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Look for the Laughing Candidate

As the 2011 Presidential election heats up, we need to know how to choose a candidate. Should it be someone who's depressed? Or should it be someone who laughs?

Political scientist Patrick A. Stewart believes that, while watching this season's political debates, we should listen for humorous comments. He says, "Laughing matters on the campaign trail, not only for bringing supporters together but also for defining leaders." And a sense of humor denotes wisdom. According to Stewart, nonverbal behavior, such as an upward turn of the lips or crinkling of the eyes, signals the emotional intent of a humorous comment, whether the comment is self-deprecating or critical of an opponent.

While a speechwriter may script humorous comments and a candidate may rehearse them, Stewart says, "The ability to successfully deliver such comments nonverbally does not appear to be so easily coached, potentially making them a robust indicator of candidate character."

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