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posted on 02.06.2021, 04:54 by Patrick A. Stewart, Elena Svetieva

The 2016 United States presidential election was exceptional for many reasons; most notably the extreme division between supporters of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In an election that turned more upon the character traits of the candidates than their policy positions, there is reason to believe that the non-verbal performances of the candidates influenced attitudes toward the candidates. Two studies, before Election Day, experimentally tested the influence of Trump’s micro-expressions of fear during his Republican National Convention nomination acceptance speech on how viewers evaluated his key leadership traits of competence and trustworthiness. Results from Study 1, conducted 3 weeks prior to the election, indicated generally positive effects of Trump’s fear micro-expressions on his trait evaluations, particularly when viewers were first exposed to his opponent, Clinton. In contrast, Study 2, conducted 4 days before Election Day, suggests participants had at that point largely established their trait perceptions and were unaffected by the micro-expressions.

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