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Don't Read My Lips PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Karen Stollznow   

 

“When you run your hands through your hair like that it makes me think you’re flirting with me,” a colleague said recently.

I replied, “Maybe I’m not flirting, but I’m getting my hair out of my eyes, or detangling my hair, or it’s a nervous habit, or I have dandruff, or I’m readjusting my wig.”

Someone’s been reading those self-help books about so-called “Body Language”…

Linguistics, kinesics and semiotics are among the disciplines that attempt to observe and describe gesture and other forms of non-verbal communication.

On the other hand (excuse the pun), Body Language “experts” claim they can “read” posture, facial expressions, and other body movements. But people try to conceal their thoughts and emotions, and our own bodies reveal too much. It’s a conspiracy. Authorities on Body Language can supposedly decode these thoughts and feelings, disclose innermost desires, unlock the powers of intuition, provide searing insights, expose secrets, and uncover the hidden meanings behind our behavior.

These self-proclaimed specialists fancy themselves as behavioral scientists, or detectives who see clues in our cues, inspired by Sherlock Holmes and TV shows such as Lie To Me. They are motivational speakers, authors of self-help books, and gossip-mongers of tabloids and the talk show circuit. They ‘analyze’ photographs of celebrities to decipher personality traits, to guess who’s in bed with who, and predict who’s dumping who. They ‘interpret’ footage of political debates, speeches and interviews, to find underlying meaning and detect deception.

With the help of Body Language experts, you can be a success. Buy their books, attend their workshops, follow their programs, systems and methods and you too can harness these techniques to achieve your goals. They will provide you with the tools you need to give you confidence, to catch a liar in the act, to ace that job interview, to attract love, and to stop sending out those “wrong messages”.

Advocates claim there is standardized meaning in the way you sit, stand and walk, how you shake hands and lick your lips, or run your hands through your hair. Like a visual polygraph test, they believe that answering a question and touching your nose a certain way, or an involuntary subtle shift in your eye, betrays a lie. Crossing your arms indicates defensiveness, or a lack of openness; while rubbing the stem of a glass suggests that subconsciously, you want to rub something (or someone) else.

Body language gurus (“Wellness Coaches”, “Personal Impact Coaches” and “Master Communicators”) promote the use of their techniques in conjunction with other alternative therapies. Tonya Reiman also practices hypnotherapy, Allan and Barbara Pease recommend Neuro-Linguistic Programming, and Elizabeth Kuhnke uses chromotherapy (i.e., color therapy). Followers of Bioenergetic Analysis claim that Body Language can heal, while Shelly Hagen’s Everything Body Language Book reeks of Feng Shui; “Cashmere and cotton, for example, are soft and inviting, suggesting that the wearer is a gentle soul. Hard materials, like leather or boiled wool, keep others at a distance.” (p.173)

Like Infomercials that claim we only use 10% of our brains, Body Language theorizes that only 7% of our communication is verbal (or 15%, or 20%, and so on). There has been much research on this topic, but no study has categorically proven there’s a precise ratio of verbal to nonverbal communication.

Overall, the literature is unconvincing. Books about Body Language are full of anecdotal evidence and sound bytes. They include pages of references, but no citations or footnotes. Their claims, theories and models are unsupported by evidence. They invoke the names of legitimate scholars and irrelevant research to validate the practice. Charles Darwin’s The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex addresses the importance of gesture and sign language, and suggests that gestures are relevant to the origins of language. Body Language books seize this reference, and misinterpret and overextend Darwin’s arguments.

Some claim the universality of gestures, expressions and behaviors. Tonya Reiman’s Body Language University has developed the Reiman Rapport Method, a “ten step process to master universally pleasing body language”. Yet the infamous “Smiling Bomber” Amrozi demonstrated that a smile can also signal confidence and defiance; and while the thumbs-up gesture favored by hitchhikers might get you a ride in the States, it could get you beaten up in Greece. There are immense differences in habits and customs across cultures, making Body Language about as scientific as physiognomy, (the belief that the facial appearance indicates personality).

Body Language is not a legitimate study or a solution to your problems. Some readers might still think, “There’s something to it! I know when someone’s angry or happy!” Some even worry that reading Body Language is an invasion of privacy, or a type of manipulation.

This article doesn’t dispute that nonverbal actions carry meaning, or that we are receptive to nonverbal communication. But there is no formula for understanding behavior, and every act has numerous potential meanings and causes. Behavior is subject to context, intent and interpretation. It can be affected by illness, and is influenced by culture and socialization. It changes at the level of the individual. Reading behavior is simply the observer’s subjective interpretation, and is open to misinterpretation.

The analogy to ‘reading’ is helpful. The study of Body Language is a kind of cold reading or body divination to predict thought; but it’s superficial, unreliable and potentially risky.

So be careful the next time you approach the woman who seems to be looking at you and stroking the stem of her wine glass. You might just get that wine thrown in your face.

 

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Oooh, scary!
written by COOL Skeptic, May 22, 2009
Of course we must anticipate discovery of algorithms that will enable high-tech body language scanners to recognize terrorists in the crowd and at ports of entry. If Dick Cheney were in charge there would be a large black budget for development of this technology. They will not stop there, but will try to program in the ability to scientifically read auras to make it easier to nab terrorists, even if they are still infants. The world will be a safer place. Those guilty of evil acts or thoughts will be punished, so religions will disappear.

