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October 17th, 2012
01:03 PM ET

Reading a candidate's body language – facial coding expert Dan Hill explains

President Obama and Mitt Romney’s rematch was definitely more level than their last meeting in Denver. Both candidates brought their A-games to the town hall style debate, but whatever the two said last night, Sensory Logic's Dan Hill says their body language and facial expressions said more. He breaks down the interactions between the President Obama and Romney’s exchange, sometimes heated, sometimes more subtle, and says the president had the edge.

Berman asks Hill if he noticed whether the president delivered a more energized debate than he did in Denver. “Absolutely,” Hill says. “He came back from the emotionally dead. In the first debate, he slept walked.”

Hill, who notices the subtle gestures and movements in facial features of people that few do, advises that the debaters need to not just be on message with talking points, but “have feeling points,” and “create the right emotion at the right time.” He says Obama showed sadness only once when he needed to, on the subject of gun violence. “Then his eyes went down. Then he kind of gave up for a moment. He showed empathy for the people suffering. That’s the one time he showed sadness,” Hill says. “Otherwise he showed resolve and he showed a lot more determination that he was gonna fight for justice, that was the key.

There was “a space issue” where the candidates were in one another’s personal space, especially Romney. “He was definitely coming in with a strategy he was gonna crowd him a little bit,” Hill says. “And there was a point where he really crowded Obama.” Hill noted that Obama gave him back a glare before he pivoted toward the American public, so as not to intimidate the American voter in his attempt to intimidate Romney.

Hill also notes that Romney often faced his back to the camera. His professional experience has taught him that, “If you show the back of people’s face, their emotional engagement for you, their caring, their empathy, drops off dramatically.” “That was a mistake by Romney,” Hill says. “This time Obama got under Romney’s skin,” however. “Lots of times in a row where the lips tightened, the eyebrows came down, you got the glare in the eye,” Hill explains.

Romney was “not quite as comfortable as the first debate,” Hill says. “The president manages to come back with that electric smile,” he says. “The muscle around the eye relaxes; you got the twinkle in the eye. That’s Obama’s secret card here.”

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