Sunday, April 19, 2015

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3159: "When a Silverback attacks" - Gorillas, Cross-species Body Language, False Distancing, Fear and Surprise (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

Although gorillas and other primates (and virtually all mammals, birds, and the majority of phyla) vocalize, they rely heavily on their nonverbal behavior for communication. This short video acts as a reminder of both the ubiquity of body language - and how a lack of this understanding can back-fire. We also see some great examples of human facial expressions here - and can even draw some analog behavior with distracted driving.

0:05 - In the reflection in the glass we can see a young girl (perhaps five years old) beating her chest. Of course, we cannot blame her - she's mirroring others behavior standing next to her or perhaps she's recalling numerous animated examples.


When a gorilla beats on its chest this is a threat display. The alpha male gorilla, thinking his authority has been challenged, begins to charge.

Notice how his head and thus his eyes are turned to side - this non-direct eye contact demonstrates a less than full-fledged attack (e.g., had the glass not been there and these people were instead gorillas, this action was not intended to be lethal - yet an aggressive warning).


At last split-second, the gorilla turns his head and leaps at the glass with his fists and his full momentum - cracking it.


For a few milliseconds, the gorilla's dark body acts as a mirror-backing to enhance the reflective effect of the glass. This enables us to see the videographer (man in red shirt holding his camera-phone) and a woman to his left (our right). Though it is of low resolution, we can see he has a relatively neutral expression on his face. The act of recording an event on camera often acts as an insulating effect - taking the person filming it out of the immediate mental-emotional setting (often at their peril). In marked distinction, the woman on the right side of this image (pink shirt) has a moderate "mouth of fear". Why this emotional disparity? Her expression (and his lack of one) is not that he has more courage or she quicker reflexes - she is simply more fully present because she's not recording the event - she's engaged in the present moment. The man in the red shirt is not fully engaged. This same delayed-response and mental-emotional insulation (false-distancing) phenomenon occurs when we are texting or speaking on the phone when driving.

Note the crack in the protective glass in the lower left side of this image.


Less than a tenth of a second later, the woman's expression turns to a "mouth of surprise".

The man's surprise response is beginning - yet it's delayed.

See also:

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3158: ESPN's Britt McHenry's Narcissistic, Berating Rant of a Tow Company Employee - A Valuable Body Language Teaching Point

Nonverbal Communication No. 3110: Scarlett Johansson gets invaded by John Travolta - An Awkward Moment from the 2015 Oscars - Body Language Tells

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2512:  Matthew Cordle's YouTube Confession  and the Death of Vincent Canzani  "I Killed a Man" - What His Body Language Tells Us ...  It's NOT what you think!

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2929: Jessica Alba, Sin City 2, Action Figures and the Jaw Confessional