Meaning of Body Postures

Meaning of Body Postures - Studies on the relationship between posture and personality are not many. However, it is well known that the extent to which one changes position in the presence of others is an element that provides…

Studies on the relationship between posture and personality are not many. However, it is well known that the extent to which one changes position in the presence of others is an element that provides information about the level of self-esteem of the person, of extraversion or introversion, or even of the styles of behavior and behaviors. lived roles.

Postures adapted to different circumstances and social contexts are defined by cultural norms, but in the presence of certain moods or emotions, recurrent postures are assumed. In this article, we will see the meaning of body postures with images.

Posture changes


What do the body postures say? When a person suddenly changes position, this not only reflects an outward change in attitude, but also represents a change in inner disposition . Of course, the interlocutor's internal change can only be assumed after having ruled out the possibility that these movements are related to back pain or simple muscular difficulties.

Socially recognized positions


Despite the decoding of non-verbal communication dictated by the position of the body in space, it maintains a certain ambiguity, it is possible to identify some typical postures that refer to meanings easily recognizable by the interlocutors.

Sarbin and Hardyck used drawings of stylized human figures to experimentally check the agreement of the interpretations given to the different postures . The experiment consisted of subjecting some subjects to stylized images representing people in different positions and asking them to attribute a precise meaning to each figure. Most of the research participants correctly interpreted the meaning of the represented body postures.

Some positions presented by Sarbin and Hardyck (1953) are the following: a) curious; b) perplexed; c) indifferent; d) rejection; e) observe; f) satisfied with himself; g) cozy; h) result; i) furtive; j) search; k) observe; l) attentive; m) violent, anger; n) agitated; o) distended; p) surprised, dominant, suspicious; q) stealth; r) shy; s) careful; t) affectionate.

The relaxed stance on social status and gender


The psychologist Albert showed that one of the ways through which the relaxed posture communicates dominance. This manifests itself with the following 5 body postures:

  • Asymmetric position of the arms.
  • Lateral tilt.
  • Asymmetric position of the legs.
  • Hand relaxation.
  • Tilt back.


A relaxed postural style is adopted when in the presence of people of the opposite sex and of a lower social class. The same style is assumed in front of people considered not friendly or at least not pleasant. Usually people not intimidated by others exhibit more relaxed and unbridled attitudes. When interacting with men of higher status or considered sympathetic, women tend to adopt a relaxed posture, with their arms and legs spread. Men, on the other hand, take a relaxed posture and a more direct gaze towards men considered very unfriendly.

The position for psychoanalysis


Many psychoanalysts have proposed possible interpretations of the postures that patients take when placed on the sofa or in the chair during therapy. From the synthesis of these studies, the psychologist Michael Argyle proposes these types of body postures and their meaning:

  • Arms closed, crossed: self-protection, especially of the breasts, and withdrawal.
  • Clinging to an edge of clothing - fear of accidents on the body.
  • Shrugging the shoulders and palms of the hands: passive weakness.
  • Very crossed legs in women: self-protection and withdrawal.
  • Uncrossed legs: flirting.
  • Legs crossed or crossed (women) in an exhibitionist way: flirting.
  • There is no movement in the pelvis: sexual inhibition.
  • Rigid trunk, martial bearing (men), composed and erect (women): hides anxiety .
  • Conceited and affectionate demeanor: conflict between the desire to send sexual signals and shyness.
  • Trunk lowered, indolent, immobile: weakness or request for help.
  • Curled up in the chair, languishing, erotic - expresses sexual urges.


Imitate the other's posture


Experimental studies have shown that the establishment of a meaningful interpersonal relationship is often accompanied by an unconscious imitation of the interlocutor's position. According to Adam Kendon, the tendency to adopt speculative positions with respect to the interlocutor can be considered an indication of a good relationship between the interacting subjects.

The psychologists Maxwell and Cook confirmed this finding, stating that the congruence of postures between people in relationship is interpretable as an indication of sympathy, while postural incongruity indicates a psychological distance or a different role between the interlocutors.

Social and public positions


We continue with the meaning of social and public positions. Let's see what are the bodily expressions of people in different social situations:

  • The people who are not interested in an approach are standing on one foot, do not orient the head and torso in the same direction.
  • The people at the margin of a situation has his hands on his hips.
  • People who are probing a situation keep their heads slightly tilted.
  • Those who participate actively keep their heads slightly tilted forward.
  • A forward lean associated with physical proximity and eye contact indicates a positive attitude . Find out more about eye contact in psychology: types and meaning .
  • Kneeling or bowing means acknowledging authority . This changes depending on the culture.
  • An upright posture, with the head raised, is considered dominant. In contrast, a curved posture, with the head bowed, is considered an expression of submission .
  • Posture can also have a function to present your intentions . For example, a man may take a rigid, martial stance to show that he is a soldier. You can also choose a calm and humble attitude because you are a friar, or an eccentric and relaxed posture to show that you are intellectual, etc.
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