Nonverbal Cues

Emotion cue. The excretion of eccrine-gland moisture onto the palmar surface of the hands in response to anxiety, stress, or fear.

Usage: Sweaty palms may be detected while shaking hands. It is reputed that former F.B.I. director J. Edgar Hoover would not hire candidates whose handshakes were moist and cold.

RESEARCH REPORTS: 1. Cannon's "emergency reaction" involves redistribution of blood from the skin and viscera to the muscles and brain (Cannon 1929; see FIGHT-OR-FLIGHT). 2. A college student's GSR (galvanic skin response) is greatest when he or she is approached frontally by a member of the opposite sex (McBride et al.1965; see STRANGER ANXIETY).

Neuro-notes I. Like other body-motion cues, sweating requires the movement of body parts to deliver its watery substance to the skin's surface. Myoepithelial cells, which contain smooth-visceral-muscle-like organs, contract to squeeze the sweaty fluid through thin ducts in the skin. Myoepithelial "muscles" are innervated by sympathetic nerve fibers; the muscle-like organs also contract in response to adrenaline (Horne 1995:411).

Neuro-notes II. 1. "Studies in animals have established that the amygdala is critical for emotional conditioning [e.g., of the SCR or skin conductance response (i.e., sweaty palms)], whereas several human and nonhuman primate studies have established that the hippocampus and surrounding regions are necessary for establishing declarative knowledge" (Bechara et al. 1995:1115). 2. "Bilateral damage to the amygdala entirely blocked the ability . . . to acquire conditioned SCRs . . ." (Bechara et al. 1995:1117). 3. The subject "failed to generate SCRs to the CSs [conditioned stimuli] in both the visual and auditory experiments but was able to provide accurate and complete factual information regarding which stimuli had been followed by the US [unconditioned stimulus]" (Bechara et al. 1995:1117). 4. The amygdala is "essential for the coupling of sensory stimuli with affect . . ." (Bechara et al. 1995:1117).


Copyright 1998 - 2016 (David B. Givens/Center for Nonverbal Studies)
Drawing of "Showing My Nonverbal Side" by my son Aaron M. Huffman (copyright 2012 by Aaron M. Huffman)