Soft Sign

Neuro cue. A gesture, body movement, or posture used clinically to diagnose a psychiatric or movement disorder.

Usage: Soft signs include, e.g., apraxia cues, eye-blink rates, and startle reflex signs. Two generic types of soft sign have been identified: a. those involving motor systems suggestive of early-life brain disturbances, and b. those involving less localized systems suggestive of adult neural dysfunctions and behavioral disturbances (Woods 1992). "Both . . . appear to be clinically useful in [the psychiatric] patient population" (Woods 1992:446).

Psychiatry. "Beginning in the 1700s, increased emphasis was placed on detailed and accurate descriptions of abnormal mental processes and states. Philippe Pinel, a French physician considered to be one of the founders of modern psychiatry, argued for an objective medico-philosophical approach to psychological disorders. He advocated that '. . . only symptoms that are manifest to the senses through external signs, such as the speech, strange gestures, the expression of certain bizarre and uncontrolled emotions . . . are taken into account'" (Martin L. Korn, "Historical Roots of Schizophrenia," CME, Psychiatry Clinical Management, Volume 5, presented by Medical Education Collaborative and Medscape, June 21, 2001).

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



Gaze direction. The tendency of a lone diner a. to look up in a café or restaurant, and b. to move the eyes horizontally across the view-field while taking a bite of food or drinking from a cup, bottle, or glass.

Usage: Solitary diner's glance resembles the cautious visual checking that goes on among unacquainted individuals (e.g., in elevators and waiting rooms), though it occurs at regular intervals (usually with each bite or sip) and with greater frequency. The behavior may be a protective response to stranger anxiety.

RESEARCH REPORT: Eibl-Eibesfeldt (1970) observed that individuals who ate alone looked up and around into the distance after each bite or two, alertly "scanning the horizon" against enemies, much as baboons and chimpanzees do in the wild.

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