In the Words of My Esteemed Opponent...

Why you should mimic the opposition during a debate.
Donald Trump. (Photo: Corbis)

Donald Trump. (Photo: Corbis)

How do you make a favorable impression during a debate? Mimic the speaking style of your opponent. Daniel Romero of the University of Michigan and his colleagues examined all available transcripts of United States presidential debates between 1976 and 2012 and found “candidates who matched their opponent’s linguistic style increased their standing in the polls.” The researchers argue that using a similar way of speaking “facilitates the [audience’s] ease of processing” one’s remarks, which is helpful since “language that can be processed more fluently is rated as more truthful, accurate, and persuasive.” In addition, they write in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, adopting a matching style signals that a candidate understands his or her opponent’s thinking. So save those distinctive cadences for speeches; on the debate stage, “mimicry is presidential.”

Mimicry Is Presidential: Linguistic Style Matching in Presidential Debates and Improved Polling Numbers,” Daniel M. Romero, et al., Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2015.


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