We use body language every single day. We often end up judging people based on their body language. So now the question is, ‘What really is body language?’ The next question that follows is ‘How much really do we know about body language?’
Let us find out answers to these questions in our article on body language facts.
Body Language Facts: 1-5
1. The scientific term for body language is kinesics (pronounce it as kin-EE-siks).
2. Body language is not just about body parts’ movements. It is also about facial expressions.
3. It can be voluntary or conscious or it can be involuntary or subconscious. Whether voluntary or involuntary, body language always conveys some kind of information.
4. Humans are not the only ones that make use of body language. There are several other animals that make use of kinesics to express information.
5. Body language is either a mood mirror or a mood betrayer. It reinforces speech and also replaces speech. Of these three uses, speech replacement is a conscious act.
Body Language Facts: 6-10
6. Chirologia: Or the Natural Language of the Hand was the first ever modern handbook published on body language. It was published in 1644 and was authored by John Bulwer. The book dealt with hand movements.
7. Ogling someone’s body is also a body language because it involves eyes and eyes in turn are a part of facial expression.
8. It may look like men check out women’s bodies more than women check out men’s bodies. This is not true. The ogling rate is the same for both men and women. The only problem is that men get caught very quickly and women don’t.
9. Why does that happen? That’s because women have peripheral vision with wider range, making it extremely difficult to catch them when they gaze on a male’s body. On the flip side, males are equipped with poor peripheral vision which allows women to catch them quickly while they gaze on female bodies. Isn’t that sad? Women ogle too, but men get all the blame all because of limited tunnel vision!
10. Just by noticing the blinking rate of the eyes, it can be said whether a person is lying or not. Eyes blink faster while lying or when people are under stress. The normal blinking rate is 6 times to 8 times in 60 seconds. This ramps up dramatically under stress.
Body Language Facts: 11-15
11. When people come too close to us, we tend to get repelled and increase the distance to a point where we are comfortable. This comfortable distance is known as a personal bubble.
12. The size of the personal bubble differs for different cultures and of course from one person to another. For instance, Japanese are quite happy to find you standing 10 inches away. Americans will prefer anywhere between 18 inches and 48 inches. A person from a rural setting will have a bigger personal bubble compared to a person from an urban setting.
13. During a conversation if a person suddenly crosses both arms and both legs, it simply indicates that he or she is done with the conversation on an emotional level.
14. Surprise, sadness, fear, disgust, happiness and anger are considered facial expressions that are universal by nature. However, currently experts have been arguing that facial expressions that convey embarrassment and contempt are also universal by nature.
15. Women imitate other women more than men imitate other men based on instincts. Women also tend to imitate the body language of men, but again, the opposite is not true. Men will imitate the body language of women only during courtship.
Body Language Facts: 16-20
16. Men have a unique way of showing dominance. This is nothing but a crotch display while sitting. They will plant their feet on ground very firmly and spread them out giving a clear view of their crotch. This is hardwired in males and does not require a conscious effort.
17. In several areas of the world, socialization is displayed through physical contact during daily interactions. Southern Europe, Indian subcontinent, China, Latin America, Japan, Latin America are examples of such culture. These cultures are technically known as ‘high contact cultures’.
18. Similarly there are several cultures which are classified as ‘non-contact cultures’. Examples will be Far East, Northern Europe, which includes Britain. Their daily social interactions don’t include physical contact.
19. In several studies it has been found that men tend to be attracted more to those women who laugh at them. On the other side, women are more attracted to those men who they laugh at more.
20. When a man is caught saying, “Ah! She has an excellent sense of humor”, all he means is that the woman laughs more when he cracks jokes. He never means that the woman is good at cracking jokes!
Body Language Facts: 21-25
21. One of the most interesting pacifying acts that we commit when we are in stress is that of stroking or touching our neck. Women are more frequent with this one especially when they are fearful, stressed, distressed, uncomfortable or feel threatened. The area that women specifically touch – subconsciously – is the neck dimple which is the hollow area right between their breast bone and Adam’s apple.
22. Face platter is a courtship gesture which is commonly used by gay men and women. In this gesture, a person will simply place the palm of one hand on top of the dorsum (back side of the palm) of the other hand and place the chin on them in a way as if the face has been placed on a platter. It is more like offering the face for admiration or kiss.
23. Women touch their neck dimples during stressful conditions. What about the men? They prefer their face and yes, face touching by men is also a subconscious move.
24. In most of the areas in this world, when two people of the same gender maintain prolonged eye contact, it is usually considered as a sign of hostility, confrontation or aggression. This is usually the case in countries of Latin America, Africa and Asia.
However, when we move to the West, this is pretty normal. Moving to the Middle East, prolonged eye contact between people of the same gender is absolutely normal and it is not just normal, it is rather sustained and intense without any intention of hostility.
