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November 07, 2023

Chicken and Egg Paradox

While we assume that the brain moves the muscles, secrete chemicals and prepares the whole body differently under the influence of different emotions, one weird theory proposed by scholars William James and Carl Lange brings a mind-boggling twist or the so-called U-turn in the whole story. This is exactly like the Chicken and Egg Paradox i. e. which came into existence first and caused others to come into existence is really hard to tell.

According to their not so publicly famous James-Lange Theory, all muscular, physiological and hormonal changes are done first by our brain and then it consciously recognizes the same changes as experiences of emotions and feelings. In simple words, the behavioral responses given subconscious by the whole body are later consciously recognized as emotions and feelings by our brain. Body reacts first, Brain recognizes it later.

You might already know that physical responses are entirely subconsciously initiated by most primitive parts of our brain like Reptilian Cortex (Basal Ganglia or Brain stem) and Limbic System (Paleomammalian Cortex) than most recently developed part of the brain Neocortex (‘new brain’). Therefore, identifying the same with a name, label or title is a conscious and slower process which comes under the domain of Neocortex. Hence, it seems perfectly logical!

Let's imagine yourself in a situation. You're walking alone through tall and thick grass in African Savanna. Although you're taller than the grass, you can't see what's hidden inside in. You might be able see far away and up to the horizon but your height might help you in quickly detecting what's around you in the grass below. Still, you're walking upright with a great amount of confidence.

After walking over a few hundred meters of distance, you find yourself on an empty patch of land. On the same patch, you suddenly happen to see an adult lion eating its huge prey all alone. The lion gets alert about your existence, his ears raise and he starts looking right into at your small eyes. What your whole body is telling you to 'RUN!' only to save your precious life.

Image Courtesy:

If your body was designed to let you think for a moment then consciously choose the appropriate physiological reaction in such certainly fatal situation, you'd have lost the critical window of opportunity to run faster and far away from the lion. Now, you might have understood Why your body reacts first and then your brain finds a word for it, just to communicate verbally.

What we simply can keep in our mind is that both brain and rest of the body can’t at all be separated from each other while experiencing and expressing psychological states. They both seamlessly and thoroughly work together in the dramatic, dynamic and complex process of making internal and external changes, while reacting sharply or responding slowly.

Brain isn’t a wireless remote control which can operate, control and move the entire body by staying physically disconnected from it. It is rigidly connected with the entire body through the long and flexible spinal cord. Any physical movement, expression, reflex or action simply can’t take place or occur without brain and body working together.

During simulated, virtual or real experiences, we might ‘blindly’ assuming that only our brain is running the whole show. However, critical importance of sensory organs like eyes and ears can never be forgotten because they only send the signals to the brain before generating any kind of experience.

James-Lange Theory

Perhaps, you might not be able to remember the entire details of the Chicken and Egg Paradox explained in details above. Just to make it extremely easy to remember, both brain and body are two different sides of the same shining coin. Aren’t they?

By the way, there are two other theories about emotional experiences that are namely called as Cannon-Bard Theory and Schacter-Singer Theory. Both propose two different routes followed inside our brains for generating emotional experiences.

No matter which route is the correct or valid one but ultimately body language gives the reflection of emotional experiences.

Related Articles:
1) Fear Factor 2) Basic body responses in stressful situations 3) Body Language Brain 4) Turtle Effect: Body response under threat 5) Surprise vs Startle Reflex 6) Amygdala Hijack: Irrational Physical Reactions 7) Botox hampers emotional awareness 8) Facial Feedback: World smiles with you!

July 03, 2023

Amygdala Hijack: Irrational Physical Reactions

Have you ever woken up panting, sweating and screaming in the middle of the night after having a nightmare? Have you ever jumped into an unnecessary fist fight with somebody who wasn’t hostile towards you at all? Have you ever got scared and ran away from somebody who wasn’t frightening you purposefully? From suddenly bursting into screams while sleeping with closed eyes to shouting, frowning, clenching fists and pointing fingers at each other in traffic, we the so-called rational animals behave and react irrationally at multiple occasions throughout our lives.

Although we’re only watching a terrifying dream just like we watch a picture or movie, we react as if we’re physically involved in a terrifying outcome at the very moment. On the other hand, shouting, frowning, clenching fists and pointing fingers at each other isn’t going to achieve anything but we react as if we’re preparing ourselves and challenging other riders, drivers or passengers for a close combat. In the worst case, such reactions from two sides can eventually turn a busy city street into a small battle ground for a violent physical fight between two insanely aggressive animals.

Most of such irrational and instinctive physical reactions lead to troubles, injuries, accidents and causalities only. Only upon realizing on our own or making to realize by somebody after a few moments, we feel as if we were hijacked and we reacted without any rational and conscious control on our whole body. We instantaneously react as if we’re controlled by some ghost, daemon or evil spirit which is pulling all strings of a brainless puppet. So what exactly turns an educated, thinking, rational, normal and civil looking individual into a wild and raging beast?

Road rages are on rise. Beware!