The pioneers in this science will receive honorary degrees from Liberty University.

Or not.
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written by MadScientist, May 22, 2009
On many occasions I've been the victim of people reading such silly stuff. "You say this and do that, but your body language tells me this." On such occasions the nicest thing I can say is "I see you haven't canceled your subscription to Cleo yet".

So there are people out there who will read your head, your eyes, your lips, your palms, your aura, your body - and all for a chance at getting into your wallet - or, it seems, into your pants. Perhaps you could give your colleague another tip: become a catholic priest.
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Idle arms
written by TS, May 22, 2009
Crossing your arms indicates defensiveness, or a lack of openness


This particular piece idiocy has annoyed me to no end. If you are having conversation, either sitting or standing and you're not Italian, that's a very comfortable way to rest your arms without looking like a caveman.
It have done some good I guess, it opened my eye to another leg of "science" that need a closer sceptical scrutiny.
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Red Wine & Roses
written by BillyJoe, May 23, 2009
I am often on the verge of giving up reading Swift in frustration but, Goddamn, then someone comes along and actually writes something worth reading and I'm pulled back again.



Thank you,
BillyJoe
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JREF = free SEO marketing for the bad guys
written by clray, May 23, 2009
By including links in your article without the NOFOLLOW tag, you are providing free Google juice to the people that you criticize, even using their selected keywords. Good job, skeptics.
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written by bosshog, May 23, 2009
The theory seems to be that we lie with words but reveal the truth with body motions and posture.
So...
The only books on body language that can be trusted are picture books and the only lectures done in pantomime.
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written by bosshog, May 23, 2009
The one body motion these jokers ARE good at reading is the "reaching into the hip pocket" motion. It means you are gullible.
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written by jhuger, May 23, 2009
clray: that's a good point about NOFOLLOW, but it might have been more useful if you'd phrased it as suggestion rather than an attack, and explained what you were talking about in a way that everyone could understand, like this:

Search engines like Google have complex and closely guarded criteria for ranking pages. One of the things they take into account is how many other sites link to a given site. By putting links to a site here you're increasing the page ranking of those sites by some amount. You can avoid doing this by adding a rel="NOFOLLOW" to the a tag in the HTML, like this:
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oy, the example got edited out
written by jhuger, May 23, 2009
it should be {open angle bracket} a rel="nofollow" href="http://randi.org" rel="NOFOLLOW" {close angle bracket }
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written by ttch, May 23, 2009
Body Language is not a legitimate study or a solution to your problems.

In 1940 when psychoanalysis held sway in the U.S. despite its obvious absurdities, I guess you could have said, "Psychology is not a legitimate study." No. Bad science calls for better science, not no science.

And I seriously doubt that attempting to learn others' body language has no reason to be well-respected, at least in the gambling world. Many good poker players have learned how to "get a read" on their opponents, despite their opponents trying to hide or disguise their emotions. If you think it's just chance, take a look at the results.
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Comments need preview option at least -- ignored "< quote >"
written by ttch, May 23, 2009
Comments need preview option at least -- ignored "< quote >" on first line.
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written by Skemono, May 23, 2009
Many good poker players have learned how to "get a read" on their opponents, despite their opponents trying to hide or disguise their emotions.

Possibly so. But how many of these opponents all have the same 'tell'? The body language people would have you believe that there is one universal way to know when someone is lying or something, when it can easily vary from person to person.
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bosshog
written by BillyJoe, May 23, 2009
The theory seems to be that we lie with words but reveal the truth with body motions and posture.

So the words written in all those books on body language are all lies and, if we could see the smirks on the faces of those who write them, we wouldn't be able to tell that they are just trying to sell us useless books full of lies...but it might just be a good educated guess.
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written by Caller X, May 23, 2009
Red Wine & Roses
written by BillyJoe, May 23, 2009
I am often on the verge of giving up reading Swift in frustration but, Goddamn, then someone comes along and actually writes something worth reading and I'm pulled back again.


Given your posting frequency that's hard to believe (forgive me for being skeptical). Please post a link to the article you mentioned.
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written by Caller X, May 23, 2009
Comments need preview option at least -- ignored "< quote >"
written by ttch, May 23, 2009
Comments need preview option at least -- ignored "< quote >" on first line.
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Well, you're right but you're wrong. You could have clicked on the "B" bold icon and seen that square brackets are used for tags. Like this: square bracketquotesquare bracket text quoted here square bracket/quotesquare bracket

The people who decided not to help you out, douches? Not my call.
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written by Caller X, May 23, 2009
Regarding the hitchhiking gesture, gestures and body language are two separate things. Another skeptic employing a strawman. Sad.
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x
written by BillyJoe, May 23, 2009
Please post a link to the article you mentioned.

