TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It is amazing how much a person can convey through "non-verbal" communication. Sometimes a raised brow, a hand gesture, can say more than words.
Every move will be scrutinized during Monday night’s presidential debate.
[Watch Clinton vs. Trump LIVE here at 8 p.m. CT]
Professors at the University of Alabama believe those gestures could actually help people decide who will get their vote.
UA Assistant Professor, Dr. Tony Buhr has been working with the university’s political science department since the 2012 election.
The focus then was on a candidate’s disfluency, or how many times a candidate said “uh or “um.
Now, they are directing their attention to non-verbal communication.
“A lot of people intuitively make a decision about who they're going to vote for or who they trust, then they justify that after the fact,” UA Assistant Professor, Dr. Tony Buhr said.
Buhr said this is especially true for those not quite sure who they are going to vote for.
“They typically make up their decision based on how the person looks, or how they might interact with the person they're talking to at a coffee shop, so they maybe don't pay quite as much attention to their perspectives on policy or whatever the case might be,” Buhr said.
By studying the 2012 presidential campaign, Buhr and his colleagues learned the number of disfluencies in a candidate's speech or debate showed at the polls.
“In 2012, during the three debates, we had students code the disfluencies. It showed in the snap poll after the first debate that Mitt Romney was the winner,” he said.
In addition to speech disfluencies, the role gestures play will be examined during this debate cycle.
“We have Hilary Clinton, who is a trained politician, who's been in the field for quite a long time and obviously has had some training, in not necessarily hand gestures, but body languages opposed to Donald Trump, in my opinion, who hasn't had as much training and you can see that in the that way he gestures,” said Katarina Puzinauskas, a UA Graduate student.
Researchers believe gestures will play a big role in this election.
“When you're standing on the stage, in something of this magnitude, it can convey confidence, it can convey weakness, so if you are not using appropriate hand gestures people notice,” she said.
Those participating watch the debate with video only and audio only then the researchers gather the information from participants for their data analysis.