Non-verbal communication in the presidential debates

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McCain Obama debateResearchers have long believed that individuals communicate as much or more through non-verbal communication as they do through the actual words that they use. Edward Hall and Erving Goffman have suggested that facial expressions, gestures, body language, and tone of voice can be responsible for more than two thirds of the meaning that is conveyed. Naturally, the experts have been called out to analyze the recent presidential election debates in the United States. This article in the Los Angeles Times outlines the ways in which candidates Barack Obama and John McCain either reinforce or undercut their message by their use of non-verbal communication. If this is true for native speakers of English, imagine the impact on non-native speakers, and the challenge of learning not only a new language, but also a new language of gesture and non-verbal communication.

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