by Marianne English
“As political campaigns warm up for the 2012 elections, we'll tune into debates to learn where politicians stand on specific issues. Some will tackle questions head on, while others will dodge them entirely. But the latter group - the dodgers - avoid providing direct answers better than we think, according to research in the "Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied." In four studies, experts found that dodgers fly under the radar when they provide a similar answer to the question asked. A successful dodge leaves readers unsure of what the original question was by the end of the speaker's answer. For example, a candidate at a political debate may dodge a question concerning illegal drug use by focusing on health care reform in his answer, leaving the audience under the impression the question was related to health care in the first place.
According to the research, it's difficult to detect a dodge because viewers' efforts are focused on "social evaluation," or whether they have a liking for the person, rather than noticing fine-tuned deception. Nearly 70 percent of participants were women recruited through a survey website, which may restrict generalizing the results of the study to all genders and ages. And it's not just politicians who evade answering tough questions. Business representatives, institutional spokespeople and even unfaithful romantic partners dodge inquiries into their actions or motives, the authors write."