How Body Language Works

How Body Language Works: Author's Note

Early in my career as a journalist, I interviewed a veteran policy detective, who claimed that he could detect when a suspect was lying by whether the person's carotid artery began to subtly, but visibly, throb in his or her neck. I don't know how accurate that particular investigative trick really is, but I have learned over the years that people tend to tell a story with their faces, hands and other body parts that may or may not match the story their words convey. In researching this article, I was particularly fascinated to learn that interpreting body language is a skill that ancient humans possessed, probably long before spoken language even existed. It was also interesting to look at the art of manipulating body language to deliberately convey an impression. We see politicians, actors and public figures make use of those techniques continually, and it's insightful to be able to discern between genuine signs of emotion and gestures that appear to be spontaneous, but aren't.


  • "Body Language." Business communications, University of Northern Iowa. (March 7, 2011)
  • Flora, Carlin. "The First Impression." May 14, 2004. (March 4, 2011)
  • Gladwell, Malcolm. "The Naked Face." The New Yorker. Aug. 5, 2002. (March 7 2011)
  • Grayson, Gabriel. "Talking With Your Hands, Listening With Your Eyes." Square One Publishers. 2003. (March 7, 2011)
  • Goman, Carol Kinsey. "The Mistakes People Make Reading Your Body Language." March 1, 2011. (March 7, 2011)
  • Johansson, Sverker. "Constraining the Time When Language Evolved." (March 7, 2011)
  • Laneri, Raquel. "Body Language Decoded." June 23, 2009. (March 4, 2011)
  • Mehrabian, Albert. "Nonverbal communication." Aldine-Atherton. 1972. (March 7, 2011),+silent+messages&hl=en&ei=3Nx0TeSWJ4T78AaU35W2DQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=55%20percent&f=false
  • Mehrabian, Albert, Ph.D. "Personality & Communication: Psychological Books and Articles of Popular Interest." (March 7, 2011)
  • Rugsaken, Kris. "Body Speaks: Body Language Around the World." (March 7, 2011)