Skip to main content

Counterfactual Communication in Politics: Features and Effects on Voters

  • Conference paper
Multimodal Communication in Political Speech. Shaping Minds and Social Action (PS 2010)

Part of the book series: Lecture Notes in Computer Science ((LNAI,volume 7688))

Included in the following conference series:

Abstract

During debates and interviews, political leaders often have to defend themselves from adversaries and journalists questioning their performance. To fight against these threats, politicians resort to various defensive strategies, either direct or indirect, to draw attention away from their responsibilities or shed a more positive light upon their work. Counterfactual defences (i.e., comparing past actual events with other hypothetical events) may be included among indirect defensive strategies. We first analyzed counterfactuals evoked by politicians during pre-electoral televised broadcasts. Results showed that politicians defended themselves by using: a) other-focused upward counterfactuals; b) self-focused downward counterfactuals. We then analyzed the effects of defensive counterfactuals on recipients. Participants were presented with different versions of a fictitious political interview, varying for the use of factual versus counterfactual defences and for counterfactual target and direction. Results showed that counterfactual communication is an effective defensive strategy in political debates.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Chapter
USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
eBook
USD 39.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 49.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. McGraw, K.M.: Avoiding Blame: An Experimental Investigation of Political Excuses and Justifications. Brit. J. Pol. Sc. 20, 119–131 (1990)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. McGraw, K.M.: Political Accounts and Attribution Processes. In: Kuklinski, J.H. (ed.) Citizens and Politics, pp. 160–197. Cambridge University Press, New York (2001)

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  3. Roese, N.J.: Counterfactual Thinking. Psych. Bull. 121, 133–148 (1997)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Kahneman, D., Miller, D.: Norm Theory: Comparing Reality to its Alternatives. Psych. Rev. 93, 136–153 (1986)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Kahneman, D., Tversky, A.: The Simulation Heuristic. In: Kahneman, D., Slovic, P., Tversky, A. (eds.) Judgement under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases, pp. 201–208. Cambridge University Press, New York (1982)

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  6. Catellani, P., Alberici, A.I., Milesi, P.: Counterfactual Thinking and Stereotypes: The Nonconformity Effect. Europ. J. Soc. Psych. 34, 421–436 (2004)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Markman, K.D., Tetlock, P.E.: Accountability and Close-Call Counterfactuals: The Loser who Almost Won and the Winner who Almost Lost. Personal. and Soc. Psych. Bull. 26, 1213–1224 (2000)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Nario-Redmond, M., Branscombe, N.: It Could Have Been Better or it Might Have Been Worse: Implications for Blame Assignment in Rape Cases. Basic and Applied Soc. Psych. 18, 347–366 (1996)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Wells, G.L., Gavanski, I.: Mental Simulation of Causality. J. Personal. and Soc. Psych. 56, 161–169 (1989)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Branscombe, N.R., Owen, S., Gartska, T., Coleman, J.: Rape and Accident Counterfactuals: Who Might Have Done Otherwise and Would it Have Changed the Outcome? J. of Applied Soc. Psych. 26, 1042–1067 (1996)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Branscombe, N.R., Wohl, M.J.A., Owen, S., Allison, J.A., N’gbala, A.: Counterfactual Thinking, Blame, and Well-Being among Rape Victims. Basic and Applied Soc. Psych. 25, 265–273 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. van Dijk, E., Zeelenberg, M.: On the Psychology of ’If Only’: Regret and the Comparison between Factual and Counterfactual Outcomes. Organiz. Beh. and Human Decision Proc. 97, 152–160 (2005)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Sevdalis, N., Kokkinaki, F.: The Differential Effect of Realistic and Unrealistic Counterfactual Thinking on Regret. Acta Psych. 122, 111–128 (2006)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. McCrea, M.: Counterfactual Thinking following Negative Outcomes: Evidence for Group and Self-Protective Biases. Eur. J. of Soc. Psych. 37, 1256–1271 (2007)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. McCrea, S.M.: Self-Handicapping, Excuse Making, and Counterfactual Thinking: Consequences for Self-Esteem and Future Motivation. J. of Person. and Soc. Psych. 95, 274–292 (2008)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Catellani, P., Covelli, V.: The Strategic Use of Counterfactual Communication in Politics. Journal of Language and Social Psychology (early view, 2013), doi:10.1177/0261927X13495548

    Google Scholar 

  17. Catellani, P., Milesi, P.: Counterfactuals and Roles: Mock Victims’ and Perpetrators’ Accounts of Judicial Cases. Europ. J. of Soc. Psych. 31, 247–264 (2001)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Davis, C.G., Lehman, D.R.: Counterfactual Thinking and Coping with Traumatic Life Events. In: Roese, N.J., Olson, J.M. (eds.) What Might Have Been: The Social Psychology of Counterfactual Thinking, pp. 53–374. Erlbaum, Mahwah (1995)

