Tag Archive for Fear

Deception Causes Arousal, Generally

While he COULD be lying, it's much more likely that he's actually anxious.  We instinctively (and wrongfully) link anxiety with lying, when in fact good liars often feel no anxiety whatsoever when they lie, and honest people feel anxiety when they think they will be disbelieved.

While he COULD be lying, it’s much more likely that he’s actually anxious. We instinctively (and wrongfully) link anxiety with lying, when in fact good liars often feel no anxiety whatsoever when they lie, and honest people feel anxiety when they think they will be disbelieved.

It is a widely held belief that emotional arousal and stress, is strongly tied with lying. It is also at the heart of the polygraph or lie detector. Here, autonomic responses which happen in our bodies without our conscious control such as sweating or ‘skin conductivity’ is measured as well as increases in heart rate and breathing. It is assumed that when lies occur, stress related behaviours increase. Lie detector machines measure a baseline, that is, they take readings when lying is known to occur and compare it to readings when lying is thought to occur. By reading the differences, lying should become obvious.

We can use similar methods to read arousal without the help of the polygraph. Watching for an increase in adaptors, shifting, subtle movements, touching or scratching the face, neck or nose can show us that someone is uncomfortable. What it won’t show us is the reason for the discomfort. By grilling someone for the truth, this is often enough to cause someone to feel stress thereby creating the behaviour instead of uncovering it. Other clues to an increase in stress includes an increase in eye blinking, changes in posture, avoiding eye contact and foot and leg movement. It is important to always put fear of lying and arousal into context. Someone with little fear, little to gain or loose, or in other words, ‘when the stakes are low’ wont show any of these signals. Aside from this lack of tell, it is important to realize that body language cues, especially lying language is not a result directly of lying, but rather an indication of the stress, fear and anxiety that may or may not be present when lying.

Smiling And Gazing Advice For Men

A worried facial expression wont lead to positive outcomes!  Try a relaxed, confident smile instead.

A worried facial expression wont lead to positive outcomes! Try a relaxed, confident smile instead.

Smiles mean a lot more than just happiness, such as fear and stress. However, smiles due tend to appear most from happiness, and as a result of genuine feelings of optimism. They also indicate confidence and hopefulness. We know that smiles are infectious, yet men hardly ever sport them. I suppose men’s lack of smiles has to do with the vast amount of testosterone that courses through their bodies, coupled with the fear of appearing subordinate to others, but men should not let that be a deterrent. If men walk through life with a big grin, people will notice and stop them, wondering what good news they hold, or what successes they have achieved.

Laughter and smiles, when done by men, show women that they have interesting and successful lives. Men can easily try a smile experiment to measure the exact value it has, and they’ll know they’re onto something when they receive smiles in return. While it is true that some smiles won’t be well received, be they ignored or returned with a grimace, it shouldn’t deter the smile experiment from continuing. The object isn’t to impress everyone, rather it is to plan seeds in the minds of others that you are friendly, open to conversation, and that good things happen to you, and that if they associate with you, these good things might benefit them too.

Even stone faced women can be broken by persistent smiling so long as it is done properly. When smiling, men should never face women straight on, rather they should smile at an angle. The straight on look can be construed as aggressive and confrontational. Men should always break smiles by looking down, not away, up or to the side. A downward look shows that you are prepared to submit and that you are not a threat. If eye contact is made, keep it brief, lasting less than three seconds and always add a small genuine smile with head cocked at forty-five degrees. Avoid head on stares, prolonged looks, or abnormal or persistent eye widening, as these will surely send the wrong message.

Even if women don’t respond immediately, it doesn’t mean that a future encounter won’t lead to positive things. In public we are habitually in displacement mode so most women initially see people as objects rather than people worthy of interaction. Men should understand that women find others, especially strange men, as potential threats to their safety. If, or rather when, because after all this is a numbers game, a man finds a willing participant, the sensation will be immediately exhilarating for both parties. However, smiling isn’t the end of the story, it’s the start. Smiling endlessly can become creepy so if invitations to conversation seems welcome, graduate to verbal dialogue and take things to the next level. If your experiment fails miserably, try adding a sharp nod or even a joyous “hi”, “hey”, or “hello.” A verbal connection or a more obvious nonverbal signal can serve to snap people more forcefully out of their public displacement.

