See also Object Fancy

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000 (David B. Givens/Center for Nonverbal Studies)



Body movement. 1. A manner of grasping an object tightly, in a usually closed fist, between the palm and fingers. 2. To clutch, hold, or seize a bat, branch, club, or other object firmly with the hand.

Usage I: Our tight-fisted gestures given in anger, arousal, and fear employ the muscles and neural circuits of the power grip. Unlike its cerebral cousin--the precision grip--the power grip has its roots in a primitive grasping reflex, and often signals an emotional rather than a reasonable response.

Usage II: Holding objects tightly (e.g., steering wheels, posts, and handrails) is curiously pleasurable (perhaps as a holdover from our primate past and penchant for climbing trees; see PRIMATE BRAIN). Thus, power-gripping sports such as baseball, tennis, and golf are very popular today (see BRANCH SUBSTITUTE).

Culture. In Syria, clenching both hands in power grips, and raising them together over the midriff, with the thumbs positioned outward--as if stretching a rope--means, "I will strangle you" (Morris 1994:74).

Embryology. "A newborn infant has a grasp and a reaching reflex. He will automatically close his fingers tightly around any object placed in the palm of his hand" (Chase and Rubin 1979:177).

Evolution. The power grip originated as a primate adaptation for climbing.

Neuro-notes. In grasping a racket or a club, sensory feedback to the motor cortex may unconsciously tighten our grip. Stimulated by grasping, pressure-sensitive tactile receptors cause further excitement and contraction of muscles to unwittingly increase the tightness of our grip.


Copyright 1999, 2000 (David B. Givens/Center for Nonverbal Studies) Detail from photo by Jakob Tuggener precise


Body movement. 1. A manner of grasping an object between the opposed tactile pads of the thumb and fingertips. 2. A digital manipulation of fine motor control used, e.g., to write with a pencil, thread a needle, or change a lightbulb.

Usage: Our most thoughtful, conceptual, and "high-level" hand gestures (e.g., mime cues) frequently employ the muscles and neural circuits of the precision grip. A case in point is the steeple gesture, which is used when one is immersed in deep thought. Precision cues may take form, e.g., as the cerebral cortex processes financial, scientific, and other complex types of information or ideas. The precise digital opposition reflects precise mental calculation and technical thought.

Archaeology. The earliest evidence for use of the precision grip to produce symbolic art is an engraved, flat piece of shale-like ochre (red hematite [artifact no. SAM-AA 8937]) from Blombos Cave, South Africa. The etched, angular geometric pattern indicates that its maker could form abstract ideas over 70,000 years ago, according to Dr. Christopher Henshilwood of the South African Museum in Cape Town.

Culture. When asking a question, an Italian may hand purse (i.e., bring the tactile pads of the thumb and fingers together, and oscillate the palm-upward hand, up and down, by alternately flexing and extending the wrist). "Essentially this is a request for clarity. It is a 'precision posture' of the hand that says 'I want precise information'" (Morris 1994:115).

Evolution. The precision grip originated as an adaptation for primate grooming and finger-feeding. By ca. 40 m.y.a., the higher primates could oppose the thumb pad to the side of the second digit to clean insects from fur, pluck berries from bushes, and bring food to the mouth. By ca. 2.6 m.y.a., hominids such as Homo habilis used an improved precision grip (i.e., opposed the thumb against the digital pads themselves) to make crude Oldowan stone tools. By ca. 100,000 years ago, early humans used the fully modern precision grip, just as it is employed today (Trinkaus 1992). As a precision cue, precise opposition of the tactile pads suggests that dexterous brain modules have shifted into gear for activities such as problem-solving, planning, tool usage, and thoughtful design.

RESEARCH REPORTS: 1. "In particular, the way one holds a pen (and other, similar objects) is known as the precision grip--and even our closest primate relatives cannot manipulate objects with such delicacy and skill" (Staski and Marks 1992:190). 2. "Fine manipulative skills and a dependence on tools to exploit resources are hallmarks of the human species" (Trinkaus 1992:346). 3. The tactile pads of Homo habilis are as highly developed as those of modern human beings (Wills 1993).

Neuro-notes. The precision grip reflects an incredibly complex neural-wiring plan which has made our fingers intellectual "smart parts" of the highest order. We are able to thread a needle (or to pantomime the act) through intricate sequences of finger movements controlled by the prefrontal neocortex, working in tandem with two areas of the parietal neocortex: a. the supramarginal gyrus (Brodmann's area 39), and b. the angular gyrus (Brodmann's area 40). On the right side of the brain, these areas have specialized in order to process spatial information, while on the left side, to process speech. The prefrontal neocortex has improved our ability to sequence nonverbal hand and finger movements, while the parietal neocortex has bettered our ability to locate objects in space, to decode complex gestures, and to recognize objects placed in our hands by touch alone (i.e., without seeing them).

See also HANDS.

