Once again Saturday Night Live delivered another hilarious performance of Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton and Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump - this one satirizing the final 2016 Presidential Debate of three nights prior in Las Vegas, Nevada. Guest Tom Hanks even played moderator Chris Wallace.
As expected, all three actors did an amazing job - not only did they 'bring the funny', but they uncannily replicated the three characters ... and some of their flaws.
What follows are some particular nonverbal signals by Hanks, McKinnon and Baldwin acting as Wallace, Clinton and Trump - and these expressions captured elements of insincerity that Chris, Hillary and Donald routinely project.
If we were working with Chris Wallace, we'd be telling him to not speak out of the side of his mouth. While some people do this routinely as an idiosyncrasy (or facial tic) - it's statistically relatively unusual. Medical causes - such as peripheral facial nerve palsy or stroke are potential causes which should be considered.
Depending on the other nonverbal signs with which it's clustered, asymmetrical speaking can also indicate an admission of fault or acquiescence. Much more commonly however, particularly when being interviewed on TV or in some other significant spotlight - speaking out of the side of the mouth is a signal of bravado and/or insincerity (the Venn diagrams of which overlap). Tom Hanks does a fantastic job capturing Wallace's mouth movements.
One question I routinely get asked is, "What the most important nonverbal signal to look for when assessing for insincerity?" Of course, the nonverbal tells of insincerity are many, however the most common one is an over-use of the forehead muscles (both in amplitude and in frequency). It's also very common, although not required, that excessively opened upper eyelids often accompany such over contracted forehead displays.
Now of course, in the context of an emotional debate, it's normal that people will open their eyes wide and elevate their forehead muscles when emphasizing a particularly important opinion or recommended course of action. And although Secretary Clinton has improved this body language faux pas of late, she did slip back into this previous pattern multiple times. She tends to do worse on this issue during her speeches and interviews - and improves when it comes to debates.
When people over-use their forehead muscles, they are trying to hard to sell you a thing or more commonly an idea/opinion.
Kate McKinnon was spot on.
It's hard to believe, but Alec Baldwin improved even further in his near perfect portrayal of Donald Trump. One striking pattern Trump has - is a very low variability of his facial expressions. Said another way, his face goes into its default settings easily and routinely - which acts as a living mask. The expressions he does make tend to be more extreme - but the overall variety of his expressions are relatively minimal. Depression and other conditions of a blunted affect are possible causes to consider when we see faces adopting these physiologic masks - but it's also is a method some psyches use to minimize mental workload - thus making it much easier to multitask - and therefore to also tell lies. Insincerity takes more work - and if one's face isn't moving quite as frequently, this frees up more mental energy for deception.
Summary: Tom Hanks, Kate McKinnon and Alec Baldwin near perfectly portray Chris Wallace, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump - and in so doing, also accurately captured some of their classic insincerity signals.
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