25. When threatened, our instinctual behavior is flight response. This means that when we are threatened, we have a tendency of fleeing the spot. This is usually seen in case of animals. However, modern humans have adapted to a great extent. Under threatening conditions, we now incline towards evasive actions subconsciously rather than resorting to flight response. Some of the most common evasive actions that we use are:
- Rubbing eyes.
- Closing eyes.
- Placing objects like keys, purses etc. on our laps.
- Leaning away (especially from the person or thing that is threatening us).
- Subconsciously turning our feet towards the exit area, but not actually fleeing.
Body Language Facts: 26-30
26. When we feel anxious or disagree with something or perhaps we are in a state of disbelief, we tend to keep our eyes closed for a prolonged time. We may also look down for a longer time or perhaps we may cover our eyes with our palms for a prolonged time. All these actions are extremely powerful non-verbal gestures and are collectively known as eye blocking.
27. When it comes to neck massaging or touching, pregnant women slightly differently. They will start with their neck and then move their hand along their chest and then to their stomach. This unconscious move is more like an act of covering the fetus from the stress she is experiencing.
28. It is not just massaging or touching of the neck that pacifies us to a great extent. Other activities like using tongue to rub or massage cheeks and lips from inside the mouth is also a pacifying gesture. Scientists have figured out that these gestures send signals to our brain which in turn releases stress-relieving hormone known as endorphin.
29. One great body language to detect deception is to check for leg cleansing. This is an act where a person will simply place his or her hands (palms) on thighs and slide them down continuously towards the knee.
Once the palms reach the knees, they will subconsciously drag their palms up again and repeat the action. However, sometimes innocent folks who are very tense in a situation may also use the same body language. Overall, it is nothing but a pacifying action.
30. A great way to identify a person’s true intentions is to observe his or her legs. During a conversation, two people will usually stand or sit face to face with their toes pointing at each other.
At a point where a person finally disagrees during the discussion, he or she will subconsciously slightly move his or her feet outwards or will continuously move one leg in outward direction. This body language means disagreement and a sign that the person disagreeing wants to leave.
Body Language Facts: 31-35
31. Self-hugging is a body action which indicates that a person is trying to pacify himself or herself. In this body language, the person will cross his or her arms and put them on opposite shoulders and then use the palms to rub from shoulders to elbows. This is usually how mothers pacify their babies when they are stressed for some reason.
32. There is something called ventilation action. This is a subconscious action which helps to relieve stress. In men, the action will involve tucking in a finger between the neck and the shirt or t-shirt collar area and pulling the fabric away from skin. When this action takes place in a perfectly normal temperature, it simply indicates that the man is trying to get rid of the stress.
33. In the case of women, ventilation action involves hair. They will simply take their hands to the back of their heads, slide in the fingers underneath the hair and toss their hair, baring the backs of their necks in an attempt to create an escape gateway stress.
34. When caught in a confrontational situation, people will spread out their legs and feet. There are two reasons for this. First, it is just a gesture that helps them to maintain their balance and second, spreading out legs and feet simply means they are trying to gain as much territory as possible to reflect dominance. The second reason is merely a subconscious action and comes naturally.
35. Apart from confrontational situations, people may still be found standing with legs and feet spread out even during day-to-day activities. Though habitual and a subconscious act, it actually turns out that those people are far more confident, are self-assured and often have a higher social status.
Body Language Facts: 36-40
36. When two people sit side by side and keep their legs crossed in a fashion that one leg crosses over the top of the other, the direction in which the top leg is crossed reveals a message.
First, if the crossed over leg is pointing towards the other person, it simply means that the person is comfortable around the other person.
Second, if the crossed over leg is pointing in the opposite direction to the other person, it simply means that the person is not very comfortable around the seat next to him or her.
37. Again, if two seated people are engaged in conversation (usually a social interaction) in which both of them are extremely comfortable, their legs will subconsciously mirror the legs of each other. This is technically referred to as isopraxism.
38. The sudden kicking of a foot of a seated person reveals that the person is in a state of discomfort caused by an external stimulus. For example, a terrible question asked by the interviewer during an interview. If the interviewee is not comfortable with the question, this body language usually shows up.
39. Similar to feet movement, discomfort is also often indicated by sudden crossing of the arms. For instance, during a meeting, a person may suddenly, out of no reason cross an arm and reach out to coat button to button it up. Once the conversation with a disagreeable person is over, the person will undo the button and get back to their previous condition.
40. Be careful about splaying out on a couch or a chair while in a seated condition. It can simply mean that you are feeling comfy on your seat but as far as others are concerned, a wrong message can be sent out by splaying. It may mean, to some people, showing disrespect. Some may see it as an attempt to establish dominance. Splaying during interviews is never a good idea.