Month: September 2016

Clichés about nations govern our actions

TSS News Room

In an increasingly globalized world, establishing successful cooperation between people from different nations is becoming more and more important. “Nowadays, it’s common to talk with someone on the phone or interact with people from all over the world without knowing anything about them other than their nationality,” says Dorrough. “Here, the usual economic theories often neglect to take psychological and cultural aspects into consideration.”

The Max Planck researchers wanted to find out how the participants of various nations behave when they interact with one another. For their study, they invited 1,200 people from Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico and the US to take part in an online game with one another. The willingness of the players to share and collaborate can be investigated with the scientific study of this prisoner dilemma game. The participants, who cannot make any arrangements with one another, must decide on whether their behaviour is going to be selfish or cooperative for the game. If both opt for selfish behaviour, they both get nothing. If both decide to cooperate and share, then there is a medium-level gain for both. If only one of the two behaves selfishly, he or she will get the lion’s share and the other will be exploited to the maximum.

The prisoner dilemma – in an international context

The dilemma lies in not knowing what the other person will do. So the partners have to try and assess the behaviour of the other. If a player thinks their partner will behave selfishly, then they will likewise choose selfish behaviour. If a player judges their partner to be cooperative, then they will also choose to cooperate. In the game, which was played just once, the only thing the player knew about the other was their nationality.  Besides making a cooperation decision, participants also indicated their expectation regarding their current interaction partner`s cooperation. To learn more about how the participants formed their expectations, they were subsequently asked about how they assessed their co-players – namely on the basis of criteria for assuming a willingness to cooperate: trustworthy, friendly, generous or likeable. In order that the researchers could look in greater detail at a country that rated poorly in the assessment of willingness to cooperate, they also asked the participants about other characteristics. For example, the participants had to specify how attractive, spiritual, sociable, sporty and wealthy they considered the others to be.

Opposing expectations

The study revealed that the players hold strong beliefs that are influenced by nation-specific clichés about the behaviour of their co-players. A prior study by the researchers had already shown how differently US Americans assess the willingness to cooperate of partners from other countries. For example, they expect a high degree of willingness from the Japanese, but a very low level of willingness from Israelis or Indians. Paradoxically, people from Israel assume a very high level of cooperation from partners in the US and cooperate for their part. The Japanese are essentially more pessimistic about the cooperative behaviour of other nationalities; Germany ranks at an average level in this regard for the Japanese.

The participants thus behave according to stereotypes, even though these ultimately prove to be false and actually correlate negatively with reality. This prompted the researchers to compare the expected contributions with the actual results. Participants, for instance, often expect very cooperative behaviour from the Japanese in the test, which ultimately isn’t the case – most likely because the Japanese do not expect a great deal of cooperation from others. These stereotypes have a negative effect on the Israelis – a lower level of willingness to cooperate is generally expected from them, even though they are fully prepared to share.

“There can often be some truth in stereotypes, but if we unjustly judge people wrongly, then our responses are also wrong. This alone should make us more aware,” says Dorrough. However, we don’t always manage to do this. “This would be an objective of research – that is, to find out how we could help counteract these erroneous assumptions.”

Yet, it is not just clichés that influence behaviour. The players also have different social preferences. For example, they prefer co-players from their own country or towards people from poorer countries. Players from Mexico and India get more than what was expected by them. No connection was found in the spatial distance between the nations.

The researchers want to refine their results in the future by including more countries. They also want to study how the degree of globalization or historical factors can explain certain behaviour.


You can follow The Systems Scientist on Twitter or Facebook

Photo credit: Nina Lueth



This article was originally published in Max-Planck-Gesellschaft


Trophy hunting of lions can aid in conservation, say researchers

TSS News Room

One year after the worldwide controversy when an American dentist and recreational hunter killed Cecil the Lion outside Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, the researchers say hunting can work as a conservation tool, but that an overhaul of the system is required in order to encourage hunting companies to prioritise sustainability over profits. Their findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, most lion conservationists agree that trophy hunting can play a key role in conserving the species. Lions need large protected areas to thrive, but managing this land is expensive: in developing countries, the operating budgets for protected areas only cover an average of 30% of costs, and the fees raised from trophy hunting can cover some of this shortfall, making it financially feasible to protect lion habitat instead of developing it for other purposes. However, the researchers say the system is in need of reform if the species is to be protected in the long term.

