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James Bond: The spy we love

Most of us love to read and watch James Bond novels and movies. This character is depicted as master people reader and more specifically - the sharp “mind” reader who always stays ahead of the curve. He can judge people and their potential moves upon confrontation very quickly and most accurately. James Bond has a tonnes of tricks under his sleeves to tackle criminals, outlaws, avengers and enemies.

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

His success highly depends upon reading a targeted person just by its expressions, gaze, gestures, postures, para language and movements; making quick and most accurate judgments in given situation and acting upon plans in no time. He is dropped at very hostile places with minimal equipment to finish the deadliest operations (to save the world). Only truly lethal weapon he has is his brain. Isn’t it?
James Bond: Celebrating 50th anniversary on screen
If James Bond would have ever existed in reality, every intelligence and spy agency on this planet would have tried to recruit him on highest compensation. Ultimately, our world would have become a peaceful place to leave, free from mad scientists, rouge organizations, terrorists, conspirators, psychopaths, fundamentalists and international criminals. Sadly, this is only a great dream that novelists, fiction writers and movie makers show to all of us.
Our world is full of multiple threats 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 super spy would show up and save us from them and turn the world into a peaceful heaven.

Actually, every independent nation has its own defense framework and infrastructure which is consistently kept on toes by a group of intelligence and counter-intelligence officers and agents. We can’t watch them in a party or round the corner as the handsome spy we love (wearing costly black suits and wearing glasses) walks up to and introduces himself saying, “My name is Bond…James Bond!”. 
In fact, secret agents or spies are not the way they are depicted in novels, movies or TV serials. However, all they have in common is black glasses, goggles or sheds on their eyes most of the time while moving around people so that people can hardly notice that they are being observed, gauged and scrutinized by the expert and experienced eyes which can pick subtle clues. Devil lies in details and spy lies in disguise.

Master Mind Readers

No doubt, secret agents and spies posses highest accuracy rates in reading people (and their minds) than ordinary people - about 80% globally. It is only achieved by senses, rigorous training given by experts, strong mental preparation, enhanced observational skills, better knowledge about human behavior, thousands of hours of practice and most crucially - following the gut feeling.

There are many famous TV serials like Lie to Me (Micro expression analyst), The Mentalist (Great observer), Byomkesh Bakshi (Indian version of Sherlock Holmes) and many more having a protagonist or a central character of a crime investigator or a detective with sharper observing eyes, greater analytical skills and quicker judging skills.

Work of a typical crime investigator is mostly confined to collect samples, analyze photographs, probe video - audio tapes, interrogate people, trace suspects and conduct laboratory tests but secret agents or spies are like the moving (and typical “killing”) machines that are ready to act upon every signal of suspicion, threat and danger given away by persons (and their silhouettes and shadows too), entities and situations.
Sherlock Holmes: Sign of superiority on face!
Being an actual secret agent or spy is all about greater situational awareness, a longer attention span and fixation for details. Also, agent has to be physical strong, resourceful, adaptive, agile and enduring. Perhaps, an ordinary looking person that turns out to be a secret agent or spy before our eyes is most fascinating because of typical predatory qualities it has are sophistication, stealthiness, courage, accuracy, deceptiveness 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 during World War 2. He and his team spied for Allied forces to defeat Germans (Nazis). What he wrote in novels about James Bond, was based on his own life and of those individuals who inspired him. Otherwise, he could not have brought that much realistic effects and details in his scripts.

He worked with and closely observed many agents putting their lives at 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, spying for both Allied forces and Germans. They succeeded in distracting and deceiving Germans (Nazis) by providing false intelligence updates.

[Courtesy: The million year old super spy hidden right inside us - unconscious mind.]

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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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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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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

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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What is Nonverbal Communication?

Most of us confuse term 'Body Language' with 'Nonverbal Communication'. In fact, 'Body Language' and 'Nonverbal Communication' are two different scientific terminologies but they're also very closely related with each other. Body Language is exactly what body communicates, transmits, expresses, exhibits, conveys and displays without the help of words. Actually, 80% of our entire communication is corporeal i. e. body language.
It's a field of study which is related biology, neuroscience and sociology. Whatever an (living) individual or a creature is inherently and intrinsically capable of communicating with outer world and people through physical movements, body positioning, body orientations, body postures, hand signals, hand gestures, facial expressions, emblems, fidgeting, tones of voice and para-sympathetic reactions should be considered as Body Language.

