SAGE Journal Articles
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Abstract: This study manipulated the appropriateness of presidential reactions to images of compelling news events to investigate how a political leader's nonverbal behavior evokes emotional responses and trait attributions. A repeated-measures experiment examining the combined effects of valence and arousal on viewers' affective reactions and trait evaluations was conducted on two voting-age subject pools in different states. Participants were shown a series of four news story-presidential reaction message sequences and were asked to rate a series of felt emotions and communicative traits. Results indicate an evocative function for leader displays that nonperson-specific news images do not share, suggesting a critical role for appropriate nonverbal communication in politics. Inappropriate message sequences elicited negative emotions more intensely than positive emotions and produced uniformly lower trait evaluations, whereas appropriate sequences elicited positive emotions more intensely. Moreover, negative displays were evaluated as significantly more honest, credible, trustworthy, and appropriate than positive displays.