Smiles are inexpensive so don’t be afraid to use them, but do keep in mind that the vast majority of people, especially in crowded urban areas, might ignore them totally. Remember though, that just because the cues are ignored does not mean that it is a personal rejection, since logically, these people have no sense whatever about the smiler, they don’t even know them! Remember too, like a lot of things in life, smiling-success is a numbers game.

Hiking The Skirt And Showing Skin

The 'skirt hike' happens totally subconsciously.  When a woman gets hot and bothered she might begin to play with the bottom of her skirt to show a bit of extra leg.

The ‘skirt hike’ happens totally subconsciously. When a woman gets hot and bothered she might begin to play with the bottom of her skirt to show a bit of extra leg.

The skirt hike is an interesting body language cue because it happens completely subconsciously with little, and usually no awareness at all. It is so subtle though that only those looking specifically for it will actually see it.

The “skirt hike” happens by fingering and play with the bottom ridge of the skirt. Other times, the skirt hike happens in a more pronounced way by grabbing the bottom of the skirt and pulling it up a few inches or more, to reveal more leg. This motion is usually done toward a man of interest and followed by eye contact, but other times like the parade, happens as advertisement of the woman’s availability. If she catches someone else notice this gesture which she isn’t interested in, she will quickly force it back down and break eye contact.

Any gesture like the skirt hike that exposes more skin can be a sexual signal. We are all familiar with the cliché scene in movies where the woman suggestively says that she’ll return in something more comfortable. As always, she reappears in sexy lingerie. Most times, men don’t get such an obvious cue of interest but women still remove clothing to peek interest. Removing a heavy shirt or jacket to be more comfortable, or loosening buttons from a shirt, or even removing shoes or dangling the shoes from the toe, all show comfort at worst, and interest at best. “Shoe play” is also a great indicator of the level of comfort experienced between a man and women and is a way for a woman to get noticed because movement draws attention. Movement is the opposite to the fear-freeze response when people are scared. While in conversation, if the man does something to startle the woman, she’ll pull her shoe back on in short order! It’s also a good way to measure a cold approach because she’ll slip her shoe back on immediately if she doesn’t like the approach. She’ll make her displeasure more salient by slightly or fully turning away, holding a fixed gaze with her friends or across the room or pretend to be distracted. Her movements will also minimize so as to become less noticeable in the hopes that her “male predator” moves onto new prey.

Seated skirt hike.

Seated skirt hike.

'Shoe play' indicates high comfort.  Test it by doing something creepy and watch just how fast the shoes go back on in preparation for escape!

‘Shoe play’ indicates high comfort. Test it by doing something creepy and watch just how fast the shoes go back on in preparation for escape!

Universal Facial Expressions

As discussed in chapter 2, there are six main facial expressions that are found throughout the world. They are happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, anger and disgust. Each expression involves three independent parts of the face, the forehead and eyebrows, the eyes, eyelids and upper part of the nose called the “root” and the lower part of the face including the lower part of the nose, cheeks, chin and mouth. Here is a breakdown of the six facial expressions:

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Happiness.

Happiness.

Happiness (smile): The gesture is done by slightly raising the lower eyelids, wrinkles appear below them, crow’s feet may form at the edge of the eye. The mouth lengthens as the corners move out and up. Lips may part to show upper teeth and the cheeks rise and bulge narrowing the eyes and creating wrinkles around the nose and mouth.

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Sadness.

Sadness.

Sadness: Sadness is controlled mainly by the mouth where it drops at the corners. The inner eyebrows rise producing a triangular shape between the root of the nose and the eyes. The forehead might show wrinkles and the eyes may appear moist with tears.

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Surprise.

Surprise.

Surprise: The eyebrows curve upwards, wrinkles form in the forehead and the whites of the eyes become visible through eye widening. The jaw becomes slack and opens.

