Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2135:
Ronald Reagan in Nashua, New Hampshire
"I'm Paying for this Microphone Mr. Green!"

On 23 February 1980 in Nashua during an attempt at a debate before the New Hampshire Primary, Ronald Reagan had a moment which lifted him above the rest of his republican competition - in particular the man who would become his Vice President and later President - George H.W. Bush. Initially the local newspaper was going to sponsor the debate - which was at first to be a two person debate between Reagan and Bush. However, when the FEC ruled that this would amount to an illegal campaign contribution, and Bush refused to pay for his half, Reagan agreed to underwrite the cost of the entire debate. He also wanted to include the other five republican contenders.

In this video, it is easy to see that the future President is sincerely angry. Freeze frame at 0:19 seconds and you can see the classic nonverbal of eyebrows pulled together and downward. The wide V-shaped muscular bulges on the forehead area further evidences this anger. 

What many people overlook other body language signals though - particularly his mouth. At 0:22 you can see Ronald Reagan display a prototypical "Inward Lip Roll" (ILR). Here, the inward lip roll is a signal of anger-anxiety and moreover a sign that the psyche is calling on its inner reserves to not boil over. Reagan is trying with considerable effort - to NOT lose his temper. And it's clear that he's not entirely succeeding. 

Thinning of the lips - also a nonverbal tell of anger can be clearly seen at multiple times (Reagan's upper lip in particular at 0:37).

Note that at multiple times his eye lids open extra-wide (e.g.: 0:10, 0:18 - 0:19 and at 0:22 very wide). In this context, this sudden "white and wide" appearance of the eyes is highly indicative of moderate anger is crescendoing to extreme anger or rage. This temporary transition to rage is entirely consistent with Reagan moving from a seated position to a standing position as well. When he speaks his famous line, "I am paying for this microphone Mr. Green" (0:33 - 0:36), Reagan's eyes narrow in a manner consistent with a lesser, more moderate degree of anger.

See also:  Analysis # 1858: What the Eyes Do - Mild vs. Severe Anger

A very common and conspicuous body language tell is seen when Reagan starts to put his left hand into his pocket and then takes it back out (0:26 - 0:27, as well as the image below), . This is a classic nonverbal showing his competing emotions. Part of him (subconsciously) realizes he's losing his temper and he doesn't necessarily want to escalate. To the novice this may look like contradictory body language, but it is common to see this and many other displays of emotional dissonance.

Reagan went on to win the New Hampshire Primary with 50% of the vote - with Bush capturing just 23%.

See also:

Analysis # 2134: A Watershed Body Language Moment: Nixon - Kennedy Debates 1960

Secret # 1060: Belichick's Anger

Secret # 817: Anger & Steroids in Milwaukee 

Secret # 273: Anger & Disgust in Azerbiajan

Analysis # 1555: Ann Romney Hits it Back Over the Net to Hilary Rosen

Secret # 779: What Does Staring Indicate?

Analysis # 1652: Crude Oil, Speculators & Counting on Thumb First

Analysis # 1211: Tiger's Eyes - Subtle Signal - Severe Anger

Analysis # 1465: Santorum's Anger Eyes - White & Wide - Confrontation with Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times