Hey? Are we on the same page or what? smilies/wink.gif

BJ
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written by redwench, May 23, 2009
The problem with these "body language" types, is that they take what may be a reasonably useful general observation and apply it to the specific individual. A woman tilting her head and playing with her hair can frequently be an indication of romantic interest, but it is not certain. She might just be frustrated with her hair smilies/tongue.gif

My theory is that body language is the backup plan, where you cannot get such information in a more concrete manner. It's probably better than a blind guess, but not by much...
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Reliance on one particular method
written by StaudtCJ, May 23, 2009
I see these books, and their broad-brush strokes, and wonder if this isn't a case of the Carpenter. I don't recall who said it, but there was a saying "When the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems begin to look like nails." With the research into microexpressions, lying, unconscious or non-deliberate cues, and flirting, there have been some definite results in typical behavior patterns. Applying these generalized patterns to all situations, however, and all people, is the mistake.

I think, though I have no evidence except anecdotal at this point, that many people find something that simplifies their interpretation of reality and apply it everywhere. I have met AA members that think their meetings are the end all and be all of solving the world's problems. I know an individual on antidepressants that thinks that most of the unpleasant people around her are just depressed and need medication. I do not agree with this view, but I think it allows people to feel they have an "in" or a special insight into the world around them. Perhaps gives them a feeling of control?

In any case, I see no appreciable difference between the person that thinks that kohash or ginseng and all the other herbal remedies are the ultimate cure and the one that believes that they can see the "inner you" by watching your eyes twitch. Ginseng has uses in some medical situations (according to scientific research). Body language can be interpreted (in general ways, usually). These things are true. However, there is evidence that Ginseng won't cure cancer, and body language won't give you anything more than a warm reading would (with the exception of a scientific expert with long-term personal and professional knowledge of my mannerisms). People who take body language books as their new gospel are as woowoo as those who believe that angels arrived a long time ago and procreated with humans, causing Noah's great flood.
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written by José, May 24, 2009
Regarding the hitchhiking gesture, gestures and body language are two separate things.


A good point from Caller X? What the hell is going on?

Another skeptic employing a strawman. Sad.


And you just had to ruin.
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written by milquetoast, May 25, 2009
Call me woowoo but I think there is some valid research on expressions. True, most body language books are junk, NLP is junk, etc, inconsistent, unreliable, anecdotal or just plain silly. They have to be for entertainment purposes when they promise to teach you how to attract a mate, or how to manipulate people, or whatever. But that doesn't mean all studies are junk. I don't think Ekman's work is all junk. He doesn't suggest to anyone to rely solely on expressions. Sure the tv show is really phony but he started out his research to either prove or disprove Darwin's "Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals" Anything anecdotal should be studied. Why not?
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What is Body Language?
written by BillyJoe, May 25, 2009
x,

Regarding the hitchhiking gesture, gestures and body language are two separate things.

Jose,

A good point from Caller X? What the hell is going on?


Aw look I hate to break it you two but:

http://dictionary.reference.co...y language

"nonverbal, usually unconscious, communication through the use of postures, gestures, facial expressions, and the like."

"The gestures, postures, and facial expressions by which a person manifests various physical, mental, or emotional states and communicates nonverbally with others."


And a friendly piece of advice to you Jose:

If you contradict a Linguist on linguistics you had better be sure of your facts. smilies/wink.gif
And If you back x, you'd better be prepared to be wrong. smilies/grin.gif

regards,
BillyJoe
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written by StaudtCJ, May 25, 2009
milquetoast, if the "call me woowoo" comment was directed at me, I'll pass. That was sort of my point. There is research, fledgling in some cases, but it is there, that body language and subconscious clues exist and can be used to flesh out meaning. I call woowoo those that read a book on "how to tell when she's flirting" or some such rot, and and apply those ideas to every single situation they come across. My anecdotal evidence is in the idea that a person can come across something that works for them for one situation, and think it should be applied to every situation. You and I have no disagreement, and are on the same page. If the comment was not directed towards me, then I apologize for taking everyone's time with a pointless post.
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written by José, May 25, 2009
@BillyJoe
Nah, I still think you're wrong. I think the key thing for body language is that it's unconscious, and that's what Body Language experts claim they can read. Sticking your thumb in the air while walking down a highway is equivalent to yelling “I need a ride”.
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@ BJ
written by pxatkins, May 25, 2009
Well, I back x. Clearly, even your lifted definition from the no-name dictionary indicates that one (body language) employs another (gestures). Ergo, two different things.

And if you're going to use your credentials as a weapon you'd better make sure of your facts. Hmmm ... where have I heard that before? smilies/wink.gif
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Jose: your definition is too restrictive
written by BillyJoe, May 25, 2009


Nah, I still think you're wrong.
If I'm right, it doesn't actually matter that you still think that I am wrong. smilies/wink.gif
I think the key thing for body language is that it's unconscious
Which I suppose is why experts in body language teach you how to use it to impress your girfriend or potential employer.
Sticking your thumb in the air while walking down a highway is equivalent to yelling “I need a ride”.

It is a non-verbal method of indicating "please give me a ride", thereby satisfying the definition of body language.

BJ
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pxatkins:
written by BillyJoe, May 25, 2009
Well, I back x.
Then clearly you must be wrong. smilies/grin.gif

Clearly, even your lifted definition from the no-name dictionary indicates that one (body language) employs another (gestures).Ergo, two different things.
Then body language must also employ "postures" and "facial expressions". So, if it is the case that body language only employs all these features, please tell me what body language is.

