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First Impression

Age of Impressionism
‘First Impression’ always has been in talks of people living in towns. Catch phrases like “First impression is the last impression.”, “You never get second chance to make good impression.” and “First impression lasts longer.” are very popular. Appearing in front of somebody at very first time is all about making an (long lasting) impression on its mind. Thus, first meeting is given more weightage to - in both human and animal world.

Most of us always seek opportunities to impress others positively because it has an enormous importance especially for employment, business and courtship. However, most of us mistakenly equate positive impression with good appearance or ‘looks’ only. It’s not the whole truth! You’ll realize same after going through rest of this article. At least, you’ll start looking deep inside a person, apart of how it looks.

As systematically advocated by cosmetic product and cloth manufacturers through TV commercials, brochures, banners, tabloids and magazines; an external appearance has been largely emphasized to make money. We tend to judge a book by its cover but it doesn’t work correctly every time. Hence, warnings are also given like “Never judge any person by its first impression only.”, “Never judge any person by its attire only.”.

Face to face encounters lead to interpersonal evaluation.
Apart of such worthy warnings, first impression takes hold of our unconscious mind and paralyzes logical reasoning most of the time. Even though we can’t deny its importance, most of us cannot explain that what first impression is all about. Can you? Even many professionals from impression and image management business may not explain ‘What first impression exactly is?’ scientifically.

First impression is nothing but quickest evaluation of a person on the basis of trustworthiness i. e. if the person is (or can be) trustworthy. After finding a person trustworthy, we naturally develop likability towards same. First impression is deeply connected with our survival and that’s why most of us can hardly get out of its influence. So let’s see how first impression develops in our mind and why so quickly.

Which person you find as trustworthy?
The moment we watch a stranger at very first time, our brain immediately starts gathering visual clues given away by the same person. Although a lot of processing goes on inside brain but the first impression or evaluation develops without any rational justification, reasoning and calculation. In very less amount of time, brain has to decide that whether the person is favorable or risky for our survival.

Within just few milliseconds, brain figure outs whether the person is positive, neutral or  negative - the different polarities of favorability about the person. Why does it happen so quickly and without any conscious or logical control? If it is done too quickly then there must be some hidden benefits (and also drawbacks) of same. Mental mechanism of an impression is the leftover of ancient neurological processes that helped our ancestors in social survival and we inherit it till date.

Is appearance everything?
What exactly we look out for in other person within just few moments? Our brain derives an impression based upon person’s physical attributes and its body language i. e. eye contact, facial expressions, way of approaching, interpersonal space (distance between the person and ourselves), body posture, body movements, style of walking, attire, speech and the most important - hygiene and tidiness. On the basis of same, we instantly rate the person as Likable (Positive), Okay/‘So-so’ (Neutral) or Not Likable (Negative).

Hence it is really important to understand that ‘looks’ or an external appearance is one of the essential factors of quick evaluation or first impression. Why body language plays a crucial role because it conveys aspects that attire and appearance simply can’t. Body language conveys emotions, intentions, complexes, orientation, favorability, vulnerability and confidence of a person. What would be your first evaluation of a good-looking person who gets hostile at you in very first meeting?

Deal or No-deal?
During our long evolutionary history, it was really crucial for everybody to pick a  favorable person over an unfavorable one. If somebody picks an unfavorable person by mistake, it would cost the first person too much. Perhaps, an unfavorable person would pose harm to or even become a cause death of the person who chooses it. The very moment we come across a person, especially with whom we’re meeting at very first time, is determinant of our destiny i. e. our survival, progress and prosperity.

If the person turns out to be positive, trustworthy and friendly; it would ensure and even multiply chances of our survival. The association could be mutually beneficial and both parties could remain in good spirit with each other in future. On the other hand, if some person turns out to be negative, fake, unpredictable and unfriendly person could pose harm tor us by multiple terms. In demanding situations, fractions of second could make a difference between life and death.

Negative Impression = Aversion
Even though it turns of to be wrong sometimes, our brain makes snap judgement about the person we’re looking at. It happens quickly because we might not know exactly when perceptibly adverse person could pose harm to us. Hence our brain creates strong sense of disliking about the person so that we keep safe distance from same and avoid further interactions. Positive evaluation done by our brain encourages us to keep interacting with the person.

However, an instantaneous impression works like a double-edged sword in human society. Why? An external appearance is alterable or can be deceptive in human world. Thus an impression which is inconsistent with one's external appearance can negatively affect both parties i. e. one who evaluates and other which is being evaluated. All of us might have experienced same in our lives. Hence this grave issue led me to think deeply over the origin of connection between an external appearance and instantaneous evaluation or ‘first impression’.

