In case you missed the Internet's recent fascination with blinking, Joseph Tecce, a Boston College psychophysiologist who's spent decades dissecting the body language of presidential hopefuls, has concluded that the candidate who blinks least during the debates is most likely to win the election. In fact, there's only been one exception to Tecce's theory since 1980, and that's when George Bush batted his eyes more than Al Gore and and still landed in the White House. George Bush lost the popular vote, though, you remember that mishap?
Tecce links his findings to how stress and being in an "unpleasant emotional state" manifests in our eye movement. When we're stressed, we tend to blink more. When someone's blinking a lot, we subconsciously recognize that they're under stress and apparently feel less inclined to vote in their favor.
So about last night. I am not a scientist, a psychologist, a mathematician, a political expert or a psychophysiologist. I'm not even sure I know what a psychophysiologist is. I don't have a reliable clicker or a cool Blink-O-Meter to track the times Obama and Romney flitted their eyelids during Jim Lehrer's Comedy Special. But I am a person who can count, and so using the video above, I took a stab at tracking the number of times each candidate blinked during three random one-minute close-up shots of their face.
If you ever want to drive yourself crazy, definitely count the number of times a person blinks in a minute. It's a lot more difficult than you'd think, and you should therefore take these findings with a grain of salt. I mean, what if I was blinking the same time the candidate was blinking? Each 60-second sample was therefore watched twice: The first number listed is what I counted the first time I watched, the second number is what I counted the second time. (They don't match.) I'd be more comfortable calling the numbers "estimations," but even still, a trend seems to be apparent:
time frame observed: 11:58-12:58 Obama — 67, 75
time frame observed: 13:12-14:12 Romney — 50, 52
*It should be noted that there is a shot of the back of Romney's head during his sample. He looks like a Ken doll from this viewpoint. (I can't see if he's blinking.)
time frame observed: 20:07-21:07 Obama — 71, 72
time frame observed: 21:17-22:17 Romney — 56, 59
time frame observed: 1:05:05-1:06:05 Obama — 70, 78
time frame observed: 1:03:18-1:04:18 Romney — 52, 57
Here's the deal: Obama keeps doing this thing where he blinks very rapidly in quick successions. The movement could be described as "fluttery." Romney, meanwhile, blinks very deliberately and at a more even pace, as he's likely a robot with lots of robot sons. Robots don't need moisture to the cornea at the same rate as humans, thereby negating Tecce's theory in this year's presidential race. Nice try, science.
Follow Lauren Beck on Twitter at @heylaurenbeck. She'll probably never ever talk about politics again.