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November 23, 2012

James Bond: The spy we love

If James Bond would have ever existed in reality, every intelligence and spy agency on this planet would have tried hard to recruit him by paying the highest compensation ever paid to an agent. Ultimately, our world would have become a peaceful place to live after mafias, mad scientists, militias, secret groups, rouge organizations, separatists, smugglers, evil industrialists, extremists, terrorists, traffickers, warlords, warmongers, conspirators, psychopaths, fundamentalists and international criminals brought to justice, punished, put behind bars, pacified, paralyzed and eradicated.
Sadly, this is only a great dream or a finest fantasy that novelists, fiction writers and movie makers show to all of us. Our world is full of multiple threats, dangers and challenges which are posed by several evil-minded, anti-social, psychopathic, rogue and extremely ambitious individuals. We live by dreaming and hoping that someday this much-loved-on-screen secret agent or the super-spy would show up and save us from them and turn the world into a peaceful heaven. That's why we all secretly love him and want him badly around us like a super-hero who never takes credit openly.
James Bond is the adventurous, charismatic and smartest character in the history of world's commercial cinema. This character is depicted as a great people reader, a personality profiler and more specifically a master 'mind reader' who always stays ahead of the curve. Upon confrontation, he can judge people very accurately and sense their potential moves quickly. He has a tonnes of tricks under his sleeves to tackle and fight physically, technically and tactically. He is well-equipped with sophisticated and advanced gadgets, devices and vehicles to assist him in surviving and finishing his missions successfully for his own country and the whole world.

"You only live twice. Once when you are born and once when you look death in the face." - Ian Fleming

He is dropped at very hostile places with minimal yet effective equipment to finish the deadliest operations (to save the world!). Only truly lethal weapon he has is his own brain. His success in missions is highly dependent upon reading a targeted person(s) just by analyzing expressions, gaze, gestures, postures, para language, fidgeting and movements. He has to make snap and accurate judgments in the given situations and act upon his plans in no time. He mostly acts upon his own gut feelings. He invades, gathers necessary information or intelligence, rescues his love interests and escapes with great speed, elegance and explosions.

James Bond: Celebrating 50th anniversary on screen
We strongly like the way he has been portrayed in movies as a individuals who is cool, calm, confident, calculating, outstanding and in-control of himself most of the time. He puts on costly suits, wears dark glasses and drives fast cars which give him his identity. He aims straightly, shoots precisely, reacts smartly, acts swiftly, chases boldly, fights fiercely and punishes mercilessly. Body language of James Bond is remarkably distinct. He walks slowly, stands confidently, gesticulates rarely, smiles faintly, blinks hardly, looks directly, observes meticulously, listens attentively, talks smoothly, speaks firmly and introduces himself uniquely by saying, “My name is Bond…James Bond!”.
In fact, secret agents, undercover officers and spies don't work, look and act not the way they are depicted in novels, movies or TV series or shows. We just can’t watch secret agents, undercover officers and spies in parties or round the corner as the most handsome and smart super-spy we love does exactly the same in movies. Real life secret agents, undercover officers, spies and detectives don't at all appear, move and walk in public as they are depicted in commercial action movies.

However, what all they have in common is black glasses, goggles or sheds on their eyes most of the time while walking and moving around people so that the people can hardly notice that they are being observed, analyzed and profiled by the expert and experienced eyes which can pick subtle clues from every body movements. It's always worth remembering that Devil lies in details and spy lies in disguise.
It's not at all secret that every independent and sovereign state or nation has its own defense framework and infrastructure which is consistently kept on its toes by a group of intelligence and counter-intelligence officers, agents, spies and analysts who work within and beyond the boundaries of the state or the nation to protect its people, government, sovereignty, assets, infrastructure, institutions, boundaries and international relations.

The Master People Readers

Without any shadow of doubt, the secret agents, spies and detectives posses the highest accuracy rates in reading people (and their minds) than ordinary people i. e. about 80 %. It is only achieved by sharper senses, rigorous training given by field experts, strong mental preparation, enhanced observational skills, better knowledge about human behavior, thousands of hours of practice and above all the ability to listen to the gut feelings. Hand-to-hand combat and weapon training is just an addition for self-defense and escape.