Impression is an evaluation.
Before writing a hypothesis about the evolution of first impression in first interpersonal encounter, I had to visualize a lot  about the conditions and circumstances through which our ancestors used to go while trying to survive in pre-historic world millions of years ago. The hypothesis has been entered in Wikipedia and also its draft has been forwarded to many researchers from eminent universities and institutions to validate. It would turn into a theory in near future.

Entry in Wikipedia (URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_impression_%28psychology%29#Evolutionary_Basis)
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Would aliens have emotions?

Grey Aliens
Have you seen flying saucers till date? Did UFOs ever chase you in dark nights? Have greys have tried to contact you telepathically? Have you ever met with extraterrestrial aliens, face to face? Have aliens abducted you, your family members, friends, your town’s mayor or beloved dog? Most of us may not be able to answer these questions because of no direct sightings of or encounters with the third kind. Whatever entire world knows, perceives or thinks about aliens is product of stories shared by those few thousand people who have witnessed, experienced or gone through sightings, contacts, visits, meetings, mind control experiments, under-skin implants and abductions.

Neither I’m an authoritative figure of this extraordinary subject nor have any intentions to deny claims made or evidences produced by people. Since I’ve not encountered aliens till date, I think that it’s better not to comment anything about same over here. If it is so then why an article should be written about them at first place? Well! Sole purpose to write this article was to challenge our thought process, best knowledge and imagination to find answer of a great question - Would aliens have emotions (like us)? If yes then how they might be expressing them? Exactly like we do or differently? Emotions are or can be expressed on face only is a grave misconception at first place.

When we talk about aliens or extraterrestrials then two contrasting images of them come in our minds - one is of invading, aggressive, experimenting and exploiting creatures and second is of friendly, prophesizing, helping and warning beings. Science fiction movies, TV serials, novels, articles and witness interviews have added to both images on an equal scale I guess. Still, it’s very important for all of us know that whether they are emotional beings like us or not. Emotions drive us and make to act because they are nothing but survival strategies. With emotions and feelings, we wouldn’t be anything but robots.


Few months ago, I saw a very interesting episode of famous Through the Wormhole  TV serial - How do aliens think?. In that episode, there was a small section entirely dedicated to emotions, their perception and expressions. According to one speculation made in it, aliens might be having emotions. It was very humorous to see mourning and boozing aliens. It was not really meant to be a serious statement about emotions in aliens but giving humorous touch to serious scientific information. Still, it’s a thought provoking speculation - ultimately making predictions about outcomes of interactions between us and aliens.

We cannot prove about emotions in aliens until we don’t observe their nonverbal behavior or body language systematically. If there are intelligent alien species out there in universe who might have evolved on their home planets then they might have few traits, instincts and qualities that match with what earth bound creatures should have. Even if those extraterrestrial beings might have evolved in entirely different ways or would have strange genetic blueprint then still emotions might have evolved into them - if not all seven basic emotions then at least few like fear and anger. I'm personally doubtful about emotions like happiness, disgust, sadness etc. being present alien biological species.

Body can increase and decrease blood supply based upon different emotions.
Fear is most ancient and a prevalent emotion which was evolved in all living creatures on earth and plants also might have similar kind of reflex. Fear is what make any creature to avoid getting harmed or killed by predators, adverse climate, illness, competition, alienation, resource depletion etc. Why it might be a primary behavioral reflex because it served core purpose of survival and continuation of species. Don't you really think that technological advancement is also a positive product of fear? All reflexes, emotions, adaptations, traits and qualities are and should be supportive to survival of any species.

Was fear sufficient for survival? Ancestral creatures had to shed fear and attack, chase and retaliate and kill somebody to survive. Hence anger should be another powerful emotion in ancient natural world. Anger is exactly opposite to fear but still has physiological implications similar to that of fear. Emotions like sadness, surprise, happiness, disgust and contempt might have evolved when our remote ancestors required developing them for overcoming different environmental, physical, dietary and social challenges.

So if any biological species has evolved (to survive) in its local environment over a significant amount of cosmological time facing survival challenges then it must have something like all earth bound creatures do i. e. senses, reflexes, emotions, temperaments, traits and defenses - physical, mental, psychological and technological. I personally think that if aliens are non-biological robots or purely spiritual entities then they shouldn’t (feel necessity to) leave their planets if they are running out of resources, facing extinction, caught it ecosystem collapse or having their planets on the verge of doom. Only if they want to survive, evolve and expand their horizons then they would venture into an outer space.

