Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sarah Palin's "Tells" Tell Us When She Lies

I try to avoid watching Sarah Palin anymore, although I have written in the past about how she presents and what I observe. During the 2008 campaign, my main concern was for the children as they were paraded before the media while at the same time, the Palin's demanded that the children be left out of political discussion. Watching the dynamics of the Palin family while on-stage, while waiting to go on-stage, during video clips of the campaign plane and the various interactions available to us via hours of video and still photographs was an education in family dysfunction.

I am gratified that we see very little of Trig or Piper - perhaps she is now attending school and he is receiving the intensive one-on-one attention necessary for an infant with Down Syndrome? The parading of Bristol and now Willow in inappropriate venues in inappropriate clothing is a disappointment, but it is clear that the Palin family business is business, and that the commodity that they have to sell is themselves. As Sarah ages and her lack of substance becomes more apparent, perhaps she is counting on her daughters to step in and fill the family coffers. Who knows. Hopefully the day will come when we can cease caring - the day when if the Palins have not left politics, that at least politics will at least have left them.

Sarah's most recent video appearance was with Greta Van Susteran as she addressed the buzz that is all over the internets about the possibility of breast implants. She seems somehow surprised that feminists have not joined in supporting her as her attempts - she says - to wear layers to avert attention away from her breasts (what was that very thin t-shirt at Belmont?) has failed and she is being objectified (my word, not sure she knows that one).

When I watch someone speak or appear in an interview, just as in a counseling session, I pay more attention to how they say what they are saying then to the actual words said. Obvious "tells" alert me to moments when the words probably mean more, but overall, it is how someone says something and the meaning behind the words that mean the most. In counseling, of course, the purpose and goal is quite different than in "real" life where - especially in politics - words do matter. However, Sarah has some really interesting tells that I am surprised that at this point in her public life, remain. With all the 'gates and media attention one would think that she would have received better advice (as well as voice coaching), but she apparently knows it all already and is unable and/or unwilling to acknowledge any faults, the first step necessary to self-improvement.

As I watched this video, 2 things struck me. I re-watched it several times to ensure that I had seen what I thought I had seen, and believe me, it was like nails on a blackboard. But even though she was prepared for the questions about breast implants, Sarah was very angry that she had to address the issue, and despite her statement to Greta that she had great respect and love for her, it was one of her bigger lies of the interview. The other? Claiming that she did not want to be judged on appearance. Lie. The tells were huge for anyone who knows what to look for.

During the entire interview, Sarah's behavior was incongruent with what she said. Watch her eyes, her neck, and her mouth. Stress is apparent as her neck cords, as she swallows, and in the tightness of her mouth. I think she wears glasses believing they hide (filter) her eyes - they do not. (BTW - anyone notice that she did not refer to the mainstream media as lamestream media? she actually said mainstream this time - significant stress signal when that is one of her favorite slurs).

Throughout the interview, she either nodded (very infrequently) or shook her head. Most of the time when she was speaking, she was also shaking her head, which tells me that she does not agree with what she is saying. There is shaking your head to suggest dismay at something or someone (i.e., "oh, those poor...), but behavior incongruent to what one is saying that is excessive and continuous is problematic. For her. For us? I'm glad she continues to get such poor advice, especially with the mid-terms coming up.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.


  1. That "speaking and shaking your head" has been on the show "Lie to Me" a few times, so I watch for it too. Sarah wears the glasses to try to correct her lazy eye, I think (I wore them as a child for the same reason-- I don't think contacts work for that).

    I assume Piper's out of school for the summer (if she's even enrolled and not being "home schooled.") I hope that someone is helping her catch up from all the school she missed while Sarah's dragged her everywhere as her personal shield.

  2. The reason she said "mainstream media" instead of lamestream is that there was considerable coverage on Fox (how strange - Fox focusing on a woman's body) and she was not about to call them lamestream.
    I was interested in the rapid eye shifting as she was denying her implants. She had the look of a frantic, cornered animal - which of course, she was.
    By the way, Fox has now disabled the video.

  3. I know she wears glasses because she needs to, but often, people who wear glasses believe that they are more hidden than they really are and they become a sort of shield.

