CLAIM: According to a body language expert, a photograph of President Obama crying reveals he is a psychopath.
EXAMPLE: [Collected via Facebook, January 2015]
The origin of the claim contained in this graphic seems to come from a 2013 book by Lillian Glass titled, “The Body Language of Liars.” Yet, as we all know, this isn’t an exact science in any way. Furthermore, the author, though seemingly educated in this field, seems to have a found a niche in which to capitalize on people’s fears. A title of another of her books is, “Guide to Identifying Terrorists Through Body Language.” Another is “The Body Language Advantage: Maximize Your Personal and Professional Relationships with this Ultimate Photo Guide to Deciphering What Others Are Secretly Saying,in Any Situation.”
Nevertheless, opponents of the President are using something she wrote to some degree of success.
ORIGIN:On 5 January 2016, President Obama proposed several measures to curb gun violence while delivering remarks on the topic in the East Room of the White House. As he discussed gun deaths involving children, the President began crying (as seen at the 0:44 mark in the video embedded below):
The following day, a meme about President Obama’s show of emotion began circulating online, holding that according to body language expert Lillian Glass, the Commander-in-Chief’s tears bore hallmarks of psychopathy (and implied that the body language he demonstrated was evidence he is himself a psychopath):
Some versions of the meme attributed its claims to Dr. Lillian Glass:
In her 2013 book “The Body Language of Liars,” behavioral analyst Lillian Glass wrote that psychopaths are really bad at crying:
“When psychopaths cry, they will often wipe underneath each eye, one at a time. When people cry genuine tears they cry with both eyes, and so they will tend to wipe both eyes at once.”
A brief online search indicated that the quote cited above was lifted directly from a 6 November 2013 Business Insider article titled “7 Signs You’re Working with a Psychopath.” The article predictably described an entirely different context:
They are really bad at crying.
“When [Susan Smith] gave a press conference and cried about her missing children, her fake tears were actually what raised suspicions that she was the killer,” says Glass.
When psychopaths cry, Glass says they will often wipe underneath each eye, one at a time. “When people cry genuine tears they cry with both eyes, and so they will tend to wipe both eyes at once.”
In their original context, Dr. Glass’ observations clearly pertained to video footage (not a still image). Dr. Glass’ web site includes a blog wherein her observations consistently describe analysis of subjects in context and motion (utilizing photographs to illustrate the body language she described in a broader context throughout). Nowhere in her writings did we locate an example of her making such a definitive diagnosis based upon a single still image, nor of her throwing around severe diagnostic language such as “psychopath.”
We contacted Dr. Glass regarding the meme and the use of language from her 2013 book The Body Language of Liars. Dr. Glass told us she was aware of the quote’s newfound popularity and was deeply dismayed by the lengths to which her words and work had been misconstrued due to the meme (and related articles).
Dr. Glass strongly repudiated the assertions of the meme, noting that the quote originally appeared in her 2013 book and was used for the Business Insider piece in a very different context. Moreover, she stated that she would never engage in body language analysis so flippantly, nor did she consider the subject matter of the meme appropriate for such observations. Mostly, Dr. Glass was dismayed at the virality of a grossly misconstrued, unrelated, out-of-context quote from her book in a meme that misrepresented her work.
According to Dr. Glass, the thrust of the meme is unequivocally false. Whether folks believe President Obama’s tears at the 5 January 2016 appearance were legitimate or not, the meme based on that moment in no way represents the analytical work of the body language expert to whom it is attributed.
LAST UPDATED: 07 January 2016
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07 January 2016