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The fear facial expression.

The fear facial expression.

Fear: This expression is sometimes confused with surprise as in much of the world only subtle differences exist. During fear, eyebrows rise and are pulled together, and curve although less than in surprise. Wrinkles appear in the forehead, but do not cross the entire forehead like in the surprised expression. The upper eyelids rise, as in the surprise expression, to expose the white of the eyes and the lower eyelids also rise. The lips may be stretched back and the mouth opened.

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Anger

Anger

Anger: In this expression, eyebrows are pulled down and inward and creases form between the eyebrows. The eyes narrow and take on a hard stare. The lips are often tightly clenched and the corners pulled downward. The nose is sometimes flared.

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Disgust.

Disgust.

Disgust: This facial expression contains the most meaning in the eyes and the lower face. Here, the lower eyelids rise and lines appear in the skin below them. The cheeks move up, the nose is wrinkled and either the upper lip is raised or both are raised.

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Ever thought about why our noses are down-turned rather then some other orientation, such as sideways or facing upward? The answer has nothing to do with preventing rain from falling in! Disgust is a very honest facial expression when it happens because it can happen in microseconds to indicate a particularly distasteful thought. The facial expression is rooted in rejection of spoiled foods which is why a large portion of it involves the nose which is used to detect off-putting scents. To evoke disgust, just imagine the smell or rotting flesh! In real life it instantly causes the nose to snarl and prevents us from stomaching potentially deadly foods.

Neck And Nose Body Language

Covering the suprasternal notch is one of the nonverbal signals that is unmistakable and also reliable in predicting emotional distress, one that shouldn’t be ignored.

Covering the suprasternal notch is one of the nonverbal signals that is unmistakable and also reliable in predicting emotional distress, one that shouldn’t be ignored.

The neck is an area that becomes particularly sensitive under pressure and like the cheeks, it becomes red and engorged with blood when we become nervous. Women are particularly prone to bringing their hand up to the “suprasternal notch” which is the dimple just below the neck between the Adam’s apple and the breast bone when nervous, distressed, threatened, insecure, fearful or uncomfortable. Covering the suprasternal notch is one of the nonverbal signals that is unmistakable and also reliable in predicting emotional distress, one that shouldn’t be ignored.

While touching the neck and nose can be the result of fear or nervousness they can also be meant as pacifying behaviours. Pacifying behaviours happen automatically, our brains send a message to our bodies that we need to be pacified and out go our hands to serve the purpose. As always, it is important to decide what kind of emotion has demanded the body language, be it nervousness as a result of sweating (discussed below), or because there is an underlying threat causing fear that requires soothing.

Stress causes an increase in temperature which we try to relieve by "venting."

Stress causes an increase in temperature which we try to relieve by “venting.”

Motioning toward our neck, scratching it, or pulling at a collar indicates we are “getting hot under the collar.” Humans sweat in response to external temperature increases but also due to emotional stress. In the case of emotional sweating, it is mostly restricted to the palms, soles of the feet and forehead. However, when we become emotionally aroused our metabolic rate revs-up and we burn more calories. This creates not just local sweating, but sweating throughout the body. Those under pressure can be seen sweating voraciously under the armpits and down their backs even leaving visible stains. Scratching the palms, in particular, has been shows to be a reliable indicator of stress but so too is scratching the neck. Scratching is in response to the tingling sensation we feel on our necks as the sweat increases and uncomfortable chaffing begins between tight collars and the skin. While some experts purport that sweating can indicate lying, it’s actually a signal of frustration and heightened emotion in response to pressure, and that this pressure can stem from anything, including simply being “put on the spot.”

Itchy nose or does this mean something else?

Itchy nose or does this mean something else?

