(Inside Science TV) – How you talk, move and gesture can say a lot about you.
Now communication experts at Stanford University in California are studying body language in a whole new way.
“We’re trying to look at different aspects of states of mind," said Andrea Stevenson Won, a communications specialist at Stanford University.
Studies on body language have traditionally relied on scientists' individual observations. But now, researchers are looking at an automatic way to study body language.
“The nice thing about doing this automatically is we can remove the biases of the observer," said Won.
Researchers recorded participants' conversations and measured the movements of their bodies, limbs and heads.
“What we were tracking was the movement of these points that kind of roughly represent the joints of the body,” explained Won.
Scientists found that people working together on a project that had moved their heads and bodies the same way came up with more creative solutions.
“When people were in sync, they were working better together. They were generating more creative ideas together,” she said.
Another study looked at the way teachers and students interacted. It found that when teachers used extreme motions during their lessons the students did not perform as well.
“If you made huge sweeping gestures … that tended to be negatively correlated with your student’s score," said Won.
The data could help employers assign workers to more creative teams and may provide teachers with more productive teaching strategies in their classrooms. For now, it's an interesting way to observe how body language affects human performance.
“This is really valuable information," remarked Won.
Scientists say the next step in their research is to see if making a person aware of their body movements can cause a behavioral change that could increase their performance. The researchers are currently creating hardware and software to test this correlation. For example, they are designing sensors that could beep when a person's head and torso begin to move too much.
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Andrea Stevenson Won, Stanford University