There are many famous TV series or shows like Lie to Me (Micro-expression analyst), The Mentalist (Great observer), Byomkesh Bakshi (Indian version of Sherlock Holmes) and many more which essentially have a protagonist, a hero or a central character of a crime investigator or a detective with sharper observing eyes, greater analytical capability and better judging skills. There might be just a kind of character or a hero in your own country too. Unlike licensed-to-kill agents, they don't prosecute and punish the offenders and criminals on their own and leave the same job to local police and the court.
Sherlock Holmes: Sign of Superiority of the face
Work of a typical crime investigator is mostly confined to visiting crime scenes, collecting samples, analyzing photographs, examining video and audio tapes, interrogating people, tracing suspects and conducting laboratory tests. However, secret agents and spies are like the thinking and moving (and mostly “killing”) machines with definite missions in their minds. They are ready, equipped and prepared to act upon every signal of suspicion,hostility, threat and danger given away by individuals (and their silhouettes and shadows too), entities, circumstances and situations.
Being a successful and long living secret agent or a spy is all about having greater situational awareness, a longer attention span and fanatic fixation on details. Also, an agent or a spy has to be physical strong, athletic, agile, clever, resourceful, adaptive, enduring and technically stronger. Moreover, staying highly motivated, controlling emotions and committed to sacrifice own wishes, urges and desires is critically important.
An ordinary looking person that suddenly turns out to be a secret agent or a spy before our eyes is the most fascinating because of the typical predatory skills, traits, characteristics and qualities it has are sophistication, self-control, stealthiness, confidence, cleverness, courage, precision, patients, deceptiveness, disguise and extreme speed.

The real James Bond(s)

Ian Fleming
Many of us may not know that Ian Fleming, the maker of James Bond character, was a naval intelligence officer serving for United Kingdom (UK) during World War 2. He and his team spied for Allied forces to defeat Germans (Nazis). What he wrote in novels about the super-spy James Bond was entirely based on his own life and of those individuals who inspired him professionally. Otherwise, he could not have brought that much realistic effects, fineness and details in his scripts.
He worked with and closely observed many secret or undercover agents putting their own lives at fatal risk, almost exactly like his super-spy character does to change the course of world’s history and politics. Few of his team members were working as double-agents too, spying for both Allied forces and Germans. They succeeded in distracting and deceiving Germans (Nazis) by providing false intelligence, inputs or information.

[Special Note: This article is dedicated to all those
intelligence officers, undercover agents, spies, detectives and investigators who sacrificed themselves in their honest attempts in saving the world from going under the total control of the
evil side of the human nature.]

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November 01, 2012

Botox hampers emotional awareness

Botox (Botulinum toxin) is a new magical substance in shelves of today’s cosmetic therapists and beauticians who cater their "youth-maniac" clients. Given “ever-youthful face” fad in modern metropolitan society and corporate work culture, this medicine helps in vanishing facial wrinkles that are caused by natural aging process, severe illness or abnormalities.

Like its apparent advantages in an impression driven environment, the beneficiary(?) has to weigh a great setback in its social life. As Botox is administered in small patches of skin to make it look young, it ultimately hampers one’s ability to read emotions in others. How?
Regaining youth or losing emotional ability?
Actually, we all give and get facial feedback unconsciously. It’s not necessary that facial expressions are always noticeable because many a times we try to keep face expressionless. However, unnoticeable muscular activities do occur that can be detected by seasoned eyes or computer software with sophisticated imaging devices.

Remarkable purpose of involuntarily muscular movements is detection of emotions in others. Brain understands emotions in other by simulating corresponding muscular movement on face of an observer. Movements might be too tiny to remain unnoticeable by third person or even two persons who are participating in an emotional melodrama.
In future, machines could read human emotions. What about us?
Botox paralyzes muscles that cause wrinkles on facial skin and thus face looks reflated and swollen. However muscular movements are inhibited because Botox interferes with signals that brain sends to facial muscles. Though it gives a person so-called youthful look, lack of muscular movements hampers core abilities of expressing and detecting emotions.

A person can find itself as emotionless as if it has been forced to stay poker faced for a long time. A research done by Prof. Dr. David Neal (a professor of psychology at the University of Southern California) underlines side effects of Botox on emotional awareness stating clearly, “If muscular signals from the face to the brain are dampened, you’re less able to read emotions.”
Poker Face: Magnificently Dull

Even though many of us don’t get Botox injected, we don’t capitalize facial muscles at fullest. Staying poker for long time is also likely to hamper our ability to both express and read emotions in others.
Particularly, in the metropolitan environment, where large population is forced to use and share limited physical space, we incline to keep our faces almost emotionless while commuting and invading - sharing physical space.

