Blame the Opponent! Effects of Multimodal Discrediting Moves in Public Debates

An Erratum to this article was published on 15 November 2012

Abstract

In political persuasion, the persuader, besides bearing logical arguments and triggering emotions, must present one’s own image (one’s ethos) of a credible and reliable person, by enhancing three dimensions of it: competence, benevolence, and dominance. In a parallel way, she/he may cast discredit on the opponent by criticizing, accusing or insulting, on the same three dimensions. The work provides a description and a typology of multimodal discrediting moves focusing on the discrediter’s multimodal behavior. Based on an Italian corpus of political debates, the analysis points out which facial expressions, gaze behavior, gestures, postures, and prosodic features are used to convey discredit concerning the three target features of competence, benevolence, and dominance. Finally, an experimental study is presented assessing the effects of the different types of discrediting moves on potential electors. Results show that casting discredit on the other’s competence while also performing gestures, and casting discredit on the other’s dominance without gesturing, makes arguments more shareable and convincing.

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Acknowledgments

Research supported by SSPNet Seventh Framework Program, European Network of Excellence SSPNet (Social Signal Processing Network), Grant Agreement No. 231287. We are indebted to Carlo Cinque the actor who played the politician in the videos for the experiment.

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Correspondence to Francesca D’Errico.

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D’Errico, F., Poggi, I. Blame the Opponent! Effects of Multimodal Discrediting Moves in Public Debates. Cogn Comput 4, 460–476 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12559-012-9175-y

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Keywords

  • Discredits
  • Social signals
  • Emotions