Body language expert breaks down Kamala Harris’ performance at the VP debate

Viewers can’t help dissecting the differences in Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence’s responses during the 2020 vice presidential debate. Beyond analyzing what they said, there’s a lot to break down regarding the way they said it, and no, this doesn’t pertain to word choice. It’s about body language. We spoke to Mark Bowden, a human behavior and body language expert, as well as a panelist on The Behavior Panel, about the California Democrat’s performance against the Republican incumbent. 

First of all, this debate was unlike any other. Content aside, the setup was outside of the norm. In addition to the plexiglass between the candidates, both Harris and Pence were seated instead of standing at a podium. Bowden noted that Harris had a “big true smile” during the opening, which he said was in contrast to Pence, who looked “less optimistic in his face with a strained smile.”

When she was discussing the coronavirus pandemic, Harris appeared “destabilized or emotional,” Bowden said, noting that her voice “cracked” and she lifted out of her seat slightly. However, Bowden said “this stress in the throat and voice is the same as in her set speeches under less stress.”

Bowden noted that Harris made sure to “find the camera on key messages and keywords and issues,” such as the economy. For instance, she looked directly at the camera when she mentioned “free education for some lower income students.” 

Kamala Harris' smile may have delivered a message

Despite any nerves she may have about debating Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Kamala Harris’ body language reportedly spoke volumes throughout the event. Mark Bowden, a human behavior and body language expert, as well as a panelist on The Behavior Panel, talked to Nicki Swift about the Democrat’s nonverbal cues. 

Bowden said “Harris is using the same technique as [running mate Joe] Biden, smiling, or laughing towards Pence at whatever she feels [is] inaccurate from Pence.” Bowden said Harris’ facial expressions displayed “disdain” or perhaps “dupers delight,” demonstrated by the upturn of one side of her mouth, as if to communicate to the audience that she doesn’t thing her opponents are honest. 

Bowden said the senator demonstrated a “powerful move” when she “clasp[ed] her hands down her center line” while discussing the Affordable Care Act. However, Bowden said she reduces that power when she subsequently “pulls her shoulders in and minimizes.”

In addition, Harris “delivers wide symmetrical gestures that also deepen her voice with more strength around her record on race and prosecution,” Bowden said, suggesting that she “really wants to create a more stable and solid narrative for herself” to counter the opposition.

Despite any nerves she may have about the debate, Harris’ body language reportedly spoke volumes throughout the event. 

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