Dr. David Clementson

Assistant Professor, Public Relations

About: Dr. Clementson teaches undergraduate- and graduate-level public relations. His research examines the effects of public figures and politicians dodging questions. When he isn’t on campus teaching, running experiments, and cheering for the Bulldawgs, he loves watching the Atlanta Braves and the Oakland Athletics, and he plays the drums. He and his wife Laura have a son, Edward, who is bilingual in English and Brazilian Portuguese.

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Education

Ph.D., Communication, The Ohio State University
M.A., Communication Studies, University of Miami
B.A., Political Science, James Madison University

Research Interests and Activities

Dr. Clementson runs experiments testing how politicians and business spokespersons dodge reporters’ questions and whether audiences notice. He builds theoretical models that explore how the public will cognitively process deception in media interviews. His latest studies assess whether the public can detect when a company spokesperson is dodging questions amidst a company crisis, and the different ways a public figure might deceive audiences. His work has been published in Journal of CommunicationPublic Relations ReviewPolitical Psychology, Communication Studies, Journal of Language and Social Psychology, Presidential Studies Quarterly, Discourse & Communication, Mass Communication and Society, International Journal of Sport Communication and Journal of Political Marketing. His research has also appeared in Politico, NPR, NBC News, the Boston Globe, the Daily Mail, Scientific American, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Houston Chronicle, the Huffington Post, the New York Post, the Washington Examiner, New York magazine, Psychology Today and Newsweek.

The power of style: Sincerity’s influence on post-crisis reputation David Clementson

Abstract: Crisis communication scholars have suggested that sincerity is critical to an effective crisis response, and a robust body of research suggests that certain mannerisms and communication styles can make a spokesperson appear more sincere. This experiment examines the effect of perceived sincerity measured through these mannerisms on organizational virtuousness, offensiveness, reputation, and behavioral intentions. […]

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Sincerity vs. honesty: Testing a spokesperson’s deceptive demeanor and veracity in crisis communication David Clementson

Abstract: Mass communication research has long indicated that during a scandal an organization’s spokesperson should exude sincerity. However, no research has examined the deceptive and misleading nature of sincerity. In an experiment (n = 801), people watched a news interview featuring the spokesperson for a company in crisis. The spokesperson answered questions with sincere or […]

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What does it mean to be “presidential”? A multiple-group confirmatory factor analysis of the invariance of indicators in a unidimensional scale David Clementson and Tong Xie

Abstract: U.S. presidential candidates aspire to be perceived as “presidential.” Political communication researchers, political scientists, pollsters, campaign consultants, and media pundits speculate about who is “presidential” and “unpresidential.” No prior research, however, has empirically measured and validated a presidential image construct. Based on data collected prior to the 2020 U.S. presidential election (N = 618 […]

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The power of political journalists as deception detectors and how politicians reactivate voters’ truth-default David Clementson and Tong Xie

Abstract: Journalists serve as deception detectors for voters. Sometimes politicians refute journalists’ assertions. How do voters discern whom to believe? Based on cognitive sequences posited by truth-default theory (TDT), experiments tested voters’ reactions to alleged deceptiveness in a political news interview. In Study 1 (N = 209) perceptions of a politician being truthfully or falsely […]

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Reviewer of the Year award for the journal Mass Communication and Society David Clementson

David Clementson has won the Reviewer of the Year award for the journal Mass Communication and Society. The editor said, “This year we worked hard to identify one winner on the basis of a specific excellent review; your work was outstanding, balancing a thoughtful and well-organized critique with positive feedback to encourage the authors to […]

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Top Faculty Paper David Clementson and Tong Xie

Clementson, D. E., & Xie, T. (2021, May 27-31). The power of political journalists as deception detectors and how politicians reactivate voters’ truth-default [Paper presentation]. International Communication Association 71st Annual Conference, Mass Communication division. *Top Faculty Paper

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How partisan voters detect deception in polarizing political media David Clementson and Tong Xie

