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SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY By Matt Wolfe November 24, 2009 Fun Facts

People camunocate through nonverbal signs more than they communicate through speech. You can learn a language up to 20% faster (3) if you associate nonverbal signs with most of the frases. A person can subconciousaly scair away potential threats just by the way they walk Inside this issue: The Unspoken Langwidge











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THE UNSPOKEN LANGUAGE 97% of all communication is unspoken, as stated in Body Language (1) a book written for the sol purpose of understanding and interpreting the unspoken world around us. This statistic is so staggering that it is a marvel that the everyday person does not know this. To get a better idea of this we take a man selling you a hot dog, he gets your attention by not only speaking loudly but waving his hands about. He then gestures to the toppings or the overhead menu. After it is all said and done, he asks for your money while he extends his hand a fraction of a second before speaking. We start to see how much of our everyday conversations become so much more non verbal than verbal. After contacting the FBI, it became very apparent that the study of this science was a leading field of interest to them. The majority of this research is conducted at an institute located in Quantico, Virginia. The studies include investigatory criminal behavior, criminal street behavior, lie detecting, and profiling. All of which can be very useful for an agent. There are two main signs of lying. First, lying causes the heart to speed up which causes blood to be pumped throughout the body at a much faster rate, especially the head. The first symptom of this is

FEET The human foot is used to portray more emotion than any other part of the body or any form of conversing. It can unconsciously tell where a person intends to walk next or weather or not someone is comfortable. Learning what the foot is telling us is the first step to reading the basics of body language. Have you ever noticed that when you’re talking to someone and they are standing with their feet pointing in different directions (as seen in the upper right-hand corner of the page), Well if you had taken a double take you would have notices that one foot is pointing away from the conversation. This signifies the direction in which the person will be leaving and that it will most likely be sooner than later. This is caused by our ancestral instinct to be ready for anything, in the instant of a predator for example. By doing this we are getting

ready to leave quickly and in a designated direction. Feet also can show confidence. Like most animals we do not socially approve of someone touching another person’s feet, it just seems strange. Therefore when someone permits their feet to be touched whether it is by playing footsy or being tickled, it is a sign us submissive confidence. There is no historical reasoning for this but we do see the same things in many other animals such as dogs. We can also show

LEGS When legs are usually mentioned we think of a stance, this is because legs are the key element to a standing posture. When the legs are flexed and are to the rear (as seen in the picture on the next page) we are forced to extend our shoulders and chest resulting in a posture most commonly translated as a sign of supreme confidence. Legs are the first give away of boredom. A common misconception is that the first thing we go to are our hands, but this is not true to

MICDS how unconfident we are by sitting on our feet. The motion of sitting on our feet however can be interpreted in two ways; first, if someone is sitting on their feet and leaning back they are hiding a vulnerable part of their body so to speak and in doing so showing how uncomfortable they are, the second meaning is extreme confidence, this is shown by the person’s attentiveness and body’s angle forward while sitting on their feet. The last and probably most important thing feet can tell us is whether or not a person is acting interested or really is interested. When a person leans back in their chair they most commonly cross their feet way out in front of them. This shows that someone is paying attention and is genuinely interested. On the other hand, a person leaning either forward or back in their chair while hiding his

feet under his chair is most likely indicating that the person is not interested or has other things on his mind.


exaggerated or a lack of eye contact. Eye contact generally means that someone can see your face and when your lying you blush. Exaggerated eye contact however is caused by the knowledge of this information, when a suspect knows this, they constantly over do making eye contact. The second and more reliable form of lie detection is swallowing. This is involuntary so weather the suspect tries to hide it or not it will happen. Swallowing is caused by the increase of blood. The blood makes the mucous glands in the mouth more active much like when you’re eating, thus in turn you swallow. Where an understanding of non verbal communication can be most helpful is in business. A successful business man must notice or takes note of a client or fellow business man’s non verbal giveaways. A great example of this is where the mind is focusing. If a person trying to be sold an item is constantly looking off at another object or person, Chances are that they are not interested. The same goes for business deals and client meetings.

some degree (1). While our legs are the first thing we go to to provide ourselves with something to occupy our body, it is done unconsciously unlike our hands. We notice this when the leg starts to twitch or bend at the knee constantly. Some very subtle cases of this are small muscle spasms and the constant flexing and un-flexing of the calf or

One of the most common and subtle forms of non verbal communication is politics. We see this in every hand shake and every meeting no matter what it’s always there. One such unnoticed yet significant gesture is so commonly displayed it started a famous phrase “the upper hand.” The phrase originated from a political move which signifies power over other nations. The gesture is simple, the common handshake, the only difference is that the one of the two Shakers approaches purposely on the left side so that he may place his hand on top, hence the term. While at first this move seams docile it has a great deal of political importance.

thy. While a little more subtle than the rest of the body, legs are often looked at in the case of spotting criminals. Before a person runs they always tense their legs a minute or two before they flee. The action of preparing for flight at the shear idea of it comes from or ancestors, it allowed for quick get a ways from predators.

