Scientific Portal on Body Language, Kinesics, and Nonverbal Communication#

Why we copy each other's body language?

We walk in restaurant or cafe and spot a couple sitting in corner, intimately gazing towards each other and resonating facial expressions. In a bar, two friends stand next to of each other adopting same postures. In a local park, briskly walking senior citizens match their pace with each other along. In office, two close colleagues defend each other with quite identical gesticulations in front of their superior. Unconsciously, one person adopts posture, gesticulates or expresses emotion on face and other follows or matches up with it.

Copying or matching with body language of others is called as Mirroring or Movement Synchronization. Prof. Dr. David B. Givens (Director of Center of Nonverbal Studies in Spokane, United States of America) coined scientific term called as ISOPREXIMCS for this unique behavior.

It’s quite interesting to know the secret behind it that is deeply rooted inside our brain. Mirror Neurons in premotor cortex, the supplementary motor area, primary somatosensory cortex, and the inferior parietal cortex allows us to observe, empathize, and imitate other person. Even mirror neurons induce same emotions and feelings in our mind sighting other person or group if we have certain degree of attachment with.

Unconsciously, we like the persons who moves, behaves or expresses alike ourselves. We feel safe and nurtured when other person complements us, shares our distress and delights and makes us feel better about ourselves. After all, it’s about forming relationship and staying in it. Mirroring is evident to uniform feeling, understanding, thinking, planning, and persuasion.

You may find children are quite smart to mirror parents for venting their anger and win favor or attention. In performing arts like dance, singing or playing instruments or exercising, synchronization creates mesmerizing effect.

However, conscious mirroring is good for convincing or sympathizing only in appropriate situations and at proper degree. It’s not useful if the initiating person becomes aware of it and express distress. Read this interesting conclusions by a researcher at University of California, San Diego.

Not only humans but animals and birds also do mirror each other to form strong bonding among themselves. In fact, secret behind mirroring in human has been discovered after doing research on monkeys since they share identical genetic profile with us.

Do watch interesting presentation delivered by Dr. Vilayanur Ramachandran (Professor of Behavioral Neurology and Psychoanalysis, University of California, United States of America) at TED on discovery and function of Mirror Neurons.
 

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Elevator Etiquettes

It’s human nature to feel intimidated or uneasy in proximity of strangers. Until we don’t know their intentions and temperaments, we tend to struggle for keep safer distance to flight or fight if any sign of danger emerges. Even if we know others, we respect their private space and let them feel more comfortable and express intimacy only when it's acceptable in given situation. Like commuting by public transport, we share common and limited space in elevators and more often, we encounter strangers at very close distance.

Following things would not lead us to any unwelcoming situation or embarrassment:

1) Don’t call anybody by their names, share jokes or touch them. Don’t use any sign language that other may not interpret.

2) Don’t talk until its emergency. Don’t gesticulate, laugh or make any kind of facial expressions or noise if possible.

3) Maintain straight posture and don’t lean at anybody. Don’t appreciate or show any intimacy towards person you know.

4) Don’t look at anybody and keep your gaze straight and upward. You may look at the floor counter or simply mimic reading magazine or newspaper only if it doesn’t touch with body of others.

5) Keep your voice low if you need to attend call on cell phone.

6) Don’t hurry to get out of elevator until you don’t stand close to exit door. You may simply request others to make way to it.

7) Keep baggage in your hands hanging and don’t juggle with it.

8) Kindly request others to push button if it's out of your reach.

9) To cut this icy situation, you may simply address everybody by line “It’s nice day today.” in decent tone. Seasonal and festival greetings are just great!

10) While existing elevator, saying “Good bye”, “Have a great day” with hand wave and decent smile would certainly help dwellers feel nice.

Perhaps, you may find yourself and many persons following these etiquettes unconsciously.

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Basic Emotional Expressions

According to renowned American psychologist Dr. Paul Ekman, seven basic emotions are widely experienced in different human cultures across the planet. Expressing emotions is not required to be taught. It's an autonomous process and we all inherit it from our common ancestors. Apart of seven basic emotions, all other emotions (and their expressions) can be classified under a particular emotion or as a combination of different emotions. For example, aggressiveness is closely related with anger whereas nervousness is combination of fear and sadness.

Do watch YouTube video of Dr. Paul Ekman talking about emotions - evolution, purpose and sensory stimulus.


