Rapid and frequent blinking is a nonspecific and very common sign of generalized anxiety. In this video, Presidential candidate and former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush can be seen exhibiting this reliable nonverbal signal. Watch this video and compare his rate of blinking to Sean Hannity's. While both men are very accustomed to television appearances, it is Gov. Bush that's in the hot seat.
It's important to point out that blinking frequency varies from person to person. Women, on average, blink slightly more frequently then men. And the elderly may blink more frequently than the middle-aged or younger. There are also certain medical conditions (e.g., dry eye syndrome) which increases the rate of blinking.
While Jeb's blink rate is significantly above average - there is no one subject during this interview which causes it to elevate significantly more (e.g., It's relatively constant with only a mild variability throughout this interview - [slightly increased at the beginning of the interview and also elevated while Mr. Bush is speaking, both micro-trends of which are normal]).
Some rookies who study body language will often say that increase blinking is a sign of deception - be careful however, for this is a gross over-generalization (e.g., Telling a lie is only one cause of anxiety). If a person's blink rate suddenly increases - we should always ask why. It may be that a particularly tough line of questioning has begun - but it's, of course, certainly is possible that a lie has been told. However as with all body language, blinking should not be interpreted in isolation. When a person is lying, there are almost always other nonverbal signals being displayed simultaneously or nearly so. Such groupings of nonverbal behaviors are referred to as "clusters".
Increased blinking is a very common nonverbal - seen with virtually every political candidate during an interview or debate.
Note: Be cautious not to lump together longer duration blinking with increased blinking frequency - for these have two entirely different meanings.
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