Monday, April 16, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1559:
Timothy Geithner on Face the Nation

Timothy Geithner appeared on Face the Nation yesterday. He exemplified "Nonverbal Homonyms" using (subconsciously) the same hand gesture on different occasions with two different meanings. When the thumb and forefinger (index finger) are held in close proximity (but not touching), it can be a body language indication for "a little bit" or "very close". Geithner exampled this twice in this video, first during the 2:23 - 2:26 time marks, when he spoke about a small percentage of people paying more taxes and again displaying the same nonverbal with similar words during 2:51 - 2:55.

The Treasury Secretary also used this same hand gesture at the 3:58 - 4:02 mark, only this time it had a different meaning. This same hand configuration may also indicate hesitancy, ambivalence or uncertainty (Pease) - and that's the context in which he was using it here. During this occasion - the third time he used the gesture - Geithner was discussing the Obama administration's disagreement with tax cuts for the wealthy when he said, "....but you know, extending unaffordable tax cuts for the most fortunate Americans ...." - and so his verbal message was also clearly expressing a similar sentiment - one of reluctance. We can therefore conclude that Geithner's nonverbal signal was highly congruent with his spoken word - and thus based on this consistency, we should assign him a high "sincerity quotient" - at least on the basis of this video (of course, this has nothing to do whether we agree with his politics or not). If we were selecting a jury, based on this honesty display - he would pass. Voir dire away.