Body language and national security
The ability to
express and perceive emotion is a crucial component of communication — one that
can be particularly important for military and national security purposes.
In situations where a U.S. soldier interacts
with someone from another country who speaks a different language, cross- cultural communication errors can be disastrous. Hillary Anger
Elfenbein of Washington University in St. Louis recognized that in many
theaters of war, the military has too few translators, and soldiers must rely
heavily on nonverbal communication.
Using data collection and analysis, Elfenbein
and her collaborators challenged conventional wisdom, showing that while people
may assume that they can accurately read emotions from nonverbal
communications, including facial expressions, vocal tones and body language, the
average person is only able to do so about 33 percent of the time. She also found that practice, not classroom-style instruction,
is essential for people to improve their emotional recognition.
Those findings prompted the Army Research Institute to incorporate education on non-verbal communication into soldier training. Enhancing troops’ interpersonal skills can enable them to anticipate and lessen conflict and facilitate cooperation, negotiation and compromise.
Image Credit: Sebastian McCormack, U.S. Navy