Our noses can also signal stress, but more often signal disgust. The nose is full of blood vessels so when we are stressed they fill up with blood just like the ears and neck. A person under stress will frequently go to their nose and touch it, scratch it or rub it. Touching the nose has been linked to lying, but like most lie detection cues, they aren’t absolute or reliable. We can tell when something is out of the ordinary when someone touches their nose for no reason. They might wipe it with the back of their hand or come up and touch it lightly with their index finger. The astute will find it obvious when someone is touching their nose for the purpose of alleviating an itch instead of alleviating a lie (or negative thought). Scratching is directed, specific, deep and vigorous, showing that some amount of waiting was done before the gesture was performed. Thus more relief is present when the itch is real. Itching due to negative emotions is general, shallow or glancing. This type of itch is done by bringing the index finger up, by example and lightly touching the side of the nose where the nail is not used at all. That is no real scratching is taking place.

An anti-politician gesture - you'd never see this type of uncertainty in any contender.

An anti-politician gesture – you’d never see this type of uncertainty in any contender.

When we touch our face, we indicate indecision and insecurity.

When we touch our face, we indicate indecision and insecurity.

Have you ever noticed how infrequently politicians touch their faces while in public and when they absolutely have to, they make it look deliberate and minimal? They raise just one finger and scratch a specific area, than they bring their hand back to their sides or use their hands to liven their speech. When trying to appear honest, we should follow their example. Keep face touching to a minimum, use it specifically, use the nail of the finger to show purposeful itching, and when finished resume normal open and honest gesturing.

When ready people for honesty, be careful not only to watch for cues, but also be watchful of cues that should be present, but aren’t. For example, if someone is describing emotional stress, they should exhibit classic nonverbal behaviours. A woman claiming to have swerved to miss an animal sending her automobile into the ditch should be agitate and on edge, perhaps covering her suprasternal notch as she recounts the details. Failing to exhibit the appropriate cues tells us that she might be trying to pull a fast one on us, perhaps trying to claim insurance so as to benefit from a payout. Looking for cues that should be there, but aren’t, are sometimes cues in and of themselves.

Sneering For You

Sneering often happens as a microexpression, meaning it only briefly flashes quickly across the face before disappearing.  It says "this smells fishy."

Sneering often happens as a microexpression, meaning it only briefly flashes quickly across the face before disappearing. It says “this smells fishy.”

During a sneer the buccinator muscles located on the sides of our face contract to draw the corners of the lips sideways toward the ears. This produces a tell-tale dimple in the corners of the mouth and cheeks. This is an expression that usually happens in just seconds and for this reason is honest, so is loaded with meaning. Sneering is similar to eye rolling and is a signal of contempt, disapproval and disrespect the world over. It signals a negative attitude and arrogance to views or persons to which it accompanies.

Sneering says “I don’t care what you think, and I don’t respect you.” Because sneers happen as microexpressions, they often immediately following a stimulus. This makes it very easy to link the negative expression with its cause, serving to read the hidden thoughts.

Couples who sneer when listening to each other indicate that they lack respect and it has been shown that it is a good predictor for breaking up. Sneering can be done by employees who think they know more than their bosses, but whom resist speaking up because of fear of being fired, and by children who lack respect for authority. Wherever sneering shows it’s ugly face, it is due to distain.

Eyebrow Lowering

Eyebrows lowered is a sign of pain - here we see grief.

Eyebrows lowered is a sign of pain – here we see grief.

Eyebrows can squint just like eyes can and have many different meanings. Eyebrows can be lowered to indicate confrontation due to anger or aggression, fear from threats, when we feel displeasure or are annoyed. If eyebrows are dropped low enough and kept there it indicates weakness and insecurity. This is true universally and so can even appear in children especially those who are abused. Lowered eyebrows is submissive, cowering, facial expression.

Inmate report seeking the gesture when new prisoners arrive as clues to which will make easy targets. Lowered eyebrows is a sign of being defeated and weak and shows that one is unlikely to put up a fight. Bullies at school will also look for the expression to single out children as prey and so will social predators and psychopaths. Victims are rarely chosen at random and I’ve witnessed the body language myself from a woman who reported suffering abuse as a child and several times as an adult. She carried herself in vulnerable ways and stood out for this reason so she likely attracted attention as an easy target. In business, eyebrow lowering can indicate the relative strength of a position and in negotiation show that someone is willing to surrender with little fight.

