Tragically yet another mass shooting has occurred. Yesterday, Gavin Eugene Long, of Kansas City, Missouri shot six Police Officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Three of these officers were killed and three were wounded, one critically. Long was also killed at the scene in a shootout with police.
President Obama delivered a statement shortly afterward. The Official White House YouTube video of this is included above.
This morning, Donald Trump - the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee, made a phone-in statement on "Fox and Friends" which seems to imply conspiracy on the part of Barack Obama against law enforcement. Trump then seemed to back-pedal when the Steve Doocy pressed him.
The video (which includes the audio of Trump's call-in) is shown below.
Beginning at 3:29 in the Fox News video, Trump says, "... I mean, ah, you know, I watched the president and sometimes the words are - okay. But you, you just look at the, the body language. There's something going on. Ah look, there’s something going on and - the words are not often okay, by the way."
Doocy [over-talking]: "What does that mean, there’s something going on?"
Trump: "There's, there's just bad feeling, and a lot of bad feeling about him - I see it too. Ah, there's a lot of bad feeling about him."
Mr. Trump alleges that the President's body language is suspect. Is this the case? Was there something wrong or inconsistent with the Barack Obama's body language?
A fundamental principle in nonverbal communication is that whenever assessing for sincerity vs. insincerity (and truth vs. deception) - the paralanguage, the body spoken words and the body language should all be in congruent. When any one of these three key parameters are disparate - a red flag is raised (Paralanguage includes the tone of voice, rhythm, cadence, volume, pitch, crescendo, decrescendo, etc.).
If we go back to the video of the President's statement and analyze it, we can see that his vocal qualities, his words AND his body language were all in agreement. Note that the President did not use a teleprompter - he used notes instead. For him, this is typical in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy and is highly recommended in such scenarios. This of course "feels" more natural and it also necessitates an occasional downward gaze which is reverent and respectful.
As was pointed out in a recent post (see below), the President's use of hand gestures were quite minimal - as were Speaker Ryan's - when each addressed the Nation after the killing of the five Dallas Police Officers. This is also more respectful and in keeping with the solemn setting when discussing recent deaths. In the video above, Obama's hands are very often placed centrally on the lectern ("folded") and his arms are held close to his torso - both of which are contextual and proportional in a time of mourning.
At 1:19 as Mr. Obama says, "Most of all [heavy exhalation] our hearts go out to the families who are grieving. This heavy exhalation at 1:20 is indicative of the sincere sadness he is describing.
The President does not usually alternate his weight from one foot to the other with the frequency he is doing during this statement. This is indicative of his anxiety consistent with such an event. Such nonverbal behavior is also seen when people stand with their feet too far apart or too close together.
Note that during 2:05, President Obama bites his left lower lip as he references the Dallas officers who died last week. In this context, this nonverbal display is indicative of the anxiety of sadness and it's often seen with the suppression of tears.
It's noteworthy that a no time did the President touch his face (Facial touching, particularly when coupled with key statements or vocal tone can be indicative of deception).
Another very common signal of insincerity or lying is frequent contraction of the forehead muscles. Did you notice Obama rarely used his forehead muscles? These were relaxed throughout all but a few occasions in this speech.
Summary: Mr. Trump is mistaken. President Obama's body language, spoken language and vocal tones are all highly congruent and are indicative of sincerity. All three of these crucial communication components are contextual and proportional to the setting of discussing and reflecting on recent sudden deaths and mourning.
Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3617: President Obama and Speaker Ryan regarding the Dallas Shooting - Body Language
Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3626: Mike Pence's Wikipedia Profile Picture says "WTF"
Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3567: Donald Trump's Most Common Social Smile (Pseudo-Smile) Variant - Body Language
Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3508: Batman V Superman - Sad Affleck? (NOT!)
Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3331: Mila finds out Adam Levine got married - Rapid Transitioning of Emotions
Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2483: Alex Rodriguez's Subtle Sadness Signal - Body Language, PEDs and A-Rod
Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3363: Chris Christie's Viral Video - Why do even Democrats love it?
Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3531: Helen Mirren, Subways, Sincerity, Empathy and Body Language
Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3491: Nancy Reagan, Ronald Reagan and Sincere Affection