Monday, February 4, 2013

The Science of Body Language

To celebrate Poison's release, I'm giving away THREE personalized copies of Poison by random drawing to commentors on this week's posts. To be eligible, you must leave a comment that includes your e-mail address. Must also live in the USA. Drawing will take place midnight on Saturday, February 9th. Winner announced here at Redwood's February 10th.

I thought I'd talk a little bit about the research I did for the novel. I'm a research hound for sure and can get easily sidetracked into finding those fun little facts that help make the story more fun and interesting for the reader.

I am fascinated by body language. I often watch Tonya Reiman on the O'Reilly Factor as she analyzes body language. I have not read any of her books so cannot speak to their quality but I did read What Every Body is Saying by Joe Navarro who is an ex-FBI type and I do highly recommend it for anyone wanting to learn more on the subject. 

Some of the most interesting points were as follows:

  • The limbic brain (the emotion center) gives a true response through body language that is congruent with how we really feel. It reacts reflexively, instantly, in real time and without thought. 
  • The neocortex is the higher, thinking part of the brain and is also the least honest. 
  • Non-verbal behaviors are sometimes referred to as "tells" that disclose the person's true state of mind.
  • What must be determined first is the subject's baseline behavior which would include:
    • How they typically sit.
    • Where they normally place their hands.
    • Usual position of their feet.
    • Posture and common facial expressions.
    • Tilt of their heads.
    • Where they place and hold possessions.
    • Blink rate
  •   Then you look for signs of discomfort-- followed by a pacifying behavior. This might be someone pursing their lips (showing discomfort) and then smoothing their palms over their legs (a pacifying gesture). 
  • In watching Tonya and reading Joe's book-- neither will say that you can 100% tell if a person is lying. What you can see is that surrounding a group of questions-- the person has a lot of discomfort/pacifying behaviors and a skilled body language reader will then hone in on that area for questioning.
  • The face is the most dishonest part of they body. Think about it-- from the time we are born we are taught to tell "little white lies" with a straight face. According to Joe, the feet are the most honest part of the body. So he prefers a subject to be sitting where he can observe their feet.
What about you-- what do you think of the science of body language? have you ever used it in a book?


  1. First, congrats on 'Poison'!

    Since I write fantasy, I have the most fun with the body language of my non-human characters, and how it can sometimes be easily misconstrued by the humans who don't know them well.

    (adaneth [AT] usfamily [DOT] net)

    1. Interesting way to apply body language concepts!

  2. Jordyn, This book sound like a great asset for a writer. I'm always looking to portray feelings via body language, and this appears to be an invaluable aid for me as well as other writers. Thanks for the heads-up.
    And congratulations on Poison.

    1. Thank you, Richard-- and many thanks for your endorsement for Poison!

      Yes, good book. Let me know if you find it as handy as I did.

  3. I'm interested in body language too. Thanks for the resource suggestion. I also have the Emotion Thesaurus that helps but it comes at body language from a different angle.

    I can't wait to read Poison! Congrtulations, Jordyn.


    1. I find the emotion thesaurus a great resource, too.

  4. Hi Jordyn & kudos on the release of Poison!

    I used to conduct advanced interrogation techniques for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and placed significant emphasis on reading body language. Interrogations of serious crime suspects are very carefully planned and monitored; in a tag-team where one officer would do the direct, verbal questioning while 1 or 2 others would monitor by video, paying close attention to the verbal and physical responses. A huge tell-tale is the suspect' limb extremity reaction to key stressor questions. Invariably the suspect's hands or feet would clench/curl when being deceitful to a key question. There are many other flags to read, but the extremity response is very accurate.

    I never saw a case where the suspect was aware of extremity reaction and could consciously control this part of their body language. This is a standard interrogation technique; no secret in the police world, but I doubt many writers would know it. Just one more tool for plot building!

    1. Oohhh, excellent tip Gary. I will be remembering that one.

  5. This book sounds helpful - good to have a source for other gestures to show feelings.
    HM at HVC dot RR dot COM

  6. Jordyn,
    A great posting....and thanks for the chance to read your latest masterpiece.

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  7. So excited for you about the release of Poison - I only hope that I can be in that position one day! I have had the pleasure over the years of watching the body language of elementary age school children - especially when in trouble and in the office of the Principal. It's amazing that even at that tender age, their body language almost always gives them away, lol.

    1. Yes, my daughters are the same way.

      I am a horrible liar. My mother just asked me if I had my author copies of Poison. I wanted to surprise her but waited a little too long to answer and right away... she says, "Are you fibbing to your mother?!?"


  8. It truly is amazing what you can learn about a person by their body language. I've always been a people watcher, and it's a very interesting habit. I often create stories in my mind regarding the people I observe. Maybe I should write a book! LOL. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of "Poison."

  9. Can't wait to read your book Poison!! I also find body language very interesting. Fun to watch people and try to figure out what they are thinking or how they feel. My email is
    Thanx for this opportunity!!

  10. I once went to a seminar on body language. Very fascinating especially when in the field of interrogating criminals. My husband was an arson investigator and I had the privilege of going to a seminar with him.

    Best wishes as always for continued success!

  11. I hope you like it just as much as Proof!

  12. Proof is one of my all time favoriates, I can not wait to read Poison. Great artical on body language.

  13. Jordyn, I loved "Proof" and I can't wait to read to read "Poison". I always write reviews for my friends' books so I really would love to win a personalized copy. I hope this is the right place to leave a comment.
    My e-mail is . I think I'd love to read the body language book by Joe Navarro, too. If I didn't leave my e-mail in the correct place, PLEASE let me know where I should leave it. Congratulations on finishing the book!!!

  14. Loved Proof, can't wait for Poison! Please include me in the drawing for the free copy. You are indeed a talented writer and as I said before I rank you with Robin Cook and Richard Mabry when it comes to medical fiction :)
    Ruth Kephart

  15. I have always thought body language says way more than we speak. Police, etc. rely on it. Sometimes wrongly. I would love a copy of Poison, as Proof was the most exciting medical mystery I've ever read--and I don't say that lightly. Thank you for a great opportunity to win Poison.

    I did order Jo Navarro's books. These kind of things totally intrigue me.

  16. Would love to be entered in your contest for "Poison". I loved "Proof". Thanks! :)

    frequentreader19 (at) gmail (dot) com
    My blog: Christian Bookshelf Reviews

  17. You Say More Than You Think: Use the New Body Language to Get What You Want!, The 7-Day Plan
    by Janine Driver, Mariska Van Aalst
    This is a book that I have read that helps with the Science of Body Language. I agree with the studies. I work in the field of Emergency Medical Services and I have found body language reading helpful in finding out what the pt. cannot tell you in their own words.
    Have I used this in my stories? Yes. I try to write this or show this in my stories because people share what they are thinking and feeling through their body more than they realize. I also read a book called, How to Spot Lies Like the FBI
    by Mark Bouton. In this book he also talks about the importance of observing body language. The first few seconds of observation of a person reveal the truth before the individual can adjust their body to their minds thoughts to hide the truth. Interesting stuff.
    As a writer, I believe we are always watching people and their mannerisms before we actually talk to them. Thus, body language as a science is helpful to learn.
    I would like to read your book "Poison". Thanks for sharing and keep writing.

  18. I recommend all of Desmond Morris' work -- he pioneered the field of body language