Undivided Attention

An interested listener is focused on the entire person, their gestures, voice tone and the information delivered.

An interested listener is focused on the entire person, their gestures, voice tone and the information delivered.

Meeting in crowded areas offers plenty of distractions, which in and of itself might lead one to belief that measuring attention would be difficult. However, the opposite is actually true; in other words, it’s easier to measure interest in busy places because the eye can be caught wondering. As we covered earlier in the chapter on eye language, we can verify interest based on where eyes are cast. The eyes tell where the body wants to be, and when the mind is fully engaged on the presentation, the focus will be on the speaker rather then what is going on around them.

Looking away rarely happens with someone who is completely engrossed in a conversation unless they do so to concentrate. We know from an earlier discussion, that faces are complicated making it difficult to process information. However absent of complex thought, we know that when someone looks away, it’s due to disinterest in the subject matter. Take for example, a very important news item appearing suddenly on television and the sequences of events that follow. First, we try to quiet a room so we have time to tune into the broadcast, next we locate the remote and turn the volume up loud enough so that even random noises don’t supersede the broadcast. Our eyes become fixated at the exclusion of anything else in the room and our ears become finely tuned to the voice of the broadcaster. When completely engaged, there is a fear of missing something important. This doesn’t just occur while watching television or movies, but can happen when in deep conversation, while reading something interesting or any other task for that matter. Any husband will tell you how easily it is to “tune” women out when watching sports!

An interested listener is focused on the entire person, their gestures, voice tone and the information delivered. For most, the picture they pick up about the speaker’s body language is subconscious, but it does help them form an overall impression of their honesty, integrity, emotionality and so forth. Therefore the focus doesn’t stop on the words alone, but on the entire message. An attentive listener is directed, having their bodies oriented toward the speaker, their arms open and apart willing to take information in, their legs will be crossed or open but aimed at the speaker, their head might be cocked to the side at forty five degrees showing interest, and any information they add will be appropriate to the given subject rather than off topic.

There will be times, when a fully attentive person will look away, down or about the room, but these ganders are few and brief, with the primary attention placed back on the speaker. It has been shown that up to eighty percent eye of contact is made while listening and about forty to sixty percent while speaking. Thus, we can measure the level of interest simply by making note of how often the person looks away. Someone that is bored will almost seem to look everywhere but at the speaker, or will appear to glaze over in an unblinking stare. Looking away is a subconscious indication that the other person is looking for an escape route – a way out of the conversation.

Aggressive Body Language

The amygdala is in here somewhere!

The amygdala is in here somewhere!

Researchers have defied seven major classes of aggression: predatory, inter-male, fear, irritable, maternal, instrumental (to obtain a goal) and territorial. The amygdala and the hypothalamus, two brain centers, have been centered out as important motivators in aggressive situations. Thankfully, with the potential for such conflict we are given tools in the form of body language that help us gauge aggression in others in order to prevent us from serious injury or death. Since modern humans are primarily vocal, we often ignore some of the cues signifying aggression, but these become very potent as conflict escalates and our verbal language deteriorates to uncontrolled screaming and cussing.

Openness As It Relates To Status

Taking up space is a display of dominance and authority.

Taking up space is a display of dominance and authority.

Since openness is a reaction to comfort and being closed relates to fear of attack, it is natural that we should see more dominant people hold more open postures and subordinate people hold more closed postures. An employer, for example, being more comfortable in the workplace would be expected to hold his hands to his sides, rather than have his arms crossed, use a palm down handshake showing dominance and generally avoid holding himself up against objects or hidden behind objects like coffee mugs or folders. His subordinate employees, on the other hand, would feel more comfortable with their hands in their pockets, finding refuge against the back of a chair, leaning against a desk, or hiding behind a notebook. Employees might also take up an arm cross, either in full, but usually only in part, by grab their opposite arm or elbow, and tuck one leg behind the other in the ankle cross. Employees will avoid a full arm cross because they don’t want to appear totally closed to the suggestions of their employer.

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