The first Presidential Debate starts TONIGHT but can you tell anything about politicians’ accuracy by analyzing how they speak? A new analysis finds that lying politicians tend to be more verbose.
For more on politics and deception, take a look at these past blog posts:
“OMG I just LOVE pizza.” Is this statement sarcastic? Is it heartfelt? As our everyday communication is increasingly text-driven, inferring emotion from messages is an important skill. If the receiver of the message is a friend, they should be able to understand the sender’s emotion better than a complete stranger. But a recent study by researchers at Chatham University found that friends are no better at interpreting correct emotional intent in e-mails than complete strangers.
Monica A. Riordan and Lauren A. Trichtinger (Chatham University) published their findings in the journal Human Communication Research. The researchers conducted three studies to find out the effect of contextual information on the confidence and accuracy of affective communication via e-mail.
In the first two studies, writers wrote two e-mails, indicating the presence or absence of eight different emotions in each e-mail. One e-mail was based on a predetermined scenario, and the other freely written. These e-mails were then read by strangers, who rated each e-mail for those same eight emotions.
The third study tweaked the procedure to test the effect of relationship. Writers wrote two e-mails (one based on a scenario, the other freely written) and indicated whether eight different emotions were present in each e-mail they wrote. Writers then sent these two e-mails to both friends and strangers, each of whom rated the e-mail for the same eight emotions, then wrote response e-mails.
The researchers found that writers are more confident their friends can correctly interpret their e-mails than strangers- and readers are more confident in interpreting e-mails from friends than strangers, as well. In fact, everyone was highly confident in their e-mail writing and reading abilities. However, this confidence had no relationship with actual accuracy, suggesting people are poor judges of their affect-detection skills. They also found that verbal and nonverbal cues, like emoticons, all caps, or repeated exclamation points did not have a positive effect on accuracy.
Past research has sought to determine how we communicate our emotions in environments from which facial expressions, vocal intonation, body language, and other cues are missing. But many of the studies have flaws in that they are based on artificial stimuli that third parties are asked to rate. It is difficult to determine whether nonverbal or verbal cues are substitutes for emotion without examining the communication as a whole.
“As e-mail, text messaging, and other forms of computer-mediated communication become more dominant forms of interaction, the communication of affect becomes more difficult, primarily because facial expressions, gestures, vocal intonation, and other forms of expressing emotion are lost,” said Riordan. “It is clear from this study that readers can determine that we are angry, but cannot determine HOW angry. The loss of this subtlety could lead to consequences in many forms– especially in our relationships, where the difference between annoyance and rage can be vast, and a simple misinterpretation of an intended emotion can lead to a drastic alteration in that emotion.”
People are often excluded from social groups. As researchers from the University of Basel in Switzerland report in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, whether uninvolved observers find this acceptable or not may depend on the facial appearances of those excluded. The exclusion of cold and incompetent looking people is more likely to be accepted.
Social exclusion – be it at school, work or among friends – is usually a painful experience for those affected. This behavior also often has a considerable effect on third-party observers: Bullying and ostracism with the aim to hurt the victims are seen as particularly unfair and morally unacceptable. However, in some cases, social exclusion is also perceived as justified. Groups are, for example, more likely to ostracize people who cause trouble or arguments in order to restore the harmony in their group.
Quick moral judgment
Whether uninvolved observers view social exclusion as morally justified or not can be very important for the victim as a possible intervention depends on that judgment. Making such a moral judgment, however, is often difficult and time consuming, which is why observers revert to relatively superficial indicators for guidance. One such indicator is the face of the excluded person.
In several studies, the team of psychologists from the University of Basel presented different male faces to a total of 480 participants. The facial characteristics had previously been altered using a recently developed method for facial manipulation. The portraits were manipulated to appear warm or cold and competent or incompetent. The participants looked at each portrait for two seconds before spontaneously deciding how acceptable they thought it was for a group to exclude this person.
More protection for warm and incompetent looking people
In all studies, participants found it more acceptable to socially exclude people whose faces looked cold and incompetent. However, exclusion was found least acceptable when those excluded looked warm and incompetent. A possible explanation for this could be that these people are often perceived as especially in need of protection and therefore excluding them from a group would be particularly cruel, says lead researcher Dr. Selma Rudert from the Center of Social Psychology at the University of Basel.
Earlier studies have shown that humans have very clear-cut ideas of what a warm or cold person looks like. However, there is no evidence for any relation between facial features and personality traits. In other words: Although appearances are deceptive, individuals let them guide their judgment. The perceived warmth and competence in a person’s face play an especially important role in this judgment.
Objectivity would be important
“Our results suggest that the first impression a person makes can also influence moral judgments that would actually call for objectivity”, explains Rudert. These impressions can have far-reaching consequences for how people behave in social exclusion situations: “It is conceivable that a cold and incompetent looking victim of exclusion would get less support or, in the worst case, bystanders may even actively join the ostracizing group – all based on one glance at the face of the victim.”