Now, I’m no political journalist – I admit that up front. However it does appear to me that most political debates have swayed away from “This is what I can do my country” to “Just don’t vote for that guy” – and this Presidential Debate was no exception. (In case you missed it, the full recording can be found below).
This debate has received attention from everywhere. Prof. Chris Kowal’s interpretation analysed the debate using the software FaceReader – I’m not so sure of his interpretations though. Amongst other things, there seems to be a conflict between American “body language experts” over whether leaders should be expressionless (as Obama did slightly more) or more expressive (as Romney did). On one side I’ve heard the a neutral face indicates strength, control, solidarity, and on the other I’ve heard expressing emotions helps connect with the audience. Which is correct? I’d suggest both – and neither. In other words, it depends. Digging deeper, I think there’s the possibility that the comments we’ve already heard from experts interpreting the facial expressions and body language of Romney and Obama may be biased based – probably subconsciously – in towards who they personally favour in the elections. In saying that – my living in New Zealand – I’m not biased at all, and will call it as I see it.
I haven’t gone through the whole lot of footage – there’s far too much to look at – so I’ve broken it down into a couple of areas:
- Overall, both Romney & Obama make full use of speech illustrators, having this hand gesturing purposefully giving the appearance of confidence, openness, and sincerity. Both look down to take notes when the other is talking (I’ve heard some talk about this being a weakness – however I’d expect this would happen in any debate).
- The Handshake: Straight off the mark from 0.00 – 0.02 there’s the handshake, of which in my opinion has Obama looking strong and confident. In the media, the person on the left (Romney in this case) often comes across better, as they can straight to the camera forcing the person on the right (Obama) to reach uncomfortably. Obama countered this power-handshake by using his left hand to control Romney’s position and prevent him from turning to camera. Normally when someone uses their left hand (as Obama has) it indicates a closeness and can often lead to a hug – which is why if this happens you’ll want to potentially be aware of someone’s hidden agenda. In this case, Obama’s intention was to control the initial handshake as he was on the “less powerful” side from the camera’s point of view.
Click here for Part 2.