Many of our gestures are unintentional. We scratch our head to remove itch, but not to convey a message to someone else. Although these acts have no specific purpose with regard to inter-personal communication, they may reveal information about a person. For example, people, who are nervous, tend to scratch their head more frequently than others. Therefore, it is difficult to hide emotional feelings, since many unintentional movements do reveal information.
For example, if a student following a course puts his head to rest in his hands, it may reflect fatigue, but will also reflect that the course is boring, as most people do not feel tired when courses are interesting and exciting.
Those "unintentional" acts can also be used intentionally. For example, a student who wants to tease a teacher, may pretend that the course is boring by putting his head at rest in his hands
What are Gestures of Expression?
Gestures of expression are gestures with a biological background, which are the same all over the world. Sometimes, these gestures are also found with animals. An important class of gestures is that of facial expressions.
All primates have a broad spectrum of facial expressions. They have many well developed facial muscles, which allow many complex facial expressions. Of these primates, man has the most facial expressions and the human face is one of the most important sources of information in communication between people.
The hands also play an important role in gestures. Except from grasping, manipulation, etc. they play an important role in communication between people. Hand gestures usually support spoken words. They can also express emotional states, frequently unconsciously.
Result of Combined Expressions
Facial expressions and gestures are usually spontaneous. Quite frequently, people do not pay explicit attention to gestures. However, people will remember the emotional state of a person, which is the combined result of expressions of the face, arms, voice, etc., rather than each of these expressions separately. Together, these expressions provide a redundancy, such that only part of the gestures are enough to convey the message. It is like in speech, where some noise will not interfere with the interpretation of the spoken words.
Origin of Gestures
Our gestures of expression are originally related to gestures, which originate from previous times in another context. For example, wrinkling one's forehead when people are worried originates from covering the eyes in case of danger.
Although gestures of expression can be found in many populations of people, they are influenced by cultural backgrounds. Not all people in the world smile in the same way, although we all have the same musculature.
What are Mimic Gestures?
Mimic gestures are gestures imitating a person or an object. Only humans display these gestures and they are not found with animals. A good mimic gesture can be so striking, that even someone, who has never seen the gesture, immediately understands it.
Types of Mimic Gestures
There are four types of mimics:
1. Social mimic. This is behavior as expected in a social context. For example, on a party people laugh, even though they are not in the mood, because you are expected to be happy and to laugh. Actually, social mimic is some kind of fooling other people.
2. Theatre mimic. This is behavior to amuse and entertain other people. It can be observed in movies and theatres. People can adopt it by copying behavior of actors or by simulating a particular situation.
3. Partial mimic. This is pretending someone or something, which will never occur. For example, playing the role of a bird or a tree. Or holding the hands together like holding a gun.
4. Vacuum mimic. This is a gesture or behavior indicating the absence of something. An example is suggesting the absence of food by simulating to be hungry.
What are Technical Gestures?
Technical gestures are gestures, which are used only by particular minorities. They are used exclusively within a particular group and do not have any meaning for outsiders. They have no meaning for the culture of a country, because they are not used frequently enough.
Technical gestures are used in conditions when communication by words is impossible or difficult. For example, divers under water cannot communicate. Also fireman have developed particular gestures to indicate the water supply desired .
Since these technical gestures are used by a small group of people, they can easily be misunderstood by people, not familiar with these gestures. For example, people in distress sometimes wave, which can be understood as exchange of friendly greetings
What are Coded Gestures?
Contrary to other types of gestures, coded gestures are part of a strictly formal system of gestures. They are usually part of a system of interrelated gestures. Unlike technical gestures which are well-defined and which have a meaning independent of each other, each coded gesture has a meaning which is not independent of other gestures. Coded gestures make a meaning in the context of other gestures just like the characters in a word.
If one character in a word is changed, the word may have another meaning. In the same way, another gesture may change the meaning of a sequence of coded gestures.
The most well-known example of coded gestures is the language of gestures for blind people. This language of hand signals has a one-handed and a two-handed version. Another example is using flags as communication between ships.
Coded gestures require a lot of training. It illustrates the wide variety of ways for communication between people.
In addition to the types of gestures mentioned above, there are two other groups of gestures, which deserve a short description.
What are Schematic Gestures?
First there are schematic gestures. These are shortened versions of mimic gestures. Schematic gestures try to emphasize particular features of the technical gestures.
Schematic gestures form a kind of shorthand dialect, which are the result of frequent and fast executed gestures.
Schematic gestures are not always uniquely interpretable and they can vary between various groups of people.
What are Symbolic Gestures?
Second, there are symbolic gestures. These gestures symbolize symbols, rituals or religious ideas. Symbolic gestures are hard to understand outside the community, which uses these gestures. Some gestures can have a different meaning in various cultural groups.
Sometimes there is a relationship between the meaning and the gesture, but this is not always the case