Cazenovia Forum Speaker Talks “Political Charisma”

11 Oct

By: Meghan Fellows

On September 23rd, more than 200 people crowded in to the ballroom at The Hampton Inn for the latest Cazenovia Forum lecture. The turn out for the forum was larger than usual, and with good reason.

With the presidential election quickly approaching, and the first Trump-Clinton debate just days away, the topic was popular and timely.

“Political Charisma, What Gets your Goat?” was the question presented to the audience. The evening’s speaker, Colgate University Professor Carrie Keating, got the audience’s attention with her opening line:

“I am an expert of knowing when people are lying,” Keating said, making the audience chuckle.

As head of the neuroscience program at Colgate, Keating has been studying non-verbal communication, and facial cues for many years.

“Humans convey dominance from facial features. Most of the time, you’re not aware of your own behavior,” she said.

Keating emphasized non-verbal communication has repercussions. Not realizing how you come off to other people can make or break a first impression. That’s way, she said, she “watches the political debates with the mute button on.”

Keating explained the concept of attention hierarchy; someone powerful just has to attract attention. Whether it’s good or bad attention doesn’t matter.

“Attention enables leadership.” Keating said, with the mention of Donald Trump. Trump portrays dominance, but also allows you to get a little close. This is where charisma comes into play. Keating defined it as one part closeness, and one part distance. Most charismatic leaders master this, and politicians hire professionals to help them do the same.

If a major public leader or politician establishes enough dominance, people who follow them will follow every word they say with more emotion than cognition, Keating said. This means that even when hard facts are established, emotion makes followers of the dominant figure resist new information, and discredit it.

“We tend to see what we already believe.” Keating said, describing a study she conducted. She compared information that was true with information that was opinion. Even after being shown actual facts, more people believed the opinion piece, based on prior knowledge from a public figure that had established dominance in their campaign.

Keating then compared the two presidential candidates in terms of social dominance, and how we recognize dominance within them.

“There are actual studies that show that the taller the candidate, the more likely they are to win. Also, most candidates in the White House, have blue eyes,” she said.

Keating said that we equate leadership with power and shrewdness; power is established with a lower voice and bushy eyebrows, and gender.

“There is a risk when a woman crosses into dominance. A woman can seem competent, but not well liked if she tries to take on a more male demeanor. Women tend to be more interdependent than men. They tend to think of other people before themselves.” This can make Hillary Clinton seem weak to some people; like she will not be able to be hardened enough to get anything done. Running for an office in which her only role models are male, Clinton tries to mimic men, when really she just needs to be herself, said Keating.

Keating said Trump is somewhat at an advantage with the way he is handling his campaign. He runs on fear- which makes a vote for him high risk, but possibly high reward.

“People are more likely to take a risk with a strong leader when the world seems to be “in trouble”” Keating says. Trump supporters have this notion that Trump will get things done. They go in with this mindset of “I don’t know what he’s going to do, but he’s going to do SOMETHING.”

Keating left the audience with this thought:

“Voting is driven by emotion. If we can realize that going into the polls, we can practice more mindfulness- being in the moment, and making your decision in the moment.”

The next Cazenovia Forum lecture, on October 14th at the Catherine Cummings Theatre, will feature former political operative Alan Raymond, on how the major parties rig elections.

After that, pollster John Zogby will round out the Forum’s political lineup, sharing his insights on election results on November 11th.


Meghan Fellows is a junior at Utica College majoring in Public Relations and Journalism.

At Next Caz Forum: Dirty Tricks in Politics

30 Sep

allen-raymond-largeAllen Raymond is the author of the 2008 book How To Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative, which the New York Times said “paints a picture of the corruption of modern politics that should leave no doubt about the creativity and cynicism of operatives like Mr. Raymond or the need for tough new election-reform legislation.” Raymond’s presentation will focus on the 2016 elections and dirty tricks to watch for in swing states from both the major political parties, as well as a look at campaign mechanics and the ways that observers can assess a campaign’s viability.

Raymond spent three months in federal prison for his role in the 2002 New Hampshire U.S. Senate election phone jamming scandal, in which he paid a small Idaho telemarketing company to make non-stop hangup phone calls to phone lines that were being used by Democrats in their get out the vote operations. Prior to this, Raymond spent nearly a decade working to elect Republican candidates, first at the state and then the national level.  He has served in the positions of chief of staff to a Member of Congress, chief of staff to a co-chairman of the Republican National Committee, Regional Political Director for the RNC and National Republican Senatorial Committee, deputy political director for Forbes for President, executive director of the New Jersey Republican State Committee and Republican Leadership Council and has managed several state legislative and congressional campaigns.

Currently he lobbies on behalf of labor unions including the Communications Workers of America, assisting them with Republican lobbying efforts on multiple issues, including trade, telecommunications, Senate Rules reform and various labor union specific legislative issues. Raymond holds a Bachelor of Arts from Hobart College and a Master’s Degree from the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University.  He serves on the Board of Advisors of the GSPM’s Advocacy in the Global Environment program and is a trustee of the John T. Underwood Charitable Foundation, which supports not-for-profit community based organizations in Brooklyn, New York.

At Next Caz Forum: Political Charisma – How it Works and Why You Are Falling for It

9 Sep

With the presidential election drawing near, the Cazenovia Forum will take a “deep dive” into the ways political leaders tap the roots of human nature as psychologist Carrie Keating, a nationally-known expert on non-verbal communication, takes the lectern to give her thoughts on the candidates.

0Keating, the chair of the psychology department at Colgate University, will speak at 7:00pm on Friday, September 23, in the ballroom of the new Hampton Inn on Route 20 just east of Cazenovia Village. Admission is free and a reception will follow.


Keating researches the nonverbal skills and physical appearances associated with social dominance, leadership, and charisma in children and adults. She has found, for example, that humans convey dominance through facial expressions akin to those of other primates, and that facial features which make people appear powerful also make them seem untrustworthy.

When it comes to political candidates, Keating says “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it, and even how you present physically before you say anything at all.”

Her studies have been featured in the print media and on radio, and she has appeared on numerous television shows including Scientific American Frontiers, Dateline NBC, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and ABC’s Good Morning America and What Would You Do? Keating’s presentation will focus on current and previous candidates in the current election cycle and particularly on how her research reveals the ways political leaders impress, persuade, charm and ultimately cultivate devoted followers.