It helps us to isolate ourselves from strangers on social grounds but it might hamper our emotional awareness too. Issue gets multiplied by working conditions where casually interaction with others is almost impossible or not (assumed as) required. Not expressing emotions on face could lead us to social devastation.

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October 26, 2012

Facial Feedback: World smiles with you!

It's very well said that world smiles with you. We all experience that smiling (irrespective of a genuine or fake smile) faces are more liked that neutral, sad or angry faces because smiling makes us feel better. Smiling secretes a hormone called as Endorphin inside our brains that generates happy feelings and also reduces level of stress hormone Cortisol and Epinephrine (secretion from Adrenaline gland). Hence smiling at each other generates a positive feedback loop.
Smile enhances your face value.
According to Sir Charles Darwin and Dr. William James’s Facial Feedback theory, we can generate same emotional effect through volunteer movements of facial muscles. As like unconsciously or involuntarily expressions induce feedback in minds of other people, volunteer facial expressions and gestures too can achieve same at a certain degree.

Once you generate facial expressions on your face consciously, others are most likely to respond in similar ways.
Japanese are trained to smile like westerns.
This theory applies for smiling too and we widely witness it. More you smile at people in appropriate situations; more often you would get similar feedback from them. If you cannot portray a genuine smile, start smiling politely (in other words - fake smiling).

Feedback from others in form of smiles, easiness, interest, or comfort displays would lead to positive feelings in your mind. Falling into a loop of initiation and feedback, your mental state starts to change. Sooner or later, you would start to portray a genuine smile unconsciously.

It’s an innate survival mechanism we all have that allows us to connect with each at deeper psychological levels and feel our existence (more meaningful) by seeking feedback from others. We can find trails of feedback principle in many practical and conceptual factors in daily life.

Facial feedback to smile is natural and widely used in commercials. It's not surprise that we find faces in various entities around us or also draw faces on own.

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October 13, 2012

Is Learning micro expressions really useful?

For years, we have been hearing about the importance of micro expressions when it comes to recognizing emotions accurately. Ever since the 70's Prof. Dr. Paul Ekman began his groundbreaking research in this area, there has been an intense debate about training and developing an ability to recognize micro expressions.

Following several articles published in media emphasizing of micro expression training, there are many other that raised contradictions. Therefore, here I present a very interesting article.
Micro-expressions (Courtesy: Dr. Paul Ekman)
The research was conducted by two professors of social psychology namely Dr. David Matsumoto and Dr. Hwang Sung at the State University of San Francisco, United States of America. Another interesting factor was that the investigation by the university was funded through a grant from the Army Research Institute and the Office of Scientific Research of Air Force.

This work is notable because it presents scientific evidence of the effectiveness of training to improve the ability of emotional recognition through micro expressions.

In a first study, several people belonging to sales profession participated in a conference in which they were given basic knowledge on emotional recognition. These people were divided in two groups. One of them received an additional training session 60 minutes by a trainer experienced.

This group was compared with the other one that received no additional training. The results showed an ability to recognize micro expressions significantly higher in the group of additional training in comparison with the other group.

This finding was particularly notable for two reasons:

1) Both groups were equivalent in their knowledge of emotions because both received basic information on emotional recognition. However, one group received additional training workshop and other did not.

2) The impact of the training program not only demonstrated in emotion recognition tasks but also produced significant social and communication according to an assessment by third participants two weeks after the program.

The results of the "Study 1" were further reinforced by the results of the "Study 2" that demonstrated the effectiveness of the training program after a period of time after training.

In Study 2, participating lawyers and psychologists split into created two groups. First group received training in recognition of micro expressions and another did not. Three weeks later, a test was conducted for trained group and untrained group for comparison. The trained group was significantly better in emotional recognition than the other. Moreover, they responded to emotions faster i.e. response time (latency).

These findings are important because they show that people can be trained in recognizing micro expressions and also same capacity can be retained over time.

The authors says in their conclusion that that the scientific evidence presented in these studies provided the evidence necessary for those interested in understanding the emotions of their partners.

If you interact daily with other people and want to understand them better, training in recognizing micro expressions is a very interesting option to consider.

Undoubtedly, this research was very important for international scientific community.

[This article is translation of original article "Entrenamiento para reconocer emociones a través de las microexpresiones, ¿ayuda o pérdida de tiempo?" written in Spanish (Español) by my friend, associate and nonverbal communication researcher - Prof. Dr. Rafael López Pérez from Universidad Camilo José Cela, Madrid (Spain).]