The researchers, from the Universities of Kent, Cambridge and Queensland, studied lion population trends between 1996 and 2008 in Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve. Tanzania is home to up to half of the world’s free-ranging lions and is also the main location for lion trophy hunting in Africa.

The game reserve, which is a stronghold for the species, is divided into blocks in which hunting rights are allocated to different companies. The government leases the land to the hunting companies, enforces hunting regulation and allocates the companies a species-specific annual quota per block.

The researchers found that in areas where companies were allocated a particular block of land over a short time period (less than ten years), the numbers of lions killed, and the numbers of trophy species killed overall, were higher than the recommended numbers. In addition, annual financial returns were higher for these lands under short-term management.

In contrast, in blocks that were allocated to the same company for ten years or more, the number of offtakes, or licensed lion kills, were at level that were sustainable for the species, while also maintaining their habitat.

“Companies who have secured long-term use rights to natural resources are more likely to manage them sustainably,” said Dr Henry Brink from the University of Kent, the study’s first author. “This is an important lesson for lion conservation, as loss of habitat means this species is increasingly restricted to protected areas.”

This research also supports calls to change the hunting fee system in Tanzania. “At present, the government sells hunting block fees cheaply, and raises more by setting high quotas and high fees for each trophy animal shot, which encourages those who are only allocated blocks over the short-term to shoot more lions, at the expense of long-term sustainability and profits,” said Professor Nigel Leader-Williams from Cambridge’s Department of Geography, the study’s senior author. “Increasing block fees, reducing trophy fees and reducing the hunting quota could bring in the same tax revenue, while reducing the temptation of hunters to kill more lions.”


You can follow The Systems Scientist on Twitter or Facebook

Photo credit: University of Cambridge



This article was originally published by the University of Cambridge

Genetic studies reveal diversity of early human populations, and migration ‘Out of Africa’

By George Busby

Humans are a success story like no other. We are now living in the “Anthropocene” age, meaning much of what we see around us has been made or influenced by people. Amazingly, all humans alive today – from the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego on the southern tip of the Americas to the Sherpa in the Himalayas and the mountain tribes of Papua New Guinea – came from one common ancestor.

We know that our lineage arose in Africa and quickly spread to the four corners of the globe. But the details are murky. Was there just one population of early humans in Africa at the time? When exactly did we first leave the continent and was there just one exodus? Some scientists believe that all non-Africans today can trace their ancestry back to a single migrant population, while others argue that there were several different waves of migration out of Africa.

Now, three new studies mapping the genetic profiles of more than 200 populations across the world, published in Nature, have started to answer some of these questions.

Out of Africa

Humans initially spread out of Africa through the Middle East, ranging further north into Europe, east across Asia and south to Australasia. Later, they eventually spread north-east over the top of Beringia into the Americas. We are now almost certain that on their way across the globe, our ancestors interbred with at least two archaic human species, the Neanderthals in Eurasia, and the Denisovans in Asia.

Genetics has been invaluable in understanding this past. While hominin fossils hinted that Africa was the birthplace of humanity, it was genetics that proved this to be so. Patterns of genetic variation – how similar or different people’s DNA sequences are – have not only shown that most of the diversity we see in humans today is present within Africa, but also that there are fewer differences within populations the further you get from Africa.

These observations support the “Out of Africa” model; the idea that a small number of Africans moved out of the continent – taking a much reduced gene-pool with them. This genetic bottleneck, and the subsequent growth of non-African populations, meant that there was less genetic diversity to go round, and so there are fewer differences, on average, between the genomes of non-Africans compared to Africans.

When we scan two genomes to identify where these differences, or mutations, lie, we can estimate how long in the past those genomes split from each other. If two genomes share long stretches with no differences, it’s likely that their common ancestor was in the more recent past than the ancestor of two genomes with shorter shared stretches. By interrogating the distribution of mutations between African and non-African genomes, two of the papers just about agree that the genetic bottleneck caused by the migration out of Africa occurred roughly 60,000 years ago. This is also broadly in line with dating from archaeological investigations.

Their research also manages to settle a long-running debate about the structure of African populations at the beginning of the migration. Was the small group of humans who left Africa representative of the whole continent at that time, or had they split off from more southerly populations earlier?

