UQx PSYC1030.1x 4-1-1 Introduction

UQx PSYC1030.1x 4-1-1 Introduction


What does our body language tell others, about
us? It was quite popular, particularly, in the
1970’s and 1980’s for people to write books about body language. These books promised that if you could learn
the secrets of body language, you’d be able to effectively read people’s minds, to know
what they were thinking if they crossed their arms, or scratched their nose, or looked to
the left. Maybe you could even convince them to like
you more through adjusting your own body language. For the most part, these claims are massively
overstated. Despite what your friends think, when you
study psychology you aren’t going to learn how to read people’s minds. Having said that, nonverbal communication
is a major avenue through which we reach other people. It’s a major avenue through which we miscommunicate,
as well. We’ll talk about the role of hand gestures,
and the role of facial expressions, particularly because the face is good at communicating
emotion. We’ll also talk about cross-cultural differences
in nonverbal communication. Then we’re going to be dabbling in some interpretation
of body language ourselves as we try to answer the question of whether we can tell if someone
is lying on the basis of their body language. So, what do we mean by nonverbal communication? It’s a much broader definition than many people
imagine. It’s effectively anything other than the
words. Obviously, this includes things like hand
gestures, and facial expressions. It can also include things like your voice,
whether you’ve got a high-pitched voice or a loud voice. It can include posture, touch, clothes, a
whole range of things actually. There’s nothing in the definition that suggests
that nonverbal communication has to be intentional. When you put clothes on this morning, presumably
you were not necessarily trying to send the message to the world about how you’re feeling,
or the kind of person that you are, but some people might make those assumptions about
you in any case. According to the definition, communication
has happened with or without your permission, with or without your intention. There’s nothing in the definition that suggests
that it has to be accurate. People can make all sorts of mistaken assumptions
on the basis of your body language, your clothes, whatever it is, but that’s still nonverbal
communication.


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