Nonverbal Aspects Of First Presidential Debate


Body movement and posture, facial expressions, eye behavior, space, voice, grammar and language, objects and wardrobe, grooming, and many other elements tell us more in split seconds than what people may say in a much longer span of time.

This area of study is referred to as nonverbal communication or body language.
Often, what we see is more powerful than what we hear.Often, too, e recall longer what we see than what was said.For that reason, this letter is about selectedspects of candidate performance rather than the debate content between Democratic Presidential nominee, Senator John Kerry and incumbent President, George Bush.

Kerry:Serious; professional plus-looking; formal; prepared for immediate note-taking and response; observant; in command.

Bush:More casual than serious-looking; sometimes scowling;ater drinking movement too deliberate and overly obvious; some podium pounding,ntermittently commanding.

Kerry:Purposeful; strong projection; even; efficient; effective; flowing; faultless; energized.

Bush:Natural at times, but also halting and stammering; out of sorts; whiny; uninspired; some instances of trademark energy and flow.


Kerry:Alert, comfortable self, at-ease body movement andenter stage presence,toe-to-toe confidence, calm, smooth comport, unrattled.

Bush:Comfortable at moments and discomfort at others; irritation seemed to show, bored and shuffling, seemingly annoyed by dissent and byhallenger status of opponent


Kerry:Focused; full use of time allocated; fully engaged in content and debate process; command of language; use of facts; resources and people cited; apparent readiness; detailed thoughts and in-depth knowledge

Bush:General preparation; average depth; average display of research sources and understanding; silence and gaps in responses; repetitive from time to time; slow speech at times--perhaps less thoughtfulness than a grasping for ideas; perhaps exasperated to the point of momentary disorientation.

Eye Contact and Behavior

Kerry:Direct, clear, open eyes; meaningful use to observe and express.Interested eye behavior with indication of understanding and mental processing.

Bush:From natural to pinched; squinting; blinking excessively; tired; aimless; wandering.


Kerry:Straight; tall; full-length; strong; formal; prepared speaking stance;ndependent of podium; energized potential.

Bush:Expected presidential posture not used consistently. Slightly forward; some slump; some appearance ofodium and use as a crutch; too informal; tired.
Oct. 13 will give the candidates two more opportunities. Stay tuned.

Virginia Correa Creager, Ph.D., Payson

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