Are human beings just advanced chimpanzees? In body language, it seems little has changed.
I think it fairly well captures the power dynamics on display in Denver last Wednesday night. The social cues — Romney’s dominance and Obama passivity — was glaringly on display. Although Romney won on words as well as optics, it may have been Obama’s beta presence which contributed to his weak performance.
Consider Peggy Noonan’s words:
“It wasn’t just Mitt Romney’s strong performance. It was President Obama’s amazingly weak one. He’s never been punctured before. But by debate’s end Wednesday night, if you opened the window this is what you could hear: Ssssssss. The soft hiss of air departing from a balloon.
And—amazingly again—he did it to himself. He didn’t fight, he didn’t show, he wasn’t awake and hungry. He just said the same-old-same-old and let it go. He couldn’t even meet Mr. Romney’s gaze, never mind his arguments.” [emphasis added]
Notice the words she employes: strong, weak, punctured, couldn’t meet Romney’s gaze. Because Obama is emotionally fragile, the presence of the confident Romney changed the center of gravity in the room. Now check out this video by Harvard Business School professor, Amy Cuddy. She studies body language and power, and interestingly the first minute shows Obama in his element, surrounded by his acolytes — and he displays shockingly different body language, not the naughty school boy being lectured by his domineering father.
Considering Obama’s submissive body language, it’s no wonder then that Peggy Noonan thinks that “The impact of the first debate is going to be bigger than we know. It’s going to affect thinking more than we know, and it’s going to start showing up in the polls, including in the battlegrounds, more dramatically than we guess.”