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Body language is a form of mental and physical ability of human non-verbal communication, which consists of body posture, gestures, facial expressions, and eye movements. Humans send and interpret such signals almost entirely subconsciously.
James Borg states that human communication consists of 93 percent body language and paralinguistic cues, while only 7% of communication consists of words themselves; however, Albert Mehrabian, the researcher whose 1960s work is the source of these statistics, has stated that this is a misunderstanding of the findings (see Misinterpretation of Mehrabian's rule). Others assert that "Research has suggested that between 60 and 70 percent of all meaning is derived from nonverbal behavior."
Body language may provide clues as to the attitude or state of mind of a person. For example, it may indicate aggression, attentiveness, boredom, relaxed state, pleasure, amusement, and intoxication, among many other cues.
Understanding body language
The technique of "reading" people is used frequently. For example, the idea of mirroring body language to put people at ease is commonly used in interviews. Mirroring the body language of someone else indicates that they are understood. It is important to note that some indicators of emotion (e.g. smiling/laughing when happy, frowning/crying when sad) are largely universal;, however in the 1990s Paul Ekman expanded his list of basic emotions, including a range of positive and negative emotions, not all of which are encoded in facial muscles. The newly included emotions are:
- Pride in achievement
- Sensory pleasure
Body language signals may have a goal other than communication. People would keep both these two in mind. Observers limit the weight they place on non-verbal cues. Signalers clarify their signals to indicate the biological origin of their actions. Examples would include yawning (sleepiness), showing lack of interest (sexual interest/survival interest), attempts to change the topic (fight or flight drivers).
Physical expressions like waving, pointing, touching and slouching are all forms of nonverbal communication. The study of body movement and expression is known as kinesics. Humans move their bodies when communicating because, as research has shown, it helps "ease the mental effort when communication is difficult." Physical expressions reveal many things about the person using them. For example, gestures can emphasize a point or relay a message, posture can reveal boredom or great interest, and touch can convey encouragement or caution.
- One of the most basic and powerful body-language signals is when a person crosses his or her arms across the chest. This can indicate that a person is putting up an unconscious barrier between themselves and others. It can also indicate that the person's arms are cold, which would be clarified by rubbing the arms or huddling. When the overall situation is amicable, it can mean that a person is thinking deeply about what is being discussed. But in a serious or confrontational situation, it can mean that a person is expressing opposition. This is especially so if the person is leaning away from the speaker. A harsh or blank facial expression often indicates outright hostility.
- Consistent eye contact can indicate that a person is thinking positively of what the speaker is saying. It can also mean that the other person doesn't trust the speaker enough to "take their eyes off" the speaker. Lack of eye contact can indicate negativity. On the other hand, individuals with anxiety disorders are often unable to make eye contact without discomfort. Eye contact can also be a secondary and misleading gesture because cultural norms about it vary widely. If a person is looking at you, but is making the arms-across-chest signal, the eye contact could be indicative that something is bothering the person, and that he wants to talk about it. Or if while making direct eye contact, a person is fiddling with something, even while directly looking at you, it could indicate the attention is elsewhere. Also, there are three standard areas that a person will look which represent different states of being. If the person looks from one eye to the other, then to the forehead, it is a sign that they are taking an authoritative position. If they move from one eye to the other, then to the nose, that signals that they are engaging in what they consider to be a "level conversation" with neither party holding superiority. The last case is from one eye to the other and then down to the lips. This is a strong indication of romantic feelings.
- Disbelief is often indicated by averted gaze, or by touching the ear or scratching the chin. When a person is not being convinced by what someone is saying, the attention invariably wanders, and the eyes will stare away for an extended period.
- Boredom is indicated by the head tilting to one side, or by the eyes looking straight at the speaker but becoming slightly unfocused. A head tilt may also indicate a sore neck or Amblyopia, and unfocused eyes may indicate ocular problems in the listener.
- Interest can be indicated through posture or extended eye contact, such as standing and listening properly.