SGDP model of the relationships among diverse humans (select ancient samples are shown in red) that fits the data. Credit: Swapan Mallick, Mark Lipson and David Reich.

The Simons Genome Diversity Project compared the genomes of 142 worldwide populations, including 20 from across Africa. They conclusively show that modern African hunter-gatherer populations split off from the group that became non-Africans around 130,000 years ago and from West Africans around 90,000 years ago. This indicates that there was substantial substructure of populations in Africa prior to the wave of migration. A second study, led by Danish geneticist Eske Willersev, with far fewer African samples, used similar methods to show that divergence within Africa also started before the migration, around 125,000 years ago.

More migrations?

Following the move out of the continent, the pioneers must then have journeyed incredibly quickly to Australia. The Danish study, the most comprehensive analysis of Aboriginal Australian and Papuan genomes to date, is the first to really examine the position of Australia at the end of the migration.

They found that the ancestors of populations from “Sahul” – Tasmania, Australia and New Guinea – split from the common ancestor of Europeans and Asians 51,000-72,000 years ago. This is prior to their split from each other around 29,000-55,000 years ago, and almost immediately after the move out of Africa. This implies that the group of people who ended up in the Sahul split away from others almost as soon as the initial group left Africa. Substantial mixing with Denisovans is only seen in Sahulians, which is consistent with this early split.

Crucially, because the ancestors of modern-day Europeans and Asians hadn’t split in two at this point, we think that they must have still been somewhere in western Eurasia at this point. This means that there must have been a second migration from west Eurasia into east Asia later on. The Simons Genome Diversity Project study, by contrast, albeit with a far smaller sample of Sahulian genomes, found no evidence for such an early Sahulian split. It instead shows that the ancestors of East Asians and Sahulians split from western Eurasians before they split from each other, and therefore that Denisovan admixture occurred after the former split from each other.

A graphic representation of the interaction between modern and archaic human lines, showing traces of an early out of Africa (xOoA) expansion within the genome of modern Sahul populations. Dr Mait Metspalu at the Estonian Biocentre, Tartu, Estonia

Meanwhile, a third paper proposes an earlier, “extra” migration out of Africa, some 120,000 years ago. This migration is only visible in the genomes of a separate set of Sahulians sequenced as part of the Estonian Biocentre Human Genome Diversity Panel. Only around 2% per cent of these genomes can be traced to this earlier migration event, which implies that this wave can’t have many ancestors left in the present day. If true (the two other papers find little support for it), this suggests that there must have been a migration across Asia prior to the big one about 60,000 years ago, and that anatomically modern human populations left Africa earlier than many think.

Whatever the reality of the detail of the Out of Africa event, these studies provide some benchmarks for the timings of some of the key events. Importantly, they are also a huge resource of over 600 new and diverse human genomes that provide the genomics community with the opportunity for further understanding of the paths our ancestors took towards the Anthropocene.

The Conversation

George Busby, Research Associate in Statistical Genomics, University of Oxford


You can follow The Systems Scientist on Twitter or Facebook

Photo credit: Preben Hjort, Mayday Film




This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Scientists endeavor to eradicate all viruses with a universal treatment

By Sarah Kearns

DRACO stands for Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizer, and it’s an amazing tool that has the potential to treat and cure Ebola, Zika, and HIV in one shot. The incredible part is that the method of treatment goes down to fundamental attributes that only viruses have, the long double stranded RNA. Because only viruses have this, and all viruses have this, the DRACO method could lead to a universal treatment.

Trouble with Viruses

So far, there have been very few methods at treating and eradicating viruses. Typically drug development focuses on protein regulation because polypeptides can be easier to characterize and understand. Compared to bacteria, viral DNA produce far fewer proteins and, in turn, fewer potential targets. Often times, viruses will adapt and modify themselves to avoid being killed by vaccines developed. When strains of viruses of bacteria alter their DNA, the proteins they produce are also changed just slightly enough that the developed drug will not stop it from spreading.

For some examples HIV, has a very high genetic variability because it replicates so quickly which results in a high mutation rate that’s as high as a few per hour. The “superbug” bacteria known as MRSA, a drug resistant strain of Staphylococcus aureus (a bacteria found in your respiratory tract) is resistant to a lot of antibacterial drugs — even though it’s not a virus, it’s a good representative of what it means to be drug resistant. Even more extreme, very deadly viruses like Ebola, still do not have a vaccine that’s been approved for humans.

