State of the art - nonverbal communication

Peter Bull on how our bodies can speak volumes.
BELIEF in the importance of nonverbal communication is nothing new. ‘Not to watch a person’s mouth but his fists’ was a celebrated aphorism of Martin Luther, the 16th century Protestant reformer. The term nonverbal communication was popularised in the 20th century, although it is not always clear exactly what it means. Because the term nonverbal only excludes communication through words, the features it may include are virtually limitless. It can refer to communication through touch or smell, through various kinds of artefacts such as masks and clothes. It has also sometimes been used to include vocal features such as intonation, stress, speech rate, accent and loudness, although this is more contentious. In addition, it can refer to different forms of body movement – to facial expression, gaze, pupil size, posture, gesture and interpersonal distance. It is communication through body movement that forms the focus of this article.

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber