David Clementson researches deception in political communications.
Clementson research receives Top Paper honors from International Association of Language and Social Psychology
David Clementson, public relations assistant professor, won the Top Paper award from the International Association of Language and Social Psychology for his research on the detection of political deception.
The award spotlights research published in the “Journal of Language and Social Psychology.” Clementson’s honors regard his work as the best paper published in the journal from 2018-20.
The paper, titled “Truth Bias and Partisan Bias in Political Deception Detection,” examined how audience perceptions are impacted by political party affiliation. Clementson worked in politics and on campaigns for many years, but personally detested partisanship. After years of research on political deception, he incorporated the element of partisanship that turned him off as a practitioner.
“I finally felt the need to insert party identification onto the screen for viewers, and sure enough the addition of that ‘R’ or ‘D’ affected voters’ perceptions of a politician’s veracity above and beyond the content of what the politician was actually saying in a news interview,” Clementson said.
In the experiment for the research, 618 U.S. voters watched a news interview in which a politician was labeled as a Democrat or Republican. The politician either answered questions honestly or used deception to evade comment. The audience was then asked to identify if responses were honest or if the speaker evaded questions.
Results showed that voters’ ability to identify deceptive language changes when the viewer is presented with the political party affiliation. Clementson says his primary advice for audiences is to consume political interviews and media coverage with discernment.
“I would encourage people to take a breath and exert a moment to appraise the actual content of what people in positions of political power are saying rather than simply taking what you are told at face value without some healthy skepticism,” he said.
The selection for the Top Paper award included a two-step process by six committee members from the International Association of Language and Social Psychology.
One of the committee’s reviewers praised Clementson’s findings by saying: “This study presents a heuristic extension of theory into a tightly conceived methodological form that advances our understanding of political deception and its mechanics.”
Clementson notes that the Journal of Language and Social Psychology is one of the most highly regarded publications in his field for its emphasis on political deception theorizing. For example, political equivocation theory and truth-default theory (which is the star of Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book) first appeared in this journal.
“It is a tremendous thrill and extremely humbling to receive an honor internationally for doing what you love,” Clementson said.
Clementson joined the Grady College faculty in 2019 and specializes in public relations and political communication.