Second Expert Panel on the Science of the Presidential Debate

28-Sep-2016 4:05 PM EDT, by Newswise

Newswise — The second expert panel on the Science of the Presidential Debate between Trump and Clinton took place on Wednesday, September 28th. The four experts spoke on the topics of body language, the use of humor, spoken inferred utterances, and the audience response of the debate. The debate took place on Monday, September 26, at Hofstra University. We have a brief description of the experts comments below, but for their entire presentation see the accompanying video.

Michael Cunningham, PhD, University of Louisville, discussed the nonverbal behavior of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. He mentioned how Donald Trump started out with a controlling handshake, pulling Hillary in to himself, and putting his arm around her suggesting a dominating behavior. He was extremely aggressive during the first half hour, with a high level of interrupting and also a high level of water consumption, suggesting nervousness. He seemed to be trying too hard. By contrast, Hillary Clinton maintained a steady, pleasant presence throughout the debate. She was critical, but avoided displaying a high level of annoyance and disgust. She often displayed a broad smile that seemed genuine and relaxed.

Patrick A. Stewart, PhD, University of Arkansas, presented his analysis of the audience response, in particular the vocalization of the audience. Stewart said that what was most interesting was the unusually high level of applause, despite the moderator asking them beforehand not to respond. Trump had 5 applause events, while Clinton garnered 4 applause events. Stewart also talked about the laughter response to the candidates, which is a spontaneous, not calculated, response. Stewart said laughter is important in maintaining a relationship with the audience. He counted 10 humorous reactions to Hilary Clinton and 13 humorous reactions to Donald Trump.

Jeff Jarman, PhD, Wichita State University, paid attention to an audience reaction in a controlled environment. He analyzed a group of more than 100 students, approximately evenly split among Clinton-partisan, Trump-partisan, Independents, and committed to other candidates. Jarman attempted to answer whether partisan bias influenced the interpretation of the debate and whether a person could be “debiased” or changed from one view to another. Unsurprisingly, their pre-conceived bias strongly influenced their opinions. Only the group of “undecided” were swayed, with a majority of them indicating Clinton's arguments were stronger.

Andrew Kehler, PhD, University of California San Diego, tracked candidates’ inferred utterances, comments which imply a meaning, but do not directly answer the question. Trump had more cases of inferred utterances. Some examples of these were when he implied that he had not payed income taxes (commenting “I'm smart” when accused of not paying by Clinton) or that his company did not admit guilt when Clinton brought up the Justice department lawsuit concerning racial discrimination in 1973. Nothing startling or new came from either candidate.

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