Term “Nonverbal” itself clearly means “without or in the absence of words”. Nonverbal Communication is an unimaginably vast and deep scientific area which is related with observing, analyzing and interpreting behavior/behaviour, movements, gestures, expressions, signals, clues, hints, physical conditions, physical states and patterns of both natural and artificial entities, including human beings and all other creatures.
Physical reality, nature and whole biological world are fundamentally, explicitly and absolutely nonverbal. Hence, everything that we (or any living beings) feel, observe, experience, smell, taste, touch, hear (other than words), measure, judge, grasp and gauge through different sensory organs and eventually respond to is independent of words. Spoken and written languages are our own inventions or tools and thus they are relative and imperfect.

Scientifically, Body Language is related with social cognition and affective neuroscience whereas Nonverbal Communication includes Vocal (Para Linguistics), Peripheral and Contextual factors according to which human and animal body language can be preciously analyzed.

Perhaps, most of us might have skill or ability to pick body language clues but may not be able to interpret them precisely or accurately through the key factors of Nonverbal Communication.
Kinesics is the new scientific field related to interpretation of different elements of body language in different practical situations.

Nonverbal Communication broadly includes following factors:

A) Corporeal: Postures, Body Movements, Body Orientation, Gestures (Emblems, Illustrators and Regulators),
Facial expressions (Macro, Micro and Subtle), Oculesics (Eye contact, gaze and glancing), Pupilometry (Interpretation of Psychological state by measuring pupil size), Haptics (Touch), Proxemics (Interpersonal/Social Distance) and Sympathetic-Parasympathetic Displays

B) Contextual: Physical Environment, Social Situation, Culture Norms, Genetic Inheritance  and Chronemics (Time)
C) Peripheral: Objects, Attire, Chromatics (Color), Olfactics (Smell), Thermal and Chemical Signals

D) Vocal (Para Linguistics): Tone,Tempo, Pitch, Rhythm, Annotation and also Silence
Without considering, taking into account or emphasizing context, clustering and congruence (the referential and authenticating integrity among different nonverbal clues); both trying to understand and convey even an ordinary or trivial message can lead us to nowhere.

I sincerely wish and also hope 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 confidence, mentioning about this article.

By now, you've might understood both terms and posses the knowledge to
understand, explore, analyze, study, demystify and decode and the unimaginably vast “Nonverbal World” around yourself which is expanded at the cosmic scale.

Matter of fact, words from any human language fall short or completely fail to describe, explain and illustrate most of the biological world, (nature of) reality, complexity, different entities and interactions among them.

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Indian Classical Dances

All Indian classical dance forms are really great not only to watch and enjoy but also to understand greatest influence of nonverbal communication in our life. They mesmerize audience and keep their attention focused on dancers and drama they play out. Their costume and make add to the overall effect their performance want to produce.

Dancers often enact as mythological story tellers or actual characters of the story on the stage. However, they can convey message related to different subjects from the real life. They can portray virtually any tangible or intangible entity and concept we have ever invented or imagined so far.

They utilize facial (micro) expressions, postures, gestures, emblems, proxemics and movements to enact them very lively and dramatically. Many western performing artists have invented hybrid dance forms by taking an inspiration from Indian Classical Dance forms.

Like different elements of body language, these dance forms also use various elements to express physical, emotional and social status and conditions. Their original names are in Sanskrit language as described in Natya-Shashtra (नाट्य शास्त्र) - an ancient Indian treatise on the performing arts (theater, dance and music).

Basic elements of all dance forms are: 1) Kaaranas (Transitional movements or postural alternations) 2) Hastas (Hand gestures) 3) Adavus (Series of movements or expressions) 4) Bhedas (Eye contact, different gazes and neck - head movements).

Dr. Paul Ekman found universality of facial expressions subjected to seven basic emotions in 20th century. However, Indian classical dancers have been portraying Nav-Rasas (Nine distinct psychological states or emotions) on their faces since thousands of years. Dr. Ekman might have taken the inspiration from the same.

