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Dominic Cummings’ gestures ‘in harmony with someone telling the truth’, says body language expert

Dominic Cummings‘ gestures were ‘totally in harmony’ with someone telling the truth – or what they believe is the truth – during his account of the government’s response to the pandemic, a body language expert has claimed.

The maverick ex-chief adviser to the prime minister today accused Boris Johnson viewed Covid-19 as a ‘scare story’ just a month before the first lockdown and described the dramatic moment when a top civil servant admitted: ‘We are absolutely f*****.’ 

Dressed in his usual casual style, in an open necked shirt and rolled-up sleeves, Mr Cummings claimed Number 10 – and he personally – ‘fell disastrously short’ in its response to coronavirus during a titanic hearing with MPs.

Speaking to FEMAIL, body language expert Darren Stanton said the political strategist appeared ‘totally congruent with what he was saying’.

Dominic Cummings’ gestures were ‘totally in harmony’ with someone telling the truth – or what they believe is the truth – during his account of the government’s response to the pandemic, a body language expert has claimed

TRUTH SIGNALS 

‘Normally when a person is being deceptive we will see a number of tell-tale signs; the person may shift in their seat, we may see an increase in blink rate to double or triple, which is a physiological response to a change in heartrate and emotion. I saw no such changes in Dominic Cummings,’ he explained. 

‘There are times when he was critical of the Prime Minister and Matt Hancock and we see signs of stress and anxiety by swallowing deeply, placing his hand on the top of his head, and sometimes clearing his throat. This is because he is aware he’s about to say something controversial and very significant and it is a response to stress. 

‘Even though my expertise is in deception detection, there is no machine or mechanism to scientifically measure lies; however we can to a high degree measure the changes in emotion which being deceptive often causes.

‘This can be demonstrable in the lips is and cheeks becoming either very pale or flushing up, which is a direct consequence of the body’s own flight or fight syndrome as blood is pushed away from certain parts of the body. Again I saw no such signs of this in Mr Cummings. 

‘His body language was consistent and fluid with someone who either is being truthful, or has convinced themselves as to what the truth is.’ 

'There are times when he was critical of the Prime Minister and Matt Hancock and we see signs of stress and anxiety by swallowing deeply, placing his hand on the top of his head, and sometimes clearing his throat. This is because he is aware he's about to say something controversial and very significant and it is a response to stress,' Darren observed

‘There are times when he was critical of the Prime Minister and Matt Hancock and we see signs of stress and anxiety by swallowing deeply, placing his hand on the top of his head, and sometimes clearing his throat. This is because he is aware he’s about to say something controversial and very significant and it is a response to stress,’ Darren observed

VERY DIFFERENT TO NO 10 GARDEN PRESS CONFERENCE 

Darren added that Mr Cummings’ body language today is ‘vastly different’ to how he appeared when he gave a press conference in the garden of Number 10 last year in response to his alleged misconduct and breach of Covid rules.

‘I commented then how he displayed several gestures and body language signatures which seemed a little incongruous with what I deemed as credible,’ Darren reflected.

‘When we analyse somebody for their body language we take what is called a “baseline”; we note how they are when they are not in a situation of stress. 

Darren added that Mr Cummings' body language today is 'vastly different' to how he appeared when he gave a press conference in the garden of Number 10 last year in response to his alleged misconduct and breach of Covid rules

Darren added that Mr Cummings' body language today is 'vastly different' to how he appeared when he gave a press conference in the garden of Number 10 last year in response to his alleged misconduct and breach of Covid rules

Darren said Mr Cummings’ body language today is ‘vastly different’ to how he appeared when he gave a press conference in the garden of Number 10 last year in response to his alleged misconduct and breach of Covid rules (pictured)

Judi said Mr Cummings' head hung low and his blink rate accelerated as he said the government had 'fallen disastrously short of the standard the public had a right to expect'

Judi said Mr Cummings’ head hung low and his blink rate accelerated as he said the government had ‘fallen disastrously short of the standard the public had a right to expect’

‘Therefore when we see them in a more stressful situation, we can determine to a high degree of accuracy a person’s emotion and what they are thinking, exerted by their gestures and language and non-verbal communication.

‘While politicians and high-profile celebrities are very often trained in body language and how to deliver information to the media, we are all human beings subjected to the same physiological and psychological processes, so no matter who somebody is or how well trained they are, they will still leak information relating to emotion.

‘Today there has been a vast difference in Dominic Cummings’ body language… in my opinion he is being totally congruent with what he is saying.’

INFORMAL DRESS TO DISARM 

Darren claimed Mr Cummings’ informal dress today is a strategy politicians often adopt in an attempt to disarm and appear more relatable.

‘We have seen people like Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock adopt a similar theme by taking off their jackets and tie and rolling their sleeves up when visiting places like factories or hospitals,’ he observed. 

‘It is psychologically saying, “Hey, I am just like you”. Obviously it is an attempt to disarm their powerful appearance.’  

