Russian President, Vladimir Putin and his Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov held a press conference in Hamburg on Saturday at the completion of the G20 Summit. The video above contains a short clip of the Russian leader's Q & A. What follows is a partial nonverbal analysis.
JOURNALIST (beginning at 0:00): Did Trump agree with your position that Russian had not intervened in the US elections?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: ahhh, Well, ahum, he, ahhh, let me repeat, he, ah, answered all, ah, the questions. And ah, I think that he noted it, and, ah, he agreed with it. Ahhh, but I, I think it's better to ask him exactly what you have asked, rather than me.
For those of us who do not speak Russian, we must rely on the translation. Yet because it's being performed by a high-level professional - all the "ahs", stutters, etc., are included.
Primary tells - These nonverbal indicators are highly suggestive of deception:
1. Duping Delight: Between 0:21 and 0:26, President Putin displays multiple examples of partially suppressed smiles. His displays are secondary to his true (sincere) joy-happiness in perpetrating a deception. This is a very common phenomenon known as "Duping Delight" (Ekman) - colloquially learned by many in our youth as a "Smirk" associated with the act of telling a lie.
It's best to view these tells in the dynamic context of the video (several times) to evaluate this behavior, rather than with still images, as this behavior is somewhat subtle.
2. Tongue Jut (Loose Tongue Jut): During 0:26, just as the translator says, "me", Vladimir Putin displays a "Tongue Jut" - more specifically a Loose Tongue Jut" (not to be confused with a "Tight Tongue Jut"). A loose tongue jut is a nonverbal indicator of "I've been bad" or "I got caught". It's helpful to think of this nonverbal leakage as one's psyche behaving in a self-admonishingly or self-deprecatingly manner.
Secondary Tells - These nonverbal/paralanguage tells, while when viewed in isolation don't indicate lying - they do all signal anxiety/low confidence/misdirection. Yet, collectively, in the greater context of the other signs mentioned here, their clustering is strongly suggestive of deception:
3. Shuffling back and forth on his feet: Note that early on in this answer, Vladimir Putin is shuffling back and forth on his feet several times. This is a nonspecific anxiety signal. Putin is a very experienced in front of the camera - yet he displays anxiety while answering this question. Why?
4. Shoulder Shrugs: Putin displayed multiple "Shoulder Shrugs". Caution must be used in the interpretation of shoulder shrugs as often (especially when viewed in isolation) they can lead to nonverbal misdiagnoses. Yet, in general, shoulder shrugs are indicators of the thought-emotions of, "I don't know", "I don't care", "What choice did I have?" and/or "What does it matter?"
When shrugs are seen with high frequency, it's often useful to recall this quote from Hamlet (Apologies to William Shakespeare), "The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks."
5. Central Forehead Contraction: Putin's prolonged elevated central forehead contraction during his answer is highly suspect. The over-use of the forehead muscles, particularly the central forehead is a common and profound insincerity tell.
6. "... he, ah, answered all, ah, the questions...": President Putin referring to Trump answering "the questions" - suggests, at least from Putin's point of view - it was Vladimir Putin asking questions with Donald Trump answering them during their meeting at the G20. Who is the tail and who is the dog?
7. Stuttering: As mentioned above, although this was translated by a professional, Putin was stuttering frequently - a speech pattern which, standing alone, is a strongly indicative of anxiety.
Summary: Vladimir Putin is concealing truths - and yet, while he appears to be in the proverbial driver's seat - he still displays significant anxiety amidst his deception.
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