Body Language Read of Fed Chair, Bernanke 60 Minutes Interview

Body Language Read of Fed Chair, Bernanke 60 Minutes Interview by Scott Pernelli. was by MSMBC to analyze Bernanke's body language and I also talked to and I am a body language expert and a media coach. I was interested in how confident Bernanke appeared during the interview. If his goal was to instill confidence, he really didn’t give a good interview. He looked scared, close to tears at times and defensive when he was asked the tough questions.
The editing of the interview was interesting. They always ended with his response to a tough question both in the first segment break then at the very end. You really see the primacy and resencey persuasion theory effects I talk about with my media clients and public speaking workshop attendees.
If you saw the interview edited to just his statement of the Feds plans he is confident.

I will put up a link to the video and links to any press quotes of my read.

In The first segment in the darkened room chair to chair with the 60 minutes interviewer, Scott Pernelli, Bernanke often appears to lack confidence in his responses, his voice cracks, he retreats and head tilts. He confidently responds to his plans, but not to our future. Also it was clear he was very tired in this first segment. It looks like Bernanke didn’t sleep the night before; in fact I had written that in my notes then in the second segment Pernelli asks, “What keeps you up at night?”
Bernanke responds to the first question from Pernelli, “When is this going to end” by smacking his lips together. This indicates that his mouth is dry, a sign of nervousness and in this case his facial expression and smack indicate he wants to be careful and thoughtful in his response. Sure enough he gives a slowly delivered prepared answer rather than a fast confident, spontaneous answer.
I wish there was a two shot. If you look at his head placement his head is “off center” and pulled slightly back. That indicates his fear and defensiveness. The off center placement may be due to where the interviewer is seated or matching and mirroring of Pernelli, but a confident person who has one clear vision typically holds their head in center position. Head tilts back and forth like he does throughout the interview read as if he was flip flopping on his beliefs. I advise my media coaching clients to be careful of head flopping because it can be read so negatively. Also the way Bernanke is pulling back his head slightly as he begins each statement shows a lack of confidence in the answer. What we want to see is someone who moves his head and body forward with confidence. His head is also slightly tilted to the side, though again this may be a response to how the interview or camera is set up. But to the public a tilted head held throughout statement shows deference, uncertainity and in this case makes us feel like he is afraid of our negative response to him and what he is saying. Frightened children tilt their head when they are telling their parents they did something wrong and fear punishment. It is not the normal head placement for a power government employee.

“We do have a plan and we are working on it but I do think we will get it stabilized. Again his head tilts. He does hit the right words strongly the do and the will showing the correct paralanguage emphasis to instill confidence. But then he hesitates in the middle and stumbles verbally and uses a BUT that seems to cut one half of the sentence from the other. That can happen subconsciously when you’re sure about one thing you're saying but not the other. Also look how he pulls his head back. Specifically how the right side of his face pulls back and “retreats as he goes into the next sentence and he changes his vocal delivery and says, now I am seeing the interviewer model the head tilt
The interviewer steeples (think of him holding a king's crown out in front of himself when asking him about the end of the recession that is an aggressive way of asking.) And Bernanke does get vocally defensive and picks up the pace saying the begining of the next answer very quickly.
We will see an end of this decline, stop “I hope”

You seem to be saying we are not heading into a depression,
“I think we have averted that, pause that risk. I think we have gotten past, that risk. This delivery makes me feel that he has compartmentalized his statement. He thinks we have averted THAT risk, but to me obviously feels there are other risks. (I listened to the rest of the video and just found out his research specialty was the great depression. He really does define it differently. )

Listen to his voice as he is asked if he made a mistake letting Lehman brothers fail. His voice is actually cracking, you can hear the stress, and the voice sounds like he is on the edge of tears.
…people said let em fail...and he shakes his head no. Showing he really didn’t believe we should let them fail. Then he says, “… and I think (again that word) I knew BETTER than that.

There have been four rescues of AIG of over a….why is that necessary,
Watch Bernanke carefully- again you can see him get chocked up. Let me first say, (By the way this is a common bridge statement I teach my clients who are going to be interviewed by the media. It allows you to go to a planned statement you as the interviewee have written or practiced ahead of time. I think he did a good job of holding back his anger, but gracefully using the words causes me the most anger... angst. His voice gets strong for a bit here.

Later I thought we were close to a global financial meltdown.
How close
It was very close.

It’s not tax money… talks about printing money his voice stresses again.

When asked about the multiple bailouts. He slumps back in his chair and again his voice falters in mid sentence showing a lack of confidence. “Part of the issue is well, pause; you know the economy has gotten….. That has meant again he stutters out.
The interviewer gets usually aggressive and brings his entire body towards Bernanke and stays in Bernanke’s space that is not creating a neutral response. He is really trying to get Bernanke back up …really pushy and says, “There are so many people across this country that say, to hell with them.”
Bernanke is doing some odd partial head nods that go from side to side disagreement to up and down agreement. Then he gives another prepped response, “Let me give you an analogy…pause stutter... if I might. As a media coach. I would have had him just strongly go into the analogy that is a really weak bridge statement to use in response to a question that strongly delivered.
He voice gets much stronger as he talks about the stress tests they are giving to the bank. He feels really good and confident with this plan. I wish he had said this earlier as I think by this time the viewing public would be disgusted and tuned out the significance of the stress test plan.

Next he sounds really scared. Wow this was not a strong way to end this segment. The last thing you say and do effects your personal credibility and a show like this can choose the segment that airs before a long commercial break.
Keep you up at night... Here Bernanke blinks and pulls back his head as he says, “The biggest risk is that we pause you know, that we don’t have the political will he shakes his head no, we don’t have the …
In which case, we can’t (he pauses and shakes his head no,) we can’t count on recovery. (His voice breaking.

The read of the Job segment
Bernanke asked, “How long before we get those jobs back?”
Freeze at 14:50 He does a head sadness bow and a head back retreat and gives a window shade blink you are obviously right.
If you freeze there you can see his sadness
Four or five years for jobs to come back. His voice cracks.
Bernanke is sitting in a very guarded protected position. His legs are crossed away and he has his arms and hands in a defensive arm and hand position protecting his ventral front (His belly.)

Some people think that the six hundred billion is a terrible idea,
Bernanke moves forward and actually sounds agitated and angry… his voice speaks up and he energetically says “I know that some people think that ...ahhh pause ahhhh... What I think there.
His hand goes gently forward as he says the word policy. (He believes the policy is sound)
This fear of inflation is much overstated. He shakes his head in strong, quick up and down motions; He moves his head in a strong and angry manner.
Now he says myth we are printing money, we are not printing money what we are doing is….
He gets riled up here as he continues. He is good at saying what the Fed is doing.
He is really talking fast as he talks about how they can halt inflation… really fast compared to his baseline.

It looks like Beranke didn’t sleep the night before.

Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Also check out the body language quiz on her YouTube Channel at