October 6, 2017
Body language is present in our everyday lives and is an essential to communicating thoughts, ideas, and feelings to others. However, body language is different from the spoken language in that it is nonverbal and is expressed through both conscious and subconscious gestures of the body. For instance, these gestures can range from twiddling one’s thumbs out of anxiety to tapping your foot due to impatience. These small expressions and gestures are not a necessity to communicate, but body language can differentiate the small nuances in one’s tone, character, or message. According to research done by UCLA on body language, approximately 7% of our communication is successful through words while 55% of communication is based on non-verbal motions (Bradbery).The utilization body language in conjunction with verbal communication is very important and widespread, however, there are some exceptions to these nonverbal.
Body language is a key aspect in conveying views, emotions, and personality, so much so that the people we communicate with on a daily basis tend to make extensive judgments and inferences on what is being said solely based on our body language (Cuddy). For example, when an individual sees a group of people running away or screaming, they are usually able to associate these actions with fear and will also run away. In society, individuals are inclined to know the meaning behind specific actions and their correlation to certain emotions (De Gelder 242). While this effective form of nonverbal communication is used every day, it occurs in communication both consciously and unconsciously.
When talking about nonverbal communications, a common assumption is that we are able to fully control our body and how we behave on a subconscious level, when in fact we do not. New research indicates that our own emotional and behavioral competencies do affect our visual perception, and so the issue of body perception moves out of the strictly visual domain to include those brain areas that are involved in emotion and behavior. (De Gelder 244). With new studies emerging, our understanding of emotion and behavior is that we are not fully conscious of what our bodies are trying to accomplish. Therefore, most of our actions and behaviors happen on a subconscious plane. Despite our subconscious controlling most actions of the body, many of these gestures, postures, and even behaviors can be fixed or altered to create a new image of oneself.
Many people have felt powerless and/or powerful in their lifetime, but what if you could fake it until you became someone else? Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, and researcher at Harvard University came to the conclusion that whether or not you are born with sight or are congenitally blind, you subconsciously adopt body language that demonstrates either high power or low power. For instance, many athletes, both with vision and those who are vision impaired throw their arms into a “V” shape and slightly lift their chin (Cuddy). This elongation of the body is a sign of pride, and it is proven to be of second nature considering that even those who cannot see and therefore have not seen the post, are able to feel more powerful and naturally assume this pose when they’ve won., it doesn’t matter if they’ve never seen anyone do it. They do this. So the arms up in the V, the chin is slightly lifted. However, when people are in losing situations it is the exact opposite. The person’s body becomes smaller, and huddled such as a fetal position or crossed arms and legs in an attempt to comfort oneself or to mimic how small they may feel in the moment. In this instance, the body changed to match the scenario, but what if you could change the body’s posture to always make it seem as though you are powerful all of the time?
In order to test this hypothesis, Cuddy decided to bring people into the lab and run an experiment where subjects adopted either high-power or low-power poses for about two minutes and see the results that it had on their emotions and self-image. These high-power poses often involved extending the body to make oneself look larger than normal while low-power poses consisted of the folding of the body and crossing the individual’s limbs to appear smaller. The end result was that people who were high-power poses felt more confident than those who became stressed after assuming low-power poses. Therefore, through the experiment, the conclusion that our bodies are able to shape and change our mind and that our mind changes our body is concrete. While body language occurs subconsciously for a majority of the time, it is so powerful that when we set our minds towards changing the way our body acts and appears, it is able to change our own perception of ourselves as well as other’s perception of us.
