Politics of trading fact for face

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The art of politics is about 'saving face' and the political interview is shaped more by the politician's need to protect himself, his party, and his colleagues or allies than by individual characteristics such as dishonesty or deviousness, psychologists said yesterday.

Questions which threaten the politician on one or more of these fronts or faces may be responsible for the general impression that they 'never answer British political interviews are associated with a high degree of equivocation, according to Peter Bull and colleagues at York University. Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Neil Kinnock replied to only 40 per cent of the questions put to also possible that equivocation occurs because of the kind of questions which questions may not only be difficult to answer, but even intrinsically unanswerable,' Dr Bull said.

The researchers analysed 18 interviews with leaders of political parties in the 1992 general election to test their hypothesis that interviews were about saving face on three fronts, personally, for the party and for certain response The 'face' model can also be used to evaluate interviewers. For example, if an interviewer asks a high proportion of questions to which replies are highly an indication of interviewer bias.