Candidates who blink more than their opponents in debates tend to lose presidential elections, says Boston College psychology professor J.J. Tecce, and McCain outblinked Obama during the their three debates this fall.
“People are picking up McCain’s rapid blinking and saying, ‘There’s something about him that’s awfully twitchy and nervous and I don’t think I want to vote for that guy,’” said Tecce, who has presented a paper on blinking in debates.
Tecce said rapid blinking is an indicator of negative emotions such as fear, pain or stress. Most people blink 10 to 20 times per minute, a rate that increases to between 30 and 50 times per minute if they’re in front of a television camera.
The Republican McCain, who trails Democrat Obama by 4 to 14 percentage points in most polls, blinked 109 times per minute during the first debate, while Obama blinked 73 times per minute. Tecce said that gap persisted in the next two debates.