Copyright © 1998 - 2002 (David B. Givens/Center for Nonverbal Studies)



Gesture. 1. A position or movement of the hands used to depict the shape, motion, or location of a person, place or thing. 2. A speaking gesture in which the hands and fingers mimic physical, spatial, and temporal relationships among objects, activities, and events. 3. A hand gesture with neurological circuits as complex as those for speech.

Usage: Because they reveal the presence of conceptual thought, mime cues are our most intellectual gestures. Unlike palm-down, palm-up, and self-touch cues, which convey mainly emotion, mime cues also express narrative thinking, relationships among objects, and the association of ideas. In this regard, mime cues resemble the spoken words they so often accompany.

Application point. Used sparingly, mime cues lend authority, contribute to visual understanding, and add drama to key speaking points.

Evolution. Mimicking complex sequences of acts—demonstrating the body movements used, e.g., to make stone tools, build brush shelters, and topple trees--mime cues represent an advanced, conceptual form of nonverbal communication. Given in serial order, miming may have been our species' first step on the intellectual path leading to nonverbal narrative, the precursor of the verbal sign and vocal languages used today.

Semantics. 1. In a conversation about throwing a baseball, we may mime the motion with our hands. 2. Mime cues depict a. relationships among objects (e.g., "closer than," "as big as," "heavier"), b. attributes (e.g., "flat," "long," "rounded"), and c. action sequences (e.g., "I pick up snow," "form a snowball," and

"throw it at you"). 3. A typical mime sign is the walking-figure, used to mimic the body's rhythmic, strolling gait.

RESEARCH REPORTS: 1. In the literature on nonverbal communication, mime cues have been called illustrators (Ekman and Friesen 1969). 2. Of the eight kinds of illustrator gestures defined by Ekman and Friesen (1972), pictographs (i.e., drawing a picture in space with the hands) most closely resemble mime cues.

E-Commentary: "I am most interested in your nonverbal dictionary as I am engaged in writing a book on word usage. I have raised a couple of points in my book that I would like to pass along. These are both instances where modern verbal communication has stimulated nonverbal communication. First is finger quotes, where the person delivering the message indicates a quotation -- literally or 'ironically'--by holding up two fingers on each hand, representing the two strokes of the quotation mark. The whole body goes into delivering finger quotes, the shoulders, the eyebrows, mouth, arms, chest. That such a minor bit of technical punctuation should be transformed into expressive body language strikes me as odd. Second is telephone talking, where the three middle fingers are folded in and the hand is held up as if the thumb and pinkie were the receiver and transmitter of a telephone." --Tom Parmenter (6/12/01 8:28:48 AM Pacific Daylight Time)

Neuro-notes I. To mimic an act such as, e.g., changing a lightbulb, mime cues use the same brain modules to move the same muscles as the physical activity itself. Thus, neurologically, swinging a bat is nearly the same as gesturing the act of batting without using the bat itself. Computer imaging studies show that mentally rehearsing an activity involves the same brain areas, as well (Sirigu, et al. 1996:1564). 1. Mime cues engage many areas of our cerebral neocortex, as well as evolved sub-regions of our basal ganglia and cerebellum. 2. Asked to pantomime the use of an object (e.g., a screwdriver), we orient our hand toward the imagined object's target (i.e., the screw). Important in the ability of righthanders to use such transitive mime cues is the left supplementary motor neocortex (Watson et al. 1992:685-86). 3. Increased regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) in this region ". . . occurs only when movements have an extrapersonal [i.e., transitive, rather than intrapersonal (as in giving a military salute)] frame of reference" (Watson et al. 1992:686).

Neuro-notes II. Miming in temporal order and tracing shapes in space involve a highly evolved area of our neocortex's parietal lobe. The posterior parietal's left side is specialized for language. Its right side helps us process relationships among objects in space, along with information about the position ofour hands and our motivational state, all at the same time. 1. The right posterior parietal helps us perform and perceive complex gestures, and recognize complex objects placed in our hand, unaided by vision (Ghez 1991B:623). 2. "The right parietal lobe is specially concerned in the handling of spatial data and in a non-verbalized form of relationship between the body and space" (Eccles 1989:197). 3. As it integrates arriving visual, spatial, auditory, and tactile information, our parietal cortex receives emotional input from the cingulate gyrus of the mammalian brain. The parietal lobe then directs our body movements for gesture (and our tongue movements for speech) through fiber links to premotor areas of our brain's frontal cortex and lateral cerebellum (Ghez 1991B:623). 4. Mime cues are produced by nerve impulses traveling down the lateral corticospinal tract. This evolutionary recent pathway channels the fine-motor control of our finger and wrist muscles required by the mime gesture. See also APRAXIA, POINT, STEEPLE.

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



Gesture. 1. A speaking or listening cue made with the fingers extended and the hand(s) rotated to a downward (or pronated) position. 2. A posture in which the hands and forearms assume the prone position used in a floor pushup.

