What Do the Candidates’ Gestures Tell Us?

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Besides the talking points, the zingers and the straight-to-camera delivery, there’s another way that the candidates communicate with voters: body language. The New York Times presented a fun interactive feature today that attempts to interpret the gestures the candidates favor when speaking publicly.

Peggy Hackney is an analyst at the New York University Movement Lab, and she’s been studying the body language of both candidates during their speeches and debates. If you hadn’t noticed, apparently Obama makes a lot of chopping motions with his hand, while Romney tilts his head and nods a lot. Hackney pulled out six gestures the candidates favor in their stump speeches and analyzes what they tell us about the candidates.

Romney’s head nod, for instance, makes him seem more amiable.

The interactive explains:

“Mr. Romney often uses two head movements to punctuate an idea. […] Mr. Romney tilts his head to one side, with eyes open wide, as if to ask, ‘Don’t you agree with me?’ [Then], he nods his head, a gesture that suggests, ‘Of course we agree.'”

 
 
Obama’s chopping motion? It also punctuates descriptions of actions — either his own, the listeners’ or his opponents.

The interactive explains:

“Mr. Obama often makes a downward chopping motion to place emphasis on an action verb. He has used this to convey a task that he or the viewer might undertake, as well as to sarcastically suggest something his opponent might do.”

 
 
To read about and watch video of the candidates’ other favorite gestures, visit the NY Times interactive.

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