Nonverbal Cues

Posture. To contract the muscles of the primitive body wall, causing the spinal column to curve or rotate sideward, away from standard anatomical position (see BODY-BEND).

Usage: Psychiatrists and anthropologists have long known that the postures of our upper body reflect social attitudes and key emotional states (Bateson and Mead 1942, Richmond et al. 1991). Bending away and other gross postural shifts often reveal negative feelings (Mehrabian 1974).

Anatomy. Flexing the spinal column sideward to increase the physical distance between two people can be seen at meetings around a conference table. Lateral flexion (bending) and rotation (twisting) movements of the spine are made by contracting the deep muscles of the back (e.g.,the erector spinae and transversospinalis), which influence our most basic body postures.

Evolution. Among the oldest body movements were those for locomotion. Muscles of the body wall contracted to produce rhythmic sideward bending motions. The earliest, oscillatory swimming movements, which took animals toward food and mates, and away from harm, were wired into paleocircuits of the aquatic brain & spinal cord. Thus, bending away from a disliked person at a table is not unlike swimming away in the sea.


Copyright 1999 - 2016 (David B. Givens/Center for Nonverbal Studies)
Drawing of "Showing My Nonverbal Side" by my son Aaron Huffman (copyright 2012 by Aaron M. Huffman)