Additionally, given the traditional method, each strain needs its own vaccine. This is why it’s suggested that you get the flu shot once a year, not only because it too has the ability to evolutionarily adapt against drugs, but also because the body’s immune response declines over time. Even though this makes drug development very difficult, why it happens is due to self-preservation. If you imagine the virus as a human instead of a killing agent, you can understand that it replicates and mutates so quickly to protect itself.

Universal Treatment

To repeat for emphasis, there are many types of viruses that cause the human race harm and because they each have such a different DNA, and thus proteins or good drug targets. This new approach, DRACO, uses biological pathways that are common for all virus issues such that there would be one type of pharmacological treatment for every virus.

Dr. Todd Rider, a senior scientist in MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory’s Chemical, Biological, and Nanoscale Technologies Group, has been a front-runner in making progress in developing new techniques to detect and cure large ranges of viruses. Being the project head, and inventor of, PANACEA (Pharmacological Augmentation of Nonspecific Anti-pathogen Cellular Enzymes and Activities), he invented the method now called DRACO (for Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizer). If it’s not obvious, he really likes acronyms and wants to find a solution to all diseases which he describes and confesses in this video.

The RIDER lab’s DRACO approach combines two processes that occur naturally in the cell, the first one uses a virus detection pathway, the second a programmable destruction of the cell.

Viruses have both single and double stranded RNA genomes. In the human body, it is latter that’s responsible for triggering a defence system against virus. As such, it is the double stranded RNA (dsRNA) that is the initial target. Even though mammalian cells can produce such helices, they are significantly shorter (by at least 22 base pairs) than the dsRNA allowing the cell to identify each type reliably.

The second biological pathway used is intracellular apoptosis signaling. This is the way a cell initiates self-destruction. It is not always intuitive, but triggering the cell to lyse (controlled breakdown) can actually save the cell some energy. When all the components of the cell are broken up into tiny pieces, it saves the cell from having to discriminate between functional and non-functional pathways. By essentially restarting and making good building blocks available, the cell is able to recycle all the parts without having to waste time.

When two DRACO molecules identify and bind to viral dsRNA, it causes a change in the cell that leads to the binding of multiple apoptosis signaling molecules. This means that the cell would be terminated before it has the chance to replicate and thus end the disease-spreading and, more importantly, get rid of the virus entirely from the body.

So far the RIDER Institute has gotten funding from establishments like the NIH, but just for proof of concept. They have literally shown that the DRACO method successfully treats viral infections in vitro (in a cell culture in a petri dish) the common cold, and hemorrhagic fever.

The virus kills untreated cells (bottom left), but we see that DRACO can cure the infected cell population (bottom right) and is not toxic in untreated cells (upper right). The left (yellow) set of images shows the rhinovirus in humans cells and the right (red) set is hemorrhagic fever in monkey cells.

2016-09-15-2It is exciting because it means that, once developed, DRACO will get rid of the common cold. Yes, no more sniffles and nasal congestion ever again. But, because the mechanism of DRACO is ubiquitous to any virus, it means that it could stop the spread of HIV. Yes, a cure for AIDS. Even though this method is very promising method with huge life saving capabilities.

The virus kills untreated cells (bottom left), but we see that DRACO can cure the infected cell population (bottom right) and is not toxic in untreated cells (upper right). The left (yellow) set of images shows the rhinovirus in humans cells and the right (red) set is hemorrhagic fever in monkey cells.

How you can help

This project still needs funding to get to test more viruses in different cell lines and eventually get to human trials. The really cool thing is that you can help! They have a crowdfunding page where anyone can give a one time or recurring donation to further their research goals and get their therapy to human trials. You can play a role in advancing a treatment that will save millions of lives around the world.

Take Away

Even though most viruses mutate very quickly and produce few drug targets, focusing on their universal trait of double stranded RNA researchers can develop a ubiquitous therapy to kill each and every strain. The development of DRACO, has appeared to be very effective, safe, and promising having annihilated the common cold in the human cell model. And we should do our part, if we are able, to help support the RIDER Institute’s efforts and donate to their project to literally end all viruses. Totally worthwhile!


Sarah Kearns is a science writer and practicing scientist of biochemistry. She is also the author of Eve Reviews and a contributor for The Systems Scientist. You can connect with her directly in the comments section and follow her on Twitter.

