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December 31, 2011

Reading Body Language - Para Language

Many a times, how words are pronounced by somebody is most important than what they literally mean. There’s strong relation between our emotional state and clues we convey through pronunciations. This relation is studied under a branch of science, which is called as PARA LANGUAGE.

Humans have well developed system for creating different sounds with varying tone, volume, pitch and annotations. Torso, throat, oral cavity, lips, jaws, tongue and facial muscles play different roles in vocal articulation.

Age, level of energy, body mass, endurance, medical condition, illness and hormones also have large impact on human voice. The kind of sound an individual naturally creates while speaking is identical to the individual's own signatures.

Emotions, attitudes and feelings can be conveyed and interpreted with the help of voice only. In fact, some of us are very much skilled in understanding emotions just by listening to voice and not watching any facial expressions at all.

Like paying keen attention to body language clues, listening to voice also gives insight of person’s emotional, cognitive and also physical state. Emotional and homeostatic processes too are deciding factors in same. We can understand emotional state, just by listening to speech of a person. Can we reverse direction of this process?

Let's try to figure out that how each individual shown below would most likely to pronounce/utter words or create sound from its mouth just by looking at its body language in the given situation.

What kind of sound each person would make?

1) A police officer who is standing upright and looking dominant - bluffed chest, stiff neck and hands on put hips or hold on back. He would be able to talk in firm tone and uniform pitch very easily.

2) A lonely lady who looks physical exhausted and trying to console herself. She would speak in monotonous and sluggish voice (on telephone) because she is sad or exhausted.

3) A boy who is making merry, playing, jumping and dancing. He would laugh or twitter sound in joyous tone. It's play time for him without any external interference.

4) A lady who is sharing something with other person by sitting very closely to it. They are not making any gestures and meeting gaze with others. She must be whispering in a secretive low tone. Highly private gossip!

5) A couple who is making aggressive gestures, clenching fists, bearing teeth, crossing hands on chests and fiercely gazing towards each other. Definitely, they would yelling and shouting on each other.

6) A salesman who has leaned forward and titled neck at one side, He has put on smiley face while speaking. He must be buttering up your boss to place an order or sign a contract.

Ability to decipher emotions, sentiments, moods and intentions based entirely upon the para-linguistic clues is the most useful especially when we cannot observe somebody talking with us face to face.

Related Articles:
1) Basic Emotional Expressions 2) Body Language Brain 3) Clusters 4) Congruence 5) Proxemics 6) Context 7) Micro Expressions 8) Postures 9) Facial Expressions 10) Hand Gestures 11) Challenges 12) Interpretation 13) Baseline 14)Perceptual Bias 15) Basic Body Clues

Reading Body Language - Micro Expressions

Lie to Me (the world famous TV serial) made common people aware about how ability to detect tiniest movements of facial muscles could bring dramatic turn while interrogating the suspects. Bringing a criminal into confessing crime it committed isn't easy because it tries to defend itself from being detected by the law and enforcement agency.

Exactly like the crime investigators, forensic experts and criminal profilers pick, photograph and document the tiniest clues from the place crime took place, interrogators have to do the same by picking tiniest expressions from faces of people they interrogate, question or try to get information from.

A micro-expression or micro-momentary facial expression is nothing but the expression of different emotions that unconsciously occurs within fraction of a second. Just like a macro or clearly detectable facial expressions, micro-expressions convey what is being suppressed by an individual.

With experience and age, people learn to control autonomous facial expressions, movements and gestures by giving away clues about them momentarily. A novice or inexperienced observers can and do overlook micro-expressions because they remain almost undetected by untrained eyes.

Who says I'm afraid?
Unlike normal, macro and subtle expressions; micro-expressions do appear and disappear within fraction of a second on human face, from 1/25 to 1/5 of a second. For inexperienced or untrained observers, it's close to impossible to pick the micro-expressions.

Analysts, experts and interrogators who are expert in picking them can instantaneously crack or zoom into micro-expressions in real-time. Also, micro-expressions can be monitored while running a video clip at lower frame rate or watching a photograph.

Micro expressions can bring surprising turns while interpreting body language because they are emotional outlets of actually what somebody is trying to suppress or hide from others. Learned and volunteer control (cortical control) still let their trails appear as much as for 1/4 fraction of a second as per pioneer emotion and facial expressions scientist Prof. Dr. Paul Ekman (University of San Fransisco, United States).

