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Shawn Hughes Presenting at Conference

LCU Professor Dr. Shawn Hughes Presents at International Conference

LCU Professor Dr. Shawn Hughes Presents at International Conference

Many scholars hope to one day meet the great minds in their particular fields; one LCU professor got to present alongside those in his.

Shawn Hughes and wife in Fukuoka, Japan

Dr. Shawn Hughes, professor of communication at LCU, presented at the International Communication Association Conference in Fukuoka, Japan in mid June, alongside Dr. Erik Bucy, professor of communication at Texas Tech University.  Their presentation, entitled “Moments of Partisan Divergence in Presidential Debates - Indicators of Verbal and Nonverbal Influence,” focused on the 2012 Romney/Obama Debates. 

Hughes and Bucy presented their paper in front of a room full of their peers, many of whom Hughes had actually cited in his dissertation or for other graduate academic work. 

“I was in the hall of giants, I felt like, because here I was presenting with all of these published scholars in my field, not the least of which was my chair, Dr. Eric Bucy; I was honored to be in that group.”

The International Communication Association Conference is an annual gathering of scholars in the communication field from around the world.  The three-day conference covers topics in wide range of the communication discipline, and has, according to Hughes, thousands of attendees.

“This is the pinnacle of the communication field, and this was the largest international conference that our discipline has,” he said, emphasizing the incredible range of issues that the conference covers, from Social Media to modern social issues to politics, which included his own topic, presidential debates.

Shawn Hughes and wife in Fukuoka, Japan“We studied how people, when they’re watching presidential debates, react to verbal and nonverbal statements within the debates,” explained Hughes.  “We looked at how the partisans (in other words, how the republicans and democrats) differed with their perceptions of what was going on in a particular moment.”

Hughes explained how their approach was different from that of previous studies on the subject. 

“Our field tends to study debates narrowly,” he said.  “We either study them from a rhetorical standpoint, looking at the transcript, from a nonverbal standpoint, looking at the behaviors, or from an audience reaction standpoint.  With our study, we tried to take a holistic approach and look at them from all of those angles, and then combined those into a methodology that was very robust.”

That methodology, according to Hughes, paid off, giving them a broader view of how the debates function, what they accomplish, and how they are changing.

“What we found was pretty interesting in that, generally speaking, people in 2012 wanted their presidential candidates to be firm and strong, but they did not want them to be a bully; they did not want them to cross that line. 

Hughes said that, although their presentation only covered the 2012 election, they are continuing their work with the current campaign season.  This year’s election is a whole different animal.

“Now, in 2016, we have a whole different field, and we are gearing up for the next debates, and we are looking forward to those findings and comparing and contrasting those with these findings, so its an ongoing study.  Even in the conventions thus far, we have seen a dynamic contrast in style from then and today.”

And, he added, things could get even more interesting.

“If there is as 3rd party candidate makes it in, which is very likely in this presidential race, then that will completely change the dynamics.  It will be very interesting to watch. 

He added, “We are very fortunate that LCU was supportive of our trip.  I am grateful to LCU and our administration for giving its professors the opportunity to go and represent the university in our fields.”