What exactly drives us wild just for a few moments is not any ghost, daemon or evil spirit but a very small part sitting deep inside our brain behind such irrational reactions. This part is called as Amygdala which is a central part of the limbic system (paleomammalian cortex) that initiates basic behavioral responses and different emotions in humans and mammals. Using the signals coming through different sensory organs, vigilant Amygdala constantly scans for the whole surrounding environment for cues, signs, hints and indications of risks, dangers and challenges to survival.

It’s almost impossible to sit inside a time-machine and travel back into the Earth’s remote past in which dangerous wild creatures were roaming freely on the face of the planet. However, just try to imagine yourself walking through a tall grass and you suddenly stumble upon a saber tooth tiger which is waiting in ambush. Only way to survive is either to start running away from it as faster as you can even without looking back at the predator until reaching at a safe distance. Your whole body needs to react without wasting time in rational thinking and detailed analysis.

Dr. Daniel Goleman
This ancient system has greatly helped us in surviving the life-threatening situations and creatures over the millions of years. However, it’s turning us into wild beasts in today’s world which is almost free from the same situations and creatures. Only after doing enough damage to us or others, we end up in regretting or apologizing about what we’ve done instantaneously. This short-lasting neural phenomenon is called as ‘Amygdala Hijack’, as mentioned by Dr. Daniel Goleman is his famous book ‘Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ’.

Out of four distinct behavioral responses and seven basic emotions, both Anger (Fight) and Fear (Flight) responses can be extremely damaging in today’s world especially if they get intensified to an unnecessary proportion just within fractions of a second. These two responses can prove extremely damaging to career, health, relations, well-being and even longevity. Daily newspapers and news channels unmistakably report the news of crimes, abuses and offenses which are committed by very normal individuals which get hijacked by Amygdala.

How exactly the so-called ‘Amygdala Hijack’ takes place inside the human brain? Let’s try to understand the same briefly. Inside our large brains, signals gathered by any sensory organ go to Thalamus first. Some part of sensory signals is sent to Amygdala and the remaining part of it is sent to Neocortex and more specifically the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC) which is the thinking part of human brain. Neocortex takes comparatively more time than Amygdala in patiently analyzing the incoming sensory signals before initiating an appropriate response.

On the other hand, Amygdala is much quicker in reacting to incoming sensory signals just like a hyperactive Chihuahua which barks at every stranger coming through main gate of a house. Amygdala rapidly searches for memories of experiences inside Hippocampus (emotional memory bank). If sensory signals are found to be associated with any negative memories then a defensive response is activated. Amygdala takes less than a second to do the same, similar to an experienced sniper who doesn’t miss to hit its target in sight.

Two different paths of sensory signals

Especially if an individual is already stressed, had a bad start of the day, underwent traumatic experiences or has enlarged Amygdala then the individual is more likely to react instantaneously in self-defense than responding constructively, thoughtfully, peacefully, rationally, patiently or logically. As we experience it routinely, even a few abnormal words coming out from mouth of a familiar and caring individual can unmistakably kick-start the Amygdala Hijack in already troubled individuals.

A considerable percentage of modern population appears stressed without any apparent challenges, threats and dangers in the sight because the brain unmistakably releases cortisol and adrenaline into bloodstream to prepare the whole body to either fight with or run away from the individuals or situations that threaten us. Even if we partially or fully succeed in suppressing limbic impulse consciously under social pressure, secreted stress hormones don’t quickly go away.

Amygdala Hijack doesn’t at all miss to give clear warning signs through sudden change in body language. Due to secretion of cortisol and adrenaline hormones, breathing rate shoots up with breathing location shifting from belly to chest. Eyes become widely open. Fists are clenched. Skeletal muscles are flexed. Nostrils are flared. Eyebrows are pulled downwards and pulled inside. Under the tight grip of rage, glaring without blinking or batting the eyelids can be observed.

Today’s modern world is vastly connected yet became more complicated than ever before. Learning about various disturbing incidents occurring in different parts of the globe contributes in building stress, terror, tension, despair anguish, insecurity, discomfort and apprehension. It increases the possibility of Amygdala Hijack in future. While living in small and geographically isolated clans, our primitive ancestors never faced this unprecedented situation.

Amygdala Hijack doesn’t need to happen only while facing life-threatening situations, circumstances and challenges. A few wrong, abusive, ridiculing, unexpected and inappropriate words uttered during normal interactions and conversations are enough to trigger Amygdala Hijack in stressed, troubled, traumatized, sociopathic, endangered, intoxicated and serotonin-deprived individuals. Heated verbal exchange can quickly turn into nonverbal violence.

[#Critically Important: Empathy, laughter, meditation, spirituality, acceptance, visualization, conditioning, compassion, mindfulness, introspection, physical workout and breathing exercise (Yoga/Praanaayaam) greatly help in minimizing or avoiding Amygdala Hijack or irrational and uncontrolled reactions during many interactions, encounters, incidents and situations.

Also, good sleep, good nutrition, happy childhood, warm parenting, emotional support, stronger relations, promising environment, positive social interactions and deep knowledge about human body silently motivate people not to react to each and every sensory signals unnecessarily.]

