Body Language Decoded

How we move our bodies can speak louder than our words and the information we unknowingly share can be surprising.
Available on CBC Gem

Body Language Decoded

Nature of Things

Take a journey deep inside the intriguing world of non-verbal communication. As human beings, our bodies communicate our inner emotions and feelings in ways that can often be easily seen by others, but at other times, are barely visible.

On every continent and in every ethnicity, expressions of emotions such as happiness, surprise, anger and fear are universally recognized. These expressions are hard-wired into our facial muscles for reasons that have everything to do with human evolution and survival of the species. To the trained observer, the way people move can be more revealing than the things people say.

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We all use our intuition when trying understand another person’s intentions or needs. We watch the way they walk, and how they stand. We look for their eye-contact and whether they appear comfortable or anxious. But when intuition is augmented by scientifically based observational techniques, the picture becomes much more clear.

These techniques are increasingly being used in the worlds of law enforcement, surveillance and security, as well as politics and commerce. Understanding the “non-verbals” of the people we encounter gives us an edge that can mean the difference between a sale or a no-sale, between an election victory or defeat, between safety and danger, and even between a successful or doomed relationship.

SCENE FROM THE FILM: Convicted murderer Penny Boudreau's press conference plea got body language experts suspicious.

Body Language Decoded features interviews with some of the world’s leading experts in human communication.

  • From San Francisco, Dr. David Matsumoto explains the hard-wired interconnectedness between our thoughts and emotions, our nervous systems, and our bodies.
  • Retired FBI agent Joe Navarro – who became known as ‘the spy-catcher’ – describes bodily displays of comfort and discomfort, and the physical behavior people exhibit when they are experiencing stress.
  • From the Bio-Motion Laboratory at Queen’s University, Dr. Nikolas Troje demonstrates the human brain’s uncanny ability to automatically gather information about other people simply by watching the way they walk. 
  • At Miami International Airport, Public Safety and Security Director Lauren Stover describes her pioneering program that resulted in each and every employee at the airport – some 40,000 in all – receiving basic training in behavior detection.
  • From California, body language expert Dr. Lillian Glass gives insights into personal relationships gained by years of observation. 
  • University of British Columbia Forensic Psychologist Dr. Stephen Porter describes how his team helped solve a murder mystery by accurately reading the body language of a key witness, and correctly concluding that she was not being truthful in a heart-rending television news appearance. 
  • In Amsterdam, we are introduced to a company that is engaged in cutting-edge research and development that is enabling computers to recognize the gender, ethnicity and facial expressions of human beings. 
  • From Harvard University, social psychologist Amy Cuddy explains how it’s not just that our bodies display outwardly what we are feeling inside. In fact, the reverse is also true: we can actually influence the way we feel by changing the way we move.

Body Language Decoded is written and directed by Geoff D’Eon and produced by Edward Peill of Halifax-based Tell Tale Productions.