However, if any species wants to be more advanced (in comparison to others), it has to be able to monitor emotions consciously and remain composed most of time so that physical, psychological and mental efficiency and capacities could be enhanced and multiplied beyond normal levels. Hence if any alien race is far more advanced, harmonious than us and essentially has succeeded in surviving from their own mistakes then members of that species might be able to control and suppress their negative emotions and corresponding bodily expressions consciously. This is exactly what Neocortex supposedly does inside our brain i. e. advanced and energy hungry circuits that monitor emotions and try to regulate them.

Friendliness in aliens is what we can only hope about.
What if alien creatures are neither fearful nor aggressive at all? What would drive them to find and make contact with us at first place? It should be curiosity, explorativeness, courage, generosity, empathy and helpfulness only. This is exactly what we all want to look into extraterrestrial aliens only for continuation of our race and all other creatures that inhabit this unique planet in known universe.

[If
extraterrestrial intelligent creatures could read this article then I would like to have comments posted by them in English language only.]

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Surprise vs Startle Reflex

You've come back from market and about to enter in your home - the only place in this whole world which entirely belongs to you and your family. You don't feel not that tense or cautious as you use to be in outside world from where you're returning to your 'own cave'. You see that front door is partly open but nobody seems inside the house while looking through it from a long distance. What's the exact matter? Has anything gone wrong? Where are other family members? You're completely unaware about what is about to happen within few seconds from now. You keep moving on towards the door.

In desperation, you decide to enter in your house to check if somebody has broken in it with evil intentions. As you enter through the partly open door, somebody else welcomes you in an unexpected way. Your naughty child appears in front of you from behind the same door in no time, poses both of his hands as claws and loudly roars like a tiger. You abruptly shake from tip to toe, palms of you hand open up suddenly, your hands come closer to your face, muscles of your neck become tight and your squint your eyes. You cannot do anything but only watch your kid laughing at you.

You momentarily feel as if you have received an electric shock by accident or your kid given it to you. This automatic response of our body seems to last over fractions of a second. Is it a short-lasting expression of surprise or shock that your child wanted to give you, by coming from behind the door suddenly? What it could be? Most of the people assume an uncontrolled and sudden response of body as an emotional expression of either fear or surprise. Scientifically, it's none of the both. This response is called as Startle Reflex. All over the world, naughty kids startle others to make fun of them.

Startling reflex is a very primitive neuro-physiological response, evolved to cope up with suddenly appearing signs of dangers. Startling is neither being afraid nor surprised but just an unsophisticated defensive movement made by body. It shakes or wobbles instantaneously to avoid being caught or harmed by an entity which is not fully understood at given moment. It includes unexpected or sudden sound, touch and trespassing. You may easily watch a sleeping infant showing startle response after receiving touch or listening loud sound. Just go through first 5 seconds only of this clip (below).


Startling of our body lasts over few milliseconds only. Unlike expressing fear or surprise, our body couldn’t react systematically upon instantaneously obtained sensory experiences (stimulus). In fact, startle reflex might have lead to evolution of both fear and surprise in mammals - the group of creatures that we belong to. Reflexes are pre-determined autonomous behavioral or survival strategies which evolved before emotions. Reflexes might have evolved when cortex hadn't taken shape as superior to limbic system. So what is the difference between startle reflex and surprise? Let's try to find out same from body language clues.

If we pay close attention at facial expressions for surprise then we can easily find the difference. While expressing surprise, our eyes remain wide open, eyebrows arch upward, mouth opens and jaw is dropped. By doing so, our brain tries to collect more and more visual clues from the entity which is drawing our overwhelming attention. Most telling sign of surprise is that our eyes remain open to receive visual clues. In case of startle reflex, it is not required that our eyes should remain open. Just listening to an abrupt or loud sound is enough for our brain to make us shake. Hence, both purpose and expressions of surprise and startle Reflex are different from each other.

Related Articles:
1) Fear Factor 2) Turtle Effect: Body response under threat 3) The Body Seeking Comfort

Analytical Interview: Are HR Professionals ready for it?

Show us if you can really play.
Gone are the days when kings, leaders, landlords, chefs, merchants, masters and captains of ship used to recruit their employees only after adequately ensuring that candidates have required skills to perform tasks. Examination used to be quick, tough and very thorough, thus debarring unskilled or unfit candidates from further request for an employment. Candidates were asked to prove themselves by showing what actually they can do or perform (i. e. through action) and not just claiming verbally. Haven’t you heard a story in which a sorrowing king promises that he would let the lucky young man marry his daughter (of course a young and gorgeous princess) who could rescue her from clutches of a mightily witch living in a spooky castle in high mountains?

