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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 05-Aug-11

 


Friday 05-August-11

Moving politicians

No, this is not a blog about stirring political emotions. It's not even about packing them in a crate and transporting them away. The question here is how people read the body language of politicians. It is an interesting question as much communication is transmitted by how we move and any politician worth their salt will be very aware of this. Having said this, I have watched national leaders in disastrous performances where their bodies told markedly different stories to their words.

Researchers Markus Koppensteiner and Karl Grammer took understanding of body language to a new level when they developed a computer system that analysed a stick-man derivation of actual politicians in action. They then generated a 'turbulence coefficient' based on periods of high activity followed by periods of low activity, plus the activity of parts of the body such as the head and arms.

Next, they got subjects to assess the stick figures for personality characteristics. Interestingly, those subjects with a higher turbulence coefficient got rated as more agreeable, those with more head movements were thought less conscientious, and those with consistently high activity levels with many arm movements were generally considered more extravert.

There is a clear message in this for public speakers: use bursts of movement rather than constant (or no) animation.

Reference:
Koppensteiner, M., and Grammer, K. (2010). Motion patterns in political speech and their influence on personality ratings. Journal of Research in Personality, 44 (3), 374-379


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