A leading academic has analysed the behaviour of both Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson during their awkward meeting outside Bute House. 

Mr Johnson was booed by members of the public as he attended a meeting with the First Minister, with the Prime Minister leaving Bute House through the back door. 

Many were quick to point out the uncharacteristic body language of both leaders, and the facial expressions of Nicola Sturgeon, with some suggesting that the two leaders were using the photo opportunity outside Bute House to show their disapproval towards each other. 

Following the exchange, an expert behavioural psychologist offered an insight into the meeting between Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon.

Speaking on the awkward exchange, the first between devolved leaders since Mr Johnson became Prime Minister, Dr Christopher Hand of Glasgow Caledonian University said that early skirmishes on the steps of Bute House showed that both leaders were trying to ascertain dominance. 

Dr Hand said: “Both parties weren’t exactly acting as they would naturally, they were obviously there to prove a point from a particular political standpoint and give no quarter to one another. 

“One of the things that struck me is normally there is at least some area of compromise but it was very very obvious that neither party were prepared to give any ground. I think the facial expression, particularly those of Nicola Sturgeon really spoke a thousand words. 

“You don’t need to be an expert or behavioural psychologist to know that that was unusual and that there was some quite obvious hostility between the two.” 

HeraldScotland: Cognition and Perception expert, Dr Chris Hand. Cognition and Perception expert, Dr Chris Hand.

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The behavioural psychologist added that one of the more interesting dynamics between the First Minister and the Prime Minister was the mini power struggle just before they entered Bute House. 

After a brief moment pausing for photographs, Boris Johnson gestured for Nicola Sturgeon to lead the way before the First Minister countered the offer and suggested that he go through the doorway first.

While it may have appeared comical, Dr Hand suggested that this was a deliberate power move from both leaders. He stated that both Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson would be keen to stand their ground to establish the tone of the meeting and to exert dominance early on in proceedings.  

He said: “One of the things that was really interesting to me was the behaviour in terms of who would go through the doors of Bute House first.

"To me, that was something that both parties probably had a clear idea of how they saw that initial meeting and that initial entry going.

"You could quite clearly tell that there was almost an establishment of dominance on whose terms this meeting was going to be held simply on the point of who went first, who was taking control of the situation and who was subordinate in terms of being told to go first. 

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson share awkward exchange at Bute House

“Both party leaders would have been well coached and both parties would have a clear idea on what they saw as their ideal outcome, and it was a clear statement of intent in trying to establish who was the dominant party.

“As most people were about to see it was not a warm welcoming exchange between the two leaders, it was very passive-aggressive and very hostile.” 

HeraldScotland: Boris Johnson arriving at Bute House. Boris Johnson arriving at Bute House.

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The psychology expert added that there was a reason for the difference in body language and facial expressions in the more relaxed images coming from the talks held inside Bute House, with Dr Hand suggesting that anxiety and the need to make a point may have increased initial hostility. He emphasised that both leaders would have been briefed to come across as less hostile and “needlessly aggressive” during talks to show compromise and a willingness to work together.

Despite the numerous power moves by both leaders, the academic said it remained difficult to establish who came out on top of the initial exchanges saying that it was arguably more important for both leaders to not come across as the loser.

However, Dr Hand suggested that the hostile reception aimed at Boris Johnson upon his arrival may have aided Nicola Sturgeon.

He said: “I think it’s a really unusual situation and one we have not really seen before, certainly not so much in Scottish or UK politics. 

“You could argue Boris Johnson is in the position of strength, he is the leader at Westminster and Westminster holds the cards in terms of what the position of Brexit is going to be. 

“Nicola Sturgeon would claim that the reception Boris Johnson received vindicates her decision on what the will of the Scottish people is, but it is very difficult to determine what they themselves perceive as the outcome. 

"I am sure both sides would claim the win and claim the positives, and that’s what’s interesting about this, there are no clear winners but also there are no real clear losers.” 

Dr Christpher Hand is a Cognition and Perception expert at Glasgow Caledonian University