Darren claimed Mr Cummings' informal dress today is a strategy politicians often adopt in an attempt to disarm and appear more relatable

Darren claimed Mr Cummings’ informal dress today is a strategy politicians often adopt in an attempt to disarm and appear more relatable

SELF-REASSURING GESTURES 

Darren said the gesture Mr Cummings made when he was asked if he was there to ‘settle scores’, particularly given his apparent dim view of select committees, was significant. 

‘He immediately placed his hand on his neck; this is what we call a self-reassuring gesture, it is a self hug,’ he explained. ‘I think he realises the full impact of what he has said today.

‘Overall I believe his performance was very credible and I saw no signs of disruptive behaviour. His body language appeared to be coherent and consistent in relation to what he was saying.’

When asked if he was there to 'settle scores', Darren said Mr Cummings placed his hand on his neck. 'This is what we call a self-reassuring gesture, it is a self hug,' he explained. 'I think he realises the full impact of what he has said today'

When asked if he was there to ‘settle scores’, Darren said Mr Cummings placed his hand on his neck. ‘This is what we call a self-reassuring gesture, it is a self hug,’ he explained. ‘I think he realises the full impact of what he has said today’

Body language Judi James said there were moments where Mr Cummings ‘diminished’ his own authority and even his intelligence, during which he displayed ‘self-hug’ gestures and other signals of ‘apparent submission, discomfort and a desire to hide’.

‘He began to use facial touch rituals to hint at anxiety and he placed one finger across his lips, keeping it there as he spoke to suggest discomfort at his own words,’ she said. 

‘At one point he raised his hands in a clasp in front of his face with the fingers meshed in a “pray” shape and he rested his mouth on the hands.

‘When quizzed about herd immunity his hand moved to his chin and then his fingertips went up to touch his scalp, hiding much of his face in a cut-off or shield gesture. 

‘When he was asked about not cancelling sporting events his tight hand held his forehead, hiding even more of his facial expression.’ 

HINTS OF BELLIGERENCE AT THE START 

Judi James said while Mr Cummings began the session by adopting poses that resembled a ‘cocky, belligerent schoolboy called into the head’s office for a telling off’, when he began speaking he displayed submission signals and even sounded tearful.

Judi told how Mr Cummings used 'definitively emphatic gestures' in a bid to signal his honesty as the session progressed, including a hand raised and dropped in a chopping movement

Judi told how Mr Cummings used ‘definitively emphatic gestures’ in a bid to signal his honesty as the session progressed, including a hand raised and dropped in a chopping movement

‘With his shirt sleeves rolled up to suggest a lack of formality or even apparent respect for the occasion, Mr Cummings leant forward onto both elbows with his arms crossed and poked his tongue right round the inner left side of his mouth in a “tongue in cheek” ritual before fixing the panel with a very direct stare followed by some eye-darts,’ Judi observed.

Dominic Cummings displays a ‘micro gesture of disgust’ when discussing Matt Hancock 

The former aide launched an excoriating attack on Matt Hancock, accusing him of ‘lying’ about PPE and access for treatment for those suffering from the disease, and argued he should have been fired for ‘at least 15, 20 things’.

He accused the Health Secretary of ‘criminal, disgraceful behaviour’ during the early days of the pandemic and branded him a serial liar whose behavior directly hindered the Government’s ability to tackle the pandemic last year. 

Mr Cummings said he went to Mr Johnson in July last year and said that he was going to leave because Downing Street was in ‘chaos’ and told the PM that he was ‘not prepared to work with people like Hancock any more’, accusing Mr Johnson of being ‘frightened’ to give him enough power to set up a functional system.

‘It was possible to see that Matt Hancock was a possible focus for Mr Cummings’ anger or rejection when he referred to him earlier on in his interview as just “Hancock”,’ Judi said.

‘Given his moment to take off the gloves and lay a verbal punch, Mr Cummings performs a pause, saying “I think…” followed by some verbal fillers like an “aaah” and a creaking noise to stall before landing his right hook. This playing for time could look like an inner debate about whether to let rip or not and if so what words to use, but it could also be the kind of delaying ritual a cat will use on a mouse, when it suddenly stops to scratch itself just before the last pounce to maximise the enjoyment of the ending.

‘As Mr Cummings mentions Hancock by his job title there is a micro-gesture of disgust as one cheek pulls slightly in a wince and then his lower lip tightens to suggest another micro-wince of what looks like suppressed anger.’ 

TEARFUL APOLOGY WITH SUBMISSION SIGNALS 

‘His first words though turned out to be of personal apology and during this section he adopted lowering signals and even sounded tearful,’ Judi said.

‘His head hung low and his blink rate accelerated as he said they had “fallen disastrously short of the standard the public had a right to expect”.

‘When he told “how sorry I am for mistakes that were made” there was what sounded suspiciously like a sob building in his voice. 

‘He looked down in an eye-cut-off ritual before raising his eyes in a series of eye-darts and his lower jaw dropped as he referred to “all those families” that had suffered.’

POWER-PLAY SIGNALS 

Judi said Mr Cummings’ body language switched to signals of status and confidence when he ‘got down to business’ to discuss what went wrong at the beginning of the crisis. 

‘His whole body inflated. He sat upright and even pushed himself into the back of his chair,’ she said.

