When it comes to perception, a myriad of reasons can affect how the viewer sees and perceives certain things and actions. These can range from personal experience to cultural norms. However, body language is the key that many people use to perceive emotions. Even in cultures where it is considered impolite to show emotion in public, the subconscious nature of body language can tell all. It can divulge not only a person's current emotional state but it can tell a person much about another's overall personality.
Let's examine an example.
The image above is a comparison of two of the main characters of my series StepSisters. Both young women are opposites of each other by nature. From examining their body language alone, you can see that Mariya, the girl on the left, is far more confident and dominant than Amy, the girl on the right. Her, Amy's, stance is more drawn in. Her knees are closer together, hands folded, shoulders slightly slumping: all of these denote a more demure and submissive disposition in her. The softness of her stance is in the common interpretation of a feminine person. Mariya on the other hand is more rigid. Her shoulders drawn back, feet planted firm, and straight posture exudes confidence. The placement of her hands denotes an aggressive nature.
The universal nature of body language is best exemplified by an experiment conducted by Thalia Wheatley, of Dartmouth College. Her and her co-researchers traveled to Cambodia to study the Kreung tribe, one of the indigenious groups that lives in Cambodia's highlands. Their research consisted of not only showing a number of Kreung videos of an American woman making displaying both positive and negative emotions but also had a traditional Kreung perform make facial expressions relating to said emotions. The group of researchers also showed a group of Dartmouth employees and students the video of the Kreung performer. The goal of the study was to document how emotion and body language was a bridge between cultures. The results were a sixty-two percent accuracy rate and an eighty-five percent accuracy rate respectively.
Vitelli, Romeo. “How Universal Is Body Language?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 12 Apr. 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/media-spotlight/201704/how-universal-is-body-language.
“Expressing Emotion through Posture and Gesture.” pp. 1–21.