And if you're going to use your credentials as a weapon you'd better make sure of your facts.
I'm not the Linguists. Karen Stolznow, the author of this article - the person whose knowledge you are challenging - is a Linguist. smilies/grin.gif

regards,
BJ
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written by José, May 25, 2009
@BillyJoe
Which I suppose is why experts in body language teach you how to use it to impress your girfriend or potential employer.

They claim to teach you how to read and control gestures which are normally unconscious.
It is a non-verbal method of indicating "please give me a ride", thereby satisfying the definition of body language.

So by your definition, sign language is entirely body language? I don't think that's what the linguist means by body language. There may be examples of body language varying by culture, but I don't think sticking your thumb in the air to get a ride qualifies.
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For examples of body language variations between cultures...
written by medains, May 25, 2009
Manwatching: Field Guide to Human Behaviour by Desmond Morris

Republished more recently as

Peoplewatching: The Desmond Morris Guide to Body Language

Morris examines an enormous number of different movements and gestures, often postulating a possible explanation for the development of that particular gesture for that purpose, breaking them down into inborn actions (everyone has them, even blind babies), discovered actions (everyone has them in some form and developed them mostly during early childhood), and learned actions (picked up from observing others doing the same). He also points out a large number of cases where the learned actions differ significantly in different cultures.

This is more of an anthropological study of humans than a "guidebook" to unconscious language.

This book is used as a reference work by animators in order to make their work more lifelike - I've not heard of anyone using the popular modern Body Language books for the same purpose.
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written by Basscadet, May 25, 2009
Erm... why would hitch hiking thumb up gesture get u beaten up in Greece? Hell, even Greeks use it. Maybe you are confusing it with the open palm insult gesture?
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Basscadet:: Where did you get that idea?
written by BillyJoe, May 26, 2009
why would hitch hiking thumb up gesture get u beaten up in Greece? Hell, even Greeks use it. Maybe you are confusing it with the open palm insult gesture?

The thumbs up gesture is used as a hitch-hiking gesture in most parts of the world. However, in Greece, it means "up yours" or "get stuffed" and, instead of getting you a lift, is likely to get you beaten up. If hitch-hiking in Greece, the open palm (waved up and down) should be used instead. It is not an insult gesture.

BJ
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Jose
written by BillyJoe, May 26, 2009
They claim to teach you how to read and control gestures which are normally unconscious.

Yes, AND they teach you how to use body language to your own advantage. In which case it is not unconscious.

So by your definition, sign language is entirely body language?

Firstly, it was not my definition but a dictionary definition. Secondly, please show where in the definition it says body language includes "sign language". All I see is "geatures", "body posture", and "facial expressions".

I don't think that's what the linguist means by body language. There may be examples of body language varying by culture, but I don't think sticking your thumb in the air to get a ride qualifies.

But, if you are wrong, it doesn't matter what you think smilies/wink.gif

regards,
BillyJoe
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written by José, May 26, 2009
@BillyJoe
Yes, AND they teach you how to use body language to your own advantage. In which case it is not unconscious.

The thumbs up gesture is always conscious.

Firstly, it was not my definition but a dictionary definition.

The definition also said usually unconscious.

Secondly, please show where in the definition it says body language includes "sign language".

It doesn't. The thumbs up gesture is literally a sign that everyone recognizes to mean “I need a ride”. If the thumbs up gesture qualifies as body language, then so does any other sign.

But, if you are wrong, it doesn't matter what you think


Don't worry. I'm not smilies/tongue.gif
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written by BillyJoe, May 26, 2009
"I think the key thing for body language is that it's unconscious"
"They claim to teach you how to read and control gestures which are normally unconscious."
"The thumbs up gesture is always conscious."

So you saying that, to qualify as body language, it must first be unconscious - until it is taught and then it can be (and will be) conscious.
So the thumbs up gesture is not body language because it is always conscious? How do think the thumbs up gesture originated then? Do you think some people got together and decided that they needed a symbol for hitchikers and decided it would be the a thumbs up?

The definition also said usually unconscious.

Therefore not exclusively unconscious.

The thumbs up gesture is literally a sign that everyone recognizes to mean “I need a ride”.

Some interpret it to mean "up yours" or "get stuffed". Others interpret it to mean "it's OK" or "spot on".

BJ

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written by José, May 26, 2009
@BillyJoe
So you saying that, to qualify as body language, it must first be unconscious

Body language is something that is normally unconscious.


- until it is taught and then it can be (and will be) conscious.

In poker, if someone is leaning back, it's usually a sign that the player has a strong hand. If you learn to read that bit of body language, you have an advantage. Similarly, if you have a strong hand, you can consciously make sure to not lean back.


So the thumbs up gesture is not body language because it is always conscious?

No. It's because it's always conscious AND it's a sign with a definite meaning associated with it.


How do think the thumbs up gesture originated then?

Who cares? It's not relevant how thumbs up became a sign for hitching a ride. It might be interesting from an etymological perspective, but that's it.


Therefore not exclusively unconscious.

Yes, but it's clear that unconscious is the norm. If you think sticking your thumb up in the air to get a ride is an exceptions, explain why.