Apart of good qualification, personality and etiquettes; getting truly skilled and proficient employees is a great challenge for every employer - let it be running business in any domain and part of world. Job interview is the only available window through which an employer or recruitment officers can ‘look into’ potential employees in a limited period of time. No other opportunity, other than an interview, can be sought to examine any person as a deserving candidate for a particular job. Thus interviewing becomes a difficult, elaborate and also tiresome task for most employers and human resource professionals.


Qualification is sufficient?
Conventional ‘question and answer’ interviews rely mostly on information provided by a candidate, the documents it submits to the scrutinizing authority and some few well-know or established nonverbal clues of authenticity. While verbal analysis remains limited to scrutiny of facts and figures only, nonverbal analysis provides us large spectrum of information about candidate being interviewed in real time. Why nonverbal scrutiny and checking body language is required after all? Never forget that actions and expressions are more genuine and profound than words.

Different nonverbal clues given away by a person being questioned can convey affective (emotional), cognitive, associative, physical and social statuses with varying degrees. However, many interviewers don’t have critical skills to obtain and analyze different nonverbal clues given away by a candidate being questioned. Hence it raises a great question about core purpose behind recruitment of skilled employees. Great responsibility of any employer or human resource personal is to find that where a candidate might fit itself well if sufficient evidences of its credibility are found.


"Companies which suffer from poor performance from an employee, actually lack skilled human resource professionals to pick able one."

While facial expressions only convey both genuine and fake emotional state of a candidate, most interviewers mostly rely on them only. Many seasoned and experienced HR professionals cannot collect and analyze different types of clues other than facial expressions so chances of getting false and misleading information become higher. Especially when patients and enthusiasm of interviewers gets challenged after multiple and long running interview sessions, they might take negative steps out of anger, boredom and frustration during interview. At many instances, truly skilled candidates are debarred whereas ‘smart’ ones easily get through due to their skills to hide certain clues from interviewers.
Asking good question is a great challenge.
Thus accurate collection of context specific nonverbal clues with respect to what kind of question is being asked becomes very important. True purpose of any recruitment procedure is not just to authenticate information being provided by candidates during screening but also to understand affective (emotional), cognitive, associative, physical and social clues given by them and try to co-relate those clues with facts and figures being shared. However, due to lack of required skillfulness in context specific (analytical) questioning, clue collecting and analyzing; conventional interviews cannot reveal information and clues required for further investigation of candidate’s true professional capabilities.

Looking at core issues related with scrutiny and authentication during recruitment, employers need to implement Analytical/Behavioral Interviewing Techniques and rigorously train their Human Resource officers to get skillful in them. Apart of standards established by analytical interviewing experts from other countries, local experts and researchers should be deployed to identify ethnic, social and cultural specific nonverbal clues that can give clear indications of authenticity of information being provided by candidates.

Finding, recruiting and also retaining is always a great challenge in front of employees and  establishments. Analytical interviewing could bring astonishing advantages to both interviewers and candidates because true purpose of it is finding what a candidate is exactly skillful in and compatible with. Hiring candidates based only upon clues like good eye contact, smile, hand shake and excellent verbal skills could prove 'costly' because it could hamper basic goals of any purposeful establishment which are better performance, efficiency, profitability and prosperity.

(Please contact with me by sending an email if you're really interested in working for Analytical Interviewing Techniques project in Indian perspective. We can work as a team.)

Body Language in Advertisement

Body language and advertisement is a very strong connection. We can hardly imagine advertisements running on our TVs that don't show human models in them at all. When it comes to include models to promote product and services, they must give proper bodily expressions and if not - give symbolic clues to target customers. Even cartoon characters, puppets or clay models are sufficient to get the message across and they are used not frequently though.

Nonverbal Communication in Commercial advertisement is a vast area of research and application. Keeping same in mind, I started writing articles from January, 2012 on a blog Commercial World about some of best commercials with excellent application of body language as tool of pursing potential customers. Articles published so far are getting good attention and being appreciated by readers from across the world.

Recently, a year 12 Australian student, who is currently pursuing her career with South Australian Certificate of Education (http://www.sace.sa.edu.au), contacted me through an email for getting general guidance. She is working on a research project and she is trying to refine her research by getting advice from experts. She told me that she has gone through my articles on Commercial World blog and they have proved to be extremely helpful for her project according to her.

She had very interesting questions in line with her project, to which I tried to answer or comment against as following:


Question 1. Do you believe body language is used in advertising?

Answer: Of course, body language is used in an advertisement world. If human models are there then body language bound to be used consciously by most. Very good and common example is (fake, social or polite) smile. However, don't mistake or confine body language with or to facial expressions only.