You can also follow The Systems Scientist on Twitter or Facebook as well.




Copyright ©2016 – The Systems Scientist


Use of body-worn cameras sees complaints against police ‘virtually vanish’, study finds

TSS News Room

Body-worn cameras are fast becoming standard kit for frontline law enforcers, trumpeted by senior officers and even the US President as a technological ‘fix’ for what some see as a crisis of police legitimacy. Evidence of effectiveness has, however, been limited in its scope.

Now, new results from one of the largest randomised-controlled experiments in the history of criminal justice research, led by the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology, show that the use by officers of body-worn cameras is associated with a startling 93% reduction in citizen complaints against police.

Researchers say this may be down to wearable cameras modifying behaviour through an ‘observer effect’: the awareness that encounters are recorded improves both suspect demeanour and police procedural compliance. Essentially, the “digital witness” of the camera encourages cooler heads to prevail.

The experiment took place across seven sites during 2014 and early 2015, including police from areas such as the UK Midlands and the Californian coast, and encompassing 1,429,868 officer hours across 4,264 shifts in jurisdictions that cover a total population of two million citizens. The findings are published today in the journal Criminal Justice and Behaviour.

The researchers write that, if levels of complaints offer at least some guide to standards of police conduct – and misconduct – these findings suggest that use of body-worn cameras are a “profound sea change in modern policing”.

“Cooling down potentially volatile police-public interactions to the point where official grievances against the police have virtually vanished may well lead to the conclusion that the use of body-worn cameras represents a turning point in policing,” said Cambridge criminologist and lead author Dr Barak Ariel. As Dr. Ariel further explains,

There can be no doubt that body-worn cameras increase the transparency of frontline policing. Anything that has been recorded can be subsequently reviewed, scrutinised and submitted as evidence.

Individual officers become more accountable, and modify their behaviour accordingly, while the more disingenuous complaints from the public fall by the wayside once footage is likely to reveal them as frivolous.

The cameras create an equilibrium between the account of the officer and the account of the suspect about the same event – increasing accountability on both sides.

However, Ariel cautions that one innovation, no matter how positive, is unlikely to provide a panacea for a deeply rooted issue such as police legitimacy.

Complaints against police are costly: both financially and in terms of public trust, say researchers. In the US, complaints can be hugely expense – not least through multimillion-dollar lawsuits. In the UK last year, the IPCC reported a continuous rise in complaints across the majority of forces.

Ariel worked with colleagues from RAND Europe and six different police forces: West Midlands, Cambridgeshire, West Yorkshire, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and Rialto and Ventura in California, to conduct the vast experiment.

Each trial was managed by a local point of contact, either an officer or civilian staff member – all graduates of the Cambridge University Police Executive Programme.

Every week for a year, the researchers randomly assigned each officer shift as either with cameras (treatment) or without (control), with all officers experiencing both conditions.

Across all seven trial sites during the 12 months preceding the study, a total of 1,539 complaints were lodged against police, amounting to 1.2 complaints per officer. By the end of the experiment, complaints had dropped to 113 for the year across all sites – just 0.08 complaints per officer – marking a total reduction of 93%.

Surprisingly, the difference between the treatment and control groups once the experiment began was not statistically significant; nor was the variations between the different sites.

Yet the before/after difference caused by the overall experimental conditions across all forces was enormous. While only around half the officers were wearing cameras at any one time, complaints against police right across all shifts in all participating forces almost disappeared.

Researchers say this may be an example of “contagious accountability”: with large scale behavioural change – in officers but also perhaps in the public – seeping into almost all interactions, even during camera-less control shifts, once the experiment had introduced camera protocols to participating forces.

“It may be that, by repeated exposure to the surveillance of the cameras, officers changed their reactive behaviour on the streets – changes that proved more effective and so stuck,” said co-author Dr Alex Sutherland of RAND Europe.

“With a complaints reduction of nearly 100% across the board, we find it difficult to consider alternatives to be honest,” he said.

Critically, researchers say these behaviour changes rely on cameras recording entire encounters, and officers issuing an early warning that the camera is on – reminding all parties that the ‘digital witness’ is in play right from the start, and triggering the observer effect.