Did she kill her husband?
Experienced interrogators and lie detectors mostly rely on micro expressions because smart liars can confidently claim that ordinary people easily believe in. In a real incident, a suspected woman was arrested for the murder of her husband.

During the police interrogation, she boldly claimed, "I really don't have any idea about him. I hope that he'll come back very soon". However, she unconsciously gave away a subtle clue that as ordinary individual would have ignored and wouldn't have ask any serious questions to her.

While claiming the same, she turned her face contemptuous, just for fractions of a second. If she really cared about her husband then why she expressed disrespect (towards him) in the first place? Experienced interrogators would sense that something must have gone wrong in their relationship.

Expert interrogators could have possibly get her confession of murdering his own husband by asking a few serious questions about their relationship status to establish her motive. Hence it's always worth remembering that the devil is in the details.

In May 2013, I got a certificate from Humintell for completing facial micro-expression training and passing the final test with 93% percent of accuracy. Although I passed with ‘Expert’ level, it wasn’t an easy task at all because the mood of an individual at given moment and the ability of moving own facial muscles can make a great difference.

Therefore, I can assert that my own facial muscles helped me in passing this test in the very first and also a single attempt with the greater accuracy. Ability to portray micro-expressions on your own face can give you the real advantage and the edge in identifying them on faces of other people.

My Certificate from HuminTell

Are you good at picking micro-expressions? You can test your skills by following this link that takes you to a demo test. The test is also available below. Try yourself and know your score. Taking this test on a desktop computer is highly recommended.

Related Articles:
1) Body Language Brain 2) Clusters 3) Congruence 4) Proxemics 5) Context 6) Para Language 7) Postures 8) Facial Expressions 9) Hand Gestures 10) Challenges 11) Interpretation 12) Baseline 13) Perceptual Bias 14) Is learning micro expression really useful? 15) Nonverbal Clues of chess players 16) Recognizing emotional expressions: Scientific viewpoints 17) Blind Sight is enough to pick emotions 18) Are you a 'flying' terrorist? 19) Basic Bodily Clues

Reading Body Language - Context

Similar to a Cluster, Context makes a nonverbal message more clear to understand. CONTEXT is an environment, background, circumstance, setup or situation according to which any nonverbal message should be interpreted, decoded or analyzed. Without knowing the context, reading body language would mislead us.

While interpreting, context is critically important than the content itself. However, most of us couldn't establish the context in the first place, Hence let's see how exactly two different environments, circumstances, situations or surroundings can give two different meanings to the same expression, movement or action.

There are two different persons taking out their frustration following a sequence of events. One person is standing in the audience gallery while watching a football/soccer match with his favorite team playing in it whereas another person is a senior police officer who is standing inside the police station with his colleagues.

Actually, both of them are in two completely different environments and conditions while expressing their feelings, motives, intentions and emotions as a result of something they're exposed to at the given moment. Here, the context plays very crucial role in understanding what they want to convey actually.

Both of them suddenly yell and smash fist on their palm. Smashing fist on the palm is one of the ways of taking out frustration (sadness with anger) over unexpected or impending failure, loss or shortfall. We punch our fist on the palm because we cannot punch or hit the person who caused the failure, loss or shortfall in the first place.

The young football fan smashes his fist on palm after watching an ace player missed the goal post during the last few minutes of the second half. He takes out his frustration over the wasted opportunity by his favorite team (or a team player) in making the goal for winning over its opponents at the end.

On the other hand, the police officer listens that a criminal who was arrested after a year long pursuit succeeded in escaping from prison a few minutes ago. He smashes his fist on his palm, yelling “Damn it!”. He takes out his frustration because all efforts he and his team took to arrest the criminal got wasted due to the escape.

Why exactly Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak did it?
Tucking prevents entangling and soiling of the neckties.

If the correct context (a good example presented above) cannot be established within the required amount of time then even a well know cluster can given an entirely wrong message to an interpreter which happens with most of us all the time and throughout our entire lives.

Related Articles:
1) Body Language Brain 2) Clusters 3) Congruence 4) Proxemics 5) Micro Expressions 6) Para Language 7) Postures 8) Hand Gestures 9) Challenges 10) Interpretation 11) Baseline 12) Basic Bodily Clues 13) Is Human Communication 93% Nonverbal? 14) Artificial Intelligence and Body Language