See also Branch Substitute Green Herbs Spices Power Grip

Copyright © 1998 - 2001 (David B. Givens/Center for Nonverbal Studies)

lawn

LAWN DISPLAY

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The poetry of earth is ceasing never. --Keats, On the Grasshopper and Cricket

Damn, I poured my whole life into this lawn, my heart, my soul, the tender feelings I've held back from my family. . . . Look, some people hoist a flag to show they love their country. Well, my lawn is my flag. --Hank Hill, King ofthe Hill (quoted in The Spokesman-Review, May 28, 2000, F1)

Spatial cue. A plot of carefully groomed grass, and any of several decorative artifacts (e.g., white pickets or plastic pink flamingos) placed upon its surface.

Usage: Lawns mark territory and betoken status. Each year, Americans buy an estimated 500,000 plastic pink flamingo ornaments to mark their yard space--and to provide tangible evidence that, "This land is mine."

Evolution. Two m.y.a. the first humans lived in eastern Africa on hot, flat, open countryside with scattered trees and bushes and little shade, known as savannah grasslands. (N.B.: At this time, the human brain was expanding faster than any brain ever had in animal history, and in the growing process seemingly locked in a fondness for level grassland spaces.)

Verbal prehistory. The word lawn itself may be traced to the ancient Indo-European root, lendh-, "open

Today I. To make earth more to our liking, we flatten and smooth its surface to resemble the original rolling plains our ancestors walked upon during the critical Pleistocene epoch two m.y.a. Neo-Savannah Grassland--with its scattered bushes, trees, and lawns--is the dominant theme of housing tracts, land.

campuses, cemeteries, entertainment parks, and shopping malls in almost every city today.

Today II. So important are lawns as consumer products that, at the University of Florida, a $700,000 campus laboratory—known as the TurfGrass Envirotron--was fabricated so horticulturalists could watch grass grow.

TodayIII. "Despite the view in some circles that lawns are a symbol of suburban conformity and repressed individualism, Americans traditionally have equated a green space around the home with freedom and power, said Washington State University horticulturalist Ken Struckmeyer" (Turner 2000:F8).

Flatland, China. In 1999, Chinese leaders planted a few hundred square yards of grass from seed (shipped from USA's Inland Northwest) on Tiananmen Square. "Across China, cities are planting thousands of acres of lawns, parks and golf courses ['to reverse decades of environmental ruin and make drab cities more livable'] . . ." (McDonald 1999). (N.B.: On Tiananmen square, knee-high metal signs warn visitors: "Please don't enter the grass.")

Flatland, USA. Taking the U.S. as a whole, 40 square feet of perfectly level shopping-center space has been constructed for every child born since 1986. Due to our prehistory on grasslands, we prefer to conduct our lives on plane-paved surfaces. In Los Angeles, ". . . 70 percent of the land area is devoted to the use of cars . . ." (Mathews 1974). Some 100,000 acres of land are now occupied, e.g., by vast, table-terraced superstores. (N.B.: Inside air temperatures average 72 degrees F., the warmth of the primeval savannah.) And spreading in front of houses and apartment buildings are closely cropped micro-savannahs, occupying an estimated 7.7 million acres of level, home-lawn plots.

Interior design. "Grass green [in the home environment] is not particularly popular in rural areas, where presumably people see a lot of it. But for those from inner city areas, green ranks high on their list of favorites" (Vargas 1986:142).

Media. "Like the interstate highway system, fast food chains, telephones, televisions, and malls, the lawn occupies a central, and often unconsidered, place in America's cultural landscape." --Georges Teyssot ("The American Lawn," quoted in Spokesman-Review, May 28, 2000:F1)

Neuro-notes. Like the cylindrical, filamentous projections covering our scalp, we respond to grass blades as we do to our own hair. The compulsion to feed, clip, and groom our yard space is prompted by the same preadapted modules of the mammalian brain which motivate personal grooming and hair care (see CINGULATE GYRUS). Like thick, healthy locks, well-groomed lawns bespeak health, vigor, and high status.

See also GOLF.

Copyright © 1998 - 2001 (David B. Givens/Center for Nonverbal Studies)

Posture. To rest with the torso in an upright position and the body supported largely on the buttocks.

Usage: The manner of sitting at a conference table, e.g., transmits information about one's status (mental, physical, and social), feelings, and unvoiced opinions, attitudes, and moods.

Primatology. Sitting is the usually favored position of primates. Salesmanship. "Do not wait to be asked to be seated" (Delmar 1984:42).

RESEARCH REPORTS: 1. The most detailed research on sitting positions is by the anthropologist Gordon W. Hewes (1957). 2. Male, North-American college students express uneasiness with changes in sitting posture (e.g., by assuming a more direct body orientation; Vrugt, Anneke, and Kerkstra 1984). 3. Female, North-American college students show uneasiness by sitting still and arm-crossing (Vrugt, Anneke, and Kerkstra 1984). 4. In chairs and couches, a. ankle-ankle legs cross ("I am politely relaxed"; worldwide), b. knee-knee legs cross ("I am very relaxed"; worldwide), c. ankle-knee legs cross ("I am assertively relaxed"; widespread), and d. legs twine ("I am slinkily relaxed"; widespread) have been identified as typical human sitting postures (Morris 1994:152-54).

Neuro-notes: As consumer products, couches are designed to recall the primate lap's protopathic softness, and to stimulate pleasure areas for grooming, childcare, and sexuality in the mammalian brain's cingulate gyrus.

See also LOVE SIGNALS III (E-Commentary).