Now it is time to dive into understanding what does our body say and how to typically interpret these messages. Starting from the head and face, there are several telltale signs that can usually conclude if a person is lying. For example, when there is a frown on the forehead or a crinkle on the sides of the eyes is present, it is safe to say that the person is lying. On the other hand, it is also said that real smiles reach and crinkle the sides of our eyes as well (Bradbery). Therefore, when it comes to facial expressions, you are able to interpret a lot from the smile and eyes and even the way their forehead wrinkles in order to understand what a person is trying to imply, hide, or portray. Next, the torso is involved with many implications of a person’s personality, such as looking into one’s posture. When looking at someone’s posture near their chest/torso, you can tell if they feel that they are a strong-willed or a weak-willed person. This can be demonstrated by the puffing out of the chest or relaxation of the shoulders, which can show confidence and a strong will. On the other hand, someone who slouches and has their shoulders dipping forward seems more feeble and weak-willed. The hands are also a body part that can tell if the person or yourself is feeling anxious or anger when the hands start to fidget or if the arms are stiff or crossed respectively. (Whitebourne)
Finally, the lower body can convey many signs that portray what you are feeling. From anger, fear, annoyance and much more. For instance, when a person is shaking their leg it is usually associated with anger or uneasiness, similar to the tapping of the foot. This shows that the person has entered a mental state of anxiousness which is linked to a temporary representation of how they feel about you at the moment or a long-term effect/habit that they have adopted, this is called the theory of the mind. (Samson 5)
Research on body language is quickly growing as there is a new outlook into the cognitive and affective neuroscience of the body. This means that many of the ideas and points mentioned could be altered or changed to match modern-day language because people change and adapt. Therefore, so does the language people use and the types of actions everyone portraits. The bottom line is that even if you can not understand a person’s behavior and actions through their words, you can learn a lot from the head to the toes and that is typically true when the words they say and body language they use do not match. Body language is present in our everyday lives and is an essential to communicating our thoughts, ideas, and feelings to others. But do not always rely on trying to read body language because even if someone does show multiple signs it could also mean that those signs they produced were just their normal behavior or from the environment around them, context is key. And when it comes to your own body, you can make yourself seem more confident or powerless with the types of body language you use. When it comes to someone reading you, just remember that almost ninety-seven percent of your communication is happening nonverbally and ninety percent of that is through your body, so why not try to change your language or fake it till you become.
Bradberry, Travis. “8 Great Tricks For Reading People’s Body Language page 1.” TalentSmart,
TalentSmart Inc. 2017.
Bradberry talks about the tricks to reading the body that is very common amongst people such as the head, face, and back. She mostly focuses on the head and face with her article and goes into prevalent points of the facial expressions. I believe she was credible because she used many ideas and points that were backed up with past research and also her profession on the topic added more credibility. I mostly used Bradberry to talk about the head and face and how they exhibit some nonverbal communication.
Cuddy, Amy. “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are.” Ted Talk. TED Global, 6 Oct.
2017, Edinburgh, www.ted.com/.
Cuddy explains that body language affects anyone and everyone who sees you. She fights against that power posing can change your confidence and boost feelings of yourself and others. She does research on the topic of body language and how anyone can change people’s perception and our own, also she goes into what is body language and how it works. Amy Cuddy is reliable because she is a social psychologist and does tons of research on the topic and therefore, makes her credible, she is also scholarly because of her profession. I used her to show examples from her research to back up my claims and also talk about all the experiments she has done on body language.
De Gelder, Beatrice. “Towards the Neurobiology of Emotional Body Language.” Nature Reviews
Neuroscience, vol. 7, no. 3, Mar. 2006, pp. 242-249. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1038/nrn1872.
De Gelder talks about how people she emotion in many different circumstances and that with each emotion, it triggers our emotional body language to exhibit a kind of behavior or movement. The article talks about how the body’s signals are automatically perceived and understood and react with decision-making through the subconscious. She is a reliable source of information because of her profession and her publication of her scholarly article, I then use and cite her material to help strengthen my essay and points of how body language happens mostly on a subconscious level.
Samson, Dana. “Reading Other People’s Mind: Insights from Neuropsychology.” Journal of
Neuropsychology, vol. 3, no. 1, Mar. 2009, pp. 3-16. EBSCOhost,
When talking about other people’s senses and behaviors, she took in mind their mental states such as their intentions, beliefs or emotions. The mind-reading ability or body language has been developed in our bodies psychologically since we born. It grows better and better as we become adults and helps us tease at the ability to read minds, by reading their body. She is reliable because of her publishing the scholarly article and I used her to explain what goes through people’s mind when analyzing body language and how it has been prevalent as we grow older.
Whitbourne, Susan Krauss. “The Ultimate Guide to Body Language.” Psychology Today, Sussex
Publishers, 30 June 2012,
Whitebourne gives a guide for the body on how to filter all the types of body language and how to impress people in conversations. She explains how your body’s actions, consciously and unconsciously reflect your personality and learning how to manipulate your’s and other’s cues can help you with communicating with others, boosting your look and the way you can feel. Although this is a blog, Whitebourne uses many ideas that are from her research because she has a Ph.D. in psychology and is a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She also was able to publish her work meaning that she is a credible source of material and I used it to explain my points on every major body part when it comes to body language.