Thursday, 13 December 2012

Question Time



I recently watched a slice of the BBC programme QuestionTime. I had the TV sound off as usual, because I was checking the teletext weather forecast for good walking weather and don’t like background babble. This time the babble happened to be Question Time.

For some reason I’ve stumbled across a number of Question Time slices in this way. Although I haven’t watched it for years with the sound on, I do quite like to watch bits of it with the sound off.

Body language and facial expressions vary enough to be watchable, especially with the babble screened out by the mute button. Some people make extensive use of hand gestures which do not always look habitual. Maybe TV causes them to be more emphatic than usual – slightly more dramatic and camera-conscious.

From short chopping motions of the hand to shrugs and various expressive waves denoting quite a range of emotions and attitudes – it’s all there in a rather British, understated manner.

Finger-wagging seems to be generally avoided as a no-no everyone has learned – a behavioural cliché nobody wants to be caught out making. Well – not quite nobody. It can be effective if someone knows how to use it without looking foolish. A good actor could use finger-wagging, or a comedian - but most seem to avoid it.

Facial expressions vary a lot and the panel of pundits who sit at the front are often quite accomplished, although behavioural cliché creeps in here too.

The sympathetic nod, the raised eyebrow, the frown and the judiciously pursed lips. Many facial expressions appear contrived to me - suggesting quite strongly that the person isn’t really listening. Maybe that’s deliberate – the behavioural snub we've all seen.

Many Question Time participants don’t seem to find the experience all that enjoyable if their facial expressions are any guide. Strong disagreement can be interesting, because of its similarity to expressions of pain. Facially, some people do behave as if in physical pain when someone says something with which they strongly disagree. As if a tooth is being extracted without enough anaesthetic.

In a sense of course, disagreement is pain. I’m reminded of the ancient Greek pleasure/pain principle used to account for human actions – taken up so effectively by Spinoza.

I’m sure the giving and receiving of social pain accounts for one of the programme’s attractions, although I've watched far too little to be sure. For all I know it's usually a riotous comedy. If I ever watch a whole programme with the sound on, maybe I’ll find out.

No... that’s definitely a step too far.

5 comments:

banned said...

I understand that they use Self Presentation Consultants and that this behaviour is learnt.
Some are less capable than others, notably one G.Brown whose on-screen presentation was hilarious.

Tony Blairs speciality seemed to be lowered arms spreading out with open palms ro indicate what an honest guy he was.

Roger said...

I hear QT on the radio from time to time - and hate it. I sense carefully scripted questions with carefully rehearsed party-line answers. The program is merely an advert for the political parties - avoid like the plague.

A K Haart said...

banned - and we all know how honest Blair was.

Roger - maybe the radio version is better with the sound off too?

Demetrius said...

I would rather play real charades, it must be decades now since I watched stuff like this.

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - you haven't missed much. Stick to charades!