Body Language Influences on the Presidential Vote

As an expert in body language I am often asked to do reads of political leaders. (Yes, I know your thinking, “How do you become an expert on such a weird thing.) I have communication degrees with a specialization in body language, taught the topic at the university level, and have researched, written and spoken on it for over 25 years)

Last week I was asked by Psychology today to study tapes of the speeches and interviews of the top presidential candidates over the next few weeks I will be posting to my blog the detailed notes I took as I read over 12 hours of tapes on the candidates. I wanted to start my discussion with a research study on the influence of body language on political choice - body language influence on Presidential voting.

Body language influences us in so many ways, but did you know it profoundly effects who is chosen as president of the United States. Researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research studied the effects of charisma on politics The study involved a group of Harvard undergraduates who were shown 10-second silent video clips of candidates in 58 gubernatorial elections between 1988 and 2000--candidates unfamiliar to the study participants. When asked who they thought had won the election the students were still able to choose the candidate who won 60% of the time. They didn’t know anything about the background of and more importantly never heard a word they said. Their choices where made purely on the basis of body language!

What explained this? "Shapiro was reluctant to call it charisma, although his colleague Danial J. Benjamin, a fellow at the University of Michigan...had no such qualms. He noted 'We found that snap decisions based on charisma are good predictors of election outcomes'."

How did they define Charisma? They used a definition from German sociologist Max Weber, who studied charisma, described it as a gift of power, leadership. They were looking at the body language seeing those strong power characteristics and saying that is the body language of a leader. In fact, According to US psychologist, Alex Todorov, people respond intuitively to faces so rapidly, that their reasoning minds may not have time to influence the reaction. The results of the newest research say that when we see a new face, our brains decide whether that person is attractive and trustworthy within one-tenth of a second.