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The Way They Move

The Way They MoveTufts graduate Brenda Connors has made a career out of analyzing the movements of world leaders, drawing conclusions about patterns in their behavior and character.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [05.09.05] A manner of walking. The way one looks around a room. How someone fidgets. These all seem like inconsequential characteristics, even of the world's leaders. But to Tufts graduate Brenda Connors,each movement could be a clue to how that individual will act in the most critical situations – providing compelling insights into deciphering and predicting the behavior of world leaders.

"A leader's behavior arises out of impulses and inclinations felt in the body," Connors, a senior fellow in strategic research at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., and a certified movement analyst forthe Department of Defense's Office of Net Assessment, told theProvidence Journal.

Connors worksin a laboratory in the Strategic Research Department at the WarCollege, analyzing years' worth of television coverage from interviews,speeches and press conferences.

In April 2003,she examined footage of a man said to be Saddam Hussein seen amonga crowd of Iraqis shortly before the fall of Baghdad. While some experts speculated that the man was a body double, Connors noticed how he flicked his finger into the air after scratching his lefteye. Having studied 20 years' worth of Hussein's movements, theaction confirmed for her that the man was Hussein.

"His stress sign was to go to his eyelid," Connors – who graduated from Tufts in 1977 – told the Journal.She told the newspaper that movements such as the sudden gesture at the end of the eyelid scratch could explain Hussein's sudden actions, such as 1991's invasion of Kuwait.

Connors, who has held her current position at the War College since 2002, graduated Tufts with a degree in political science. In her current line of work, she combines that background with her past experienceas a professional dancer and dance teacher.

She has also served as political adviser to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and director of protocol for the State Department's office in New York. As a greeter of visiting foreign dignitaries, she was able to examine their movements and mannerisms.

While reluctantto discuss her exact methods with the Journal, her work consists of studying movement over time to draw conclusions about patterns of behavior. Among those leaders she has studied is Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has recently been scrutinized for policies that have been called undemocratic.

"Putinis so hard to read," she told the Journal. "He's hyper-vigilant."

Connors believes some leaders have what she calls a "unity of expression," where every gesture works in concert in high-pressure situations.

"Their eye gaze, spinal alignment, gestures… It just resonates. When someone is unified in expression they are apt to get to peak performance," she told the newspaper, noting that Anwar Sadat, Mikhail Gorbachev and Fidel Castro exhibited this trait more than most.

The movementsof a politician can be likened to those of an athlete, Connors told the Journal.

"It's getting out of the way and letting the body do it. [Athletes] just let it rip. Political leaders who are in the right job can have the same effect," she said. "If they are in the wrong job, on the other hand, you can watch them suffer, and theircountries suffer."

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