Monday, July 8, 2013

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2454:
NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman & a
Subtle "Neck of Fear"
(Video, Photos)

Deborah Hersman, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman, gave another press conference today in which she described some of the events just prior to the crash landing of Asiana flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday. Ms. Hersman is a very capable and experienced speaker. She also does a better job than most at suppressing any emotion expressions. Yet at the 0:48 mark she displays an evanescent  "Neck of Fear" - with virtually no manifestation of fear on her face. Although not of short enough duration to be classified as a microexpression - this nonverbal example it is quite brief.

Note the "tenting up" of Chairwoman Hersman's neck. These are due to contractions of the playtsma and the sternocleidomastoid muscles. The only emotion in which these neck muscles contract in this fashion is fear. This signal is overlooked by all but the most observant.

We cannot specifically say why Deborah  Hersman was feeling fear in this moment. It could be that she has a bit of stage fright. Many good speakers would be at least a bit frightened if they were in her shoes.

Another probable reason for her fear here is she is putting herself in the point of view of passengers on the plane. Her empathy for the victims gives her a brief but very real experience of fear.

In this similar head position captured from a few seconds earlier, Ms. Hersman's neck muscles are relaxed. Her emotions are neutral and she is not feeling any fear in this moment.

While most people can identify extreme examples of emotion, it's amazing how few can identify moderate let alone mild examples of emotional expression. This is a great example of a subtle fear display. The ability to catch these very mild nonverbal signals will give you a huge advantage in both your business and personal life.

See also:

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2344:  Jillian Michaels Body Language - Neck of Fear & Mouth of Fear

Negotiation Secret # 329: Angela Merkel's Neck of Fear 

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2297: Rooney Mara on Conan O'Brien - Common Body Language Tell  Fear Apology Query Expression-Cluster

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2261:  Mom pulls Python off of her 2 year old daughter -  Body Language & Microexpression of Fear

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1927:  Italy's Fans watching Euro 2012 Final - Expressions of Fear

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2338:  Why Does Keit Pentus-Rosimannus feel Fear?  Body Language of Estonia's Minister of Environment

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2031:  Tina Fey arriving at Alec Baldwin's Wedding,  Fear-Empathy with a (partial) Sincere Smile - Emotional Dissonance