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1) Basic Emotional Expressions 2) Micro Expressions 3) Recognizing emotional expressions: Scientific viewpoints

September 19, 2012

Gestures: Are they learned or genetic?

Along with Prof. Dr. Paul Ekman's bench-marking work that proved the universality of facial expressions of basic emotions, prevailing behavioral researches in world of psychology are attributed to human nonverbal communication.

The strength of the contributions made by of Dr. Ekman left no room for any doubts and today no one questions that basic emotions have a universal facial expression pattern that is contained in our genetic makeup.

However, what about the gestures we make by hands or head? Are they learned or genetically inherited? Let's find out what a research says.

My approach in this article is taking you attention to a research conducted by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig (Germany) that has recently been published by BBC Science.

Group of wild bonobos - Closest primate cousins to humans
According to scientists and as they managed to film on many occasions, several members of primate species called as Bonbons shook their heads from side to side to prevent others to do something they didn’t want. In one of the recordings, a mother shook her head to stop her baby playing with food.

Researchers say that this could be a precursor to t
he behavior of shaking head used by humans observed in one of our closest primate relatives. Chimpanzees seem to shake their heads to avoid behaviors that do not satisfy.

"Our observations are the first to report the use of negative movement of head in bonobos," says Christel Schneider, who led the study. According to his research, the recorded videos in Leipzig Zoo, a chimp mother shook her head in disapproval of playing with food by her baby.

"Ulindi is trying to prevent her daughter, Luiza, keep playing with a piece of leek", explains the researcher. "As Luiza ignored, despite repeated attempts to stop her, Ulindi finally shook his head at the young," he adds.

"No" from Bonbons

It is known that African great apes such as Bonobos (Pan paniscus) and Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), nodding used as negative (tilt or shake) to communicate with other members.

It was already known that bonobos use head shaking to initiate interactions with other members of their group and start playing. However, this is the first study that shows in films that an ape shaking his head in a negative context, to avoid or prevent other bonobo’s behavior.

Scientists based in Germany observed this behavior when the animals were being analyzed as part of a larger study about communication of offspring of the great apes.

With video cameras recorded the gestures and behavior of bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans in six European zoos. During the investigation, they found four bonobos shaking their heads in this way on 13 different occasions. Previously there were only anecdotal reports of chimpanzees shaking his head to indicate "no."

Socially Sophisticated

Scientists believe that the negative head movement is a precursor of the same behavior in humans. Scientists explain that bonobos use a wider range of head gestures than chimpanzees and are considered to be more sophisticated to use their head to indicate any meaning.

The authors say that these sophisticated systems of communication might have arisen because of apparently sophisticated society, tolerant, cooperative and democratic living in these animals where complex social structures and hierarchies diffuse. So perhaps bonbons developed the head nod to say "no" and negotiate conflict situations.

However, researchers are cautious and say they cannot be sure that the animals really want to deny when they shake their heads in this way. But so far this is still the best explanation, they say.

And as he told the BBC Schneider, we must clarify that the head movement is not always associated with something negative. In many countries moving head side to side is symbol of approval too.

[This article is translation of original article "Gestos, ¿aprendidos o genéticos?" written in Spanish (Español) by my friend, associate, and nonverbal communication researcher - Prof. Dr. Rafael López Pérez from Universidad Camilo José Cela, Madrid (Spain).]

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September 09, 2012

What is Nonverbal Communication?

Most of us confuse term 'Body Language' (BL) with 'Nonverbal Communication' (NVC). In fact, 'Body Language' and 'Nonverbal Communication' are two different scientific domains or areas but they are also very closely related with each other. Actually, majority of our responses, reactions, expressions, reciprocation and feedback during (face-to-face) interpersonal interactions, encounters and exchanges are corporeal or physical i. e. through body and its different parts. That's the reason why both terms or phrases are confused with each other by many. Hence if you're one of them then you should read this article till the end to know the truth and facts.

Body Language is exactly what body transmits, exudes, expresses, exhibits, conveys, displays, radiates, orchestrates, shows off, reacts and responds to without the help and/or in absence (spoken) words. Whatever an (living) individual is inherently and intrinsically capable of communicating with outer world, entities and people through body movements, body positioning, body orientations, body postures, hand gestures, facial expressions, tones of voice, touching, fidgeting, pacifying, adapting, soothing, reflexes, sympathetic reactions and para-sympathetic reactions is considered as Body Language.