ARMS The arms are surprisingly one of the least expressive parts of the body. They can elaborate on other movements or get someone’s attention but are relatively “quiet”. We have all seen someone or taken part in getting the attention of another, to do this it is helpful to create some elaborate animated movement or gesture and what better way of doing this than using our arms. From the perspective of the police or FBI agent, arms can be used as a shield, whether they are holding a coat shut or move abruptly to a person’s side. When doing that, they are most likely shielding a gun or an object they do not want seen. Suspicious behavior such as this, is exactly what a patrol squad is look for.



HANDS Our hands, mostly our thumbs, make up for 33% of our unconscious or involuntary non verbal signs. The biggest fundamental and most often read part of the hand is the thumb. The thumb signifies confidence; it is the most vulnerable and useful part of the hand so the body naturally hides it in the case of a threat. The most common form of this is when you put your hand in your pocket, there are two types of hand pocketing, with or THE THUMBS OUT without the thumb. When you place the whole of your hand in your pockets it means that your are unsure of a situation or timid. When you place all of your hand but for your thumbs in your pockets it gives of an air of confidence or relaxation.

Another example of an interesting non verbal communication is the invasion of personal space. One of the greatest signs of trust is the tolerance of the invasion of personal space. The average amount of space considered personal in six to ten inches (1). This mean that anything closer than that in most cases causes one of the two people to take a step back or become irritated, but this gesture can have a totally differOF POCKET ent meaning. If the person whose space is being invaded dose not back away it is a tell tail sign of trust or attraction. This same attraction can be verified if the person then fidgets with their hair or clothing

On around them. Finger tips are also The most important very important when it fetcher of the hand from a patrolcomes to meetings. If a perling policeman’s stand point is son in the audience clasps that the heart directly pumps their hands together tightly blood to the hand. This means they are annoyed and are that when a trying to uncriminal gets consciously “Our hands, mostly our the urge to grab get the blood his gun his flowing by thumbs make up 33% of heart speeds up tightening meaning that there musunconscious or involuntary the hand and cles. Howfingers twitch non verbal signs.” ever, if their suddenly before fingertips are the action of gently touching it means drawing the firearm is prethat they are interested or formed. This is thought to any focused on what is going on. one on the force within the first three weeks of training.

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garment. Examples like these show us how important non verbal communicatory signs can be for not only the FBI and other police like work but for biasness, politics and every day observations of friends and family. If we just open our eyes to the unspoken world around us we can see hidden meanings and gain helpful pointers throughout life.

HEAD In an average conversation the head is used to communicate more than any other body part. We have identified 20 general expressions which portray emotion such as smiling or squinting, and 2,000 more which are nationally recognized and understood. There are many involuntary expressions that can give a viewer looking for the rite sign all the information about a person’s intentions. A great example of this is squinting vs. opening your eyes wide when a person enters a room or conversation. The squinting The excited eyes eyes sigof one’s nifies dislike or a hidden grudge. Extreme version of this would be shielding your eyes with your hands or opening your eyes wider or raising your eyebrows shows a person’s liking or excitement when entering a conversation. These subtle changes are also identifiable by the ears or pupils. If a person is listening or viewing someone intently, their pupils will be smaller than normal and their eyes will be relaxed. The opposite is true when a person being talked to has large pupils and their ears will be tense and slightly

more forward.



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Perspiration is one of the more commonly known forms of nervousness. It is caused by the speeding up of your heart; as a result your body heats up and causes your sweat glands to perspire. This seams basic but is involuntary so it is one of the key features of a nervous criminal.

Caption describing picture or graphic.


Navarro, Joe. What every Body is Saying. New York: First addition, 2008.


Oman, Carol, The Nonverbal Advantage. San Francisco: Berrett– Koehler Publishers, 2004


Secrets of Body Language. Director Susan Werbe. Performers Erne Frank, and Thomas Blake. NYC, 2008.


Sweat Much?. (it is a constant update). Health blogs. November 17, 2009.


Chair Asia, (it is a company website so it constantly updates) office chair products, November 20, 2009.


INTRODUCTION IN NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION, 2006 . Communication , November 20, 2009 ,

RESORCES 1. Local; (it was a lecture and I can’t Find how to sight this) Dr. Brian Welkin , All the aspects of Psychology, Washington University, November 19, 2009 8:00 pm. 2. School; Hargrave, Jan, Let Me See your Body Talk, Iowa: Kendll/Hunt Publishing Company, 1996. 3. Website: The Science of Nonverbal Communication, October 29, 2004. F.B.I., November 23, 2009 .

4. National: (name not specified). Telephone Interview. 13 November 2009.

Matt Wolfe Health Project  

Nonverbal Body Language