Saturday, June 9, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1871: Barack Obama
Explains His "Private Sector is Doing Fine" Comment -
The "Dominant Spider" vs.The "Split-Finger Fastball"

Many were surprised a President Barack Obama's recent remark in his press conference, "... The private sector is doing fine". In the above video the President attempts to clarify his remark. There are a truckload of body language signals in this segment, but two in particular are contrasted here - "The Dominant Spider" (DS) and the "Split-Finger Fastball (SFFB)"

The Dominant Spider (displayed by the President's right hand during 0:22 - 0:31 and again from 1:36 - 1:42) is typically used palm-out (a less dominant version as Obama uses here) or palm-down (a more dominant version - see Secret # 702: Gaddafi's Dominant Spider). As its name implies it is a body language signal of dominance and authority. It is a strong indicator of an alpha personality (or a relative alpha-context) and tends to be used more commonly in males than in females. Like all dominant displays, it should be used very sparingly, and in a speech/press conference as high profile as the presidents, almost choreographed. Most alphas tend to over-use the dominant spider and other palm down gestures - thus it makes them feel very authoritative, but will project arrogance and destroy rapport if not used strategically and in small doses.

President Obama uses the Split-Finger Fastball, a watered-down cousin of the Dominant Spider, from 0:42 - 0:53. The fifth digit ("pinky" finger) and the ring finger are flexed and retracted leaving the thumb, forefinger (index finger) and middle finger facing outward - similar to the hand configuration used by baseball pitchers - ergo its moniker. This is still dominant and authoritative, but doesn't come across as arrogant or condescending - so it's a good nonverbal to use and may be used for longer durations as well. Think of the Split-Finger Fastball as an "Alpha Minus" nonverbal signal. However like the pitch, it's a finesse maneuver and few use it well.

See also:

Analysis # 1059: Santorum's Dominant Spider

Analysis # 731: Super Mario Monte's Dominant Spider