Monday, October 1, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2133:
Dan Quayle and Lloyd Bentsen Debate in 1988 -
"Senator, You're no Jack Kennedy"

In this classic video segment from the 1988 Presidential campaign season, Senator Lloyd Bentsen (D-TX) and Senator Dan Quayle (R-IN) gave us one of the most memorable moments in American political debate history, when Quayle said he had as much experience as then Senator John "Jack" Kennedy did when he ran for President in 1960. Bentsen displays a brief eyebrow flash - a quick upward-and-back-down movement of the eyebrows with a similar contraction across the entire width of his forehead - at the 0:07 mark. In this context it is a nonverbal signal of incredulity. He was either in disbelief that Dan Quayle was claiming he was as qualified as Kennedy - or more likely he couldn't believe Quayle just tossed him a slow pitch the size of a grapefruit.

"I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator you're no Jack Kennedy." and Quayle retorts, "That was really uncalled for Senator", Quayle displays a mouth nonverbal highly indicative of anger. His lips become very thinned and are stretched horizontally in a straight line (seen during 0:24 - 0:26 and more pronounced from 0:26 - 0:28).

Dan Quayle's body language of anger in this context is expected - with the benefit hindsight and video - with the ability to pause and replay - we can see this nonverbal tell. However many times in our day-to-day lives - it is missed. There will be pleasant words spoken and yet a classic body language configuration which is contradictory - and few see it or pay it any heed. Whenever the verbal and the nonverbal are in disparity - always believe the body language.

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