Saturday, October 6, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2138:
President Obama's Anger-Frustration During Debate -
An Under-Appreciated Body Language Signal

At several times during this particular video segment of last Wednesday night's debate, President Obama exhibited a particular under-appreciated yet highly reliable body language signal of anger-frustration. An especially good example of this can be seen during 1:06 - 1:07. 

A clenched jaw is a strong nonverbal anger display. The masseter muscles on the sides of the mouth bulge when this occurs and can be visualized on the President. In this setting there is often a co-existing lip display - where the lips - either grow very thin (an extremely reliable signal of anger) with a very straight and horizontal configuration of the mouth opening - or roll completely inward (a signal of anxiety-anger with a component of an attempt of temper-control). In this context with no place to go, there is a transient bulging of the tissue adjacent to the lips - particularly the lower lip. This creates a huge evanescent bulge in the tissue in this region. The nonverbals of a clenched jaw, bulging masseter muscles, a straight and horizontal lip/mouth opening (or an inward lip roll) and a wrinkled chin appearance - together with this lower peri-lip bulge is an extremely reliable body language cluster of considerable anger-frustration. 

When Mitt Romney spoke about the (allegedly) high percentage of the "green" corporations that President Obama's administration initially financially endorsed - yet they ended up failing - this triggered Mr. Obama's anger. During a debate if you can get your opponent angry - they will lose their temper and one way or another under-perform.

See also:

Nonverbal Analysis # 2137: Mitt Romney vs. Barack Obama - First Presidential Debate - Barack's Bad Body Language