Body English

An Internet guide to gestures, signs and body language

The practical implications of subtle cues such as the Adam’s-Apple-Jump are made readily apparent at Understanding Body Language, a five-part video series created by the British Times newspaper on the postures seen in the workplace. Try to imagine all the subconscious messages in a face-to-face, such as a job interview! A skilled observer might pick up on who is lying—the prospective employee, the employer, or both.

While researching this topic, I rediscovered one of the most fascinating television programs I have watched: Desmond Morris’s The Human Animal: The Language of the Body. As a keen observer of the human animal, Morris spent years documenting how different cultures developed a seemingly endless variety of ways to send a message.

The University of California at Los Angeles’s UCLA Magazine Online has an intriguing article on how cultural differences influence our brains’ ability to process hand signals. Go to This is your brain on hand gestures to read about the UCLA research that reveals how our brains respond to familiar and unfamiliar gestures from people of similar and different ethnic backgrounds. The effects on what neurologists call the “mirror neuron network” vary in a surprising way. “The American observers demonstrated higher mirror neuron activity when observing the American making the gestures—whether the gestures were American, Nicaraguan or meaningless—than when viewing the Nicaraguan. Even when the Nicaraguan actor performed American gestures, the observers’ mirror neuron activity dropped.” The article includes a link to video of the gestures used in the study.

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