1) Fear – It’s a state of preparing to run away from imagined or actual warning or danger. 

Eyebrows tensely get curled, shoulders fall down, neck gets stiff, gaze get focused or redirected, eyes get widely open to let more light pass to retina, mouth opens wide to let more air pass to lungs, vocal tone trembles, respiration soars, heartbeats goes up, face faints, throat dries and saliva’s swallowed, torso lowers, stomach gets pulled inside, whole body starts sweating and shivering, hands appear muffling mouth to suppress scream, body hides itself behind something and feet gets ready to flee.

2) Anger – It’s a state of preparing to threaten, retaliate or punish somebody. Whole body is provoked, tightened or bluffed to appear bigger and hostile.

Eyes get wide open signaling to target of being caught and to warn inhibiting its activities, body temperature starts rising, gaze gets more fixated and short darts move all over target, eyelids bat faster, neck gets stiff or tilts either side, face and eyes turn red, shoulders become broad, torso elevates, chest puffs, nostrils balloon, respiration soars, pulse jumps, lips get tightly closed or opened, teeth get exhibited, vocal tone gets fierce, arms get crossed over chest or rest on hips and feet get firmly grounded and separated apart to prepare for attack.

3) Disgust – It’s a state of exhibiting loathe or lack of interest about person, situation or object.

Torso and face gets disoriented, eyes faint, heartbeat drops, gaze becomes more fleeting than fixated, mouth gets opened on either side with displaying teeth, lips curl down, lower lips push out, tongue protrudes, nostrils pull upward, breath exhales briskly, throat clearing sound generates, sounds like “Yuck”, “Whack”, “Ooom” expel from mouth, vocal tone gets dull, hands push or hold disgusting thing away.

4) Sadness – It’s a state of disapproval or exhaustion to make person appear in  demand of others' attention and support.

Posture loosens, back hunches, responses dampen, neck hangs or tilts side way down, hands support neck or cover face, shoulders lower, respiration rate drops, gaze gets hovering around own body, eyes barely open, lower lips rides over upper, edges of mouth curl down, palms clamp together and rest on lap or hid in pocket, vocal tone get dull - heavy and sluggish, sounds like “Hmm”, “Whoosh” expel from mouth.

5) Surprise - It’s a state of curiosity and great attention being paid to object, person, situation or phenomenon that is unexpected, inexperienced or takes place suddenly.

Eyes get wide open to let more light pass to retina, eyebrows raise, neck remains straight or tilts backward, mouth gets wide open and lips get rounded, hair raise, jaw drops, vocal tone accentuates, sounds like “Wow”, “Ohh” expel from mouth, torso gets raised, hands are kept in ready position, whole body faces and points partially or fully towards the source of surprise.

6) Happiness - It’s a state of expressing and enjoying some kind of achievement, benefit, fulfillment or victory. Whole body starts sending messages of excitement, friendliness, open and outgoing - sharing temperament.

Posture elevates, footsteps appear flying, movements become energetic - wavy - swiveling, facial muscles get relaxed, mouth opens, edges of mouth curl upward, teeth get partially or fully exhibited, eyes glitter, gaze remains more upward or ahead and away from body, palms gets open and held upward, hands get separated and raised shoulder high or above, vocal tone gets crunchy - chirpy - sweet, sound like “Ha…Ha...Ha...”, “Hurray…” “Ho...Ho…”, “Hey...Hey...”, “Yeah”, “Yippee…”, “Yee Haw” expels from mouth.

7) Contempt - It's an expression of superiority or utter dislike. Unlike other six basic expressions, contempt is expressed consciously - thoughtfully and mostly on face. 

Narrowed eyes, lips tightly press together and either edge of mouth gets pulled upward appearing like an asymmetrical smile. Often, sound like "Hhhhh" rapidly expels from mouth. Both edges of mouth deeply pinched inside cheeks is also an expression of contempt.

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Why we wave hands at others?

We wave hand(s) to friends, fans, guests, neighbors, colleagues, & relatives with saying “Hi”, “See You”, “Bye”, “Good Bye”, “Meet you”, “Miss you” or “Take care” etc. Sometimes words can’t reach due to distance barrier but mere hand wave works. We feel better when we watch others waving their hands with dear words and smile on faces while confronting or going away. Why we’ve become so habitual of it? Why waving hands to make us & other feel better?

