Romney’s Secret Language
Copyright © by Howard Bloom, 11/2/12
If Mitt Romney wins next week’s Presidential election, it may be not be
because of his brain and his policies. It may be because of his body. And
because of body language.
The debates with Barack Obama revealed two things about Mitt Romney that
have nothing to do with logic and everything to do with instinct. First,
off, Romney (6’2”) is taller than Obama (6’1”). Height is a
powerful motivator of your emotional self, your self below the floorboards of
consciousness. Studies in social psychology have consistently revealed that we
rate tall people higher in IQ, we pay them higher starting salaries (every inch
in height produces $6,000 in income), and if we are female, we swoon over them
far more eagerly. What does this have to do with politics? Writes the
master of social psychology, Elliot Aronson, "In the overwhelming majority
of American presidential elections, the taller of the two major candidates has
Is our secret love of height rational? Far from it. But it
may have been useful in our hunter-gatherer days. Why? The tallest
person in the tribe usually got that way through superior nutrition and a host
of other advantages. Which means that his parents were likely to have been
at the top of the tribe’s pecking order, the tribe’s hierarchy. So the
tallest person in the tribe is likely to have been born into power and
privilege. He is also likely to have been handed the best high-level contacts
and to have been taught the lessons of authority from birth. What’s more, the
tallest person has advantages over his comrades in war with another tribe.
In battle, he stands out as a giant. That makes him a target. But it
also marks him out as someone you would not want to confront in face to face
None of these things apply in the modern world. But our emotional
self was formed long ago. And it has more power over us than we like to
The result? The debates did something spectacular for Mitt.
In previous photos and video clips of President Obama, Barack has always been
the tallest person in the room. But when Obama and Mitt were side by side
and on their feet—for example when they hugged—Obama looked like a toothpick
being embraced by a tree.
Then there was another factor the debates revealed: the body language of
dominance and submission. In social groups ranging from crayfish and
lobsters to lizards, chickens, and chimpanzees, there is a pecking order with a
dominant male (and often a dominant female) on the top. The dominant male
is adept at flashing cues that indicate his status. Cues that he is the
master of all. Mitt flashed those cues in the debates with the greatest
authority. For example, in debate number two, Mitt took over the top spot
from the debate’s moderator, Candy Crowley. When Romney wanted to skip
Crowley’s question and make a point of his own choosing, he gently, smilingly,
but insistently, moved Crowley to the side and took control. In doing so,
he made Crowley look small. And he telegraphed his status as an alpha male. Obama,
who was polite and followed the rules, did not.
The bottom line? If you want to vote on the basis of height and body language, by all means do. But be aware of what has moved you. And remember this: there is a good chance that voting on policy and previous track record will get you a better President.
[Original version of this article originally appeared on the Psychology Today website.]
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