Copyright © 1998 - 2001 (David B. Givens/Center for Nonverbal Studies) Detail of photo (copyright the Loehr Collection)

armcross

ARM-CROSS

Posture. 1. Folding the arms over the lower chest or upper abdomen, with one or both hands touching the biceps muscles. 2. A common resting position of the arms upon and across the torso. 3. A self-comforting, self-stimulating posture, unconsciously used to alleviate anxiety and social stress.

Usage. Though often decoded as a defensive barrier sign, the arm-cross represents a comfortable position for relaxing the arms, e.g., while speaking, as well. With arms and elbows pulled tightly into the body (i.e., flexed and adducted), the gesture may reveal acute nervousness or chronic anxiety. Held less tightly against the chest, with elbows elevated and projecting outward (away from the body, i.e., abducted), the arm-cross presents a guard-like stance, suggestive of arrogance, disliking, or disagreement.

U.S. politics. Arm-crossing has been analyzed as a "classic defensive stance" in the April 11, 1988 Time magazine cover picture of Democratic presidential nomination hopeful Jesse Jackson (Blum 1988; see also Blum's analysis of the gesture as used in world politics).

RESEARCH REPORTS. 1. In conditions of severe crowding, the frequency of arms crossed in front of the body touching at the crotch "greatly increased" (Baxter and Rozelle 1975.48). 2. A report summarizing studies of North American college students found a. that women use open arm positions with men they like, but cross-arms with men they dislike (men, on the other hand, show no difference);

and b. that women show uneasiness by crossing their arms (while men do not; Vrugt and Kerkstra 1984). 3. "Folding arms may indicate protection against some sort of verbal or nonverbal attack" (Richmond et al. 1991:62). 4. Arm-cross is a worldwide posture that means, "I feel defensive" (Morris 1994:5).

Neuro-notes. For the neurology of arm-crossing, see SELF-TOUCH.

Synonyms--Fold arms (Grant 1969), fold (Brannigan and Humphries 1972). See also HANDS-ON-HIPS, STRANGER ANXIETY.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000 (David B. Givens/Center for Nonverbal Studies) Detail of photo by Nina Leen (copyright Life)

AQUATIC BRAIN & SPINAL CORD

Evolution. 1. The original design of our central nervous system, established ca. 500 m.y.a. in the sea. 2. Collectively, those primeval parts of our brain and spinal cord which arose in the jawless fishes. 3. Specifically, those circuits, nuclei, and modules of the spinal cord, hindbrain, midbrain, and forebrain which evolved in ancient oceans.

Usage: Many of our most basic gestures, postures, and bodily responses originated in paleocircuits of the aquatic brain and spinal cord. Though our nervous system has greatly evolved, paleocircuits for smell-related cues (see DISGUST), touch (see TACTILE WITHDRAWAL), locomotion (e.g., for the rhythmic, alternating movements of walking), and chemical arousal (as evident, e.g., in the FIGHT-OR-FLIGHT response) remain functionally the same today.

Sea view. Like life itself, nonverbal communication evolved in the sea. The first Ordovician cues given and received 500 m.y.a. targeted receptors for touch and smell in our remote oceanic ancestors. Deep in the aquatic brain and spinal cord of the jawless fishes, neural circuits evolved which process many of the wordless signs we send and receive today. Spinal and cranial nerves, e.g., continue to link sensory input with motor response in programming the outflow of nonverbal cues:

I. Spinal cord. The oldest proto-gestures can be traced to tactile-withdrawal spinal reflexes of the earliest known vertebrates. Based on studies of newly hatched fishes, e.g., it is likely that touching the skin of these extinct animals would have elicited the same alternating, side-to-side flexion movements designed to remove swimmers from predators and to deliver them from harm's way (see CROUCH).

II. Hindbrain. The aquatic hindbrain sent signals to the spinal cord a. to maintain muscle tone, b. to control the excitability of cord reflexes, and c. to select cord paleocircuits for reflexive body movements and postures. A chemical storage area (comparable to our brain's locus ceruleus or "blue spot") was a primary source of the neurotransmitter, norepinephrine. Fiber-linked to the spinal cord below and to the forebrain above, this chemical was (and still is) important in regulating arousal. Today in humans, highly aroused spinal reflexes show, e.g., in faster and stronger body movements.

SUPPLEMENTARY NOTE: Another early chemical reservoir (comparable to our brain's raphe nuclei) was for serotonin. As old as vertebrates themselves--or even older--serotonin has been found in living crabs and lobsters. Injected into the bloodstream of a lobster, e.g., serotonin leads to an elevated body posture which expresses dominance. In our own nervous system, serotonin promotes the expression of confident body signs, such as squaring-up with a partner (see ANGULAR DISTANCE), returning eye contact, and smiling. (N.B.: By increasing serotonin levels, Prozac and similar drugs may decrease aversive [i.e., unfriendly, negative] signs, and increase affiliative [i.e., friendly, positive] cues.)

III. Midbrain. The aquatic midbrain had a chemical storage area for the neurotransmitter dopamine. Comparable to our own midbrain's substantia nigra (or "black spot"), it supplied dopamine to primitive motor centers of the striatal complex (still present in our basal ganglia), which influenced body movements for locomotion and for keeping upright in gravity's downward pull (see ANTIGRAVITY SIGN). Lowered dopamine levels in humans (caused, e.g., by Parkinson's disease) may show in an awkward shuffling gait, an expressionless face, and rotary trembling movements of the arms and hands (see AKINESIA).

IV. Forebrain. Incoming (or afferent) taste and aroma cues dominated the aquatic forebrain via fiberlinks from the amygdala to chemical-control areas of the hypothalamus. On the former's command, nuclei of the latter released neurohormones into the bloodstream, arousing body movements and postures of the fight-or-flight response.

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