Some interpret it to mean "up yours" or "get stuffed". Others interpret it to mean "it's OK" or "spot on".

Again. How is that relevant? So a sign can mean different things in different contexts. One sign may mean something in American Sign Language, but something completely different in British Sign Language. That doesn't change the argument.
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Never mind then...
written by BillyJoe, May 27, 2009
Jose,

I've quoted you a dictionary definition of "body language" from which the following can be concluded:
- it can be conscious
- it includes gestures

The author of the article includes a gesture as an example of body lauguage and the author is a linguist.

If you want to continue to believe that body language does not include conscious gestures, facial expressions and body postures then I am happy for you to continue in your error.

No skin off my nose.

regards,
BillyJoe


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Karen
written by Griz, May 27, 2009
"Body Language is not a legitimate study..."

What exactly qualifies you to make that statement? You spend 9/10 of your article saying what you think this reading of body language is, then you demolish it all with one statement, no references, nothing.

Is this not taking it to the opposite extreme as the guy who read on a dating site that touching your hair was flirting? Sounds like sour grapes to me.

Come on, JREF, we used to have scholarly, well thought out articles here. Lately it's become an opinion page for skeptics with an axe to grind.
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smells like a body language expert
written by annap, May 27, 2009
I read swift for thought provoking articles not for academic studies with lengthy refs. I see that quote as a comment from an expert, not an unfounded statement.
Griz you sound like one of the body language readers in the article. smilies/tongue.gif
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written by José, May 27, 2009
@BillyJoe
I've quoted you a dictionary definition of "body language" from which the following can be concluded:
- it can be conscious
- it includes gestures

Yes, and that clearly doesn't mean every conscious gesture is body language. I've carefully explained why a thumbs up gesture to hitch a ride doesn't qualify.


The author of the article includes a gesture as an example of body lauguage and the author is a linguist.

So what. A linguist can't make a mistake about something to do with language? Don't support your arguments with lame appeals to authority.


If you want to continue to believe that body language does not include conscious gestures, facial expressions and body postures then I am happy for you to continue in your error.

Now your breaking out a straw man too? I've clearly never stated that body language cannot include conscious gestures, facial expressions and body postures. We're talking about a specific gesture that does not qualify as a body language and you know it. Grow up.
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written by BillyJoe, May 27, 2009
You started off saying:

A good point from Caller X [Regarding the hitchhiking gesture, gestures and body language are two separate things]

the key thing for body language is that it's unconscious

But then you shifted a little:

Body language is something that is normally unconscious.


You also initially said:

The thumbs up gesture is literally a sign that everyone recognizes to mean “I need a ride”

But now you agree that it means different things in different languages:

One sign [referring to thimbs up gesture] may mean something in American Sign Language, but something completely different in British Sign Language.

In fact it means different things in the same language and often by the same individual in the same language. In Australia, for example, the thumbs up gesture is used to mean three different things: "give me a lift", "up yours" "it's okay".


A linguist can't make a mistake about something to do with language?
Jose, look in your own back yard first.

Don't support your arguments with lame appeals to authority.
And it seems you don't know what this fallacy means either. Please look it up. You will find that it does not apply.
Besides which, I used two dictionary quotes to back up what the linguist was saying.

regards,
BillyJoe
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written by José, May 27, 2009
But then you shifted a little:

You questioned something I said, and I elaborated. Big deal.


But now you agree that it means different things in different languages:

Duh. I assumed this was understood. You keep making dumb points like this because you have no argument.


In fact it means different things in the same language and often by the same individual in the same language.

Once again, duh. Nobody said it doesn't. Explain how this is relevant to the issue or it's just another straw man.


And it seems you don't know what this fallacy means either. Please look it up.

Um. OK.
Argument from authority or appeal to authority is a logical fallacy, where it is argued that a statement is correct because the statement is made by a person or source that is commonly regarded as authoritative.

That's exactly what you did.


Besides which, I used two dictionary quotes to back up what the linguist was saying.

Wrong. You used to dictionary quotes that don't back up what your saying. It's clear from your own definition that conscious actions being considered body language are the exception. I've explained several times why the thumbs up gesture doesn't meet this exception. I've even given examples of things that do.

So once again, I'll ask you directly. If you think sticking your thumb up in the is an exception, explain why?
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written by BillyJoe, May 28, 2009
Jose,

I elaborated.

If, as you say, the KEY thing for body language is that it UNCONSCIOUS, how can the fact that body language can be CONSCIOUS be an "elaboration" of that?
In fact, it is in complete disagreement with it.

I assumed this was understood.

You said that the "thumbs up gesture is literally a sign that EVERYONE recognizes to mean “I need a ride”"
How can we understand from that that, in Greece and elsewhere, the thumbs up gesture means "up yours" rather than "I need a ride".
In fact, it is in complete disagreement with it.

The appeal to authority is a fallacy of irrelevance when the authority being cited is not really an authority.

Appeal to authority:
"The appeal to authority is a fallacy of irrelevance when the authority being cited is not really an authority."
"If the authorities are speaking outside of their field of expertise"

Of course an authority can be wrong - even in their area of expertise - which is why I also quoted a couple of dictionary definitions.

If you think sticking your thumb up in the is an exception, explain why?