‘His chest puffed in a gesture of self-importance and his shoulders splayed to suggest feelings of power. 

‘His territorial or spatial behaviour fluctuated enormously during his interview between self-diminishing and “hide” signals and spreading out over two chairs and pit-baring to suggest confidence.

‘When saying he was not “smart” enough for Sage meetings his arms folded in a self-hug, to lower his status, but later he was miming “Smashing my hand down on a big button” when he spoke about herd immunity, with the non-verbal mime suggesting he might have had the power to do so.’

EMPHATIC GESTURES TO SIGNAL HONESTY 

Judi told how Mr Cummings used ‘definitively emphatic gestures’ in a bid to signal his honesty as the session progressed, including a hand raised and dropped in a chopping movement. 

‘When he was less assured though, like when he was unsure whether he had attended Cobra meetings or not, his verbal fillers increased to the point of stammering and he seemed to be gulping air nervously at some points,’ she added.

‘Mr Cummings probably looked the most assured when he was looking through or quoting from his printed text messages. His replies here were curter and he later even raised one document in the air to endorse his words.’  

Dominic Cummings’ bombshell evidence

The initial apology: ‘The truth is that senior ministers, senior officials, senior advisers like me fell disastrously short of the standards that the public has a right to expect of its Government in a crisis like this. When the public needed us most the Government failed. I would like to say to all the families of those who died unnecessarily how sorry I am for the mistakes that were made and for my own mistakes at that.’

On the lack of preparation in February 2020: ‘We didn’t act like it was important in February, let alone January…. No10 and the government were not working on a war footing in February, it wasn’t until the last week of February there was any sense of urgency.’ 

On Boris Johnson’s attitude to Covid: ‘In February the Prime Minister regarded this as just a scare story. He described it as the new swine flu… The view of various officials inside No10 was if we have the PM chairing Cobra meetings and he just tells everyone ”it’s swine flu don’t worry about it, I am going to get Chris Whitty to inject me live on TV with coronavirus so everyone realise it’s nothing to be frightened of”, that would not help actual serious planning.’

On the first lockdown timing: ‘In retrospect it is clear that the official plan was wrong, it is clear that the whole advice was wrong, and I think it is clear that we obviously should have locked down essentially the first week of March at the latest. We certainly should have been doing all of these things weeks before we did, I think it’s unarguable that that is the case.’

On his role in the lockdown delay: ‘There’s no doubt in retrospect that yes, it was a huge failure of mine and I bitterly regret that I didn’t hit the emergency panic button earlier then I did. In retrospect there’s no doubt I was wrong not to.’

On No10 in March 2020: ‘It was like a scene from Independence Day with Jeff Goldblum saying the aliens are here and your whole plan is broken and you need a new plan.’

On Boris being distracted by Carrie and Trump: ‘It sounds so surreal couldn’t possibly be true … that day, the Times had run a huge story about the Prime Minister and his girlfriend and their dog. The Prime Minister’s girlfriend was going completely crackers about this story and demanding that the press office deal with that. So we had this sort of completely insane situation in which part of the building was saying are we going to bomb Iraq? Part of the building was arguing about whether or not we’re going to do quarantine or not do quarantine, the Prime Minister has his girlfriend going crackers about something completely trivial.’

On the PM missing Cobra meetings: ‘Lots of Cobra meetings are just going through PowerPoint slides and are not massively useful.’ 

On Health Secretary Matt Hancock: ‘I think the Secretary of State for Health should’ve been fired for at least 15, 20 things, including lying to everybody on multiple occasions in meeting after meeting in the Cabinet room and publicly. There’s no doubt at all that many senior people performed far, far disastrously below the standards which the country has a right to expect. I think the Secretary of State for Health is certainly one of those people. I said repeatedly to the Prime Minister that he should be fired, so did the Cabinet Secretary, so did many other senior people.’

On herd immunity: ‘It is not that people are thinking this is a good thing, it is that it is a complete inevitability, the only real question is one of timing. It’s either going to be by September or it’s herd immunity by January (2021) after a second peak.’

On not cancelling mass sports events like Cheltenham Festival: ‘The official advice at the time (March 2020)  was that that a) won’t make much difference to transmission, which seems absolutely bizarre in retrospect, the idea that we would keep mass events going on through this whole thing. But also secondly, it could be actively bad because you’d push people into pubs. Of course no one in the official system in the Department of Health drew the obvious logical conclusion which was well, shouldn’t we be shutting all the pubs as well?’

On Government secrecy: ‘There is no doubt at all that the process by which Sage was secret and overall the whole thinking around the strategy was secret was an absolutely catastrophic mistake, because it meant that there wasn’t proper scrutiny of the assumptions, the underlying logic. Actually Sage agreed with this, when I said on March 11 we are going to have to make all these models public and whatnot, there wasn’t pushback from sage or Patrick Vallance either. Patrick actually agreed with me.’ 

On Boris v Jeremy Corbyn at the 2019 election: ‘There’s so many thousands and thousands of wonderful people in this country who could provide better leadership than either of those two. And there’s obviously something terribly wrong with the political parties if that’s the best that they can do.’


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