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A weekly show where knowledge junkies get their fix of trivia-tastic information. This week, Adriene shares some little known facts about body language!

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Hi, I'm Adrienne. Welcome to The Salon. This is Mental Floss Video, and did you know that body language isn't technically a language? Experts don't love the term because people do different gestures for all sorts of reasons. It's not as if every gesture has one easy to translate meaning that we all understand. For instance, people cross their arms in tons of situations. Things that do have specific meanings are known as emblems and they're not universal languages either. And that's the first of many facts about body language and gestures that I'm going to share with you today. 

*intro music*

So if it's not a language why, why do we use body language? Well even if it's not translatable, it does help us get our points across better as neuroscientist Dr. Marina Nespor puts it, quote, in human communication, voice is not sufficient: even the torso and in particular hand movements are involved, as are facial expressions.
And that checks out. In fact, in some cases experts estimate that 60 to 65 percent of communication for all humans is nonverbal. But that brings me to the fact that you can't really tell if someone is lying. As I said, body language isn't a language so don't trust those "lie tells" that you read about. Yes, people probably do have indicators that they're lying, like not being able to make eye contact, but those indicators are different from person to person. Something that's a little easier to interpret is a micro expression, although you do need a quality camera to do so because they only appear on a  person's face for less than a second. These are uncontrollable facial expressions that are reactions to a powerful emotion and they tend to happen when a person is trying to hide how they're feeling. Series of studies have shown that standing with your hands on your hips can actually make you feel more confident because you brain releases positive hormones when you stand that way. And good posture has been shown to make people happier and more productive. It's why I'm siting up straight right this instant. For instance, in one study people who sat with good posture were more likely to have positive memories. According to one 2007 study, people tend to perceive a person as more intelligent if they're talking while maintaining eye contact. Some scientists believe that handshakes are the evolutionary answer to wanting to exchange body odor, something animals do to be social. It sounds gross but one study conducted in 2015 examined 300 subjects who didn't know what the test about. They were video taped as they met the researcher, and those who had shaken the researcher's hand were way more likely to later smell their own hand and even inhale twice as deeply as normal, showing that they were definitely smelling. People blink around 15 times a minute, though interestingly babies only blink once or twice a minute and women who are on contraceptives blink about thirty percent more than other women. But scientists aren't sure why. Personal space, or as we sometimes call it, our bubble, varies from culture to culture. In the U.S we prefer acquaintances to be about one and a half to four feet away from us which is similar to European cultures. In Japan, acquaintances will stand further away than that in general and personal space is smaller in a lot of Latin American cultures. In one 2011 experiment, researchers found that crossing your arms or hands can help alleviate pain, especially if the pain is in the hands. They concluded that the action probably confuses the brain for a second, making it easier to handle the discomfort. Limbic synchrony is the term for when you're spending time with someone and start to mirror their body language and posture, and there's a reason people do this. It actually increases empathy. In one study researchers had people talk in a group for awhile. One of the researchers spent the time subtly mirroring half of the participants. Then that researcher dropped a bunch of pens and subjects who'd been mirrored were two to three times more likely to help pick them up.

Another part of body language that evolved is self touching, like nail biting or hair twirling. These tend to be linked with anxiety and negative emotions, in fact, chimpanzees do a similar thing with scratching. Studies show that people are considered more attractive when they're tilting their heads. Women are preferred if they are tilting their head forward. Is this working for you guys? And men are preferred while they're tilting backwards. Experts think this might be evolutionary and related to height preference. Body language is important in sports too, especially when it comes to intimidating opponents. 

One study found that table tennis players with good posture were viewed as more aggressive and confident. Researchers at the University of British Columbia also found that the body language of a winning athlete is fairly universal. Even blind athletes react to a win in a similar way, with their hands up and mouth open. People aren't the only ones who can use body language. For instance, ravens use their beaks to point at objects and we know it works because after one does this, other ravens look in that direction. 

When the coral grouper finds prey in a reef, it points its nose at the prey and begins the shake around. The grouper can't get to the prey on its own, so the giant moray eel and Napolean wrasse take note of this body language and help capture it. Gazelles do the opposite, when a cheetah has found one it begins to jump up and down, animal experts believe that this is a way of proving to the predator that the Gazelle is in shape and can outrun the cheetah, hoping it's going to change its mind.

Chimpanzees use tons of gestures to communicate. In fact, researchers estimate that there are about 66 different ones to reference everything from food to fighting to sex and some animals use bioluminescence or light production to communicate, for instance, Zooids which are marine invertebrates that make up pyra ? zones light up to tell neighboring zooids that something is wrong. 
And they should light up as well.

All right, let's finish up with the difference and gestures in body language around the world. There are few emotions that look the same in facial expressions across all cultures: anger, happiness, sadness, disgust, surprise, and fear.
And these are typically the ones that emerge in the micro expressions I discussed earlier. Some cultures are actually better at understanding body language than others. For example, people from Asian cultures are considered much better at interpreting it. In a few places, people nod to say no instead of yes, like we do. If you get a nod in Greece, Turkey, and a few other places, like this, that means no. Making horn fingers, a la Breakfast Club, in Brazil, that means a person's spouse is a cheater. Giving a thumbs up can be an offensive gesture in some places. But the universality of Facebook might change that. In the US and Europe, crossed fingers means lying or good luck. But in Vietnam, crossed fingers is a vulgar way to imply female genitals. Using your index finger to get someone to come to you isn't cool in the Philippines, that's something they only do to dogs. If you cross your arms in Finland, you might be viewed as arrogant. In Russia, sometimes shaking hands with a member of the opposite sex is frowned upon. And never shake hands without taking your gloves off first, unless you're Elsa.

Finally, I return to The Salon to tell you that in Japan it's totally normal for a speeches audience to remain with their eyes closed for the whole time. It's a respectful sign that they're listening and paying attention. 

Thanks for watching Mental Floss Video which is made with the help of all these nice people. Again, I'm Adrienne. Sometimes I host Crash Course Economics, which you can check out here. Bye.