Abstract: The public considers politicians to be deceptive. Empirical research, however, indicates voters fail to notice deception from politicians in practice. An experiment was run in which U.S. voters (n = 133 Democrats, n = 138 Republicans) watched a partisan news interview featuring a senator. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions: a […]

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Are deceitful politicians impervious to scrutiny? A test of voters’ truth-default David Clementson and Tong Xie

Abstract: Truth-default theory (TDT) holds that people tend to passively believe others without consciously considering whether they are being told the truth. But do voters have a truth-default toward politicians? In an experiment, voters across the U.S. (N = 294) watched a news interview in which a politician was either honest or deceptive. Party affiliation […]

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The power of political journalists as deception detectors and how politicians reactivate voters’ truth-default David Clementson and Tong Xie

Abstract: Journalists serve as deception detectors for voters. Sometimes politicians refute journalists’ assertions. How do voters discern whom to believe? Based on cognitive sequences posited by truth-default theory (TDT), experiments tested voters’ reactions to alleged deceptiveness in a political news interview. In Study 1 (N = 209) perceptions of a politician being truthfully or falsely […]

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Narratives as viable crisis response strategies: Attribution of crisis responsibility, organizational attitudes, reputation, and storytelling David Clementson

Abstract: This article expands situational crisis communication theory (SCCT) to narrative persuasion. In a randomized experiment featuring a news interview of a scandalized company, an organization’s spokesperson responds to a journalist’s questions through (a) on-topic narratives, (b) off-topic (spinning) narratives, or (c) nonnarrative information. Consistent with SCCT, on-topic narratives and nonnarrative information reduce the public’s […]

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Narrative storytelling and anger in crisis communication David Clementson and Tong Xie

Abstract: This paper reports a test and extension of the model posited by the theory of crisis response narratives, in which the public manifests identification with a spokesperson who tells ethical narratives rather than spinning stories. The effect is hypothesized as being mediated through the public perceiving trustworthiness of, and positive attitudes toward, the spokesperson. […]

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On the merits of transparency in crisis: Effects of answering vs. evading through the lens of deception theory. David Clementson and Tong Xie

Abstract: This article applies interpersonal deception theory (IDT) to crisis communication. As strategic communicators, spokespeople representing organizations in crisis often evade questions in media interviews. Upper management and legal counsel tend to prefer evasive language over directly answering questions. Normative crisis communication, however, exhorts honest and straightforward language. In Experiment 1, a company spokesperson either […]

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Truth Bias and Partisan Bias in Political Deception Detection David Clementson

Every two years the International Association of Language and Social Psychology selects a Top Paper Award. This year the award was given to David Clementson for  “Truth Bias and Partisan Bias in Political Deception Detection,” Abstract: This study tests the effects of political partisanship on voters’ perception and detection of deception. Based on social identity […]

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Effects of partisan bias on perceptions of evasion in a political news interview David Clementson and Tong Xie

Clementson, D. E., & Xie, T. (Grady PhD student) (2020, Nov.). Effects of partisan bias on perceptions of evasion in a political news interview. Paper to be presented at the 106th National Communication Association conference, Political Communication division, Indianapolis, IN. Abstract: This paper applies truth-default theory (TDT) to political deception. TDT suggests that people detect deception […]

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Narrative storytelling and anger in crisis communication Tong Xie and David Clementson

Clementson, D. E., & Xie, T. (Grady PhD student) (2020, Nov.). Narrative storytelling and anger in crisis communication. Paper to be presented at the 106th National Communication Association conference, Public Relations division, Indianapolis, IN. Abstract: This paper reports a test and extension of the model posited by Heath’s (2004) theory of crisis response narratives, in […]

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Narrative persuasion, identification, attitudes, and trustworthiness in crisis communication David Clementson

Clementson, D. E. (2020, Nov.). Narrative persuasion, identification, attitudes, and trustworthiness in crisis communication. Paper to be presented at the 106th National Communication Association conference, Public Relations division, Indianapolis, IN. Abstract: The purpose of this study is to test the effects of narratives in crisis communication. This research assesses how organizations benefit from using stories […]

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Deceptive Evasion in Politics: Addressing a Divide in Research and Reality David Clementson

David Clementson was awarded a $9,800 grant from UGA Office of Research’s “Faculty Seed Grants in the Sciences” for my proposal entitled “Deceptive Evasion in Politics: Addressing a Divide in Research and Reality.”

