Yesterday, Lester Holt interview President Donald Trump. It was Trump's first interview since his firing of FBI Director, James Comey. As with any exchange of this lengthy, there were many interesting and important nonverbal signals and signal clusters. One profound such grouping occurred in a particular moment when Lester Holt was prefacing for a question regarding Michael Flynn and Sally Yates.
What follows is the dialog from that portion of the interview followed by a partial nonverbal analysis.
LESTER HOLT (beginning at 7:44): General Flynn is a part of this investigation as you know, Sally Yates recently testified that the White House was notified that he had been compromised, he was at risk of, of being blackmailed, it was 18 days later that he was finally fired. During that 18 days he had access, I assume, to all the nation's top secrets. One day, you meet on the issue of Comey and you fire him in a humiliating way while he's sitting in a room with his colleagues and it's appearing on the TV.
When the camera switches back to Donald Trump (during 7:49 as Mr. Holt says, "... White...", Mr. Trump displays what is known as a "hard swallow" (a forceful swallow, where the up-and-down motion of the Adam's Apple [the Thyroid Cartilage and the tissue in front it] can be visualized ). He makes another about two seconds later as he Mr. Holt is saying, "... notified ..." (7:51). We swallow in this fashion in an effort both to generate more saliva and move it down the throat when it becomes dry in moments of nervousness.
Hard swallows, of course, do not capture well with still images. Please watch the video in order to fully appreciate the dynamics of this signal.
But yet another other fascinating correlation is seen with here. For both of these hard swallows occur simultaneously with prolonged blinking. These two body language signals are very often coupled together - and when they do, it further solidifies their association with anxiety.
A second later (during 7:52), as Lester Holt says, "... he had been compromised ....", The President looks to his right and moderately-downward. It is in this lower right quadrant where people most frequently and briefly gaze during moments of high-anxiety (particularly right-hand dominant individuals such as Donald Trump).
During this entire portion of the interview, President Trump's frequency of blinking increases substantially.
Moreover, the duration of his blinking is prolonged. Indeed, just after Holt mentions "General Flynn", as he says, "... investigation as you know ..." (during 7:46 - 7:47), Trump's eyelids are closed for at least 1.25 seconds - which is extremely prolonged and very telling. It could have even been longer, but the camera then pans to Mr. Holt as he's saying, "... Sally Yates recently testified that the...". Be sure to enlarge your view of the video to full-screen and adjust they speed of the video to 1/4 and this detail will jump out at you. Increased blink frequency (compared with the baseline rate) has a strong correlation with anxiety.
These four findings constitute an excellent example of what is called a Nonverbal Cluster (very much an analog of a body language sentence):
- Two Consecutive Hard Swallows
- Looking in His Lower Right Quadrant
- Substantially increasing blinking frequency
- Significantly increased blinking duration
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