Body-Language Expert: Trump in Defensive Crouch, Hillary in Command
During the first 2016 presidential debate, Trump’s ‘pugnacious pouts were fewer,’ the ‘uncertainty shrugs’ more numerous, says David Givens—and Clinton was totally in control.
Donald Trump may have a super-healthy testosterone level, as his purported medical stats indicated on Dr. Oz, but in his first-ever debate against Hillary Clinton, she was the more macho candidate.
That was the analysis of Gonzaga University anthropologist David B. Givens, director of the Center for Nonverbal Studies in Spokane, Washington, who watched Monday’s debate without regard for the candidates’ words.
“Mr. Trump’s ordinarily confident body language looked oddly defensive this evening, rather than offensive, as per his previously bumptious appearances on the media stage,” Givens emailed The Daily Beast after the candidates walked offstage. “His usually confident, expansive hand gestures, head nods, chin juts, and pugnacious pouts were fewer, replaced by reactively more timid head shakes, diffident lip pouts, and lowered eyebrows. Ordinarily offensive, he was overall defensive this time around. Meanwhile, Sec. Clinton calmly smiled and assuredly made her political points verbally clear. Her body showed no reactivity to Mr. Trump’s comments; she was totally (presidentially?) in control.”
Givens, who has been analyzing the nonverbal communication of politicians for the past three decades, explained that “nonverbal communication is the process of sending and receiving wordless messages by means of facial expressions, gaze, gestures, postures, and tones of voice. On balance, Clinton seems to have won the first debate, at least on the nonverbal side. This may have been apparent had you turned off the sound—and just watched.”
Givens added that Trump wasn’t all bad.
“Nonverbally, at least,” he emailed, “Mr. Trump managed to control his anger (red face, slashing hand gestures, and overloud voice), but failed to show offense as he defensively shrugged his shoulders, grimaced, and repeatedly shook his head in the second half of his meeting with Sec. Hillary Clinton. While the latter looked confident overall, with her smiles and calm demeanor, the former definitely appeared stressed, uncomfortable, and nonplussed with his vocal interruptions, lip compressions, pursed-mouth expressions, and aversive tongue shows.”
With the sound off, never mind the sound on, Trump appeared to be a hot mess.
“You may have noticed Mr. Trump’s hyperactive body movements as Sec. Clinton ticked off her debate points,” Givens emailed. “These were uncontrollable on his part, purely visceral reactions, to words he could neither defend nor respond to with thoughtful remarks of his own. So instead, he responded with facial expressions and shoulder elevations—uncertainty shrugs—rather than politically thoughtful dialogue.
“As for her own verbal monologue, Sec. Clinton enunciated well, and her body-confident body language seemingly backed her up.”