Kinesics: The Art of Body Language
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Kinesics: The Art of Body Language

Body language, or kinesics, is a form of communication often not noticed by the average individual. However by studying body language, as well as facial expressions, and how they may be interpreted the average person can greatly enhance not just their own understanding but their nonverbal communication efforts as well.

The study of kinesics, also referred to as the study of body language, first began in 1952 by anthropologist Ray Birdwhistell.  Ray wished to study how human beings nonverbally communicated in social situations by observing how posture, stance, gestures, and movements are coordinated and controlled throughout conversation.  He did this by filming people in social settings than analyzing the video tapes in order to catch movements not previously before noticed.  Involved with this study were fellow anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson.      

Ray argued that body movements throughout conversation are initiated with reason and intent.  That is no body movement during conversation is made accidentally.  He also argued that each body movement or gesture could be analyzed and understood systematically if the untrained eye were to catch notice.  This implies that specific body movements and gestures made during conversation could interpret feelings of discomfort, anxiousness, happiness, and even attractiveness.

For example, nonverbal communication such as crossed legs, crossed arms in front of the chest, the chest pointed in a different direction, and even the head turned in another direction during conversation are all signs of discomfort, distrust, and ill regard.  Body gestures such as open legs and an open chest during conversation are signs of honesty, happiness, and a positive self esteem.  Physical movements such as excessive touching of the face and hair, fidgeting of the hands and feet, and constant glances are signs of flirtatiousness, nervousness, attractiveness, and sexual interest.

The study of kinesics became popularized by the 1960’s and soon after caught the attention of mainstream social scientists.  Since the 1960’s facial expressions have been studied and analyzed in order to further understand body language as a whole as well as even the study of how animals interact with one another using only body language.  Social scientists indicated that during conversation focus is primarily directed towards the face making it nearly impossible to notice subtle body gestures at that exact moment.  However, the social scientists also indicated that there are over 90 muscles located within the human face making the eyes and the position that the head is tilted particularly useful for interpreting body language or what that individual may be feeling at that moment.

For the most part being able to identify particular body language is somewhat natural for most people.  However, having additional training and knowledge regarding kinesics can help assist the average individual in every social setting while at work, with friends, or even with family. 


Is Movement Language?” By PAULINOBRENER. Kinesics

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Comments (1)
Thank you Alden for a well written article. I learned more about body language with your article. Thanks, Chris