Presidential Debate Winner Comes Down to Body Language

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Decoding and interpreting body language becomes a powerful ally in the search for the truth about what these two men who want to be the next President really think.

Bush vs. Kerry Debate: Body Language will Tell All

Senator John Kerry, a brilliant head to head debater takes on President George Bush in what is certainly the defining moment in the campaign for the Presidency of the United States.

Body language will be front and center for the debates. In Bush's previous set of debates for the Presidency, body language gaffs by the then Vice President Gore may have cost Gore the election.

"This year things will be different. The pressure will be far greater than in any time in the past and body language becomes the crucial variable," says Kevin Hogan, Psy.D., body language expert and author of The Psychology of Persuasion.

The two campaigns have actually mapped out 72 pages of rules that must be followed during the debate.

According to Hogan, "...that much restriction on the thinking of the two candidates body language will become far more important than the candidates themselves know. No one can control their nonverbal communication with this much attention being put on verbal communication."

Decoding and interpreting body language becomes a powerful ally in the search for the truth about what these two accomplished men really think.

"Bush is known for his smirks and crinkled forehead in response to even the most serious and dramatic questions. This leads one to wonder, is this his natural body language or his he thinking something completely different," says Hogan.

"Kerry has his own set of body miseries. His very deliberate gestures often remind you of Al Gore, and that, isn't going to win him an election."

What are the candidates to do if they want to win?

"In order to win the election John Kerry must do one thing. He must show the voter that he is real. That he is not a clone of Al Gore in stiffness or any other way. He must show that he has a compassionate and human side. This means being affable, and for Kerry, gesturing less while physically loosening up."

"For Bush to win the debates and hold his lead in the polls, he needs only to stick to telling the truth. He is poor at cloaking deception. But what we don't wonder about is his sincerity when he is angry or determined. There is a look he gets when he is holding back anger or is very determined that causes the observer to have a sense of certainty about the man inside. He is affected by the plight of others."

Hogan has a warning for the Kerry camp.

"Don't get me wrong, Bush is not a bad debater. His child like diction and speaking style are disarming to anyone communicating with him. They see him as weak. This causes an invulnerable and superior perception on the part of the other person. These perceptions can turn confidence in Kerry to arrogance and you could see a complete replay of 2000."

What will happen Thursday night?

Hogan says, The answer will be in the body language of the two. The words will be scripted. The body's will talk if you listen. It should be fascinating."


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Kevin Hogan