By definition.
Read it again:
"The gestures, postures, and facial expressions by which a person manifests various physical, mental, or emotional states and communicates nonverbally with others."

BillyJoe
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written by BillyJoe, May 28, 2009
...edit to add:

I did not use the word "exception", that is your word and I reject it. The thumbs up gesture fits the definition. Period.

BJ
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written by José, May 28, 2009
@BillyJoe
If, as you say, the KEY thing for body language is that it UNCONSCIOUS, how can the fact that body language can be CONSCIOUS be an "elaboration" of that?
In fact, it is in complete disagreement with it.

Since the post was about the merits of learning to read body language, I didn't think I needed to specify usually unconscious. It's a given.


You said that the "thumbs up gesture is literally a sign that EVERYONE recognizes to mean “I need a ride.” How can we understand from that that, in Greece and elsewhere, the thumbs up gesture means "up yours" rather than "I need a ride".

Again, it's a given for gods sake! Things can have different meanings under different circumstances. And it's completely irrelevant to the issue. Why are you making this point?


By definition.
Read it again:
"The gestures, postures, and facial expressions by which a person manifests various physical, mental, or emotional states and communicates nonverbally with others."

Hmm. What happened to your other dictionary definition? I'm talking about the one that says “usually unconscious”. Could you be omitting it now because it's not so clear cut? But you'd never stoop to a dishonest tactic like that.


The thumbs up gesture fits the definition. Period.

All sign language meets your definition for body language. That's idiotic. Period.
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written by BillyJoe, May 28, 2009
I didn't think I needed to specify usually unconscious

But when you say the KEY is that it is UNCONSCIOUS, what could that possibly mean except that it CANNOT BE CONSCIOUS.
I mean I'm glad you corrected yourself but please admit your error already!

it's a given for gods sake! Why are you making this point?

I know it's not relevant to the main point, I'm simply pointing out your errors (one of many).
When you say EVERYONE recognizes it to mean I NEED A RIDE, you are wrong because there are Greeks and Sardinians who do not recognise it to mean I NEED A RIDE. They recognise the gesture as meaning UP YOURS.

What happened to your other dictionary definition? I'm talking about the one that says “usually unconscious”.

I haven't checked but I'm sure it's still there smilies/wink.gif
And, as I have pointed out before, USUALLY UNCONSCIOUS means that it CAN BE CONSCIOUS. But, why are you bothering with this? You've already conceeded my point a couple of times already.

All sign language meets your definition for body language.

Again, it's NOT MY DEFINITION.
But I disagree: The thumbs up gesture cannot be put in the same category as the elements of a formal sign language. Therefore, what applies to the thumbs up gesture cannot automatically be applied to the elements of a formal sign language.

regards,
BillyJoe
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written by José, May 28, 2009
@BillyJoe
But when you say the KEY is that it is UNCONSCIOUS, what could that possibly mean except that it CANNOT BE CONSCIOUS. I mean I'm glad you corrected yourself but please admit your error already!

As I said, I assumed any reasonable person could infer the “normally”. I already clarified my statement for you. What more do you want? Move on.


I know it's not relevant to the main point, I'm simply pointing out your errors (one of many).

No, you're pointing out stupid irrelevant things to avoid the argument. If I were to say something like “Everyone thinks O.J. was guilty”, I'm not wrong. Why? Because a reasonable person would not think I literally mean absolutely everyone. That's just how people talk. To point something out like that, which isn't even crucial to the question at hand, is desperate and petty.


And, as I have pointed out before, USUALLY UNCONSCIOUS means that it CAN BE CONSCIOUS. But, why are you bothering with this?

Because it does say USUALLY unconscious, which means a conscious action being considered body language would be unusual. Since that's the crux of the issue, I've been trying to get you to explain why the thumbs up sign is unusual in this regard. I've made my case for why it's not, and you haven't even attempted to say why it is. At this point, I can only assume it's because can't.


Again, it's NOT MY DEFINITION.

I don't care where the definition came from. It's the one you're defending, and I'm pointing out that it's an incomplete definition.


But I disagree: The thumbs up gesture cannot be put in the same category as the elements of a formal sign language.

Where in the definition does it exclude formal sign language? According to the logic you use, formal sign language must be body language. That's dumb. And it's just as dumb to include the thumbs up sign. You can't pick and choose where your definition applies.
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written by José, May 28, 2009
@BillyJoe
In summary, I want you to answer two crucial questions. You can ignore everything else.

1. In accordance with the first definition you supplied, why do you think the thumbs up sign is unusual in that it's body language?

2. In accordance with the second definition you supplied, why would the thumbs up sign be considered body language, but sign language be excluded.

That's it. Keep dodging those two points, and I'll consider the matter closed.
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It's not "Body Language"...
written by stifenlaso, May 28, 2009
I think the term "body language" has been hijacked by the woo-woo community. Nonverbal communication, on the other hand, is a legitimate and very substantial field of psychological research. Paul Ekman's work is a must, very well written and backed with evidence. Ekman has studied the facial expression of basic emotions and found it's very similar across cultures (which, BTW, backs up Darwin's hunch about the evolutionary roots of emotional expression). He gives courses to FBI and security agents on reading warning signals of impending violence and lying.

