Sunday, September 23, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2125:
Presidential Debate Body Language -
George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot 1992

Why did George H.W. Bush look at his watch during the 1992 Presidential Debates? Pundits said he shouldn't have done so because, "It made him look bored". While many may have come to this conclusion and it certainly was a horrendous mistake - the real reason Bush did this was he was feeling considerable anxiety. The "watch check" (at 0:02 - 0:04) is a very common body language signal of a nervous emotional tone. As the President stood up he then performed another nonverbal anxiety tell - he pulled up his pants and adjusted his belt (0:04 - 0:07). Yet another anxiety tell was his left hand going into his pants pocket (0:56) This has even greater significance (thus more anxiety) because it was his dominant hand - Bush 41 was left-handed. In the context of a question being asked - a hand/hands will go into the pocket(s) for the same reasons that a turtle goes into his shell - for some protection. It's a strong signl of emotional dissonance - he wants a second term and yet he doesn't fully want to be in the debate - at least at this moment. This particular question made him feel very uncomfortable.

There is little doubt that Ross Perot and especially Bill Clinton sensed this and welcomed it - and pounced with their answers.

See also:

Analysis # 346: Rick Perry Forgets - 8 Republican Presidential Hopefuls Debate in Detroit - 60 seconds of Oops, Body Language and Empathy

Analysis # 915: Interpersonal Space ... and Candidates

A Watershed Body Language Moment: Nixon - Kennedy Debates 1960

Analysis # 1149: Who was More Nervous in the Debate - Santorum, Romney, Gingrich or Paul?
Analysis # 717: A Tale of Two Ricks, Where to Point .... and Not to Point 

Analysis # 1499: Bill Clinton's Empathy for Eric Fehrnstrom and Mitt Romney .... What's YOUR Sincerity Quotient?

Analysis # 1865: Five Presidents in the Oval Office - Who has the Lowest Confidence? Who is the Least Comfortable?

Analysis # 441: Bill Clinton's Rapport and His Temporary Universe