Recently, Karlie Haye won the 2016 Miss Teen USA contest. Within a few hours it became widely known that as a 15 year old, she made several racist tweets. Many are dismayed that her award was not rescinded while others say that she made these statements when she was not an adult (she is now 18) and because of this she should keep her crown.
In the above video, Ms. Haye was given the opportunity to apologize on Good Morning America. Yet was her apology sincere? What follows is a partial nonverbal analysis.
She deserves credit for appearing on National TV. A lot of people with much more experience in front of a camera often issue a statement or a tweet when apologizing - or even have an agent or attorney read it for them. Furthermore, she also deserves credit for not reading a prepared statement herself - but rather participated in an interview/dialog setting. However from a nonverbal perspective, at no time during this video did Ms. Haye demonstrate empathy, remorse or sincerity during this "apology".
George Stephanopoulos: "I think what a lot of people are waiting to hear is a clear apology."
Karlie Haye: "Yes, and I am very sorry"
Note as she replies, she leans her head/neck forward, nods and raises the entire width of her forehead while also raising both of her entire eyebrows.
If at this time, had she felt remorse, empathy or sincerity - only her central forehead would have elevated and only the inner, central portions of her eyebrows would have contracted and elevated. Her lateral forehead (outside portions, closer to her ears) as well as her lateral eyebrows would have either remained a neutral position or indeed, been vectored downward. It's also of paramount importance that such forehead changes be accompanied by a corresponding saddened mouth configuration (If an elevated CFC accompanies a subtle/partial mouth smile - it's a red flag for other emotions. Do you know which ones?) This cannot be emphasized enough - if a person is feeling emotional pain (including remorse) or physical pain for oneself or another (via empathy) this central forehead contraction-elevation (elevated CFC) should always be present.
In contrast, the entire width of both of Ms. Haye's eyebrows elevate along with the full width of her forehead. This nonverbal dynamic, when coupled with this mouth configuration and the verbal statement, "Yes, and I am very sorry" - is indicative of insincerity. The image immediately above was captured at the end of the word "very" (2:01).
Both of the image immediately above and below were captured during the word "... ashamed ..." within the sentence, "It's embarrassing, it's something I'm ashamed of ..." (2:03). Both of these show a component of a suppressed smile (more so the one below) - which, in this context, is a variation of duping delight. The image below also has an element of disgust.
The quick snapping back and to one side of her head and neck, when coupled with the cluster of a suppressed smile and disgust, indicates an impatient dismissal (e.g., "I can't believe I have to apologize!").
The image above was captured during 2:52, just after Ms. Haye says, "There is no excuse to say that word - ever - at all." Her expression is one of fear - with a mouth of fear and eyelids opened significantly wider than baseline. She also displays very rapid blinking of her eyelids - which is a general anxiety indicator when viewed in isolation, yet in this context it also goes further and amplifies her fear expression. Her deep inhalation is also part of this fear cluster.
Summary: Karlie Haye's "apology" does not display any nonverbal markers indicative of sincerity, empathy or remorse. When nonverbal signals are not aligned with the verbal language - it's the nonverbal message which always tells the truth.
This website serves as a reference source for the art and science of Body Language/Nonverbal Communication. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the author. 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.
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