What's at play (theory wise) when someone is described as having 'presence'

Ceke2002

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Just to clarify I'm not talking about the sorts of everyday people who one might describe as having a 'commanding presence' or 'a real presence about them' - I'm talking about those rare individuals who can enter a room, or walk on stage, and electrify an entire audience with a single word or gesture. I've only ever experienced what I would describe as 'true presence' twice in my life, and the idea/concept has fascinated me ever since.

For example, I was fortunate enough to see Rudolph Nureyev perform a few years before he passed away. By that time he was past his prime, and obviously unwell, so gone were the athletic leaps and turns he used to be able to execute, but he walked onto that stage, and stood in third position preparing to perform his routine, and before he'd even taken a single step it was like the entire audience was just completely electrified. I mean it was palpable, I'd never experienced anything like it (and it didn't feel like the more typical audience hero worship type stuff either).

So from a psych/psychotherapy/neuropsychiatry/whatever else I've missed point of view does such a thing as 'presence' truly exist, or is it more of a unconscious collective consciousness agreement between an individual and a group to respond in a certain (perhaps conditioned) way? Has there been much research into this, or theories developed?
 
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OldPsychDoc

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I wish I had an answer--but I'm glad you ask questions like this.
 
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splik

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not sure what this has to do with psychiatry I don't think we have any particular expertise on these sorts of issue (unfortunately) maybe ask the psychologists? someone must have studied this
 

SomeDoc

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Just to clarify I'm not talking about the sorts of everyday people who one might describe as having a 'commanding presence' or 'a real presence about them' - I'm talking about those rare individuals who can enter a room, or walk on stage, and electrify an entire audience with a single word or gesture. I've only ever experienced what I would describe as 'true presence' twice in my life, and the idea/concept has fascinated me ever since.

For example, I was fortunate enough to see Rudolph Nureyev perform a few years before he passed away. By that time he was past his prime, and obviously unwell, so gone were the athletic leaps and turns he used to be able to execute, but he walked onto that stage, and stood in third position preparing to perform his routine, and before he'd even taken a single step it was like the entire audience was just completely electrified. I mean it was palpable, I'd never experienced anything like it (and it didn't feel like the more typical audience hero worship type stuff either).

So from a psych/psychotherapy/neuropsychiatry/whatever else I've missed point of view does such a thing as 'presence' truly exist, or is it more of a unconscious collective consciousness agreement between an individual and a group to respond in a certain (perhaps conditioned) way? Has there been much research into this, or theories developed?
Transference, projective identification, and suggestibility
 
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splik

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Transference, projective identification, and suggestibility
hence my point that psychiatrists have nothing to offer in this regard, when asked they come up with complete and utter bollocks

p.s. ceke check out the charisma myth by olivia fox cabane - she breaks this down and argues that there are various aspects of personal magnestism that can be learned
 
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Ceke2002

Ceke2002

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not sure what this has to do with psychiatry I don't think we have any particular expertise on these sorts of issue (unfortunately) maybe ask the psychologists? someone must have studied this
I just figured there are still a lot of therapeutically trained Psychiatrists in here, and a lot of Psychologists also visit this part of the forum, so I'd be covering more bases in terms of answers.. :)
 
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Ceke2002

Ceke2002

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hence my point that psychiatrists have nothing to offer in this regard, when asked they come up with complete and utter bollocks

p.s. ceke check out the charisma myth by olivia fox cabane - she breaks this down and argues that there are various aspects of personal magnestism that can be learned
Ooh, thank you, sounds like just what I'm looking for. :)
 

Crayola227

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I think it's essentially the same as "charisma," and if you use that as your search term can find more research on this.

A lot of it goes into body language.

EDIT: posted before I saw the above posts
 
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Ceke2002

Ceke2002

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Sounds like a good question for Rihanna and Calvin Harris


Sent from my iPhone using SDN mobile app
I know this may have been a bit tongue in cheek, but yes this is one of the things I was considering - were we really collectively responding to man himself, or to the legend and mystique surrounding him. I mean it was Rudolph Nureyev for eff's sake, so perhaps the audiences reaction was a sort of case of self fulfilling prophecy.
 

birchswing

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I don't think I've experienced this.

Have you ever experienced it when there was no anticipation or no prior knowledge of who the individual is? Like some random man who ambles up to a bus stop—could he have presence?
 
