Body Language: Nonverbal Clues

A man winking with his right eye

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The study of body language is much more than just a study of how people move their bodies. Some of the aspects we need to understand nonverbal communication include the following:

  • How the body is positioned
  • How close two people are to each other and how that can change
  • Facial expressions
  • How the eyes move and focus
  • How people touch themselves and others
  • How bodies connect with things like glasses, pens, cigarettes and clothing
  • How a person breathes and perspires
  • Voice type and other sounds can be used here as part of understanding non-verbal clues.

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Microexpressions-Face It

In the study of body language the face has a special study all its own – microexpressions. This is a brief, involuntary facial expression that flashes across the human face according to a person’s hidden emotions. These are quick intense emotions. Here are some things I discovered about them.

  • When people have something to lose or gain is when they are most likely to flash a microexpression. Unlike regular facial expressions, it is difficult to fake one.
  • They are made of the seven universal emotions: contempt, surprise, disgust, sadness, anger, happiness and fear. They can occur as quickly as a quarter of a second. So that it is difficult for a person to observe them.
  • Often the only way a researcher is able to spot a microexpression is by slowing down a video of the person’s face frame by frame. These expressions betray the liar. He can cover up his feelings with a fake smile, but the involuntary face muscles reveal his hidden emotions.

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Body Language – A Funny Commercial

Jealousy and Flirtation, Haynes King 1874

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There is a funny commercial going around these days about a man leaning on an orangutan’s cage waiting for his girl friend. Even gestures the man makes, the ape imitates, right to the kiss the man gives his girl friend when she arrives. The man and woman walk off and the orangutan goes off, lips still pursed, in the same direction.

This is a prime example of body language. It demonstrates the question some researchers have about the development nonverbal language. Did it exist before we could speak, did it occur as well as language? Is it a learned behavior from watching others? Here is a website that might offer some answers: http://www.ourbodylanguage.com/.

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