Understanding body language

The technique of "reading" people is used frequently. For example, the idea of mirroring body language to put people at ease is commonly used in interviews. Mirroring the body language of someone else indicates that they are understood.[citation needed]

Body language signals may have a goal other than communication. Both people would keep this in mind. Observers limit the weight they place on non-verbal cues. Signalers clarify their signals to indicate the biological origin of their actions. One example would be yawning,showing lack of interest,desire to change the topic.

[edit] Physical expression

Physical expressions like waving, pointing, touching and slouching are all forms of nonverbal communication. The study of body movement and expression is known as kinesics. Humans move their bodies when communicating because, as research has shown[citation needed], it helps "ease the mental effort when communication is difficult." Physical expressions reveal many things about the person using them. For example, gestures can emphasize a point or relay a message, posture can reveal boredom or great interest, and touch can convey encouragement or caution.[4]

  • One of the most basic and powerful body-language signals is when a person crosses his or her arms across the chest.[citation needed] This can indicate that a person is putting up an unconscious barrier between themselves and others. It can also indicate that the person's arms are cold which would be clarified by rubbing the arms or huddling. When the overall situation is amicable, it can mean that a person is thinking deeply about what is being discussed. But in a serious or confrontational situation, it can mean that a person is expressing opposition. This is especially so if the person is leaning away from the speaker. A harsh or blank facial expression often indicates outright hostility.
  • Consistent eye contact can indicate that a person is thinking positively of what the speaker is saying. It can also mean that the other person doesn't trust the speaker enough to "take his eyes off" the speaker. Lack of eye contact can indicate negativity. On the other hand, individuals with anxiety disorders are often unable to make eye contact without discomfort. Eye contact can also be a secondary and misleading gesture because cultural norms about it vary widely. If a person is looking at you but is making the arms-across-chest signal, the eye contact could be indicative that something is bothering the person, and that he wants to talk about it. Or if while making direct eye contact a person is fiddling with something, even while directly looking at you, it could indicate the attention is elsewhere. Also there are three standard areas that a person will look which represent different states of being. If the person looks from one eye to the other then to the forehead it is a sign that they are taking an authoritative position. If they move from one eye to the other then to the nose, that signals that they are engaging in what they consider to be a "level conversation" with neither party holding superiority. The last case is from one eye to the other and then down to the lips. This is a strong indication of romantic feelings.[citation needed]
  • Disbelief is often indicated by averted gaze, or by touching the ear or scratching the chin. When a person is not being convinced by what someone is saying, the attention invariably wanders, and the eyes will stare away for an extended period.[citation needed]
  • Boredom is indicated by the head tilting to one side, or by the eyes looking straight at the speaker but becoming slightly unfocused. A head tilt may also indicate a sore neck or Amblyopia, and unfocused eyes may indicate ocular problems in the listener.[citation needed]
  • Interest can be indicated through posture or extended eye contact, such as standing and listening properly.[citation needed]
  • Deceit or the act of withholding information can sometimes be indicated by touching the face during conversation. Excessive blinking is a well-known indicator of someone who is lying. Recently, evidence has surfaced that the absence of blinking can also represent lying as a more reliable factor than excessive blinking. [1]

Some people use and understand body language differently, or not at all.[citation needed] Interpreting their gestures and facial expressions (or lack thereof) in the context of normal body language usually leads to misunderstandings and misinterpretations (especially if body language is given priority over spoken language). It should also be stated that people from different cultures can interpret body language in different ways.

[edit] How prevalent is non-verbal communication in humans?

Some researchers[who?] put the level of nonverbal communication as high as 80 percent of all communication when it could be at around 50-65 percent. Different studies have found differing amounts, with some studies showing that facial communication is believed 4.3 times more often than verbal meaning, and another finding that verbal communication in a flat tone is 4 times more likely to be understood than a pure facial expression.[citation needed] Albert Mehrabian is noted for finding a 7%-38%-55% rule, supposedly denoting how much communication was conferred by words, tone, and body language. However he was only referring to cases of expressing feelings or attitudes.

[edit] Body language and space

Interpersonal space refers to the psychological "bubble" that we can imagine exists when someone is standing way too close to us. Research has revealed that there are four different zones of interpersonal space. The first zone is called intimate distance and ranges from touching to about eighteen inches (46 cm) apart. Intimate distance is the space around us that we reserve for lovers, children, as well as close family members and friends. The second zone is called personal distance and begins about an arm's length away; starting around eighteen inches (46 cm) from our person and ending about four feet (122 cm) away. We use personal distance in conversations with friends, to chat with associates, and in group discussions. The third zone of interpersonal space is called social distance and is the area that ranges from four to eight feet (1.2 m - 2.4 m) away from you. Social distance is reserved for strangers, newly formed groups, and new acquaintances. The fourth identified zone of space is public distance and includes anything more than eight feet (2.4 m) away from you. This zone is used for speeches, lectures, and theater; essentially, public distance is that range reserved for larger audiences.[5]

[edit] Unintentional gestures

Recently, there has been huge interest in studying human behavioral clues that could be useful for developing an interactive and adaptive human-machine system. Unintentional human gestures such as making an eye rub, a chin rest, a lip touch, a nose itch, a head scratch, an ear scratch, crossing arms, and a finger lock have been found conveying some useful information in specific context. Some researchers have tried to extract such gestures in a specific context of educational applications.[citation needed] In poker games, such gestures are referred to as "tells" and are useful to players for detecting deception or behavioral patterns in an opponent.

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