In Kent, Ohio yesterday, President Obama misspoke then made a quick recovery. After saying he wanted to "...export more jobs ...." he then quickly said, ".... export more products ....", then ".... I was channeling my opponent ...." He couldn't believe his own verbal misstep - displaying a classic body language configuration of incredulity - a briefly elevated (right) eyebrow and contracted and elevated (right) forehead as well as a tilting of the head/neck to the same side (0:20 and 0:21). This nonverbal of disbelief was repeated later when he recalled the statement of Mitt Romney (Obama quoting Romney, "... let's let Detroit go bankrupt ...") regarding the difficulty, risk and wisdom of bailing out the auto industry - and in the actions of his own administration (0:45 - 0:49, 0:50 - 0:51).
One signal of disbelief that is bilateral and also seen here is the extended blink. Closing the eyelids of both eyes for prolonged periods (just a few tenths of a second longer than normal) is an example of emotional processing. The emotions are trying to adjust to what just occurred while simultaneously wishing the mistake away.
Intriguingly these looks of disbelief are displayed on the right side of President Obama's face, head and neck. Although Obama is left handed, he displays here (and has in the past) significant signals of ambidexterity. When it comes to facial nonverbals of an asymmetrical nature (such as incredulity and contempt) most everyone tends to bias to one side - and although most of the time it's the same as their dominant hand use, there are exceptions. This is one example.
Here in this video, with the ability to pause and replay an event, body language signals such as this are significantly easier to see and contrast against a verbal message. In day-to-day life, "pause and replay" opportunities are very rare and thus nonverbal warning signs go unseen and under appreciated by the vast majority of people - even the very educated and experienced.
President Obama did commit one nonverbal sign that was consistent with less than complete sincerity. Can you spot it?
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