    Google Scholar 

  19. Sanna, L.J., Turley, K.J.: Antecedents to Spontaneous Counterfactual Thinking: Effects of Expectancy Violation and Outcome Valence. Personal. and Soc. Psych. Bull. 22, 906–919 (1996)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Sanna, L.J., Turley-Ames, K.J.: Counterfactual Intensity. Eur. J. Soc. Psych. 30, 273–296 (2000)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Markman, K.D., Gavanski, I., Sherman, S.J., McMullen, M.N.: The Mental Simulation of Better and Worse Possible Worlds. J. Experim. Soc. Psych. 29, 87–109 (1993)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. McMullen, M.N., Markman, K.D., Gavanski, I.: Living in Neither the Best nor Worst of All Possible Worlds: Antecedents and Consequences of Upward and Downward Counter Factual Thinking. In: Roese, N.J., Olson, J.M. (eds.) What Might Have Been: The Social Psychology of Counterfactual Thinking, pp. 133–167. Erlbaum, Hillsdale (1995)

    Google Scholar 

  23. Roese, N.J.: The Functional Basis of Counterfactual Thinking. J. Personal. and Soc. Psych. 66, 805–818 (1994)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Roese, N.J., Olson, J.M.: Counterfactual Thinking: The Intersection of Affect and Function. In: Zanna, M.P. (ed.) Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 29, pp. 1–59. Academic Press, San Diego (1997)

    Google Scholar 

  25. Roese, N.J., Olson, J.M.: Counterfactual Thinking: A Critical overview. In: Roese, N.J., Olson, J.M. (eds.) What Might Have Been: The Social Psychology of Counterfactual Thinking, pp. 1–59. Erlbaum, Mahwah (1995)

    Google Scholar 

  26. Sanna, L.J.: Defensive Pessimism, Optimism, and Simulating Alternatives: Some Ups and Downs of Prefactual and Counterfactual Thinking. J. Personal. and Soc. Psych. 71, 1020–1036 (1996)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Girotto, V., Legrenzi, P., Rizzo, A.: Event Controllability in Counterfactual Thinking. Acta Psych. 78, 111–133 (1991)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Markman, K.D., Gavanski, I., Sherman, S.J., McMullen, M.N.: The Impact of Perceived Control on the Imagination of Better and Worse Possible Worlds. Personal. and Soc. Psych. Bull. 21, 588–595 (1995)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Miller, D.T., Turnbull, W., McFarland, C.: Counterfactual Thinking and Social Perception: Thinking about What Might Have Been. In: Zanna, M.P. (ed.) Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 23, pp. 305–331. Academic Press, New York (1990)

    Google Scholar 

  30. N’gbala, A., Branscombe, N.R.: Mental Simulation and Causal Attribution: When Simulating an Event Does not Affect Fault Assignment. J. Exp. Soc. Psych. 31, 139–162 (1995)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Lau, R.: Models of Decision Making. In: Sears, D.O., Huddy, L., Jervis, R. (eds.) Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology, pp. 19–59. Oxford University Press, New York (2003)

    Google Scholar 

  32. Catellani, P., Bertolotti, M.: The Effects of Counterfactual Defences (under review, 2013)

    Google Scholar 

  33. McGraw, K.M.: Managing Blame: An Experimental Test of the Effects of Political Accounts. The Am. Pol. Sc. Rev. 85, 1137–1157 (1991)

    Google Scholar 

  34. Kim, P., Dirks, K., Cooper, C., Ferrin, D.: When More Blame is Better than Less: The Implications of Internal vs. External Attributions for the Repair of Trust after a Competence- vs. Integrity-Based Trust Violation. Org. Beh. and Human Dec. Proc. 99, 49–65 (2006)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Caprara, G.V., Barbaranelli, C., Fraley, R.C., Vecchione, M.: The Simplicity of Politicians’ Personalities across Cultures and Methods. Internat. J. Psych. 42, 393–405 (2007)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Bertolotti, M., Catellani, P., Douglas, K.M., Sutton, R.M.: The “Big Two” in Political Communication: The Effects of Attacking and Defending Politicians’ Leadership or Morality. Soc. Psych. 44, 117–128 (2013)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Cislak, A., Wojciszke, B.: Agency and Communion Are Inferred from Actions Serving Interests of Self or Others. Eur. J. Soc. Psych. 37, 1103–1110 (2008)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Bartels, L.M.: Beyond the Running Tally: Partisan Bias in Political Perceptions. Pol. Beh. 24, 117–150 (2002)

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg

About this paper

Cite this paper

Catellani, P., Bertolotti, M., Covelli, V. (2013). Counterfactual Communication in Politics: Features and Effects on Voters. In: Poggi, I., D’Errico, F., Vincze, L., Vinciarelli, A. (eds) Multimodal Communication in Political Speech. Shaping Minds and Social Action. PS 2010. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 7688. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-41545-6_7

Download citation

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-41545-6_7

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-642-41544-9

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-642-41545-6

  • eBook Packages: Computer ScienceComputer Science (R0)

Publish with us

Policies and ethics