Brett Kavanaugh's Rage & Tears Are Revealing, Body Language Expert Says

Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/Getty Images.
Brett Kavanaugh's forceful, aggressive testimony stood in stark contrast with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's polite deference as they both testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
We have to be careful and remember that behavioral analysis alone cannot determine somebody's guilt or innocence, says body language expert Patti Wood, author of Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language, and Charisma. But after analyzing Kavanaugh's testimony, she says it's worth highlighting the revealing moments that say a lot about who he is.
"His extreme emotions and inability to control his anger, rage, contempt, and tears is revealing," Wood tells Refinery29. "I have analyzed dozens of congressional hearings and I have never seen someone questioned display this broad range of emotions or this intensity." Wood says Kavanaugh used emotions that are known as "cover emotions" in deception detection; anger, "victim tears," and laughter. These emotions can be sincere and he could be showing them because he is innocent, but they can also "cover guilt," she says.
"His tears seem real and they can certainly call forth empathy," she continues. "They can show that he is absolutely innocent, but I have also seen in my work throughout the years that people who are 'caught' sometimes cry because they feel like victims of circumstances. I have additional problem with somebody crying during their congressional testimony. I have seen people eviscerated during congressional testimony. He was not questioned with the same intensity as many have been. He's the first person I've ever seen cry."
She notes that when questioned by senators, Kavanaugh tended to both evade questions and redefine their terms, something that doesn't necessarily mean a person is guilty, but is a notable habit. She pointed out that it could have been a conscious choice to say, "I never had any sexual or physical encounter of any kind with Dr. Ford," rather than using the name Christine Blasey, which she was known by back when they were teenagers, at the time of the alleged assault. "I have seen this technique used so often by liars," she says. "He has a habit of rephrasing and redefining terms and of not answering direct questions."
Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images.
An example of evasion is when he responded to Sen. Amy Klobuchar asking him whether he had ever blacked out after drinking too much with "belligerent and attacking nonverbal cues," responding with a question rather than an answer: "Have you?" Wood says he used humor and the "everybody does it, we all like beer response" to the questions about drinking. "I was very briefly a substance abuse counselor and I had to question people every week on their drinking and their behavior," she says. "I would have asked him more specific questions like, 'How many beers did you typically drink at a party?' 'What is the most you ever had to drink in one evening?' ... The drinking questions are critical to the assault allegations, and it was interesting that that line of questioning was interrupted."
Wood says that a key piece of Dr. Ford's testimony was revelatory; when she said that Kavanaugh and Mark Judge's laughter — "the uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense" — is the strongest impression in her memory. "If Kavanaugh did it and he was laughing, he may not have seen it or felt it as anything but 'horseplay,'" says Wood. "He may not have had it register in his memory as anything wrong or bad. And if he was drunk, he may not have remembered it at all. This is important because his anger is so strong and he seems so emphatic, and he could actually feel he never did anything like this."
Wood emphasized that we still don’t know the truth.

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