Of course, there's nothing so specific as "crossing the arms reveals a defensive mood". So Ekman's work is not a magic key to other's minds.

BTW, I think you need to define with more accuracy the meaning of "unconscious" in this context. Do you mean the person does not know he's raising his eyebrows while speaking? Or that he doesn't know this "means" he's lying? Once again, I'd suggest you read Ekman's "Emotions Revealed".
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written by BillyJoe, May 29, 2009
I assumed any reasonable person could infer the “normally”.

It is beyond belief that you could think that any reasonable person would read your phrase: "the KEY is that body language is UNCONSCIOUS" to infer that body language could also be conscious.

I already clarified my statement for you.

No, you tried to cover up yor mistake by following up with a "clarification" which was totally at odds with your original statement.

What more do you want?

Some honesty about what it is you said and what that means and doesn't mean.

Because it does say USUALLY unconscious, which means a conscious action being considered body language would be unusual. Since that's the crux of the issue, I've been trying to get you to explain why the thumbs up sign is unusual in this regard.

I think you are reading too much into the words "usual" and "unusual". It just means that numerically, unconscious body language is in the majority and conscious body langauge is in the minority. In other words, thumbs up is in the column labelled "conscious" which contains less elements than the column labelled "unconscious".

Where in the definition does it exclude formal sign language?

Well that's just a failure of comprehension on your part, because I said no such thing.
Here is what I did say (emphasis added):
"The thumbs up gesture cannot be put in the same category as the elements of a formal sign language. Therefore, what applies to the thumbs up gesture cannot automatically be applied to the elements of a formal sign language."
I hope you understand what "cannot automatically be applied" means.

According to the logic you use, formal sign language must be body language.

Wrong again.
The "elements of a formal sign language" are in a different category to "gestures". Therefore my including "gestures" in body language does not automatically mean that I have included "the elements of a formal sign language" in body language.
(Of course that doesn't automatically exclude it either)

BJ





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written by BillyJoe, May 29, 2009
In summary, I want you to answer two crucial questions. You can ignore everything else.

How convenient for you. smilies/wink.gif

1. In accordance with the first definition you supplied, why do you think the thumbs up sign is unusual in that it's body language?

Simply that it is in the column labelled "conscious" which contains less elements than the column labelled "unconscious". That's it.

2. In accordance with the second definition you supplied, why would the thumbs up sign be considered body language, but sign language be excluded.

Including thumbs up in body language has no bearing on whether or not the elements of the formal sign language are part of body language because they are in different categories. Informal gestures are not formal signs. The arguments for including or excluding each are therefore wholly separate and distinct.

That's it. Keep dodging those two points, and I'll consider the matter closed.

After all the covering up of your errors with misdirections and assumed inferences, that word "dodging" applied to my own fairly clear and straight forward responses sounds a little disingenuous if I may say so.

regards,
BillyJoe
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written by José, May 29, 2009
@BillyJoe
Simply that it is in the column labelled "conscious" which contains less elements than the column labelled "unconscious". That's it.

So you have no reason.


Including thumbs up in body language has no bearing on whether or not the elements of the formal sign language are part of body language because they are in different categories. Informal gestures are not formal signs. The arguments for including or excluding each are therefore wholly separate and distinct.

Who cares if they're separate and distinct. Why doesn't your definition apply to formal sign language.


After all the covering up of your errors with misdirections and assumed inferences, that word "dodging" applied to my own fairly clear and straight forward responses sounds a little disingenuous if I may say so.

Give me a break. Your argument consists entirely of straw men, an appeal to authority, irrelevant points, and the selective application of conflicting definitions without explanation.
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written by BillyJoe, May 29, 2009
Jose,

You ask questions based on several misunderstandings of what I have said, so it's no surprise that my very reasonable and logical answers to your questions also do not make sense to you.

How you can ask "Why doesn't your definition apply to formal sign language", after my very clear explanations of why your two previous questions on this topic were invalid, is beyond me.

As for your last paragraph, I have explained all of the points you raise, but, instead of responding to my explantions, you have chosen to simply repeat your assertions.

BillyJoe

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written by José, May 29, 2009
BillyJoe,
How you can ask "Why doesn't your definition apply to formal sign language", after my very clear explanations of why your two previous questions on this topic were invalid, is beyond me.

I understand exactly what you're saying. You're saying that thumbs up and formal sign language are different categories, and can't be compared. I'm saying that I want to know why? Give me the reasons formal sign language is excluded from this definition, but the thumbs up sign isn't. It's that simple. You based your argument on these two definitions, but you're selectively applying the definitions with no explanation. Give me an explanation.
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Jose, no, you don't understand.
written by BillyJoe, May 29, 2009
For the fourth time:

I have not excluded formal sign language from the definition of body language. I'm saying that you cannot include it simply on the basis that informal gestures are included.

The dictionary definitons I have given do not specifically include or exclude it. I could make a case for including it. But, on the other hand, if the consensus amongst body language experts is that it should not be included, I would be happy with that. And, of course, that would not affect the inclusion of informal gestures.