Hand wave has very basic purpose that makes us social by exhibiting disarmed and friendly state. By holding open palms with stretched fingers visible to others silently conveys "Feel safe from me! I'm not holding any arm or weapon". Waving hand isn't as formal like hand shake. Ritual of hand shake's like treaty of ensuring mutual disarmament and willingness to connect whereas hand wave goes beyond formality. It has become social and casual practice of showing off openness, friendliness and harmless intentions. More affectionate and intimate hand wave silently says "Don't forget me...", "I care for you..." or "Come again...".

It’s natural tendency to get attracted to thing that moves or flutters. In same context, hand wave becomes attention seeker while we say “Hey” or “Hello” aloud. It can convey “Do you see me?" or "I’m here.”. Other person may respond by waving hands reciprocating “Yes, I see you.” or "I'm coming to you."

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What hand shake conveys about person?

There are different kinds of hand shakes exercised. Let’s see what they convey unconsciously about person's nature.

1) CRUSHER hand shake: Palm is gripped too hard so it squeezes and starts paining. Ultimately, fingertips get faint due to low supply of blood. Person exercising it can be too dominating, egoistic, and careless of sentiments. Women receiving this hand shake would definitely hinder further exchange. Persons working as labor, porter or mechanic may exercise it.

2) ISOLATION hand shake: Person exercising this hands hake doesn’t lean towards other person and doesn’t bend his hand at elbow. Person exercising this hand shake may not be social and often stays isolated or safe. Such person might might have some reservations and deserves more favorable conditions or needs understanding to let him/her to interact socially.

3) DEAD FISH hand shake: When enough grip is not felt by fingers, palm doesn’t fully contact and wrist’s kept loose then it seems like someone has given dead fish in your hand. Person exercising it might be lacking enthusiasm, passion, and confidence. Such person would be hardly trusted and needs a moral boost.

4) SKIPPING hand shake: When only fingers of other person touches to your palm then it seems that person wants to avoid full contact of palms and is in hurry. Person exercising it might be not paying enough attention to you or not serious about relationship or refraining it. In some cases, person might have genuine reason to skip handshake and rush for other tasks.

You would receive such hand shake from surgeons, craftsmen or performing artists because they protect their fingers from being hurt. Also, women or religious leaders may offer this hand shake as part of custom.

5) DOMED PALM hand shake: When palm of other person doesn’t exert enough pressure on yours and it appears to be curved inside then that person may want to not maintain rapport with you willfully. Striking positive communication from your side could alter person's perceptions about you.

6) SLAPPING hand shake: When other person exercises a hand shake in a way that his/her palm slaps or strikes to yours; it appears that person's making impression. Such person underrates himself/herself (compared to you) and wants fake domination. Such person need to have self-esteem and faith in himself/herself.
 

7) PALM UP/DOWN hand shake: When palm of other person faces downward (palm down) then it simply expresses desire of controlling the relationship whereas palm facing upwards (palm up) expresses desire of letting you control it. Such kind of handshakes is offered to maintain hierarchy or favoritism. This handshake should be avoided to motivate equality.

8) INVADER hand shake: When person pushes hand much inside (stab) or pulls your hand out (grab) of invisible interpersonal boundary then it’s quite obvious that person is unaware of comfortable social distance. Such person should undergo immediate consultation.

9) HANDCUFF hand shake: When hand of other person covers over union of palms then it becomes the handcuff. Person exercising it wants to gain or express sympathy and fulfill personal interest. Most politicians offer this kind of handshake during election campaigns or meeting thus it's less trustworthy. 

It can be exercised in exceptional case like at the time of condolence or while passing deep gratitude informally.

10) HYGIENIC hand shake: When person suddenly withdraws hand right after palms come into contact then it suggests that the person wants to avoid any kind of infection caused by physical contact or proximity. Such person may not want to communicate (at given time) with you spontaneously due to some personal differences or insecure feelings. Also, kids may exercise it with strangers.

11) CLOSE UP hand shake: When person exercises a hands hake by keeping keeping hand in front of chest, bringing torso and face much closer then it becomes very personal and intimate. This kind of handshake’s only acceptable among women, children, elders - children, close relatives and couples closely. Politicians and bureaucrats might exercise it to ensure trustworthiness looking into eyes.