Date of Graduation
Master of Arts in Political Science (MA)
Patrick A. Stewart
Second Committee Member
Brett Kavanaugh, content analysis, intra-utterance pauses, nonverbal behavior, political communication, senate hearings, stress, verbal content analysis, vocalic utterances, sighs, sharp breath intakes, sniffs
This study analyzed the relationship between verbal and nonverbal vocalic communication patterns exhibited by Brett Kavanaugh, now a sitting Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, during his Senate confirmation hearings in 2018. Additionally, the relationship between verbal statement types: attempt to define reality, personal narrative, policy positions, attacks, acclaims, and defenses, and the nonverbal vocalics of sighs, sharp intakes of breath, and sniffs were evaluated together to see which statement types would elicit higher physiological stress responses during both the 16-minute speech given at the end of the Day One hearing and the 45-minute testimony during the sexual assault hearing. Scholarship suggests that verbal and nonverbal communication are both used to create judgements of credibility (Stiff et al., 1989) which was used by the Senate and the American citizens at large during this political scandal. Video content analysis software, ANVIL, was used to code both hearings for Kavanaugh’s flow of speech, referred to as utterances, his disruptions in speech flow, referred to as intra-utterance pauses, individual statement end-times, and nonverbal vocalic observations. Three coders read and applied one of the five statement types to each sentence of both hearings. Results from the study showed that time spent in both utterances and in recovery during the intra-utterance pause differed. Statement types provided evidence to support the claim that the narratives of each hearing would differ due to higher levels of stress during the sexual assault hearing. Additionally, the U.S. Senate sexual assault hearing found Kavanaugh evincing a substantially greater amount vocalic stress signals such as sighs, sharp intakes of breath, and sniffs when compared with his first day testimony. Finally, when analyzed together, personal narrative statements were most likely while attack and defense statements were least likely to elicit vocalic stress responses. This study provides a microanalysis perspective on how verbal and nonverbal vocalics elicit physiological responses during times of heightened stress.
Johnson, A. (2020). Sex, Stress, and the Supreme Court: Verbal and Vocalic Analysis of Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate Confirmation Hearings to the Supreme Court. Graduate Theses and Dissertations Retrieved from https://scholarworks.uark.edu/etd/3621