In the aftermath of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey and the subsequent massive flooding, Joel Osteen has been the subject of much criticism - particularly over social media over the last 24-48 hours.
Pastor Osteen is the leader of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. There is significant controversy regarding any flooding - or near flooding which occurred/almost occurred at/near the grounds of the church. If this near flooding was true, as Osteen says, it would have placed any individuals seeking shelter there in a potentially harmful situation. Others claim that there was no flooding and the images of high water on/adjacent to the church grounds were from an earlier flood several years ago.
Osteen was interviewed several times on several different national networks this morning. One of these interviews is included above. What follows is a partial nonverbal analysis.
Comparing the above interview of Pastor Osteen to videos a few years old, you should notice several long-term patterns:
1. You probably recall that Joel Osteen has a prominent facial tic in the form of dramatic and long-standing blinking. Facial tics have both involuntary and voluntary components. Anxiety is one common factor which typically increases facial tic behavior.
2. He has an asymmetrical mouth configuration while speaking. Evaluating old videos show this dynamic is also longstanding - although it appears to be a bit amplified during this exchange.
Although it can be simply a form of a long-term habit/tic-like phenomenon, asymmetric mouth dynamics during speaking is also commonly correlated with insincerity/deception and bravado/swagger. Excluding tic-like etiologies, the Venn diagrams for these latter two behaviors overlap significantly.
3. Asymmetrical Smiling. Joel Osteen also has a longstanding tendency of smiling much of the time whether he's speaking or not. Osteen does this fairly dramatically - also with a strong bias to his right side.
When a smile is sincere - and it's beginning or fading, asymmetry is not uncommon - however the asymmetry should not be maintained throughout the duration of the "smile". If the smile is routinely one-sided and constantly present, it's a very safe bet the smile is insincere.
4. Constant smiling. This particular behavior of Osteen is profound - but, once again, it's been present for years. Anytime a person displays any facial expression with a continuous or near-continuous frequency - especially when it's far from emotional baseline, it's a tremendous red flag of insincerity.
Whenever a person's face assumes, what for them is a "default expression" (sad, happy, angry, critical, etc.) - and maintains this "facial pose" - it becomes much easier for the brain to deceive. When the stakes are high, convincing deception is a difficult act - it takes significant mental focus, and even then most people can't readily pull it off. Therefore, when a person wears a "living mask" (a constant, practiced, and for them, easy default expression) it's much easier to lie.
As a rule, a person who constantly smiles - out of context and out of proportion - is to be strongly avoided.
5. Stuttering is often correlated with facial tics and tic-like behaviors. Stuttering can be correlated with anxiety, and thus sometimes indirectly associated with dishonesty and insincerity - however, there is no direct relationship.
6. Hard swallowing. You'll note that at several times Osteen's "Adam's apple" (Thyroid Cartilage surrounding the Larynx) moved up-and-down during what is known as a "hard swallow". These actions are good general indicators of a dry throat and anxiety.
7. Touching with fingertips but not full palms when gesturing to the chest. Several times when gesturing to his chest (obscured somewhat by the banner at the bottom of the page), Osteen touches with his fingertips but not with a "Full Palmar Contact". This absence of full contact with the palm of the hand when touching one's chest during a declaration of honesty is also correlated with a lack of sincerity.
8. Constant head nodding. In this context, this action is indicative of (significant) anxiety.
9. You may notice that Pastor Osteen does not answer questions directly - but rather meanders and answers indirectly. Although of course, not body language, such a paralanguage pattern is suspicious, but not definitive, for deception.
10. Osteen's verbal timeline - e.g., when the storm began, when he said the waters receded, when the water truly began to recede, when the church released the statement, when the city asked for help, and when the church began to take people in - all do not appear to line-up. This could, of course, be simply due to Osteen's anxiety and the rushed format of a TV interview.
Summary: Much of Pastor Joel Osteen's behavior seen in this video is chronic - and not specific to this particular interview. Such findings muddy the water. Yet much of this long-term behavior is correlative with insincerity. Moreover, this not just one or two items - but multiple findings indicative of anxiety and insincerity. Thus while there is insufficient evidence in this video to indicate Pastor Osteen is being deceptive with respect to the Hurricane Harvey controversy, there are ample nonverbal findings here correlating with a chronic, low level of sincerity.
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