Body language has all sorts of influences on people and we use it to communicate in many situations without even being aware that we are doing so. Most of us have a vague understanding of what body language is but might be hard pressed to pin a definition on the concept. Essentially though it is reasonably straightforward. Body language is any method of communication using our body. It includes both verbal (what we say, our tone and the volume we use) and non-verbal (body movements, facial epressions, hand gestures and posture. !hese different elements sometimes communicate more than we mean them to and they have accurately been described as "a silent orchestra that can have long-lasting repercussions#.
In recent years body language has entered into popular culture, helped in no small part by television game shows such as $ould I %ie to &ou' and crime dramas lie !he Mentalist and %ie
to Me. Even in the political realm body language has become a hot button topic with speaers# every move being analysed in freee frame to identify which candidate wins the body language contest during the presidential debate. It would be rational to thin that we could easily tell what someone is thining and whether they are lying *ust from a hand gesture or a crossed arm, but of course it is far less straightforward than that.
“I speak two languages, Body and English” - Mae West
Myths of #ody language
You can always tell what someone is thinking
!hat a little nowledge is a dangerous thing is a truism that definitely applies to body language. +s the sub*ect has become increasingly popular it has led us to mae assumptions about what a person is thining based on their body language. $hen we see a person covering their mouth or when their voice becomes high pitched we automatically thin they are lying, whereas in reality these actions can simply indicate that the person is feeling under stress. esearch by aul Elman and others has found that we are etremely poor at telling when a person is lying - around /0/ or about the same as if we guessed randomly.
People who are lying aoid eye contact
!hey will not meet my eye so therefore they must be lying1 !his is a common misconception about body language and comes from the belief that a person who is lying nows they will be found out because their eyes will show the deception. !he corollary is that people who loo us in the eye are telling the truth. 2owever, some people are so confident that they can braen out a situation where their lie may be uncovered that they can loo at the listener directly even though they now they are lying. Indeed, because it is commonly nown that maintaining eye contact is ey to being believed some people overcompensate by staring at the other person. Interestingly, psychopaths, sociopaths and other psychologically malad*usted individuals have often developed the ability to maintain fied eye contact. Interestingly, in some games such as poer the myth may hold out. layers who avoid eye contact sometimes do so because they are bluffing with a low value hand.
People look to the right when they are telling a lie
!he basis for this is that we thin creatively with the right side of our brains and therefore if we mae up something that is false we will instinctively loo over at that side. 2owever, humans actually store memories in different places and we all loo at different points when we are retrieving a memory. !his may be to the left, right or dead centre and can be up or down, depending on the person. !herefore if a person loos in a particular direction it does not prove that a person is either telling the truth or lying. 2owever, people are consistent so it is possible to gauge with an untruth with greater accuracy if we do a little groundwor. If we as a couple of 3uestions that we now will elicit a truthful response, such as how they travelled in that day we can identify where the person "stores# their memories. !hese anchor 3uestions can guide us as to the person#s future responses and tell us when they are telling the truth.
!rossing your arms means "#o$%
+lthough it sometimes does indicate that the person does not want to listen to the message they are hearing it can also mean that the person feels comfortable in that position or even *ust that they are cold. 4rossing arms can also help
to concentrate. !he same is true for people who cross their legs. 5ften people are *ust comfortable in this position.