Friday, May 24, 2013

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2407:
President Obama in Midst of Heckler -
A Subtle Sign of Significant Anger with
Emotional Dissonance (Video, Photos)

Yesterday President Obama spoke about his desire and plan to close the prison a Guantanamo Bay. During this portion of his speech at the National Defense University, he was repeatedly interrupted by Ms. Medea Benjamin of the advocacy group "Code Pink". She demanded he close the detention center immediately - without congressional approval.

When one takes an introductory physics course in classical mechanics, the instructor will have her/his class consider strings to be "mass-less" and wheels to be "friction-less" - even though neither exist. Rather these are constructs used to engender learning of Newtonian physics. Accounting for the mass of the string or the friction of the wheel is beyond the scope of a beginners' course. This post takes into account similar body language premises which are generally not taught to beginners and are difficult to capture and impossible to fully appreciate without the aid of video - and without first learning the basics.

Eventually Ms. Benjamin was removed from the room after which the President said, "...the voice of that woman, ah, is worth paying attention to. Obvious, obviously - ah, obviously I do not agree with much of what she said. And obviously she wasn't listening to me in much of what I said. But these are tough issues. And the suggestion that we can gloss over them is wrong." (3:52 - 4:22).

A fantastic body language moment was captured here - for during the earlier moments of this heckling, Mr. Obama showed a subtle sign of significant anger - relatively rare for the President.

This image was captured at 0:52 of the above video. Note the President's eyes - specifically the distance between his upper and lower eyelids. This configuration is consistent with the natural resting positions of his eyelids.

There is another subtle emotion being expressed nonverbally in this first photo - what is it?

This second image was taken at 0:53 in the video. Note his eyelids - while not extremely widely opened - they are significantly further apart than a one second before (above) or one second after (below). Whenever a smile is sincere - the eyelids will ALWAYS move closer together - NEVER further apart (as they have done in this moment). This expression is not quite as brief as a microexpression - yet it is still evanescent (lasting about one second) and just as significant.

One set of muscles (right and left) are trying to open the eyelids [levator palpebrae superioris & particularly the superior tarsal muscles which are sympathetically innervated and thus directed toward "fight or flight" responses of strong emotion] while another set are working to close them [orbicularis oculi (pars orbitalis)]. The former are winning this momentary tug of war with the net effect moving them further apart (versus his open eyelid resting state). This brief competing dynamic is a fantastic example of emotional dissonance - with the President feeling two emotions simultaneously (see below). Without the aid of the before or after pictures, or the video, this image would probably be falsely identified as "anywhere from a good social smile to a sincere smile" by many.

If the resolution of these images were higher, we would also see both of the President's pupils dilate along with his lid retraction. 

Another significant detail here is the direction of contraction of his cheek muscles (zygomaticus major). There is a significant lateral (sideways) component present - whereas with a PURE sincere (Duchenne) smile, the cheeks are contracted primarily in an upward direction.

The President is skillfully using a smile to suppress and shortly thereafter to melt away a very significant level of anger. He is very adept at recognizing negative emotions in their early stages (refractory period) and taking steps to negate them - something very few people can do.

Only a second later (0:54), Barack's anger is not able to be seen. There is however another new emotion subtly showing - what is it and what are its nonverbal characteristics?

See also:

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1858:  What the Eyes Do - Transitioning from Mild to Severe Anger

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 353:  Brad Pitt's Smiling Eyes - Sincere and Insincere Smiles

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1834:  Chelsea FC vs. Bayern Munich and the G8

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 1167:  Danica's Lips, Danica's Eyes - Subtle Anger

Negotiation Secret # 40: Can You Spot Mild Anger?

Negotiation Secret # 12:  Subtle Anger with Disrespect/Mistrust/Dislike

Negotiation Secret # 405: Carli Bruni & Dagger Eyes

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2152:  Second Presidential Debate - 16 October 2012 -  Barack Obama's Duping Delight -  Benghazi, Libya Attack was an "Act of Terror" -  Alpha, Beta, Confidence & Acquiescence ...