Question 2. Why/why not?


Answer: 'Why' body language is used? Answer is that if human models don't express themselves unconsciously or deliberately (conscious expressions) then consumers (or target audience) couldn't able to try to relate themselves with models and finally the product or service being promoted.

Question 3. Do you think using the correct body language can positively influence consumer choice?


Answer: Of course, context specific and correct body language can positively influence consumer choice for sure. Good example is tooth paste advertisements in which models can be seen smiling at end. If they don't smile to show whitened teeth then that advertisement won't meet its purpose.

Question 4. Do you think using the incorrect body language can negatively influence consumer choice?


Answer: Incorrect body language, movements, expressions or behavioral clues can influence consumer's choice
negatively. Very good example is a male model showing apathetic facial expressions and improper or unfit body movements in advertisement of fitness or sports related items.

Question 5. What do you think are the most effective methods (in regards to body language) advertisers can use to influence consumer choice?


Answer: I think that answers given against 3rd and 4th question are sufficient. Most of us people get influenced by effective clues given by human models to attract attention at, emphasize or underline certain features and appeal to user the product or service.

Question 6. Do you think certain fields of advertisement benefit more from using body language to attract consumers (eg. Ads for: sporting events, jewellery, food etc)?


Answer: Advertisements which are mostly related with physical, emotional, economical and social aspects of human world should (or say 'must') utilize proper body language (techniques) to attract and retain consumers.

Question 7. As a professional, do you personally think that there is anything I should further consider to refine my research?


Answer: Are you thinking to do master or doctorate with the subject? I would personally suggest you to study more about affective and context specific nonverbal communication in the field of advertisement.


Louis Vuitton commercial with models employing body language techniques
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1) The unspoken sales tool

Basic Gestures: Best Survival Tools for Travelers

Like most other enthusiasts, I like to travel and especially to those locations that never been visited before by me. Traveling is a unique kind of experience because it widens person’s horizon and also level of understanding about different types of environments, places and people. A traveler put itself on test because it has to adapt to new place and environment while assuring its own well being. Person has to remain fully open and alert (as much as possible) while picking signals that could give clear idea about different entities. This is the reason why traveling generates feeling of thrill, achievement or adventure in minds of most people.

On the other hand, traveling person has to remain more conscious while sending out signals or communicating with native people. If
the traveler and native people know same language(s) then there wouldn’t be many issues other than violation of some local cultural protocols and norms. Both parties need to make certain compromises to let interaction and dealing remain smooth as much as possible. But what if both parties don’t know each others' language(s) at all? What if a traveler is visiting a territory that is filled with people belonging to entirely different ethnicity, race and culture? This is the real challenge that many people hesitate or even avoid to face.

Language issues?
Many travelers might get frustrated or even give up in this situation because both parties could not understand each other well and perhaps feel misunderstood by each other. Nothing seems moving smoothly! Language barrier makes both traveler and native people ‘Dumb’ for each other. Still, they both parties need to cope up with language barrier. Moreover, the traveler might feel guilty and restless because of certain local codes of conduct that might have been broken by it. There’s no way to convince native people that violations were unintentional and due to lack of knowledge only. Nobody would like to return back to home beaten or harassed by native people.

What would you do when you are asked to migrate and live over a considerable amount of time period in a foreign territory? How you would communicate with native people without knowledge of their language(s)? Successful spoken communication without a good translator or translation handbook seems highly impossible in any foreign territory. Still, we dare to venture in new people because we human beings (or any other animals on this planet) know a unique way of exchanging information without words or numbers. We all know that facial expressions of basic emotions are almost common across the globe. There’s no other commonly known facial expression/gesture like smile - even if it’s genuine, fake, forced, polite or social.

However, conveying information using muscles of face isn’t enough so we need to use our hands for exchanging different ideas, facts and figures. Of course, we cannot achieve precision/accuracy and attain variety using gestures the way an established spoken or a sign language can. Any typical spoken or sign language may have its own (limited) vocabulary to meet different demands. Yet there are few well known gestures that we all inherit and can easily learn. These gestures can really help us in surviving and negotiating challenges across geographical boundaries.
Some commonly known gestures or signals
Few commonly understood *facial emblems, neck movements and especially hand gestures which are equivalent to different words, phrase and sentences can definitely make a great difference. If you know them well and have used before accurately then facial and hand gestures can really give you an upper hand in foreign territory. More chances are that native people would understand you clearly and instantaneously by observing your gestures as compared to any other attempts you do. In some situations, it could make difference between life and death too. This world is full of both opportunities and challenges so we need to negotiate with them in an equal manner. We might miss many opportunities hidden exactly behind those few challenges we’re trying to avoid in our journey.