    I wonder why they disabled the video? The one here works, but there is nothing on this video that is not seen on any of her others as far as body language and "tells."

    You would think that with school out, we would see more of Piper rather than less.

  4. Excellent analysis of Palin. I've seen it many times before in recent interviews (only on Fox of course) where her neck is stressed, swallows alot and always the tight lips.

    When will this woman ever go away?
    Thanks for this great post. All of it interesting.

  5. Thank you for this post and for this analysis. I am very interested in non-verbal cues and especially in Palin's. What do you make Kyra of the incessant blinking? And why do you think (and this is a huge characteristic of hers that is always there) she has to constantly be smiling/smirking and acting sort of silly? Like she is being serious but not. She comes across as condescending about everyone and everything. She acts superior but in a mocking way.

  6. Daisydem:
    The smiling/smirking are part of the incongruent behavior and nerves. Remember times when you were very nervous or uncomfortable and smiled or laughed at exactly the wrong moment (funerals come to mind)? Some of her behavior is suggestive of that. When someone is trying to play a part, be someone they are not, constructing a mask is part of the role. Good actors are able to do so effortlessly or at least without our being able to notice (the actors in my family would most likely tell me it is not effortless!).

    Blinking CAN have legitimate reasons (lots of bright lights on TV and stages) but if the rapid eye movements and blinking are sporadic, watch what else is going on when the blinking increases - shifting eyes, swallowing, lips tightening, nostrils flaring, etc. Bush used to (actually, probably still does) blink a lot faster when he was lying. Since we know what he lied about, looking back at some of his speeches gives us good info on that.

    Sarah Palin is filmed enough even if she limits her interviews that there is plenty of data available. All the speeches she gave on the campaign trail, her video clips while governor, the infamous quit speech, etc., and my favorite, her appearance on Oprah show us that there's not a lot of there there. She's so scripted that she's too busy waiting for the questions she's rehearsed for and panics if someone starts to go off script. When they ask the difficult questions, even if prepared, she's stressed that she might not get it right since she rarely does. She may be an idiot, but she knows very well that she gets caught out and can only bluff. She knows she looks foolish but can't help herself - I think her need to be the center of attention overrides any measure of self-awareness she may have left.

  7. It seems like when she is lying she says nooooooooo. She also rears her head up and back when she is talking about somebody she hates. I can't stand the way she ends some sentences on a real high note. Please God make the bad woman go away.

  8. I was fascinated by Sarah's body language in this video and spent a bunch of time taking screen shots. I'm glad to see you address the topic.

    Sarah is one who is capable of lying without blinking, though she'll blink heavily after the key words. She seemed to not be as successful with 'not blinking' in this situation but it looks like she was trying. Wish I had more time.

    Great post.

  9. Thanks again Kyra. And thank you for using the word incongruent... that is it. A lot of her facial expressions and other non-verbal cues seem incongruent with what she is saying, but then of course, what she says often makes no sense. I do not like listening to her and so do not but I frequently watch the videos with sound off, then read the synopses posted on the blogs. The blinking seemed excessive in this particular interview.

  10. Incongruence is key to working in mental health. When I do a mental status exam or work with a client, any incongruence is important. Are they telling me a really sad story and smiling? Are they telling me how happy they are and crying? Are they dressed or groomed inappropriately for their age and status (I've worked with hundreds of gang members - it's hard to believe someone wants out of the gang life if they show up in full colors, especially if they're dressed like a teen when they're in their 30's). Hard to believe someone does not want to be judged by their appearance when they wear short, tight clothing and lots of makeup!

    Is their affect wrong for the conversation or circumstances? Is their any affect? Can they make eye contact or are they trying too hard to maintain eye contact (is their behavior contrived)? What kind of rapport can they establish with me or with others? Is it appropriate ie adult to child, adolescent to adult, peer to peer, etc. All of these are factors that are not questions that are asked but things that we observe and not when there are inconsistencies or incongruities. Obviously, culture and age are significant factors, but for most Americans, there are certain things we can watch for. If it feels off, trust your instincts.

  11. Excellent post! I often thought her body language was Sarah trying to be cutesy. You know, look at me, I have boundless energy and it is distracting when she is speaking. She's acts like an overly hyper two year old in my opinion.