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PSY FPX 7520 Assessment 2 Minimizing Social Influence in Debates


Capella University

PSY FPX 7520 Social Psychology

Prof. Name



In my capacity as a political consultant for the League of Women, I am entrusted with formulating guidelines for conducting impartial and equitable public town hall debates. This task is challenging due to the considerable influence of both social media and mainstream media on public perceptions, which are instrumental in shaping opinions and beliefs. Understanding the psychological dynamics and impacts in this context is crucial. Social psychology examines how individuals behave in social settings and how they perceive and respond to others (Van Lange, Kruglanski, & Higgins, 2012). Our social perceptions influence how we interpret events and formulate responses (Van Lange et al., 2012).

To counteract the influence of social and media pressures, political advisors must scrutinize the questions posed by the media, ensure moderators allocate equal time to candidates, and ensure fair and meaningful questioning by mediators. The conduct of moderators significantly influences debate outcomes, with the framing and handling of questions playing a crucial role. Moderators’ motivations often revolve around audience engagement, personal gain, or sensationalism rather than focusing on substantive issues (Turcotte, 2014). Despite the introduction of the town hall format by the Commission on Presidential Debates in 1992, the press continues to wield influence over the questions asked (Turcotte, 2014). However, the town hall format tends to steer away from conflict, prioritizing public inquiries about plans and proposals (Turcotte, 2014).

Final Deliverable

Town hall-style meetings provide a platform for more transparent and impartial debates. With the audience primarily driving the discussion, moderator influence is minimized.


  • Moderator bias influencing the audience.
  • Challenges accommodating a large audience’s questions.
  • Potential disruptions from unruly audience members.
  • Inappropriate or off-topic questions from the audience.
Project Budget / Spending Estimate

No specific budget is proposed for this initiative, which aims to enhance debate formats and mitigate the impact of social influences without incurring additional costs.

Research-based Guidelines for Fair Public Debates and Media Coverage

To ensure fairness in public town hall meetings, it is crucial to recognize the influence of social and media dynamics. Social media platforms serve as real-time arenas for political discourse, often shaping initial reactions as significantly as the debates themselves (Pfeiffer, 2015). The League of Women Voters (2016) underscores the importance of pre-debate preparation, critical observation during the debate, and thoughtful reflection afterward. Turcotte (2014) observes that town hall-style debates prioritize substantive policy discussions over entertainment, contrasting with traditional formats. Rooy, Wood, & Tran (2016) highlight how social comparisons influence group dynamics, shaping individual attitudes and behaviors.

Guidelines for Fair Public Debate

Drawing on Festinger’s Social Comparison Model (Van Lange et al., 2012), these guidelines emphasize the importance of unbiased moderation, minimizing moderator influence, and fostering an environment conducive to substantive discussion. Non-verbal cues, such as body language, can subtly sway audience perceptions (CNN, 2012). In a town hall setting, audience involvement can encourage candidates to focus on pertinent issues and avoid confrontational rhetoric. Moderators must ensure fairness, manage audience participation, and select neutral venues to uphold the integrity of the debate.

PSY FPX 7520 Assessment 2 Minimizing Social Influence in Debates


CNN. (2012). Decoding body language from the final debate [Transcript]. Retrieved from

League of Women Voters (n.d.). Retrieved from

Pfeiffer, D. (2015). How social media is revolutionizing debates. Retrieved from

Rooy, D., Wood, I., & Tran, E. (2016). Modeling the emergence of shared attitudes from group dynamics using an agent-based model of social comparison theory. System Research & Behavioral Science, 33, 188-204.

Turcotte, J (2014). The news norms and values of presidential debate agendas: An analysis of format and moderator influence on question content. Mass Communication and Society, 18(3), 1-20.

PSY FPX 7520 Assessment 2 Minimizing Social Influence in Debates

Van Lange, P.A.M., Kruglanski, A.W., Higgins, E.T. (2012). Handbook of theories of social psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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