Destination Chennai
Before migrating to Chennai (a large south eastern port city in Tamilnadu state of India) with my wife to grab a good career opportunity, many people expressed great concern about language barrier that I would face. I wasn’t aware about native language - Tamil at all. Moreover the language is entirely different than any north Indian languages (specifically language like Hindi - world’s 4th largest population speaks it) because of its ancient and classical nature. Still, I wasn’t much worried about communicating with native people because of knowledge about common hand gestures. In fact, I decided to put myself on a test - Efficiency and accuracy of gestures (or nonverbal signals) I use to communicate with people in different situations.

Hand gestures alone or sometimes combined with *facial emblems, neck positioning/movements and paralinguistic annotations can be used for conveying or enquiring numerical information, physical conditions, directions, geographical features, physical location, weather, characteristics/features, feasibility (related to something) and different objects or entities. Different messages can be generated by making gestures solitarily, by combining many or putting them in a certain sequence. However, one also needs to keep in mind that a particular gesture can convey message that can have an entirely different or opposite meaning in foreign population. Vertically held open palm silently says ‘Stop’ or ‘Enough’ in western hemisphere but same gesture means ‘Come’ in Iraq. It’s exactly like single word having different meanings in different languages.

'Stop' Gesture
Good examples of common nonverbal signaling equivalent to different words, phrases and sentences are Hi, Hello, Bye, OK, Yes, Good, Bad, I’m (not) good/fine., My name is (your name)., I’m from (name of your native place)., I’m here., Thanks!, Sorry/Excuse me., Beautiful, Please, No, Enough, Not, Here (it is), There (it is), Crazy, This/that, Up(ward), Down(ward), Long, Short, Small, Big, Tall, Inside, Outside, Open, Close, Entity having shape like (the way hand gestures you make), It’s me., My mistake/fault, This/that is mine., On feet, Where’s the place/object (that you want to go to, get or see)? Oh I see., Which way? Who are you? What is price (of the particular thing)? What’s this/that? How (come)? What’s the matter?, Look at me/here/there/(or any other direction you point at)., Which one?, Bring this/that to me., I’m (not) coming/going., It’s (not) OK., It’s here/there. Stop, Come, Follow me., I’m (not) going., I don’t want this/that., Go, You may go first. Let’s go!, I take care of this/that., I’m thinking., Interesting, Is it so?, Disgusting, Hmm, Surprising, Tasty food, Terrifying, Keep this/that away from me. Though I’ve given only few examples here but many adverbs and verbs or actions can be represented by hand gestures only.

Can a person learn foreign language(s) also on its own? Of course, it’s very possible! A willing person needs to pay keen attention at native people using different hand gestures, vocal tones, *facial emblems, neck positions/movements and other body movements during dialogs. By picking nonverbal signals, the learner can easily figure out what native person might have spoken or said. For same, situational awareness is also very essential to have good idea of different contexts. By sensing repetitive verbal and nonverbal messages in clusters, anybody can learn to speak any foreign language within just few days or months at least with a limited vocabulary. Undoubtedly, this is an extraordinary power of nonverbal communication that everybody would accept unconditionally.
Are they really 'Dumb'?

Words and numbers help us to exchange accurate and elaborate information about real and abstract entities. Even large vocabulary coupled with good knowledge of grammar can help somebody in achieving great success in fields like literature, media and education. However, when it comes to basic survival situation then only few words are sufficient to get your message across. In same way, few commonly known hand gestures and *facial emblems can definitely help you in inducing their literal meaning in the mind of receivers. Just look at thousands of dumb and deaf people who can easily communicate with sign language that has numerous hand and facial gestures.

*Facial Emblems: Voluntarily movement of facial muscles to convey information especially cognitive and felt-emotive statuses. Good examples of emblems are frowning (pulling inner edges of both eyebrows together), raising eyebrows, protruding lower lip, biting lips, circling lips, biting tongue, pulling down both corners of lips, pressing lips together etc.

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The Body Seeking Comfort

When we read bodies for their underlying meaning, it’s important to understand that the body is controlled by emotion and that the inner workings of our minds are constantly juggling many factors all of which seek to create comfort. One might also say that bodies seek to escape or eliminate discomfort, but if a body runs from discomfort, it is the same as running toward comfort. Thus, seeking comfort is the primary motivation behind body language. Let me explain.

The mind is a complex organ but it is runs over very simple principles. It is primarily motivated by fear. The mind seems to be complex and creatively driven, but it is in fact primitive in its design. While it is true that we are capable of higher-order thinking, emotions are still a large driver in our behavior and decision-making process and these are rooted in our deep reptilian base.

