nonverbal communication


Our body language actually tells a lot about us without even realizing it. For instance, people that are more shy tend to hunch over because it subconsciously covers their neck, a vulnerable body part. People who are confident or wealthy tend to have good posture and may even over expose their neck to show that they are not afraid. Over excessive blinking can be a sign someone doesn't like what or whom they're seeing, therefore, trying to see less of them by closing their eyes. If someone shakes a hand with their palm down that's usually a sign they are the dominant person and vice versa. For example, Hitler's symbol was not a palm up, it was a palm down to show everyone he was in control. 


Studies support the theory that body language can be read to tell a lot about a person or form an opinion. With my obsession of Law and Order:SVU and my newly found interest in nonverbal communication I was intrigued when I found an article in the NY Times that suggests a judge's body language can affect a jury's decision. A judicial study analyzed "courtroom lore," the "judge's attitudes," and ultimately the "trial's outcome." (Goleman) 

In these studies the "judge knew that the defendant had a record of previous felonies,"(Goleman) but the jury did not unless the defendant took the stand. According to this Stanford Study, by Dr. Blanck and Robert Rosenthal, when judges did know of this information their "final instructions to juried were lacking in warmth, tolerance, patience, and competence." (Goleman) The juries were twice as likely to come back guilty when the judge's "tone of voice" sent a "negative message." 

This study is thought provoking but even the article says its "one of a wave of studies," (Goleman) thus not enough evidence to draw a conclusion. This study was also observational, it would be unethical and I'm sure illegal as well to manipulate trial variables to gain knowledge on the affects of nonverbal communication. So, then my question is how could you accurately replicate a trial to study this further? Possibly conduct a mock trial but then my concern would be the reality of it. The victim isn't real, the defendant isn't real, the jury wasn't legally called for jury duty so they may not feel as responsible or their opinion. Also, 12 people are on a jury and all their opinions go into one decision. So it us unlike many other experiments where each person's outcome is analyzed and added up for a total outcome because each participants result is separately recognized regardless of the other participants. What are the chances that 12 people in each different jury for each different sample trial would all be swayed the same way by the judge's communication. The article stated this was a "pioneering field" of study so hopefully more will be done and more conclusions will be made. 


Body language is something that is of interest to me to. I am a Sociology minor. I really love the study of people, especially when they are around other people. Your body language speaks volumes and also the way you say things. The judge issue is really interesting because its such an important job and the court system is suppose to be fair but at the end of the day we are all humans and its impossible for us to be completely bias. When something affects us it affects us. We can pretend that it doesn’t but our body and attitude will show the truth. I think that’s a really fascinating concept about humans. I wonder if animals and other species experience “body language” in their communication with each other.

I too have always been interested in the study of body language. I remember seeing Tonya Reiman on TV when my dad was watching Fox News and being very intrigued by the way she could tell so much from what seems (to the average person) to be so little. Here is a link to a video featuring this body language analyst:

The video provides the following information, all in the words of Tonya Reiman:
1.) "The feet point to where the body wants to go."
2.) A "figure four" takes up more space than the average seating position and it conveys confidence.
3.) "The thing about men is that they are always telling you, unconsciously, how sexual they are."
4.) "Usually, people have no idea how they come across."
5.) "Every single thing you do says something about you: the way you hold your posture, the way you wear your makeup, the way you wear your hair, do you have tattoos everywhere, where are your piercings, are your shoes nice and polished, is your briefcase in good shape, is your suit ironed, do you look good?"

If anyone interested in studying body language has not heard of Tonya Reiman, you should definitely watch some of her videos or read one of her books. She has very interesting things to say about many high profile people.

There is a lot about body language that I could have talked about. I have heard of the feet pointing in the direction of where you want to go before. For example, when you're in a conversation you naturally turn your feet away towards the person you're most interested in, shutting out anyone else you may not want to talk to. Body language is extremely important in politics. Political figures should never point at their audience, because it comes off as telling them to do something. Instead, recently elected Presidents such as Obama change that pointing index finger into a softer sign by touch their thumb to their pointer finger. Try it, comes off much less harsh. Also, someone who rubs their hands together up and down quickly means they're thinking of the fortune of someone else but if they are rubbing them together slowly it most likely means thinking of themselves. And lastly, when someone touches all their fingertips together with the opposite hand that means they have a plan, like they have connected all the dots. This is seen a lot in movies with villains when the bad guy has an evil smile and is touching their fingertips together numerous times.

Leave a comment

Subscribe to receive notifications of follow up comments via email.
We are processing your request. If you don't see any confirmation within 30 seconds, please reload your page.

Search This Blog

Full Text  Tag

Recent Entries

Everyone has heard of them as being the best car out there, mainly cause of gas prices. Hybrids are sweeping…
People everywhere are breaking up, just in time for the holidays. And the more couples I see parting ways, the…
Pregnancy Tests
While browsing Andrew's blog and looking to see all of the posts that I missed (I'm pretty sure I haven't…

Old Contributions