How versatility performance influences perception of charismatic speech A study on two Israeli politicians

Oliver Niebuhr*, Vered Silber-Varod

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The concept of vocal charisma has changed in the past decades from something that people have to something that people do, thereby stimulating research on how vocal charisma can be created and improved. Broadening the perspective on vocal charisma beyond the speaker's performance itself to the context of the speech, we conducted acoustic-prosodic analyses of public speeches of two prominent Israelian politicians - Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz. The speech material consisted of 311-516 prosodic phrases per politician from the election campaigns 2019-2020 and, crucially, was balanced so as to include an equal number of pre- and post-election speeches. Results show a superiority of Netanyahu over Gantz in almost all facets of vocal charisma, although Gantz caught up over time. Moreover, unlike Gantz, Netanyahu showed a strong adaptation of his vocal charisma patterns to before- and after-election contexts. Scrutinizing this versatility difference, an additional perception experiment with 42 listeners and excerpts from the two politicians' speeches was carried out. Results show that Netanyahu's speech excerpts were, unlike those of Gantz, mainly rated as more charismatic in those contexts in which they were performed. Gantz' post-election speech excerpts, by contrast, were primarily rated as not fitting into that context, i.e., as unfolding their charisma better in a pre-election context. Moreover, listeners also rated Netanyahu as overall more charismatic than Gantz. The combined production and perception evidence suggests the relevance of context in the evaluation and interpretation of vocal charisma signals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-342
Number of pages40
JournalInteraction Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 31 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Gantz
  • Israeli politicians
  • Netanyahu
  • charisma
  • context
  • election speech
  • prosody
  • vocal signals


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