Monday, July 23, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2055:
Three Wise Monkeys -
Hear no evil, See no evil, Speak no evil -
Body Language Interpretation vs. Traditional Symbolism

The "Three Wise Monkeys", otherwise known as "Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" is very old visual metaphor which has different meanings, depending on the culture. In Western societies it has come to mean that - in certain settings it may be wise to look away, fake ignorance or refuse to recognize questionable, illegal or immoral behavior. In Japan, where the proverb is regarded as a golden rule, the three monkeys are named Mizaru (covering his eyes), Kikazaru (covering ears), Iwazaru (covered mouth) and sometimes Shizaru, a forth monkey is pictured with his arms crossed and is symbolic against evil action. In many Eastern societies the three wise monkeys are a pictorial analogy of how the wisdom of steering clear of hearing evil conversation, witnessing evil sights, avoiding using evil words and not mirroring evil acts - will reflect positively back on oneself and one's own life experience and future. 

When it comes to anthropomorphizing (and reverse-anthropomorphizing), the HUMAN body language interpretation of covering BOTH ears - it is usually a very sudden act and accompanies a moment of extreme surprise or shock as well as when there is a sudden realization/problem solving. In all of these scenarios, there is a concomitant wide opening of the eyelids - where the white part of the eyes (sclera) is more exposed than in the normal, resting state. There is often a co-existing widely opened mouth creating a vertically-oriented oval shape. Typically the mouth of surprise/shock/sudden-realization doesn't allow much view of the teeth (such is seen in a false/feigned surprise expression as well as real fear and higher levels of true anger). The sudden rub, covering, itching of ONLY ONE EAR however, has a completely different meaning.
Covering BOTH eyes with the hands, which typically occurs a bit slower than bilateral ear covering noted above, is significant of emotionally processing an event, either witnessed directly or experienced vicariously. It may also indicate a similar emotion of an anticipated event for the immediate or relatively near future. Some refer to this as "emotional blocking". The logical brain acknowledges what is transpiring - or is about to - yet the emotional brain is trying to catch-up and process what is going on. A variation of this is seen when people have prolonged eyelid closure - so while the hands are not covering the eyes, the eyelids are - and this is generally seen in lesser circumstances. It can be thought of as honest and non-sarcastic incredulity/disbelief. This is to be distinguished from the "extended blink" which is usually shorter in duration, coupled with other specific nonverbal clusters and is a form of distancing-arrogance-patronizing behavior. Once again, covering, rubbing, itching ONLY ONE EYE has a completely different meaning.

See also:

Analysis # 291: Obama and Biden - Visual-Emotional Blocking

Rapidly covering the mouth with one or both hand in a covering manner (similar to the chimpanzee above) has a similar meaning to the sudden covering of the ears/sides of face - that of surprise and shock (and sometimes sudden realization/sudden problem solving) - and although it is often difficult or impossible to visualize, often has the suddenly widely-opened, vertical-oval shaped mouth as well as the eyes suddenly opened in a "white and wide" manner. Again, a slower covering of the mouth, touching/rubbing of the lips - almost always with ONE finger/thumb (and to a lesser degree the whole hand) - or touching nearby in the "mustache area" (and often accompanied by a rubbing touching of the nose) has a different meaning entirely.