When you think of the human mind, think of it like a piece of clay. At its base is the primitive reptilian clump - the brain stem. The reptilian brain produces visceral bodily responses such as heart rate, blood pressure, circulation, respiration, digestion and reproduction. Over evolution, different pieces of clay have been scabbed over top - the neocortex ('neo' means new). The reptilian produces nonverbal body language that is deemed more truthful than that generated by the neocortex which is capable of producing conscious movements. While part of the brain can work consciously, it is the clay at the bottom, the root clump, the reptilian brain that interferes with the mind’s ability to work free of emotion.

The origins of our more intense motivations are driven by our primitive emotions. While we like to imagine humans as being much more sophisticated than our animal counterpart, we still largely act based on gut instincts.

Have you ever wondered what drives people to make certain decisions in their daily lives?  Do you assume that they are trying to maximize their fitness and well-being, that they are perfectly rational? You shouldn’t. While people are capable of rational thinking, they often make poor decisions overall. While some of the blame might fall on the lack of knowledge - imperfect assumptions and information, a large part of it is due to emotional underpinnings.

When we talk investments, greed and fear are primary motivators. They often lead the investor astray.

In body language, the primary emotional motivator is comfort. When the body curls up into a fetal position by pulling the arms and legs together, the body language reader might correctly read discomfort, but the root cause within a person is sought comfort.

'Fetal' or self-protecting posture
The body balls up to remind itself of being protect by Mom during infancy and within the womb. It just feels comfortable to huddle up into a ball. When the negative emotion passes, the body will find comfort sprawled out on a couch. On the other hand, the smug lawyer feels comfortable sprawled out all the time. He puts his arms over the chair next to him, gesticulates in conversation, juts his chin out and acts boisterous. His confidence (or is it cockiness) is displayed by his level of comfort.

We remind ourselves of the comforts we received throughout our childhood in many ways. We pet and stroke the back of our head, we hug ourselves with our arms, we cross and hide behind objects to block ourselves from overexposure. These remind us of comforts provided by Mom and Dad where they would hug us tightly, stroke the back of our head and provide us a secure place to hide - tucked in between their legs with only our heads poking out!

Comfortable people will hold their bodies loose rather than rigid and their body will move with fluidity. They will gesture with their speech instead of freezing instantly or awkwardly, called “flash frozen.”  Comfortable people mirror others around them instead of avoiding synchrony. Their breath rate will be similar and they will adopt like-postures instead of showing differences.

'Spread out' or comfortable posture
Bodies show discomfort by increased heart rate, breath rate, sweating, a change in normal color in the face or neck, trembling or shaking in the hands lips, or elsewhere, compressing the lips, fidgeting, drumming the fingers and other repetitive behaviors. Voices often crack when under stress, mouths might dry up producing noticeable swallowing, “hard swallows”, or frequent throat clearing. Discomfort is shown by using objects as barriers. A person may hold drinking glasses to hide parts of their face or use walls and chairs while standing to lean against for support.

A person suffering discomfort might engage in eye blocking behaviors by covering their eyes with their hands or seem to talk through them or even squint so as to impede what is being said from entering their minds. The eyes might also begin to flutter or increase in overall blink rate showing an internal struggle.

Many people have wrongfully discounted the hidden meanings behind body language. They say, I’m not hugging myself tightly because I’m scared or timid, I just feel more comfortable that way. However, as an expert in reading people, ask yourself why balling the self up feels so comfortable.

When analyzing people, make sure you read them through the principle of seeking comfort. Comfort and discomfort are powerful forces in the emotional lives of people especially in nonverbal communication.

Author: Mr. Christopher Phillip, Guelph, Ontario, Canada. (He's a creator of www.BodyLanguageProject.com)
(For more Body Language Learning:
- 300+ page FREE body language Ebook: http://bodylanguageproject.com/the-only-book-on-body-language-that-everybody-needs-to-read
- 1000+  term body language dictionary: http://www.bodylanguageproject.com/dictionary
- 100+ pages FREE Body Language Project: Tiny Book Of Body Language: http://bodylanguageproject.com/tiny-book-of-body-language
- Body Language Project: Dating, Attraction and Flirtatious Body Language: http://bodylanguageproject.com/body-language-free-book)

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It’s Written All Over You...

Some lies are performed brilliantly. What goes into telling a lie..? The more intelligent a species, the larger the neo-cortex and the better the ability to lie. For obvious reasons, man tops that list (and more technically, women outshine the men). But not everybody can lie with a ‘straight face’. Why..? Is there a force that works against our deceptive words..? If yes, where does this force originate and how does it manifest itself? This article aims to develop a basic understanding of the emotive processes that underlie deceptive speech and how our bodies can sometimes, have a mind of their own.