Term 'Nonverbal' simply means “without, not involving, not using or in absence of words”. Therefore, Nonverbal Communication is what one communicates nonverbally. According to me, it is an unimaginably vast and enormously diversified area of studying, observing, tracking, analyzing, understanding and decoding behavior, actions, reactions, interactions, responses, expressions, exchanges, movements, gestures, conditions, states, iterations and patterns of both natural/biological and artificial entities, including human beings and all other creatures, through different contexts.
Universe, cosmos, nature and whole biological world are originally, fundamentally, explicitly and absolutely nonverbal. Everything that we (or any living being) sense, feel, observe, experience, see, smell, taste, consume, touch, hear (except words), measure, judge, grasp through and/or using different sensory organs and ultimately perceive, interpret and/or process inside our brains exists without, is totally free from and functions entirely independent of human words. Moreover, different entities continuously communicate or interact with, respond to and reciprocate each other without words. Languages we use were invented quite recently, in our long evolutionary history.

Matter of fact, words from any human language fall short or completely fail to describe, explain and illustrate most of the cosmos, universe, (nature of) reality, biological world, overall complexity and different entities along with their interconnections, interdependence and interactions and exchanges among them. Spoken/verbal and written languages are our own invented tools and thus they are relative, imperfect, evolving and also perishable. Nevertheless, the words we choose and the way we pronounce them do convey physical conditions, underlying emotions, sentiments, feelings, moods and attitudes.

Scientifically, Body Language is a field related with social cognition, affective neuroscience, evolutionary biology, social science, sociology and ethology. Kinesics is a field related with interpretation of different elements of body language in different situations. Sign-Language is also considered as nonverbal language.
Perhaps, most of us might have skill or ability to pick body language clues but may not be able to analyze, interpret or decode them precisely, correctly or accurately without knowing the key components of Nonverbal Communication.

Nonverbal Communication broadly has the following distinct components (four classical and two modern) and their corresponding contents:

A) Body Lingual: Postures, Body Movements, Body Orientations, Hand Gestures (Emblems, Illustrators and Regulators),
Facial expressions (Macro, Micro and Subtle), Oculesics (Eye contact, gaze and glance), Pupilometry (Interpretation of Psychological state by measuring pupil size), Haptics (Touch), Proxemics (Interpersonal/Social Distance), Reflexes,
Pulmonary Ventilation (Respiration) and Sympathetic-Parasympathetic Reactions

B) Contextual: Physical Environments, Social Situations, Locations, Terrains, Climates, Cultural Norms, Genetic Inheritance and Chronemics (Time)

C) Peripheral: Objects, Attires, Chromatics (Color), Olfactics (Smell), Thermal and Chemical Signals

D) Vocal (Para Lingual): Clarity, Tone, Volume, Tempo, Pitch, Pause, Rhythm, Annotation and also Silence
E) *Informational: Sketches, Paintings, Drawings, Photographs, Graphs, Charts, Animations, Images, 2D Models, 3D Models, Signs, Symbols, Icons, Insignia, Flags
F) *Textual: Positions, Decorations, Highlighting, Fonts, Font sizes, Colors, Emoticons, Text Faces and Emojis

Without considering, taking into account or emphasizing context, clustering and congruence (the referential and authenticating integrity among different nonverbal clues); both trying to understand, analyze and decode an
ordinary or trivial message can lead us to nowhere, let alone conveying one much effectively.

Also, the broader or umbrella term 'Nonverbal Communication' (NVC) can't be limited to humans and living beings at all. Nonverbal Communication limited and/or specific to humans should be called as 'Human Nonverbal Communication' (HNVC).
I sincerely wish and also quite hopeful about that next time anybody confuses body language with nonverbal communication and vice a versa, you would definitely be able to explain the difference and relation between both with great confidence.
By now, you might have clearly understood both terms and posses the enough knowledge to understand, explore, study, observe, analyze, decode, decipher and demystify the unimaginably vast “Nonverbal World” around yourself.
[Special Note: I kindly suggest that the term 'Human Nonverbal Communication' (HNVC) should be widely put in use at all levels and all areas, starting right from the educational institutions to body language and nonverbal communication books and articles.
As data, facts and information is represented, converted/compressed into and/or explained visually, I've added *Informational component to the list, on 31st December, 2021. Also, *Textual component was added on 1st January, 2022.]

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