- Deceit or the act of withholding information can sometimes be indicated by touching the face during conversation. Excessive blinking is a well-known indicator of someone who is lying. Recently[when?], evidence has surfaced that the absence of blinking can also represent lying as a more reliable factor than excessive blinking. 
Some people use and understand body language differently, or not at all. Interpreting their gestures and facial expressions (or lack thereof) in the context of normal body language usually leads to misunderstandings and misinterpretations (especially if body language is given priority over spoken language). It should also be stated that people from different cultures can interpret body language in different ways.
How prevalent is non-verbal communication in humans?
Some researchers[who?] put the level of nonverbal communication as high as 80 percent of all communication when it could be at around 50-65 percent. Different studies have found differing amounts, with some studies showing that facial communication is believed 4.3 times more often than verbal meaning, and another finding that verbal communication in a flat tone is 4 times more likely to be understood than a pure facial expression. Albert Mehrabian is noted for finding a 7%-38%-55% rule, supposedly denoting how much communication was conferred by words, tone, and body language. However he was only referring to cases of expressing feelings or attitudes.
Introduced by Edward T. Hall in 1966, proxemics is the study of measurable distances between people as they interact with one another. The distance between people in a social situation often discloses information about the type of relationship between the people involved. Proximity may also reveal the type of social setting taking place. There is an intimate zone reserved for lovers, children and close family members. This zone is between six and eighteen inches. 1.5 to 4 feet is the distance that friends or associates will generally be within. That is, people that are close but not necessarily on a regular touching basis. Between 4 and 12 feet is the zone for more social environments. These are familiar people such as co-workers or someone else that is seen occasionally throughout the week. The outer end of this zone is reserved for newly formed groups, and new acquaintances. The last zone accruing between 10 and 25 feet and is known to be public distance. This area of space is used for speeches, lectures and theater; essentially, public distance is the range reserved for larger audiences or for people that are not familiar.
Recently[when?], there has been huge interest in studying human behavioral clues that could be useful for developing an interactive and adaptive human-machine system. Unintentional human gestures such as making an eye rub, a chin rest, a lip touch, a nose itch, a head scratch, an ear scratch, crossing arms, and a finger lock have been found conveying some useful information in specific context. Some researchers[who?] have tried to extract such gestures in a specific context of educational applications. In poker games, such gestures are referred to as "tells" and are useful to players for detecting deception or behavioral patterns in an opponent(s).
There is also a huge interest in learning to avoid any unintentional gesture that might leave a negative impression on the onlookers. A large number of people are starting to attend special sessions on controlled body behaviour and take advice from expert sociologists. Learning good body language, such as living styles of foreign people, is important during interaction in any sort of global community.
- List of gestures
- Posture (psychology)
- Paul Ekman
- ^ Borg, James. Body Language: 7 Easy Lessons to Master the Silent Language. FT Press, 2010, ISBN 9780137002603
- ^ More or Less. BBC Radio 4. 13:30–14:00.
- ^ Engleberg,Isa N. Working in Groups: Communication Principles and Strategies. My Communication Kit Series, 2006. page 133
- ^ see also wiki on "Lie to Me"
- ^ Engleberg,Isa N. Working in Groups: Communication Principles and Strategies. My Communication Kit Series, 2006. page 137
- ^ "Closed body language". Changingminds.org. Retrieved 2011-10-31.
- ^ "The Times | UK News, World News and Opinion". Timesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-10-31.
- ^ ^ Hall, Edward T. (1966). The Hidden Dimension. Anchor Books. ISBN 0-385-08476-5
- ^ Engleberg,Isa N. Working in Groups: Communication Principles and Strategies. My Communication Kit Series, 2006. page 140-141
- Body language is of particular importance in large groups by Tarnow, E. published 1997
- Hess Pupil Dilation Findings: Sex or Novelty? Social Behavior and Personality , 1998 by Aboyoun, Darren C, Dabbs, James M Jr
- Understanding body languag