Related Articles:
1) Fear Factor 2) Basic body responses in stressful situations 3) Body Language Brain 4) Turtle Effect: Body response under threat 5) Surprise vs Startle Reflex 6) Body Language in Depression 7) Body Language of Extreme Narcissist 8) Body Language of Extreme Psychopath 9) Chicken and Egg Paradox

March 09, 2023

Nonverbal Advantage in Investigation

How much a small cigarette can reveal about the smoker standing next to you? Can you ever imagine if a small cigarette can shake an entire nation and an alliance? Can you ever imagine if a small cigarette can help in discovering perhaps the greatest intelligence breach in world history? Yeah! It surely can but only if you could detect its shaking in the hand of an individual who sold nuclear weapon launch codes for money while betraying his country.

You might have read a lot of stories of secret agents and spies. The fictional super-spy James Bond is celebrated on silver screen and loved all over the world. While secret agents and spies are depicted saving the world in movies, the individuals who catch evil spies and double agents are never talked about. Now, I'm going to share a short story about a very special individual who succeeded in bringing one of the smartest cold war spies to justice. In near future, his spy-catching pursuit might get converted into a movie too.

On one fine Sunday morning of Tampa (Florida) in August 1988, a young FBI agent was asked to meet and ask a few questions to a former American soldier named as Roderick James Ramsay. While asking him questions about another soldier named as Clyde Lee Conrad who was arrested in Germany upon suspicion of involvement in intelligence leakage, the FBI agent noticed subtle shaking of a burning cigarette in his hand. His hand revealed what his face was hiding from the FBI agent.

"The body reveals what the face conceals." - Joe Navarro

Why should a cigarette shake in Roderick’s hand upon listening a name of an individual? A single random instance then it could be an observational error. Right? However, every time the FBI agent intentionally but sporadically mentioned Clyde Conrad, the cigarette shook. It shook three times to give the agent a valid assurance to convince the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to start an elaborate and lengthy investigation which surprisingly lasted for next 10 years, till 1998.

Many frightening and mind-boggling revelations and disclosures were done by the FBI investigators. They were so serious and sensitive that many intelligence agencies or institutions like The Pentagon (United States Department of Defense), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), British Military Intelligence, Section 6 (MI6), German Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) or 'Federal Intelligence Service' and Hungarian Információs Hivatal (IH) followed the whole case very closely.

The single decisive observation of discomfort upon listening a name led to the revelation of a most horrifying intelligence leakage during the cold war. The accidental assignment to the case of Roderick James Ramsey changed the career of the young FBI agent which went on to become the world’s nonverbal communication pioneer and an inspiration for many crime investigators. The whole world knows him by his name as Joe Navarro. After 25 years of duty, he retired in 2003.

FBI agent Joe Navarro succeeded in bringing
one of the smartest cold war spies to justice.

Crime investigators, police officers, interrogators, detectives, secret-agents and spies simply cannot convince or pursue the investigation agencies, authorities and governments to start an investigation or take an action based upon a single body language clue. However, such subtle clues silently give a great insight into the minds of suspects. Clues of discomfort and distress given away by sudden body shifts, movements, gestures and expressions are stronger enough to not let them miss, ignore or neglect.

Our body gives away the clues of discomfort and distress not just upon seeing the discomforting and distressing visuals but also listening to the words which cause them. Mentioning names of the victim(s), weapon(s) used, partner(s) in crime and location(s) of crime or only known to the guilty arouses the nervous system of the individuals being questioned about the crime. It causes discomfort and distress in real time which the careful observer can capitalize on.

The courts ask for evidence not body language clues. If the investigator cautiously asks the right questions in the right sequence, by focusing on discomfort and distress clues, it can help the investigator to evince information of lead or probative value. However, observation is the key because these behaviors are very subtle and they disappear quickly.

Clues of Discomfort can be subtle/unnoticeable for most of the times.
(Image Courtesy: Body Language Decoded documentary)

Great investigators, analysts and profilers always look for subtle details. Some suspects might just sit for hours showing no expressions on their face while giving answers to the questions. However, the rest of their body can give away vital clues of discomfort and distress such as the one which were preciously picked by the experienced eyes of the FBI agent Joe Navarro who earned the title ‘spy-catcher’.

As Mr. Navarro often says, the body reveals what the face conceals. The secret is good observations, careful interviewing and keeping good notes of the observations. Hence, getting the nonverbal advantage in an investigation is only up to the the eyes of the investigator.

[#Special Note: This article is my sincere attempt to let the readers know about the world saving investigation of my great guru Sir Joe Navarro. I’ve taken a formal permission from him only through email for mentioning the famous investigative pursuit and publishing his photos in this article.

The whole story can be read in his book Three Minutes to Doomsday: An Agent, a Traitor, and the Worst Espionage Breach in U.S. History. The story might get converted into a movie for which famous actor George Clooney and filmmaker Grant Heslov have secured rights.]

Related Articles:
1) Body Language of James Bond 2) Inside Interrogation Room 3) Entire body can’t lie 4) Observation is the key 5) Artificial Intelligence and Body Language