Usage: While speaking or listening to another's remarks, palm-down gestures show confidence, assertiveness, and dominance. (Palm-down gestures contrast with the friendlier, and more conciliatory, palm-up cue.) Accompanied by aggressive, palm-down "beating" signs, our ideas, opinions, and remarks appear stronger and more convincing. In particular, the palm-down cue is highly visible above a conference table, where it is raised and lowered like a judge's gavel.

Anatomy. Military (i.e., floor) pushups involve muscles of a. the shoulder girdle (trapezius, pectoralis, serratus anterior, rhomboid) and upper arm (triceps); b. the forearm (pronator teres, pronator quadratus); c. the wrist (extensor carpi); and d. the digits (extensor digitorum). Braided nerve networks from the cervical and brachial plexuses coordinate the palm-down cue. Our forearm's pronator teres muscle is the prime mover, as innervation is supplied through the 8th cervical and 1st thoracic nerves, by way of the brachial plexus. Pronator quadratus, stimulated by the 6th and 7th cervical nerves, also plays a role.

Culture. In Greece, the pronated palms thrust or "Double Moutza" gesture, with the arms extended horizontally and thrust outward toward another person, is an insult with which to say, "Go to hell twice" (Morris 1994:196). Like other palm-down gestures with specific cultural meanings (e.g., the widespread hand wag for "No!", the Saudi hand slap for "contempt," and the Italian forearm thrust, which is used as a sexual insult [Morris 1994]), Moutza signals incorporate the pancultural aggressiveness of our pronated hands.

Observations. 1. In the boardroom, a chairwoman uses a down-turned palm as a gavel to order, "Quiet, please!" 2. A mother disciplines her child using overturned palms to accent her words. 3. A Ghanaian tribal elder gestures forcefully with beating motions of his pronated palm to convince westerners that his wives do prefer polygamy. 4. An angry CEO warns senior staff, using a stiffened palm-down hand to accent his words: "Starting today, I will not accept late reports."

U.S. politics I. In the 1992 presidential debates, candidates Bill Clinton, Ross Perot, and President George Bush filled the TV airwaves with palm-down cues to demonstrate the superiority of their ideas. The candidates' statements were analyzed, in turn, by political talk-show hosts, whose televised palm-down gestures added stature to their own ideas about the election process.

U.S. politics II. "Palms turned toward the floor send dominance signals . . ." (Blum 1988:6-11). "The hand that is on top in any given handshake signifies the dominant party" (Blum 1988:7-1). In October 1950, General Douglas MacArthur extended a palm-down hand to shake with President Harry S. Truman (Blum 1988). "Less than a year after this October handshake, Truman fired MacArthur because the president felt the general was too aggressive" (Blum 1988:7-3).

RESEARCH REPORTS: 1. In the workplace, management may use palm-down cues to delegate work assignments, announce new procedures, and outline official corporate goals. 2. Authoritative palms pronate as teachers profess, as lawyers dissent, and as financial planners advise. 3. Common palm-down signs include the corporate table-slap, the athlete's high-five slap of victory, and the football fan's two-fisted triumph display (see ANTIGRAVITY SIGN). 4. Palm-down cues have been observed as anger signs in infants and children (Blurton Jones 1967, Givens 1978b). 5. Push and flat gestures appear in Grant's (1969) and Brannigan and Humphries' (1972) checklists of universal signs. 6. Palm-down signs are diagnostic of a dramatic or dominant nonverbal style (Norton 1983). 7. Palms down is a worldwide speaking gesture used to "hold down" an idea or "calm down" the mood of an audience (Morris 1994:19495). 8. Palms front, made with hyperextended wrists and pronated palms, shows "I disagree" or "I hold you back" (Morris 1994:195).

Neuro-notes. As we make a strong verbal statement, our palms may rotate downward, as if preparing our body to press-up to a postural high-stand. Like keeping upright without consciously deciding to do so, we beat the air about us with little awareness or willful intent to drive home our strongest points. The amygdala (acting through reptilian areas of basal ganglia [MacLean 1990, Grillner 1996]) may control our palm-down gestures. That we show dominance by pronating, extending, and figuratively stomping with our forelimbs reflects the amygdala's evolutionary kinship with the basal ganglia. While the former directs our emotional stance, the latter governs our stance in relation to gravity. Thus, slapping a desktop for emphasis is not unlike the sumo wrestler's ceremonial stomp in a ring. Both are postural displays with which to demonstrate stability, strength, and standing on the earthly plain.

Baseball For Boys

Baseball For Boys

Since World War II, there has been a tremendous change in the makeup and direction of kid baseball, as it is called. Adults, showing an unprecedented interest in the activity, have initiated and developed programs in thousands of towns across the United States programs that providebr wholesome recreation for millions of youngsters and are often a source of pride and joy to the community in which they exist.

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