Title

Split-Screen Versus Single-Screen Formats in Televised Debates: Does Access to an Opponent's Nonverbals Affect Viewers' Perceptions of a Speaker's Credibility?

Document Type

Conference Paper

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Mass Communication Division at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association

Publisher

National Communication Association

Publication Date

11-1-1997

Abstract

Compared to televised debates using a single-screen format, those using a split screen, i.e., those showing both debaters simultaneously, provide viewers greater access to the nonverbal reactions of a debater's opponent. This study examined the effect of such nonverbal reactions on viewers' perceptions of a speaker's credibility. Students watched one of four versions of a televised debate. One version used a single-screen format, showing only the speaker, while the other three versions used a split-screen format in which the speaker's opponent displayed constant, occasional, or no nonverbal disagreement with the speaker. After watching the videos, students rated the speaker's credibility. Analysis indicated that the speaker was given significantly higher character and competence ratings when his opponent was in constant disagreement than when his opponent was not shown or when his opponent indicated moderate and no disagreement. Moreover, the speaker was given significantly higher ratings for composure and sociability when his opponent was in constant disagreement than when his opponent was not shown or when his opponent indicated no disagreement. These results and their implications are discussed.

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