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Why politicians are three-faced: The face model of political interviews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • P Bull
  • J Elliott
  • D Palmer
  • L Walker


Publication details

JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
DatePublished - Jun 1996
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)267-284
Original languageEnglish


To investigate the relationship between face and equivocation in political interviews, a new typology of questions was devised, based on their face-threatening properties. This typology was applied to the analysis of 18 interviews with the leaders of the three main political parties in the 1992 British General Election. Nineteen different subcategories were distinguished, grouped into three superordinate categories of face which politicians must defend-their own personal face, the face of the party which they represent and face in relation to supporting or not supporting significant others. On the basis of this analysis, a new model of question-response sequences in political interviews was proposed , the main tenet of which is that face is the most important factor in determining whether or not a politician replies to a question. This model provides both a means of predicting the direction of politicians' responses to questions, and a framework for future studies evaluating the performance of both politicians and political interviewers.

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