Book Launch for Professor Geoffrey Beattie’s Rethinking Body Language @ Edge Hill University

By October 19, 2016

Politics. Liverpool.

professor-geoff-beattie_hands_webIn his work Silent Messages, Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s findings – part of the armoury of the “up-to-date” crowd – led to the now famous factoid that only seven per cent of human communications is verbal. The rest is composed of body language and tone of voice as the means we communicate the abstract wanderings of our simian brains to the wider world.

Anyone who has found themselves catastrophically misunderstood through text messages or Facebook will immediately appreciate how important the non-verbal lion’s share of our communications are. It also goes some way to explaining the meteoric rise of emojis, emoticons, and gifs in our social media communiques rather than those tricky blighters words. It is not only our return to the hieroglyphic as means of expressing ourselves without ambiguity in an increasingly ambiguous century.  Taking into account such aspects as “hashtag” becoming a regular written and even spoken suffix and subclause, our verbal and typographic communications is undergoing something of an identity crisis.

The twenty-first century is well underway and the watchword is communication. How we do it, why we do it, how quickly we do it is under scrutiny. This has led more and more clever folks to try and grapple with the fundamentals of a mechanism that the late Terry Pratchett described as having “developed to tell another group of monkeys where the fresh fruit is”.

As it’s difficult to condense the fundamentals of the relationship between human thought and communication into a tweet, Professor Geoffrey Beattie has been kind enough to write a book on the subject.

Professor Beattie is no stranger to the diverse realms of communication. Not only professor of psychology at Edge Hill University, not only an internationally renowned academic writer he has also served as the resident psychologist on television shows from Big Brother to Ghost Hunting With…

His new book Rethinking Body Language: How Hand Movements Reveal Hidden Thoughts exemplifies the intertwining of verbal and non-verbal communication rather than as separate languages in and of themselves. The illusion of separateness is one that Prof. Beattie has set out – and succeeded – in dispelling, by focussing on how we gesticulate with our hands during speech as a keen part of establishing meaning and intent, punctuating (and even betraying) what we are really thinking and feeling. It would appear we really must watch what we say.

The more you think on the subject the more it appears as ready knowledge, as something that should be common sense – which for my money, is often the mark of a great book. Consider Westminster politicians and the unnaturalness of their public addresses. It is much mocked but the sight is somewhat sinister in a rather undefinable way, that when a politician has been through the mangle of image and media consultants they will gesticulate impotently with their flattened thumb. There is revulsion in this action and reeks immediately of distrust. It appears unnatural, dishonest, sickly somehow – the reasons as to why Prof. Beattie has gone to great lengths to bring us.

Rethinking Body Language is food for thought, especially of interest to any fans and readers of Steven Pinker for a shelf level comparison, and offers a new way of scrutinising the world (and folk) around us.