Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1712:
Negative Nonverbals and The Recency Effect -
President Obama's Campaign Ad "Go"

President Obama's most recent campaign ad is entitle "Go". He appears in this 60 second commercial in three segments - two at the beginning (from about the 0:16 - 0:18 marks and again at the 0:21 - 0:27 marks) and a third portion at the end from 0:57 - 1:00. These "Barack moments" make up about 11 seconds or only 18.3% of the total. Since the first time the President appears is just over 25% into the commercial, the psychological-cognitive impact of the principle of primacy (what we first see and hear) is minimized - while that of recency (the last visual and audio we experience) exerts a particularly profound effect. The President's campaign advisers and/or marketing "experts" made a very poor decision in their inclusion of these last three seconds.

Barack Obama exits from the Oval Office looking down (with both his eyes and his head/neck bent down as well) and to his left during the 0:57 - 0:58 segment. Looking down sends negative nonverbal messages and when a left-handed person looks down-to-his-left in particular, this is highly correlative with emotions of sadness. The President's eyes and head/neck move upwards to his right in the last second, but the downward looking body language leaves us with a bitter "after-taste" and thus has a lasting and negative emotional effect.

In addition, the President puts his hands into his pockets as he exits from the Oval Office. This body language sends out signals of emotional dissonance. Part of his emotional brain wants to be there ... but another part of him does not. It screams messages of non-engagement, e.g. "don't bother me", "leave me alone" and/or 'I'm not fully 'in the moment' ", etc.

No father ever told his son to walk with his hands in his pockets - or to walk with his head down. These are instinctively viewed by all as low confidence nonverbals. They make him appear as school boy, and a scorned, beta one at that. Re-do Mr. President. Re-do.