Despite discussion playing up demeanor, we look past it.
PROBLEM: The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf argued last week that "television is an atrocious format for presidential debates." There's an argument to made, of course, for television as the great democratizer, able to reach far more people than the text-based debates Friedersdorf proposes would. Plus, the little moments make great GIFs. But how much does what we see on screen -- the candidates' body language -- really influence our opinions?
- Omega-3 Supplements May Actually Affect Aging
- Castration Adds Years to Men's Lives
- How Reading Cosmo Affects Perceptions of Sex
METHODOLOGY: A 2005 German presidential debate between Gerhard Schroeder and Angela Merkel was meticulously parsed for the messages sent by each candidate. Specifically, they coded cues as verbal (issues, tone, emotional appeals), vocal (pitch, intensity, pace), or visual (specifically gaze, gestures, smiles).
The researchers then had 72 volunteers watch footage from the debate while monitoring their moment-by-moment reactions via a handheld dial -- a sort of real-time meter that was able to measure their subtle changes in attitude toward either candidate. They compared this data from the participants with what was happening on screen to determine which cues had the greatest influence on observers.