The Nonverbal Symphony of Attraction

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Glossy magazine articles on
the body language of attraction often quote two vital nonverbal factors:
posture mirroring and movement echo. The first is where the other person has
adopted the same position as you and the second is where they copy your
movement. While they both play a role, research suggests it’s not in fact the
individual movements, but the patterns of movements that tell the story of
attraction between two people.
In a study of nonverbal
behaviour, Grammer, Kruck and Magnusson (1998) analysed videos of people
meeting for the first time. Interactions were videotaped from behind a one-way
screen and participants were asked afterwards how likely they would be to go on
a date with the person they’d met.
The videos were analysed by
categorising movements of the head, shoulders, arms, hands, trunk and legs.
This information was then run through software to search for patterns. Overall,
around 4,000 patterns of nonverbal behaviour were analysed.
Contrary to many previous
findings, attraction was predicted by patterns of synchronisation and not
simple mirroring of body language. What emerged were rhythmic structures of
movement synchrony – patterns of bodily movement people adopted. In common with
previous research, Grammer et al. (1998) found it was women who tended to start
and control these patterns. Indeed, the more interested a woman was in a man,
the more complicated these patterns became.
Effectively, then, potential
couples test their compatibility nonverbally by constructing symphonies of body
language, with women as conductors. Considering the complexity of this
description, it’s clear why ‘movement synchrony’ never makes it to the
glossies, although it’s probably much closer to the truth of how nonverbal
attraction is negotiated.
the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD
is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from
University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about
scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book
“Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks.

Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.