Nine different emotions included in Nav-Rasas are Shringara (Love, Affection or Amour), Hasya (Happiness or Laughter), Karuna (Kind-heartedness or Compassion), Raudra (Anger), Veera (Courage), Bhayanaka (Terror), Bheebhatsya (Disgust), Adbutha (Surprise) and Shantha (Peace or tranquility).

With charismatic costume, jewelries, accessories, body decoration, make-up and music; each dance form is unique by itself. Yet they are are strongly connected with each through shared aspects like exuberance, sophistication and dedication.

Not just Indians or people belonging to India but also many notable artists, researcher and scholars across the globe are inspired from classical dance forms of India.

Following are the Indian Classical Dance forms:
  • Kathak (कथक) - Classical dance from Northern India, inheriting few aspects from Persian (Iranian) and Central Asian dance forms
  • Bharatanatyam (भरतनाट्यम) - Classical dance from state of Tamil Nadu
  • Kathakali (कथकली) - Classical dance from state of Kerala
  • Kuchipudi (कुचीपुड़ी) - Classical dance from states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
  • Manipuri (मणिपुरी) - Classical dance from state of Manipur
  • Mohiniaattam (मोहिनीअट्टम) - Classical dance from state of Kerala
  • Odissi (ओडिसी) - Classical dance from state of Odisha
  • Sattriya (सत्रिया) - Classical dance from state of Assam
Watch this YouTube video briefly demonstrating the power of Mudras (Expressions and Gestures) to portray different elements in dance.

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My posture discovery

Posture is the most noticeable and the loudest aspect of body language. Everybody of us adapts and drops different postures almost unconsciously. It’s happens throughout 24 hours of a day and throughout our life. Posture is nothing but an adjustment we make with physical, emotional or social situations at any given moment.
We may not express emotions on face, speak, look, or make gestures but we always adapt different postures. It’s a core mechanism of human body. Culture, heredity, age, habits and working conditions - demands have their own impact on postures we adapt.
Many of us might be unconsciously or consciously copy posture of their parents, grand parents or persons they follow. Posture speaks to eyes so clearly that we even can judge a person’s profession just by looking at normal posture it adapts while working.

Look at a vigilant police officer or security guard on duty. He or she must be standing upright, bluffed chest, widened shoulders, looking straight and both hands entangled at back or rested on hips.

A particular posture or manner of moving or positioning body into physical space creates (first) impression and establish an identity of an individual overtime. Watch politicians, leaders, film stars, celebrities, sportsmen, performers and media personalities.

Locked legs
My very interest in different postures draw attention towards a posture that is not documented anywhere or interpreted I think. I call it as “Locked legs” posture because detail and long term observation has same title for it. Many photographs, paintings and commercials also back my own conclusion of this posture.

While attending meetings, seminars, or queues; many persons sit in very uncomfortable posture. They put on leg on another, extend both hands forward and tightly clasping them on knee.

Sometimes, clasped leg is slightly lifted upward. Even lonely individual can be observed doing same. This posture really elevated my curiosity because stretched or tight muscles cannot be a relaxed state. I decided to observe people adapting same posture; including myself.

Even we stay at one place surround by environment or people; we unconsciously justify interest or level of comfort about what we are interacting with. If we feel something interesting and attention worthy, we become more relaxed and receptive towards same. If we feel boredom, disinterest, or discomfort; either we try to get away or keep our senses shut and remain distracted. 

Many times, we have to manage ourselves at same place without our will e. g. waiting in a long queue inside clinic, being watched by many, listening or watching in social setup and discussing something we want to conclude immediately.

Stretching both hands straight and clasping them on a knee is an unconscious effort to maintain ourselves at same place. We clasp our knees in attempt to sooth body's natural temptation of walking away to avoid boredom, disinterest, or discomfort.

Many people can be observed doing same along with swinging upper body (torso) or unclasped leg. Some people especially children or youngsters tap their legs continuously but it's irritating in social situations. Clasping knees by hands is a more mature and civilized way of appearing fairly present.