Nonverbal Givens (Lawns and Yawns)

One of the key (B-Team) advisors to Sandia Lab’s report into Expert Judgement on Markers to Deter Inadvertent Human Intrusion into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant  [see : Atomic Berms, previous Improbable article] was David B. Givens, Ph.D., now Director of the Center for Nonverbal Studies, and lecturer at the School of Professional Studies at Gonzaga University, Spokane, Washington, US.

Dr. Givens is an expert in non-verbal communication, and has authored The Nonverbal Dictionary of Gestures, Signs, and Body Language Cues. The dictionary was available online, until it was “… abruptly taken down by AOL in late 2008.” It’s now been comprehensively rebuilt – here are some links to example entries – with supplementary material that may be of particular interest to Improbable readers.

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

Note: Don Featherstone of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, was awarded the 1996 Ig Nobel Art prize for his ornamentally evolutionary invention, the plastic pink flamingo.

The Yawn “A socially contagious gaping behavior, often difficult to suppress.”

Note: Anna Wilkinson (of the UK), Natalie Sebanz (of THE NETHERLANDS, HUNGARY, and AUSTRIA), Isabella Mandl (of AUSTRIA) and Ludwig Huber (of AUSTRIA) won the 2011 Ig Nobel physiology prize for their study “No Evidence of Contagious Yawning in the Red-Footed Tortoise.”
Coca-Cola® “A cola’s sugary taste reconnects us with our fruit-eating primate past. When Eocene-primate ancestors took to the trees ca. 50 m.y.a., they supplemented a basically insect diet with ripened fruit. Drinking a Coke, we are briefly absorbed in the present moment, i.e., in the animal sense of the now.”

Note: The 2008 Ig Nobel chemistry prize was awaded to Sharee A. Umpierre of the University of Puerto Rico, Joseph A. Hill of The Fertility Centers of New England (USA), Deborah J. Anderson of Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School (USA), for discovering that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide, and to Chuang-Ye Hong of Taipei Medical University (Taiwan), C.C. Shieh, P. Wu, and B.N. Chiang (all of Taiwan) for discovering that it is not.

Existential Crunch “We crave the crunchiness of nuts, and extend the properties of crunching to crackers and corn chips, which are served crisp.”

Note:  The 2008 Ig Nobel prize for nutrition was awarded to  Massimiliano Zampini of the University of Trento, Italy and Charles Spence of Oxford University, UK, won the IgNobel 2008 Nutrition prize for electronically modifying the sound of a potato chip to make the person chewing the chip believe it to be crisper and fresher than it really is.

Also well worth investigating :

Blue Jeans “According to NASA, the mean buttock circumference in men is 39.2, and in women 37.4, inches. Though women have fuller, rounder bottoms, derrieres of both sexes are featured in jeans ads”

High Heels “Nonverbally, high heels stand wearers precariously up on their tiptoes, thus shifting the body’s center of gravity forward, and causing a compensatory forward lean. The derri?–already prominent by primate standards–protrudes an additional 25%” (Also see: Heel Thyself. Do shoes cause schizophrenia?)

Antigravity Sign “One of several nonverbal cues derived from body movements designed to counteract the pull of gravity.”

Neck Dimples “The neck dimple is a frail part of our anatomy, revealed by upright posture and hairless skin. An expressive body part, its fragility is either left uncovered for display, or concealed by neckwear.”

Full list of entries here :

Leave a Reply