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Narrative persuasion, identification, attitudes, and trustworthiness in crisis communication. David Clementson

Abstract: The purpose of this study is to test the effects of narratives in crisis communication. This research assesses how organizations benefit from using stories in their media responses, relative to sharing non-narrative information. The theory of crisis response narratives (Heath, 2004) holds that ethical narratives are effective because they enhance trustworthiness, attitudes toward the […]

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David Clementson receives Top Paper Award David Clementson

David Clementson received a Top Paper Award for “Let Me Tell You Our Side of the Story: Narrative Immersion in a Crisis Communication Media Interview.” Paper to be presented at the 70th International Communication Association conference Mass Communication division, Gold Coast, Australia. Abstract: Drawing upon the concept of parasocial interaction (PSI) with a TV performer, […]

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Grant to David Clementson David Clementson

David Clementson was one of three people nationally to receive a seed grant from the Glen M. Broom Center at San Diego State for his study investigating the effectiveness of narrative appeals used by PR spokespeople.

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David Clementson received a $500 grant from the Glen M. Broom Center for Professional Development in Public Relations David Clementson

David Clementson received a $500 grant from the Glen M. Broom Center for Professional Development in Public Relations, at San Diego State University to test narrative persuasion strategies and crisis communication in a media relations context.

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Why won’t you answer the question? Mass-mediated deception detection after journalists’ accusations of politicians’ evasion David Clementson

Abstract: Journalists often accuse politicians of dodging questions. Truth-default theory (TDT) predicts that when journalists serve as de facto deception detectors, the audience will process the messaging through a cognitive sequence that lowers the perceived trustworthiness of the politician. Conversely, the public’s perception of the media as being generally hostile and biased in their reporting […]

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How web comments affect perceptions of political interviews and journalistic control. David Clementson

Abstract: People are often exposed to polarized viewpoints in web comment sections. Inspired by attribution theory and framing theory, this article tests the effects of comments that frame a politician or a journalist as triggering evasiveness in a media interview. We compare attributions ascribing deceptiveness to the politician versus external attributions implicating the media situation. […]

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Do public relations practitioners perceptually share ingroup affiliation with journalists? David Clementson

Abstract: Upwards of 200 studies over the past hundred years have reported on the relationship between public relations practitioners and journalists. However, no experiment has compared the group members’ perceptions when seeing their roles in action. Inspired by frameworks of social identity theory, intergroup deception, and the black sheep effect, we test how public relations […]

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Teaching Specialties

Dr. Clementson’s teaching specialties include: introduction to public relations (graduate-level), public relations (honors undergraduate-level), public relations campaigns (undergraduate- and graduate-level) and quantitative research methods.

Experience

Dr. Clementson’s public relations and political communication research is inspired by his professional background. He worked in journalism, politics and public relations for about a decade. He was a journalist for newspapers and magazines, primarily covering politics and government. He ran successful political campaigns for Democrats and Republicans in several states along the U.S. East Coast. He also served as a communication director for a public relations, marketing and advertising firm, a professional opposition researcher for politicians, and the director of communication and press secretary for Attorney Generals. Before coming to UGA, Dr. Clementson was an assistant professor of public relations at California State University, Sacramento, where he was a co-advisor to PRSSA.

 

In the News

Clementson research receives Top Paper honors from International Association of Language and Social Psychology

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Clementson awarded grant from Broom Center for theory-driven industry research

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Grady researcher studies the effect of comments associated with political interviews

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