Bryan Cranston recently reincarnated his role as Walter White during Super Bowl XLIX - even if it was just a few seconds during an Esurance commercial. Playing "sorta Greg" pseudo-pharmacist, the brilliant actor made us laugh, suspended our disbelief, and ... at least in this setting, provided a fantastic forum for learning some body language. The woman playing his customer is also brilliant.
0:25 - 0:26 segment, "sorta Greg" wags his head back and forth as he closes his eyes (when he's saying "... sorry ...") in what is one type of backtracking/correcting expression. This is seen during clarifying scenarios when the speaker is restating himself. It is also seen in contexts where the speaker wants someone to "take it with a grain of salt".
0:26 - 0:27 mark (as he says, "... pharmaceuticals ...") we see "almost Greg" display a "Rationalization-Rapport-Empathy-Expression" (aka R2E2). This classic nonverbal signal shows that the speaker is trying to convince us (and often himself) of something. It's thus a strong sign of rationalization. He's trying to gain our rapport and empathy. We all make this expression from time to time, yet if it's displayed too often, know that the person's over-all character is insincere and manipulative.
Throughout much of this commercial the woman playing the customer gives an excellent expression of disgust. Her down-turned mouth corners, elevated central lips, flared nostrils, dimpled chin, mid-facial tightening all expertly transmit the emotion of disgust.
What other, less prominent, but important emotion is being projected here?
When we say someone is a good actor - and most of course would call Cranston great - what we REALLY mean (although few realize it at a nuanced level) is that their words, their paralanguage (vocal qualities) and their body language are all highly congruent. When they all agree - it just "feels right" - we recognize it as "good" or "great acting" - and when these three don't agree we say they're not so good, etc. The same instinct and logic can also be applied to interpreting sincerity vs. insincerity or truth vs. deception.
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