In fact, results from the same experiment, published earlier this year, suggest that police use-of-force and assaults on officers actually increase if a camera is switched on in the middle of an interaction, as this can be taken as an escalation of the situation by both officer and suspect.

“The jolt of issuing a verbal reminder of filming at the start of an encounter nudges everyone to think about their actions more consciously. This might mean that officers begin encounters with more awareness of rules of conduct, and members of the public are less inclined to respond aggressively,” explained Ariel.

“We suspect that this is the ‘treatment’ that body-worn cameras provide, and the mechanism behind the dramatic reduction in complaints against police we have observed in our research.”


You can follow The Systems Scientist on Twitter or Facebook

Photo credit: SchulerEnglish



This article was originally published by the University of Cambridge

Why the pundits are wrong about Hillary Clinton dominating the debate

By Gleb Tsipursky

The vast majority of pundits declared Hillary Clinton the decisive winner of this week’s debate.

This includes both conservative and liberal pundits. For instance, Douglas Schoen of Fox News wrote:

She was ready for all of his quips with a litany of detail that may have bored the viewer at points, but showed why she is winning on qualifications, experience and temperament in every poll.

However, most post-debate online polls are breaking for Donald Trump as the winner. These polls are not rigorous, in that anyone can vote in them multiple times, regardless of whether they would vote in the actual election. Still, some of these polls have hundreds of thousands of votes. They provide significant evidence of enthusiasm for Trump’s debate performance and suggest that the pundits are wrong about Clinton dominating the debate.

So what explains this difference between the polls and the pundits?

As an expert on the role of emotional intelligence in public life, including in debates, I have long observed that mainstream media commentators don’t give sufficient credit to the role of emotions in shaping public perceptions.

Understanding the impact of emotions in politics is key for making an accurate prediction of how debates will impact voting.

Pundits vs. the public

Pundits tend to focus on the substance of the debate by analyzing the content of each candidate’s statements. Schoen’s quote above is typical of what pundits value: policy details that express appropriate qualifications and experience.

This focus on content fails to fully reflect what actually influences the viewing public – body language and tone of voice.

The first-ever presidential debate, between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy, was apparently seen as a tie by those who listened on the radio. Yet, those who watched on television and got to compare the energetic and healthy-looking Kennedy with the pale, shifty-eyed Nixon saw the former as the winner.

In the presidential debates most Americans focus more on nonverbal cues of body language, and remember them after the debate is over, compared to the content of what is said, according to David Givens, director of the Center for Nonverbal Studies, a private nonprofit research center. These nonverbals are of fundamental importance to communication, and they often mean more than what is actually being said.

This is something that traditional pundits fail to give due credit. This failure can be seen in previous debates in which Trump participated for the Republican presidential nomination. In most cases, pundits declared that Trump was defeated by his competitors, but he won in post-debate online polling and ended up with the nomination.

Research on emotional intelligence provides key clues for why Trump ended up on top. Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive and influence the emotions of others. While we perceive ourselves to be rational beings, in reality studies show that our emotions dominate most of our mental processes.

Emotional intelligence is especially important for leaders due to the phenomenon of emotional contagion – the ability to “infect” large numbers of people with your emotions. Research shows that emotionally intelligent leaders are especially skilled at emotional contagion. This is a fundamental component of what scholars call charisma, the whole complement of factors that enables a leader to influence others through the leader’s personality.

In my work on the role of emotional intelligence in public life, I have long highlighted Trump’s strength in playing to the emotions of his audience. He has succeeded in being perceived by the public as more honest and authentic, despite fact checkers saying otherwise.

Emotional intelligence and the first debate

Charisma has long been a weak area for Clinton. She has struggled to overcome the persistent impression that she’s inauthentic, cold and distant, which she says emerged from her learning as a young woman to control her emotions. In this debate, Clinton needed to demonstrate a better sense of emotional connection to the audience to win over important demographics, such as Bernie Sanders supporters.

Despite her command of policy and substance, Clinton did not in my view succeed in conveying strong emotions during the debate. For instance, in the part of the debate about the economy, the most important issue for U.S. voters, she conveyed a clear plan, with strong evidence backing it up. In her debate preparation she likely worked on injecting emotions into her presentation through telling stories, a classical way of conveying emotions. She shared some powerful stories of people suffering from the poor economy and how her policies would help them out.

