Counterfactual communication in politics: Features and effects on voters

Patrizia Catellani, Mauro Bertolotti, Venusia Covelli

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

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.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
PublisherSpringer Verlag
Pages75-85
Number of pages11
Volume7688 LNAI
ISBN (Print)9783642415449
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013
EventInternational Workshop on Political Speech 2010 - Rome, Italy
Duration: Nov 10 2010Nov 12 2010

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
Volume7688 LNAI
ISSN (Print)03029743
ISSN (Electronic)16113349

Other

OtherInternational Workshop on Political Speech 2010
CountryItaly
CityRome
Period11/10/1011/12/10

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Keywords

  • Counterfactual thinking
  • Defence
  • Political communication
  • Political debate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)
  • Theoretical Computer Science

Cite this

Catellani, P., Bertolotti, M., & Covelli, V. (2013). Counterfactual communication in politics: Features and effects on voters. In Lecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics) (Vol. 7688 LNAI, pp. 75-85). (Lecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics); Vol. 7688 LNAI). Springer Verlag. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-41545-6_7