In the recent weeks I’ve been watching a lot of Ted talks about science and magic. Coincidentally, just before our lecture regarding gestures, movement, and inter-species communication, I came across a fitting talk by Amy Cuddy. Cuddy is a social psychologist at Harvard Business School, studying body language and how it influences different people. In her talk, “Your body language shapes who you are,” she discusses two very common emotions that humans often experience: pride and shame. Cuddy explains that the body language for pride and dominance is associated with opening up, becoming bigger, and taking up more space. On the flip side, the unspoken communication, or ‘non-verbals’, associated with shame or grief is shrinking down and becoming smaller.

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These two traits can be seen across the whole animal kingdom, from reptiles to primates to humans. I find this observation so interesting because even though we are so different in many ways, humans and animals often behave very similarly. Not only can humans communicate non-verbally thanks to body language, but humans can also ‘read’ animals, and vise versa, to understand how the other is feeling. Body language bridges the gap of evolutionary, cultural, and psychological development, and generates a universal language across the globe. Her lecture continues with studies she conducted with apes and humans, searching for explanations as to why our body language is so useful for communication in general. Her main argument is extremely motivational, stating that not only does our body language affect others, but also it has the greatest impact on ourselves. She explains that interviewees who are often hired for new jobs are the more confident candidates, relating to pride which was discussed earlier. She conducted a study in which she had different subjects model body positions relating to pride and shame, and then interviewed them for a job. After being critiqued by a non-biased party, the interviewees were ranked as to whether or not they would be hired. Cuddy found that the people who exemplified the prideful body language were the ones hired because their personality reflected their posture. Through this experiment, Cuddy claims that the ways we act influence whom we become. This claim is so intriguing because it pushes the idea of body language further than simply non-verbal communication, and challenges preconceived definitions of how we develop as humans. In modern society, people are judges by their actions because the actions reflect their character. However Cuddy proves that the opposite is true, and instead our actions greatly influence our character. These findings take the saying, “fake it ‘till you make it,” and view it on a whole new level. Our body language influences our true character enough to fully change who we are and how we act. Cuddy explains that we shouldn’t just “fake it ‘till we make it,” but instead should “fake it ‘till we become it.” This is an amazing lecture because it exposes a new way of viewing body language. Body language is one thing shared across the globe by all animals, and it influences more than just the people around us.

-Sam Ozenbaugh


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