Nonverbal Cues

Communication. 1. From Latin signalis ("sign"), an "indicator, such as a gesture or colored light, that serves as a means of communication" (Soukhanov 1992:1678). 2. In biology, "any behavior that conveys information from one individual to another, regardless of whether it serves other functions as well" (Wilson 1975:595). 3. Any type of sign used to inform as to what may happen next (e.g., a hand-behind-head gesture signals that a listener may argue with a speaker's point of view).

Chinese lanterns. The color, glow, placement, and shape of a Chinese paper lantern signals good luck, birth, death, long life, marriage, sickness, and other symbolic messages in neighborhood alleys of Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. A plump, bright red lantern (deng) betokens good luck; it's roundness recalls the rounded shape of yuan (money). The vitality and energy of redness also signals a birth or marriage. A blue lantern, in contrast, signals sickness by suggesting energy in decline. Two white lanterns signal death and mourning in a household. Chinese lanterns have been used as signals since 250 B.C.

Emergency signaling. The three most critical features of emergency signals, according to the 336th Training Group's Survival School at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington, USA, are size, contrast, and movement. As one Survival School expert said, "We don't have a few ribbons tied up to attract attention, we have a big space blanket hanging from the trees to move in the breeze and reflect light in contrast with the dark green forest" (Spokesman-Review, February 7, 2010, p. C11).

RESEARCH REPORT: As nonverbal signs help us understand intentions, feelings, and moods, they may become more conspicuous through a process of ritualization (Huxley 1923; e.g., in greeting rituals, the smile is a universal signal of friendly intent).

See also CUE.

Copyright 1998 - 2016 (David B. Givens/Center for Nonverbal Studies)