Zac Efron was a guest on the Tonight Show last night. Many people have gained a considerably higher level of respect for the actor after his encounter with a tiger shark in the wild. Not only did he keep his cool and follow the recommendations of shark experts - but he also held onto the shark's dorsal fin and hitched a ride back to his boat.
From a body language perspective, as with many interactions, this interview includes a multitude of nonverbal displays - some of which are alpha, some beta and some hybrids. A few of these are described below. Intriguingly (and courageously), Mr. Efron also uses body language to avoid a shark attack.
Mr. Efron displays a "false tie-adjust"
This common nonverbal display is indicative of anxiety. Even though he's an accomplished actor and is quite used to being in front of a camera - here he's NOT method acting - he's human and he's just being Zac. Efron does this again at 0:50 as well as at the 2:12 mark.
Here we see the palms partially turned down at about a 45 degree angle. This is one of many ALPHA-beta hybrids (here with the alpha being greater than beta).
This more complete palm down gesture is significant of a higher dominance level.
Had his fingers been positioned tightly together (here there is space between them) and his arm been extended - this would have conveyed an even greater alpha level. His partial (suppressed) sincere smile also helps to make this a bit less dominant.
This palm-down gesture is more dominant than that displayed above (at 1:00) - for Efron's arm is held further away from his body with his elbow more extended. He also does not have a smile at this moment in addition to having a contracted forehead. However his fingers remain separated - thus leaving some dominance unclaimed.
Although we can't see this MAP fully (manipulator, adaptor, pacifier), if you watch the video, you can tell Efron adjusts the lower part of his tie. This is a common gesture for men in moments where they are attempting to up-regulate their alpha emotions. This body language is better appreciated in the dynamic context of the video rather than a static image.
Zac Efron displays a conventional low steeple. The conventional steeple is a considerably high-alpha display and is only recommended for very brief duration (he uses it for about 5 seconds here) during very selective moments (photos of U.S. Presidents using a conventional steeple are exceedingly rare).
When a guy is describing how he survived a stare-down with a 14 foot tiger shark, he's certainly has greater social-latitude to use this nonverbal swagger.
I don't pretend to be a shark expert and thus I can't at this time can't validate Efron's advice, yet here (based on the teachings of his mentors) he describes how he used his clear wits and body language to avoid a possibly fatal shark attack.
"What you're supposed to do is slow down your heart rate and just sort stay calm."
"I held my breath, I sorta crossed my arms and let the shark know I wasn't prey."
Efron describes staring directly into the eyes of the shark - implying that his body was turned toward the shark as well (e.g., "I'm not afraid of you and I'm not swimming away - but my hands are not in an aggressive configuration either, so this is a truce Mr. Tiger Shark, okay?").
Just as Jimmy Fallon holds up a picture of Zac with the Tiger Shark - he displays a subtle fear mouth (in a moment of partially reliving the encounter). The camera cuts away before his trepidation is perhaps more fully expressed.
Don't try this at home.
Many shark experts would say that once Efron avoided the initial face-to-face encounter, he should have not touched the shark - as tiger sharks are particularly unpredictable.
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