Sunday, June 14, 2015

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3217: Rachel Dolezal, NAACP and Body Language Tells (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

Much has been made in the last several days regarding Rachel Dolezal and how she has allegedly passed herself off as African-American. This post is not intended to pass judgement on whether such actions, if true, are ethical or unethical - or to comment on any possible racial aspects or ramifications of doing so. Rather this website serves as an objective reference source for the science and art of Body Language/Nonverbal Communication. In an effort to be both practical and academic, many examples from/of varied cultures, politicians, professional athletes, legal cases, public figures, etc. are cited in order to teach and illustrate both the interpretation of others' body language as well as the projection of one's own nonverbal skills in many different contexts - not to advance any political, religious or other agenda.

What is very obvious to all who view this interview is Ms. Dolezal's claim of not understanding and her non-answering of a straightforward question as well as her refusal to continue and walking abruptly away. What follows is of greater nuance - a partial nonverbal analysis of Ms. Dolezal. 

7:44 to ~ 7:51

Unilateral Eyebrow and Forehead Elevation - when stating "... as a Black Studies Professor, I know what these images mean, and I take that very seriously given the history ..."

(David Meany, a spokesman for Eastern Washington University, is quoted in the International Business Times, "This [Dolezal's employment] is a part-time position to address program needs. Dolezal is not a professor,".

A unilateral eyebrow and forehead elevation is a classic nonverbal indicator of doubt and/or disbelief.


This is moment is subtle yet highly significant. A tilting of her upper head backwards as Ms. Dolezal's lower face/chin tilts forward - along with tension seen in the lower eyelids, flaring of her nostrils and tightening of the tissue above her upper lip and below her nose are all very telling. This nonverbal cluster is highly consistent primarily of anger and secondarily of disgust.


Greater disgust display with a higher degree of midface tension and nostril flaring.

In this context her extended blink is a disgust amplifier.



Obvious blushing with a poorly suppressed mouth smile

Jaw Jut (common with both suppressed smile and anger)


Deeper Blushing with Embarrassment and Sincere Smile.

Although no one desires to be embarrassed - it's extremely interesting to note that the smile of embarrassment is a sincere smile - although it may be suppressed to varying degrees (as it is above).


Face of Fear (subtle to mild)

Her eyelids subtly yet quickly open wider, tension is seen in lower eyelids and a mild "mouth of fear" are all displayed as Mrs. Dolezal begins to grapple with the ramifications of what is being discussed on camera.


Inward Lip Roll (ILR) just prior to walking off camera and refusing further questions

An inward lip roll is a signal that the emotional mind is attempting to suppress an inward crescendo of emotion - as well as trying to control any increase in outward expression.

See also:

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2016: Hillary Clinton, Roosevelt Island, Building Rapport and Body Language

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3214: Chris Pratt, Jurassic World, Bad Acting and a Body Language Red Flag

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3078: Tom Brady, Deflategate, Deception and Body Language

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3125: Vladimir Putin, Suppressed Smiling & Blushing

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3061: Jimmy Fallon Blew a Chance to Date Nicole Kidman 

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2911: Becky Hammon Part II - Blushing & a High Sincerity Quotient