A new TV program reveals “appreciation escalation,” what behavioral psychologists mean when words say one thing, but hands or eyes say another:
On Tony Blair:
[R]ight from the start you see him swallow. That’s a really telling sign. All signs of anxiety focus on the mouth and throat. …. A sign like that tells us that he’s been caught unawares. When he does swallow he does the things all politicians do when they’ve been found out and that’s to waffle. …. He has other signature tells. If I’m talking to you as a politician and I expose you my palms or I present you with my knuckles, these two gestures send diametrically opposed messages. Palms is openness friendliness, nothing to hide; the knuckle display is a high dominance gesture. When he talks about taking a tough line with Iran out comes the knuckle display. The gesture comes first, that’s when you know it’s genuine.
On Simon Cowell:
This is a classic example of Appreciation Escalation. …. Simon is the gaffer, he’s in control. He invites each person to speak in turn so that he can modulate his expression in the light of theirs. You do not go first because someone can trump you and Simon Cowell has the final word every time. …. He also does a precision gesture and finger wag to push his point home.
From the Kate Winslet lip bite to the Michael Howard smile, their gesticulation gives them away every time.