Reporters Are Invited to Two Virtual Press Conference Events: The Science of Presidential Debates


Newswise — Providing a new kind analysis of the first U.S. Presidential debate between Clinton and Trump on September 26th at Hofstra U, Newswise will host two live events on September 27th and September 28th, each featuring a panel of experts that will scientifically analyze the rhetoric and performance of the candidates.

Reporters can participate in these live events from any device -- PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone or Android device (with a webcam) from anywhere with a good internet connection. To participate and ask questions, you must be on video, just as a normal news conference. Register here as soon as possible for guaranteed seating; there is limited seating in the virtual room.

First event:

Tuesday, September 27, 11AM ET

Expert panel:

Simon DeDeo, PhD from Santa Fe Institute and Carnegie Mellon University

Simon DeDeo is a cognitive scientist who studies how people use language in everything from politics to law, literature, and even science itself. He works on a large scale, and often uses archives that go many decades, or even centuries, into the past. In this presentation, he’ll work with the debate transcripts to see how the two candidates strategically adopt, or avoid, each other’s language minute-by-minute. He’ll then place the patterns of words they use in the context of the last forty years of presidential debates—and the last two thousand years of political theory.

Tim Ketelaar, PhD from New Mexico State University Tim Ketelaar, an expert in psychology, will examine facial displays of emotion during the first Presidential debate. In particular he will focus on an analysis of different types of smiles as indicators of each candidate’s perceived dominance during the interaction. His research and teaching focuses on the science of human emotion.

Erik Bucy, PhD from Texas Tech University

An expert in communications and psychology, Bucey will look at voters’ real-time responses to the candidates’ nonverbal behavior, considering Clinton and Trump’s ‘display repertoires’ of facial expressions, demonstrative gestures, and tone of voice. Bucey will be using continuous response measures as viewers watch the debate. He will examine critical moments during the debate that drive viewer response in a particularly positive or negative direction. In addition, he will be conducting focus groups immediately after the first debate, which should yield insights into what viewers felt was important or memorable about the first encounter between the two candidates.

Kristine L. Muñoz, PhD from University of Iowa

An expert in communications, discourse analysis and persuasion, Muñoz will present data about interruptions, intonation, address terms and self-references by each candidate that relate to gender expectations, which will be a consideration for the first time in this debate. Muñoz says that Trump must avoid coming across as a bully, and Clinton must avoid being seen or heard as a "bitch" (or bossypants). Second event:

Wednesday, September 28, 11AM ET

Expert panel:

Patrick A. Stewart, PhD from University of Arkansas

An expert in political psychology and communications with an emphasis on facial displays and political humor, Stewart will focus on the audience response and present preliminary data, from a group of students, on who won the debate and whether the network coverage played a role in those perceptions.

Michael Cunningham, PhD from University of Louisville

An expert in psychology and communication, Cunningham will analyze the nonverbal facial and bodily behavior of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Although he will examine their nonverbal behavior toward the audience as they speak, he will be particularly focused on their reactions to each other. This will include expressive indicators of dominance vs. deference, respect vs. contempt, friendliness vs. hostility, and relaxation vs. tension.

Jeff Jarman, PhD from Wichita State University

An expert in communications (audience response), Jarman will analyze the audience assessment of the strength of the arguments made by Trump and Clinton using both an argument strength scale and a thought-listing technique. With an experimental design, Jarman hopes to determine the extent of the biased processing of the information in the debate as well as which techniques for debiasing, if any, can effectively reduce the bias.

Andrew Kehler, PhD from University of California San Diego

Andrew Kehler is a professor of linguistics who specializes in pragmatics, the study of the difference between the literal meaning of utterances and the meaning that they convey in context. Kehler will analyze how the candidates craft what they say during the debate and discuss the processes by which they are able to convey meaning without explicitly stating it.

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