Friday, October 23, 2015

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3350: What happens when you Suddenly meet Heath Ledger - Body Language (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

This short video from the red carpet prior to the AFI Awards in 2006, captures Heath Ledger in what is known as a "Startle Reflex". As human beings we are born with only two fears - the rest are all acquired. These are the fear of falling and of loud noises.

In this instant Ledger is responding to a loud and nearby scream (beginning at about 250 milliseconds afterwards).

As yet unbeknownst to the Mr. Ledger, Magda Szubanski who played Sharon Strzelecki in the television comedy show "Kath & Kim" (Australian version) - is putting on an act here. Many who were there as well as most non-Aussie viewers erroneously believed Szubanski to be a crazed fangirl.

Reflexes exist in for function and protection. In this instant you see Ledger's upper arms move close into his torso as the distal arm and hand reach up to protect the head and neck. Yet this is not body language - it is reflexive. This same movement can also be seen in the woman interviewing him.

Ledger's neck also foreshortens which also is protective in nature. Intriguingly, when a true startle occurs - most everyone will turn toward the loud sound. Those with foreknowledge of the scare/startle - will pause a few seconds before turning towards the disturbance. When reviewing videos of crime scenes and explosions - this phenomenon proves very helpful in sussing out suspects.

As with surprise, shortly after the startle reflex, very often another emotion will rapidly replace it. Here that emotion is joy-happiness.

Ledger's forehead is relaxed, his eyelids are partially closed with a concave-up furrow in the lower eyelids. The upper teeth become quite visible with the bottom ones being covered.

One hint that Magda Szubanski's fainting was feigned - is that she covered her head immediately upon falling. If she were truly unconscious, she would of course not do this.

Ms. Szubanski exhibited several other nonverbal tells in the seconds prior to her "faint" which betray the fact she was acting. How many can you spot?

See also:

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3349: Justin Trudeau, Stephen Harper, Sophie Grégoire, & Laureen Harper in Ottawa for Nathan Cirillo's Ceremony

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2304:  It Came from Outer Space -  Russian Meteor Event over Chelyabinsk  Don't Confuse this Reflex with Body Language

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2782: Hillary Clinton dodges a shoe - Body Language ... and Not 

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3190: Taylor Swift's Body Language of Feigned Surprise