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Ceke2002

Ceke2002

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I don't think I've experienced this.

Have you ever experienced it when there was no anticipation or no prior knowledge of who the individual is? Like some random man who ambles up to a bus stop—could he have presence?
No, never, which is one of the things that makes me question what is at play when you respond to someone who is 'known' to you in that way (known in quotation marks, because most of us don't actually know the person up on stage, or the podium, or whatever, not personally).
 

birchswing

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Hmm . . . I probably can't be of help since I don't believe I've ever experienced this. I do notice a huge difference though between people who speak as if the very words they are speaking are the ones they're currently thinking versus people who sound as if they are speaking mindlessly. Bill Clinton used to do a thing when he was asked a question where he would sort of look down, appear to be thinking, and then answer the question as if you could tell he was thinking while he was answering. It sort of looked like he "went somewhere." He's lost a bit of that shine. I would compare Bill Clinton at his best oratory skills to Obama at his best and say that there was something about Clinton that was "live" and at times hypnotic (and I say that as someone who vastly prefers Obama to Clinton). I know it goes against the grain, but I never got the whole thing about Obama being a great speaker. He doesn't sound "live" to me. He's certainly better than Hillary Clinton, though. There aren't many speakers like Bill was in his prime. Steve Jobs did this a bit, as well. Not in the big keynotes everyone thinks of or his prepared remarks at Stanford--but in interviews.

Look at Steve Jobs here:


I'm not sure if it's the same as what you're describing, but that moment after he's been insulted and goes quiet—to me that feels like ... well maybe something like what you're describing.
 
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Ceke2002

Ceke2002

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Hmm . . . I probably can't be of help since I don't believe I've ever experienced this. I do notice a huge difference though between people who speak as if the very words they are speaking are the ones they're currently thinking versus people who sound as if they are speaking mindlessly. Bill Clinton used to do a thing when he was asked a question where he would sort of look down, appear to be thinking, and then answer the question as if you could tell he was thinking while he was answering. It sort of looked like he "went somewhere." He's lost a bit of that shine. I would compare Bill Clinton at his best oratory skills to Obama at his best and say that there was something about Clinton that was "live" and at times hypnotic (and I say that as someone who vastly prefers Obama to Clinton). I know it goes against the grain, but I never got the whole thing about Obama being a great speaker. He doesn't sound "live" to me. He's certainly better than Hillary Clinton, though. There aren't many speakers like Bill was in his prime. Steve Jobs did this a bit, as well. Not in the big keynotes everyone thinks of or his prepared remarks at Stanford--but in interviews.

Look at Steve Jobs here:


I'm not sure if it's the same as what you're describing, but that moment after he's been insulted and goes quiet—to me that feels like ... well maybe something like what you're describing.
I do see what you're saying with people like Steve Jobs and Bill Clinton, but this was more like imagine if Steve Jobs or Bill Clinton walked up onto that podium and did nothing but stand there and the entire audiences mouths dropped upon liked you'd just been hit by lighting. I've seen people give fantastic speeches that have really drawn me in, but I still wouldn't call that 'presence', I've also seen some fantastic live performances (dance, music and theatre) that really captivated my attention, but nothing like I experienced seeing Rudolph Nureyev (the other one was Marcel Marceau). They were quite simply electrifying, but then again I don't believe they had any sort of special innate power they could tap into either so it's always made me curious as to what was happening in that collective moment with the audiences response. I've had a second thumbs up for that book that Splik recommended, so I'm definitely going to see if I can track it down.
 

SomeDoc

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hence my point that psychiatrists have nothing to offer in this regard, when asked they come up with complete and utter bollocks

p.s. ceke check out the charisma myth by olivia fox cabane - she breaks this down and argues that there are various aspects of personal magnestism that can be learned
Not sure where one would get the idea that these concepts are complete and utter bollocks. That this so called "personal magnetism" can be learned speaks, in a simplistic sense, to patterned favorable responses to learned preferences, and culturally valued behavioral traits.
 
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Ceke2002

Ceke2002

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Not sure where one would get the idea that these concepts are complete and utter bollocks. That this so called "personal magnetism" can be learned speaks, in a simplistic sense, to patterned favorable responses to learned preferences, and culturally valued behavioral traits.
I've actually just read the book that was recommended about learnt charismatic traits, and it does answer a lot of questions, very interesting read. :)