In the thousands of years that man has walked the earth, there is one thing about us that hasn’t changed: our instinct for self-preservation; an innate desire to save ourselves and keep ourselves at a distance from anything that threatens our existence. An instinct embedded in all living organisms, ours has taken on several forms and doesn’t just come in to play when our physical selves are vulnerable.
It has been a while since we’ve found ourselves running for dear life from felines somewhere in the African wilderness. But that’s not to say modern day society doesn’t host its share of situations held synonymous with wild cats.

There is a part of the human brain that never forgot the self-preservation tactics it strategically developed to help pre-historic man cope with trouble. This part of the brain is one of three parts of what later came to be known as the ‘Triune Brain’ or ‘the three-in-one brain’.  The Triune Brain comprises of the Limbic Brain, the Reptilian Brain and the Neo-cortex (Human Brain).

The human brain is the one that churns out untruths. The Limbic Brain is one that does not think - it just reacts. It is so dead honest that no matter what the human brain comes up with, the limbic brain finds a way to shield itself and you from it. This performance is obviously dependent on the outrageousness of the falsity. Not many of us squirm when we feel the urge to tell someone their (distasteful) new hair-do is exquisite.

Freeze..!

You’ve probably noticed several times how when you’re watching a horror flick, some scenes so petrifying make you tense up. You sit perfectly still almost holding your breath (at least till the bad guy is shot 7 times). You obviously don’t plan to sit that way with every intense scene. This is the Freeze response devised by the limbic brain to make you “inconspicuous to the threat at large”. You’re body senses danger and the first thing it does is tries to make you less of a target by reducing movement and thus reducing your chances of being noticed. Observe how the limbic system kicks in even when deception is not involved; but mere fright.

Apply the above to a scenario where a guilty crime suspect is being questioned. The first thing he might do unconsciously is stop making unnecessary movements while he tries to assess how much the police know about him. It would help if the police could visually pick up when his breathing gets shallow and resumes normalcy.

Taking Flight


This is by far the most interesting and extensive strategy developed by the limbic system. How convenient it would be if we could just literally run away from experiences or people we didn’t like. Sometimes when in a group, you can pick out the people who really don’t want to be there.

The feet being the farthest from the brain are considered to be the most honest; not many of us keep track of what our feet are doing anyway in times of positive excitement or stress. Many a time, your desire to leave a terribly boring meeting might resonate in your feet - one of which could be facing the exit.

The Flight response is more complex than just assessing which way the feet want to run off to. This response takes place in the form of distancing as well. Take a look at this couple. Observe how their bodies are slightly tilted away or disoriented from one another.

When the freeze and flight responses are not viable options or have failed, the Fight response may be resorted to. This does not necessarily mean a physical fight but could be by way of aggression in demeanor, posture or words.

We’re all well-versed with the three wise monkeys. But what do they have to do with us?!
The honest brain (the limbic brain) tends to get scandalized when it hears dishonest words. Almost as though it wants to stop the words from flowing, it quickly makes the speaker cover the source of these scandalous words - the mouth. However, like many obvious actions that can’t be performed so openly by an adult in public, this action is disguised so it can be executed without calling for attention. This is one reason for the very popular nose-rub.

Show a guilty crime suspect evidence of his incriminating text messages and he might want to distance himself or take flight from what he’s being shown. This is what he might look like if he does that. The same is in the case of someone who probably does not want to hear what you are saying or has invalidated what you’re saying.

Finally, following an uncomfortable or threatening situation, the Limbic brain switches to Pacifist mode. This is the time during which the brain helps you soothe yourself. Neck touching, wiping/ stroking sweaty palms along legs while seated, the comforting self-hug are all examples of pacifying behaviors.

In summary, the act of lying is something that puts most people at unease. This unease is exposed by the limbic system through pre-set codes like self-saving freeze, flight or fight gestures. It is to be kept in mind that such gestures are not symbolic of lies, rather merely of the experienced discomfort or anxiety which innocent people may face as well.

While body language is construed widely as casual entertainment; it is based on instinctive mechanisms that we all use. For example, it is the limbic system at work again when you intuitively decide that you like or dislike someone almost at first sight. While this article focuses on discomfort behavior, body language also contributes much to rapport and trust-building; because what we see counts.


Author: Rebecca D'Silva (Goa, India)
LLB, MSc. (Psychology and Investigation) from UK
Micro-Expressions Analyst
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