People seem to depend on body language to determine truth, instead of actual thinking about evidence.

How Presidential Candidates' Actions Speak Louder Than Their Words

New York University and the University of California, Berkeley have released a comprehensive computerized study of the body language of the major-party U.S. presidential candidates, using expertise of computer scientists and body language experts at both universities.

... matched the words with the gestures of President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney on a word-by- word basis to reveal how much weight or emphasis they put behind specific words. This study highlights what words each presidential candidate emphasized through digital motion-tracking of their body language.

"Physical motions of speakers determine how voters feel about them. How they move influences whether you believe they are standing behind what they are saying -- or if you get the impression they are simply repeating a memorized list of terms. A speaker's physical movements -- arms, legs, shoulders, and facial expression -- can undermine or even contradict the verbal message."

They ... assigned a "gesture weight" to each word the candidates uttered. "Gesture weight" is a calculation of how forcefully the speaker performs a particular gesture. [emphasis mine]

So basically we're all just depending on our instinct to intuit "truthiness" now, and reason is long forgotten.

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At least for Mitt Romney - he lies when ever he speaks, so it's easy to tell when he's lying.

I read that when a speaker looks up to the right they are activating memory indicating truth telling. Looking down to the left indicates a lie. I don't remember which part of the memory looking left and down are tied to.

Confidence trumps truth! On twitter a pundit's confidence gets followers, truth not so much. It's another aspect of body language trumping higher thought.

For Pundits, It's Better to Be Confident Than Correct

... it simply doesn't pay as much for a pundit to be accurate as it does to be confident. It's one thing to be a good pundit, but another to be popular.

I think this applies to mass media audiences in general. We use our primitive brain to judge what's true and important, not our cerebral cortex.

I recently saw a  TV show Going Ape The Alpha Male in which the behaviors male apes use to dominate were explicitly prescribed as leadership behaviors to emulate. Instead of looking at the unconscious primitive brain behaviors upon which we've built a civilization as a source of limitation, the show recommended them as the key to success in politics, business, and life. Bullying and intimidating behaviors, for example, were suggested. "Take control of space" by intimidating others to give physically give way, for example, was recommended as an alpha male behavior to copy. "Use your voice", shouting down others, was considered helpful to advance your interests.

We've turned a dark corner when a prime time "science" show urges the audience to regress socially.

Is this the overt manifestation of the influence of TV as a medium, replacing book reading, on how we think?

Were this trend to succeed we'd doom humanity within a century. The triumph of ape dominance behaviors would sabotage any chance we might have of comprehending and responding in time to Climate Destabilization.

I've read a couple of criminal defense lawyers who both said the same thing about Amanda Knox (who was accused of murdering her roommate in Italy, convicted in 2009 and exonerated in 2011 on appeal):  that she would have been a nightmare to defend - although they both believed she was innocent. 

One lawyer said he would discharge her.

The other lawyer said she did a lot to sabotage her defense during the first trial (less so during the appeal I think).  He said juries decide whether the defendant is innocent or guilty by looking at them and listening to them.  They believe they can intuitively tell whether someone is telling the truth or not.  He said Amanda Knox presented herself horribly.  By being visibly angry at one point.  By not saying flatly, "I didn't commit this murder" in her statement just before the jury went off to deliberate.  Instead she got metaphorical, and according to this lawyer, that would sound more like guilt to a jury.  She thanked the prosecutor for doing his job in this final statement, and apparently that also sounds guilty (don't thank someone who's just called you a she-devil).  Etc. etc.

I was skeptical.  I asked this lawyer, how come these things didn't persuade him or me that she was guilty, if they are so persuasive?  How come I read Amanda's final statement and it didn't make me think she's guilty?  And isn't DNA evidence a very big factor in juries' verdicts?  I think it would be a big deal for me. 

But maybe most people do put a much bigger weight on how they experience the defendant, rather than trying to deal with difficult to evaluate scientific evidence.   

Reading a statement is a very different emotional experience than hearing testimony in person, because the voice tone and body language are removed in print.

I have seen video of her in trial and heard some recordings and that didn't give me an impression of guilt either.  It must be the total experience of the jurors, which includes seeing and hearing the defendant day after day - but also things like how the evidence is presented, their culture, what they read in the press. 

Trials seem to be based on the assumption that seeing and hearing the defendant helps to determine whether they're guilty. 

It raises the question of how good people are at reading subtle info like body language.  Certainly I think people can intuit a LOT about others, sometimes very accurately and sometimes better than we realize.  At times, people wrongly allow their "rationality" to override their intuition. 

But that's in situations where the other people are not "on stage", not in a trial, not presidential candidates.  There, you can't see them up close, you can't see things like tiny eye movements, etc..  And, they may have been schooled, by defense lawyers etc., on how to manipulate others' unconscious assumptions. 




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