But her nonverbal cues – body language and tone of voice – showed lack of emotional expression. For instance, in this moment in the debate, Clinton talks about helping people who are struggling to balance family and work, and experience various stresses.

Yet her tone and body language do not change to reflect these emotional topics. She did not gesture or change her voice to express empathy with those who struggle and have stress. She looks the same as she does a little later or earlier when talking about policy details.

Nonverbal cues of body language and tone are especially important in cases where the content of the verbal statement is at odds with the nonverbal cues. Emotional stories told with flat affect are unlikely to work for convincing the undecided and Bernie supporters that Clinton truly cares and is actually fighting for them.

Training in conveying emotions through body language and tone of voice could help Clinton in the next debate and public speaking in general.

By contrast, Trump looked like he truly cared about the economy. Right out of the gate, he spoke to the emotions of voters by expressing concerns about jobs leaving the U.S. Despite the lack of detail and his difficulty responding to questions about how he would solve this problem, his body language was angry and authoritative.

He looked like a strong protector to those voters, especially working-class ones who are suffering economically. He may have even appealed to those who are doing fine, but believe that the economy is headed in the wrong direction.

Trump also harshly criticized Clinton on trade deals such as NAFTA, calling it the “worst deal ever” in a strong and aggressive manner. Clinton’s calm response that Trump is “inaccurate,” without good nonverbals indicating her authentic belief that he was lying, is an example of how Trump got the best of Clinton on the nonverbals.

Overall, I would argue that while Clinton won the debate on content and substance, Trump won on style and charisma. In fact, I believe the 2 to 4 percent gain for Clinton predicted by FiveThirtyEight and other pundits in the next week will fail to materialize. Until they start taking emotional engagement into consideration, pundits will continue to be wrong about debate outcomes, and we should question their initial predictions.

The Conversation

Gleb Tsipursky, Assistant Professor in History of Behavioral Science, President of Intentional Insights, The Ohio State University


You can follow The Systems Scientist on Twitter or Facebook

Photo credit: The Moderate Voice




This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Trump versus Clinton: The anticlimactic debate 

By Robert J. Garrison

Monday night, millions watched and saw exactly what is wrong with this years candidates. I don’t believe this debate will move the needle much if at all.


Trump came off as reserve and restrained. If we would have said that for any other candidate, that would have equated as a lost. But for Trump, it was a huge win. Hillary did her best to poke and prod Trump into a reaction and she tried to get him to appear unsettled and unhinged. However, Trump didn’t fall into her trap. Trump’s strongest points were on the subjects of economy, trade and the plight of inner city violence.

On the economy, he stayed on message about how companies are keeping money out of the country because the United States  has the highest corporate tax rates in the world! These tax rates are too high for US companies. And as a consequence, they do not reinvest in creating new US jobs with their profits.

The exchange between the two over tax plans was one of Trump’s best. He got Hillary to admit that she would raise taxes, which Hillary stated before would only be on the wealthy. Lets be honest here, whenever a candidate says they are going to raise taxes only on the rich, it always leads to higher taxes on everyone. Also it ignores the fact that the wealthy pay the majority of taxes in this country already!

He also talked about the Fed’s policy of injecting liquidity into the economy to boost growth, which is creating a bubble. However, when it bursts, it will be worse than the housing bubble bursting in 2008. Trump’s assertion that the Fed are doing this for political reasons This is hyperbole, but it plays well to those that see that the injection of liquidity by the Fed has done nothing for economic growth.

Then the debate turned to Trump’s tax returns. Listen, no one gives a rat’s behind about the tax returns of candidates. It’s a non issue because it doesn’t affect people! Hillary tried to attack Trump on the fact that he hasn’t paid any Federal taxes, but Trump fired back by saying “That’s smart.” 

The next strong point for Trump was trade. He has articulated this issue well since the beginning of his campaign and has successfully used it against Hillary during the debate. He effectively pointed out the flaws with NAFTA and pinned it on her husband. Trump did his best by showing how trade deals like NAFTA has brought us nothing but lose job, lose companies to foreign shores, and create massive trade deficits. Trump also talked about the value-added tax that Mexico places on US made products. This fact has flown under the radar of voters. Hillary briefly defended NAFTA which will hurt her in the rust belt states. Trump also correctly used her words of support TTP against her.

