researchers, understanding the influence of nonverbal communication on how citizens perceive candidates is important because voters rely heavily on television as a primary source of political information—a timely warning for this year’s candidates as the presidential race continues.  And more grist for Trump's mill.  Oy.


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