Sometimes it's simply a matter of drawing an arbitrary line:
Does body language include infornal gestures?
It seems from our expert here and the dictionary definitions that it does.
Does body language include formal sign language?
I wouldn't be surprised if it does and I wouldn't be surprised if it does not.
Does body language include the semaphore flag signalling system. I leaning towards thinking that maybe it does not.

BJ
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written by José, May 29, 2009
BillyJoe,
For the fourth time: I have not excluded formal sign language from the definition of body language. I'm saying that you cannot include it simply on the basis that informal gestures are included.


Yes, That's what I said. I then asked you to explain why you would exclude sign language from your definition, and you've FINNALLY addressed that, by saying your definition does not specifically include or exclude it. Now if it doesn't specifically include or exclude sign language, explain how something like a thumbs up sign is specifically included. It's not. Your whole argument is a joke.

But, on the other hand, if the consensus amongst body language experts is that it should not be included, I would be happy with that.


Why haven't you done that already? Go to some sites that talk in depth about body language instead of just looking at short little definitions. Do they even mention things like thumbs up signs? No. Why not? Because it's not body language.
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written by BillyJoe, May 29, 2009
Yes, That's what I said.
I don't think so. You misinterpreted my reply to mean that I would not include sign language in my definition of body language whereas all I said was that it cannot be included on the basis that gestures are included.

I then asked you to explain why you would exclude sign language from your definition,
So why would you ask me why I would exclude sign language from the definiton of body language, if you already understood that I was not excluding it?

and you've FINNALLY addressed that, by saying your definition does not specifically include or exclude it.
No, I was demonstrating one of the many ways you have misunderstood what I have said or assumed I've said what I haven't said. So, again, why would you ask me why I would exclude sign lamnguage if you already understood that I was not excluding it?

Now if it doesn't specifically include or exclude sign language, explain how something like a thumbs up sign is specifically included.
What? Again? Go back to page one.
I notice you are now calling it a thumbs up sign smilies/wink.gif

Why haven't you done that already? Go to some sites that talk in depth about body language instead of just looking at short little definitions. Do they even mention things like thumbs up signs? No. Why not? Because it's not body language.
I was clearly referring to sign language when I said: "If the consensus amongst body language experts is that it should not be included, I would be happy with that", and you respond with "Why haven't you done that already?" referring to the thumbs up gesture. And why do the body language sites not talk about gestures? Because they are interested in the unconscious aspects of body langauge and how to use them consciously to your advantage.

BillyJoe



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BTW, yet another assumption:
written by BillyJoe, May 29, 2009
Why haven't you done that already?

Oh well.
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written by José, May 31, 2009
BillyJoe,
I don't think so. You misinterpreted my reply to mean that I would not include sign language in my definition of body language whereas all I said was that it cannot be included on the basis that gestures are included.

You're making stuff up again. I said “You're saying that thumbs up and formal sign language are different categories, and can't be compared.” I didn't say or imply that I think you're excluding sign language.


What? Again? Go back to page one.

You mean where you initially talked around defending your own argument? Why would I do that? Don't worry. I already know the reason you won't answer is because the answer destroys your argument.


I notice you are now calling it a thumbs up sign

Because it's a sign. Are you going to argue it's not a sign now?


I was clearly referring to sign language when I said: "If the consensus amongst body language experts is that it should not be included, I would be happy with that", and you respond with "Why haven't you done that already?" referring to the thumbs up gesture.

Duh. And you should have done this for the thumbs up sign as well.


And why do the body language sites not talk about gestures? Because they are interested in the unconscious aspects of body langauge and how to use them consciously to your advantage.

You're right. It's not because conscious gestures that have commonly known meanings aren't body language.


And why do the body language sites not talk about gestures? Because they are interested in the unconscious aspects of body langauge and how to use them consciously to your advantage.

This post is criticizing people who claim they can teach you unconscious aspects of body language and how to use them consciously to your advantage. Therefore, I was criticizing the erroneous use of a conscious thumbs up sign as an example of how body language can be misinterpreted. What are you talking about again?
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Body Language
written by vasallese, May 31, 2009
I do not believe in body language anymore. I am Italian and yes, I speak with my hands. It seems that that is now considered threatening to my coworkers. Even if I am telling something funny, I am threatening people. So when I stay still and do not talk very much because I do not want to threaten people, I am being aloof. Go figure.
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written by BillyJoe, May 31, 2009
It's not because conscious gestures that have commonly known meanings aren't body language.
I'm glad we finally agree! smilies/grin.gif
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written by skepticpagan, May 31, 2009
Yawn... BillyJoe and Jose need to carry on this love affair debate over the phone or something.


Some people are much better than others at guessing when people are lying. But it's not because they can read body language. They watch the face, that's it. And they're often wrong, which tosses reliability out the window. The show "Lie To Me" does make it fun to play around with. But it's entertainment. The only way these hucksters are not guilty of fraud is if they place their books in the comedy section with hilarious pictures on the cover.
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written by BillyJoe, June 01, 2009
Yawn... BillyJoe and Jose need to carry on this love affair debate over the phone or something.
I don't know what you are like at body language but that was my closing line. smilies/wink.gif

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written by Steel Rat, June 02, 2009
However, there is evidence that Ginseng won't cure cancer,


I think it's more correct to say that there is no evidence that Ginseng will cure cancer.
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