Kinesics - Body Movements

    Kinesics is the study of body movements and the way that certain movements and gestures can serve as a form of nonverbal communication.

    The science shows that body movements and gestures can serve as a form of nonverbal communication and as such, are an important part of public speaking.

    There are several types.

    Ekman and Freisen divided kinesics - body movements into 5 categories.

Emblems-Body Movements

    These have direct translation to words: Some gestures are related to culture. Some of these cultural gestures or hand signals have a commonly acceptable use and meaning in one part of the world and can be obscene in other parts of the world, such as the index finger touching the thumb and making the OK sign.

    Likewise a wave of the arm with fingers pointed up is common in many areas in North America. In some South American cultures the same gesture is considered rude and crude. The more appropriate gesture is for the hand to be pointed to the ground, as if an inverted version of the aforementioned.


    These emphasize or reinforce words and are also known as gestures.

    Gestures, both descriptive and emphatic, are movements of the body or body parts to express an idea or meaning or convey feelings or intentions.

    Gestures can both communicate with and with out words.


    Regulators control the back and forth flow of speaking and listening.

    O'Conner found that frequent gesturing is highly correlated with people who were perceived by others to be leaders in small groups.

    Those who were leaders tended to use more shoulder and arm gestures.

    In a group setting, people may adapt similar poses to those in the group that they agree with.

    Counselors often help clients self-disclose by adopting similar postures to those of their clients. This is believed to establish open communication.

Display of Feelings

    Feelings can be displayed with or shown through face and body motions.

    Ekman and Friesan studies that feet and legs often reveal true feeling. Liars have learned to control facial expressions.

    Mehrabian's Immediacy Principle states that open body and arm position, leaning forward relaxed posture, and touching increases perceived liking.

    People who attempt to persuade others often use these immediacy contacts.


    Way of adjusting to communication situation: Twist hair, tap pen.

    People of higher status take a more relaxed body posture.

Other Related Body Language


    People of higher status take a more relaxed body posture.

    Postures just like gestures are often used to indicate attitudes, status, affective moods, approval, deception, warmth, and other emotions related to personal interaction.

    Ekman and Friesen (1967) suggested that posture can convey gross or overall affect or liking. Specific emotions are communicated by more discreet, facial and body movements. Included in these are movements now known as micro movements.

Body Language and Posture

    Posture and movement can also convey a great deal on information. Research on body language has grown significantly since the 1970’s, but popular media have focused on the over-interpretation of defensive postures, arm-crossing, and leg-crossing, especially after the publication of Julius Fast’s book Body Language.

    This is only the basics on Kinesics - Body Movements. Hopefully it will open the doors of your mind for more research.

Related to Kinesics - Body Movements: What is Communication? The Public Speaking Nonverbal Communication Resource

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