Lastly Trump has been the only candidate to talk about the plight happening in the inner cities. He has ventured and brought light to a problem that has been ignored by the media and Democrats. He effectively showed how Democrats use minorities as pawns in every election but fail to do nothing to help them after the elections are finished. The best and hardest hitting quote of the night for Trump was

You’ve been in politics for 30 years and have done nothing….typical politician all talk, no action.

He also had a great quote about Hillary’s experience

Yeah you’ve got experience, but its bad experience.

Trump missed many opportunities to attack Hillary when she gave him the opening to do so. I believe that was done on purpose because Trump didn’t want to come off as “mean and nasty” to her. He did a good job being composed and calm through much of the debate but still came off strong and with passion on trade and foreign policy. I felt that Trump became tired towards the last 1/3 of the debate. He definitely needed to prep more for the debate. Trump is a quick learner and will use this as a learning experience. Overall Trump showed people that he can be restrained when he wants to be and not come offf as a “crazy guy.”


She came off as strong and well-studied on the issues. You could tell that she prepared for this debate. She had momentum throughout much of the debate and that gave her the ability to put Trump on the defensive. The issues she was strong on were foreign policy, race relations and pointing out Trump’s business practices.

She articulated why the United States has supported NATO for decades. She effectively pointed out why we need NATO and how that is an important organization. She articulated the knowledge of the nuisances of foreign policy and how Trump’s rhetoric can bring unsuitability. She also articulated how Trump’s fiery rhetoric would hurt our efforts to work with allies to combat terrorism.

She hammered Trump on the stop and frisk issue. Trump most likely adopted this position from former mayor Rudy Giuliani. His lack of articulating the policy and defending its effectiveness opened the door for Hillary to label him a racist. If he would have explained the stop and frisk program in New York as Rudy had after the debate, it would not have come off as badly as Hillary made it out to be.

Hillary’s answer of working with the community and police to bring about reforms in the criminal justice system looked way better in comparison to Trump stumbling over himself trying to explain stop and frisk.

Lastly, Hillary illustrated that Trump’s business dealings really hit his image among working class voters. She was able to paint a picture of Trump as a sleazy business man who shortchanged and cheated blue collar-workers. The democrats did the same thing to Romney with effectiveness. It also planted the seed into the mind of the voters that he would do the same thing to them as he has done to those he does business with.

So what?

After 90 minutes of back and forth, what was the debate outcome? Nothing! Everyone that watched wasted 90 minutes of their lives. They will never ever get those 90 minutes back! The evening was primed and pumped to be a barn burner but what we got was an anticlimactic debate that was slow and boring. It was a debate of missed opportunities, both candidates let opportunities slip by that they could have used to score political points against the other. Maybe that was due to the boring and slow nature of the debate, which was to Hillary’s advantage. Trump had his moments but appeared unable to gain any momentum because he was kept on the defensive.

Both candidates played to their bases and rarely said anything that would appeal to the undecided voters. While Hillary was strong on details and polices she did come off as robotic as times. Not only that but you could see her thinking and calculating her answers which plays into the disdain voters have for politicians in this election cycle. It also made her appear scripted. on the opposite side, Trump proved that he could restrain himself and connected better with the viewers. We are in the middle of a voter revolt where everything is being turned upside down on its head. As we have seen in past debates, trying to analyze Trump through normal political means have proven unreliable and useless.

One final note, Lester Holt did a somewhat poor job as moderator, in my opinion. He wouldn’t allow Trump to respond to Hilary’s attacks uninterrupted. He constantly kept interjecting himself into the debate by correcting Trump before he had a chance to explain anything. Now while Trump does stretch the truth a lot, I am not surprised that Lester Holt kept fact checking him. But give the candidate time to explain himself without interruption.

I think the debate was a draw. Hillary won if you based your assessment on detailed answers and knowledge of policy. However, if you based it on who connected better with the average person, then Trump won. This debate left viewers feeling very unfulfilled and wanting. Due to the time constraints both candidates couldn’t go into too much detail with any effectiveness.


Robert J. Garrison is a political and religious writer for The Systems Scientist. You can connect with him directly in the comments section, follow him on Twitter or on Facebook, or catch up on his articles in the Archives

You can also follow The Systems Scientist on Twitter or Facebook as well. 


Photo credit: C-Span



Copyright ©2016 – The Systems Scientist