Saturday, October 08, 2005

"Postural Echo"

Examples of Postural Echo from Manwatching by Desmond Morris:

Ok so, I was looking over Manwatching by Desmond Morris again, and I happened across something interesting that may aid in animation. He calls it Postural Echo.

Have you ever noticed that two people sitting near each other sometimes seem to mimic each others pose? This is postural echo. It tends to happen mainly in friends and companions. The closer the friends are the stronger the postural echo. “There is a good reason for this. A true bond of friendship is usually only possible between people of roughly equal status. This equality is demonstrated in many indirect ways…In this way the body transmits a silent message, saying: ‘See, I am just like you’; and this message is not only sent unconsciously but also understood in the same manner.”

This postural echo even goes beyond mimicking a pose. Frequently they will synchronize their movements as they talk. For example, “when one uncrosses his legs, the other soon follows suit, and when one leans back a little, so does his companion.”

So what happens when people of different status meet? One will take the dominant position and one will take the subordinate position. “Whenever a dominant and subordinate meet, they signal their relationship by their body postures and it is a simple matter for a subordinate to manipulate such a situation. Just as the dominant doctor deliberately climbed down from his high status role by echoing the patients body posture, so a subordinate can, if he wishes, unnerve a dominant individual by copying his body actions…Even if verbally he is politeness itself, such a course of action will have a powerful impact…”

In the 1970’s they researched the subtle changes in posture with slow motion cameras, and they learned that “there is even a ‘micro synchrony’ of small movements, so sensitive that it is hard to see with the naked eye. Tiny momentary dips and nods of the head, tensing of the fingers, stretching of lips, and jerks of the body, are all beautifully matched when a pair of friends are in a condition of strong rapport…the movements they make as the speak and listen is often perfected to within a 48th of a second. When film is shot at 48 frames per sec is analyzed frame by frame, it is possible to see the way in which sudden, small movements start simultaneously, on exactly the same frame of film, with both the speaker and the listener. As the speaker jerks his body with emphasis he makes on different words, so the listener makes tiny, matching movements of some part of the body. The friendlier the two people are, the more their rhythm locks together.”

“An important discovery was made when similar films were taken of conversations with mentally disturbed patients. Here there was little or no body synchrony-the echo had vanished and with it the rapport. And it was this particular quality that contributed so strongly to the feeling of ‘strangeness’ when encountering and attempting social contact with these patients.”

There is a lot of useful info in that. I think there is definitely something in there that can apply to your acting and animation.


Kimotion said...

Another observation that was made (Can't rememeber if it was Desmond Morris) is that when 2 people of equal status or 2 close friends walk side by side, their walks are in perfect sync.

So take a couple and both will put out their right legs and the same time, then left, then right, then left ...

I tried to observe this while walking aside a friend but it doesn't work out that when when you consciously try.

5:45 PM  
Samuel Blake said...

Hehehe - I explored "Postural Echo" for myself with some close friends last year as a test while having a coffee. I sat up, they sat up, I put my hand under my chin, they did it. it's really quite amazing the way the human mind works. hehhehe

4:53 PM  

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