Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 19–41

The effect of attitudes on emotional reactions to expressive displays of political leaders

  • Gregory J. McHugo
  • John T. Lanzetta
  • Lauren K. Bush

DOI: 10.1007/BF00997765

Cite this article as:
McHugo, G.J., Lanzetta, J.T. & Bush, L.K. J Nonverbal Behav (1991) 15: 19. doi:10.1007/BF00997765


One hundred subjects participated in an experiment to assess emotional reactions to the expressive displays of political leaders. Attitudes were assessed through questionnaire items, and facial EMG, heart rate, and skin conductance were recorded while subjects watched silent expressive displays of intense happiness/reassurance, mild happiness/reassurance, and anger/threat by President Reagan and Senator Hart. Half of the subjects reported their global affective reaction during each display, and all subjects reported discrete emotional reactions following each display. For Reagan, main effects were found for display type and for prior attitude in the self-report scales and in facial EMG, although significant Prior Attitude X Display interactions indicated that the intense happiness/reassurance displays most strongly differentiated supporters from opponents. Main effects were found for Hart's displays on the self-report scales and on facial EMG, and post hoc analyses revealed attitude effects. These results support previous research concerning affective reactions to dynamic expressive displays of emotion, but they also show the possible influence of prior attitude toward the expressor on both somatic and subjective measures of emotional response.

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gregory J. McHugo
    • 1
  • John T. Lanzetta
  • Lauren K. Bush
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyDartmouth CollegeHanover