Body Language Mistakes That Can Cost You The Job

Patti was interviewed by Forbes on body language mistakes that can cost you the job.  Check the link below for Patti's insights.

Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Also check out the body language quiz on her YouTube Channel at

Patti's Recent Interview on HLN Analyzing Zimmerman's Body Language

Patti at the CNN studio on HLN analyzing Zimmerman's
body language
Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Also check out the body language quiz on her YouTube Channel at

Pictures from Patti's Recent Program in Pittsburg, PA

Pictures of Pittsburg, PA

Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Also check out the body language quiz on her YouTube Channel at

Pictures from Patti's Recent Keynote and Breakout Session

Pictures of Patti's recent Keynote and Breakout Session
in Pittsburg, PA
Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Also check out the body language quiz on her YouTube Channel at

Patti in Scottsdale, AZ

 Scottsdale, AZ where I did a program for OMEGA

Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Also check out the body language quiz on her YouTube Channel at

Patti Will Be On ShowBiz Tonight at 11 pm Analyzing Robert Pattinson's Body Language During His Recent Interviews

Robert Pattinson talks Kristen Stewart and Cosmopolis
 on Good Morning America and John Stewart Show

 A body language read by Patti Wood
Body Language Expert Patti Wood will be on ShowBiz Tonight at 11 pm giving her in-depth analysis of Robert Pattinson’s body language on John Stewart’s show on August 14th and his Good Morning America Interview today on August 15th.  Below are Patti Wood’s body language rough notes on Robert’s body language in those two interviews as well as his interview on ShowBiz last night.
John Stewart’s Show and Good Morning America Interviews
Feet and legs are down and flexed in the ready to jump up out of the chair and run flexed position. Robert makes a joke, he comforts him, does a head protection comfort cue head scratch.  He doesn’t like what’s going on hand over the groin to partial fig leaf protection.
He’s given a cereal box and he has fun for a moment.  His body language is playful. Then he puts both hands in his lap like a school boy about to be reprimanded.

How are you doing, “
He does an avoidance cluster of cues, his body turns away, he goes for the coffee and you see a micro facial cue of sadness he looks down and eyes partially closed and down.
Then he hand blocks with coffee instead of grabbing the handle so he tries to cover his mouth and curls and presses in his lips to suppress what he is really feeling, a mixture of sadness in his eyes and anger at the mouth. As he puts down the cup the anger cluster is emphasized with a tongue thrust that says I am mad at you for asking that question ‘He says, “I mean…pauses he shakes his head no, he shakes again not just his head but his whole body. He avoids the question looking at his fans. They seem pretty excited about it.  And he laughs, this time his head comes down and the laugh and smile show an effort to reduce tension, (laughter and anger cover deception or withholding of information)
I can see where this works for him.  His next laugh brings his body up out of his seat as if he wants to escape or this gives him the chance to escape.  He sits back in the chair relaxes and crosses his legs. He is ready to be there.  

What drew you to this role?  Look at the dramatic shift to centered still body relaxed voice.
And though he does another head scratch when they come back to him after showing the suggestive sex scene, he follows it with a flirty showing of the palm and impish grin. And now when he laughs he comes more naturally up and out of his chair.

ShowBiz Tonight Interview
Asked “So how are you doing”
Look at the immediate cluster of withdrawal avoidance mixed with forced attention cues
He lowers his head and shutters his eye, holds his own hand, and comforts whipping off the sweat move. Then forces his eyes wide to pretend he’s paying attention. 
“Because the world wants to know?
He leans over to get his coffee and goes off camera.    He uses the coffee cup as a shield between himself and the interviewer. Then does a tongue cleanse to clean off how he is truly feeling then says in a low stressed voice, “Yeah” gives the host an micro facial cue of awkward smiling grimace showing he’s mad he has to answer this question. Then laughs but look and listen to the laugh - characteristic award laugh but more forced. One with a tighter throat and vocal chords and instead of the head going up as it usually would in a laugh his head moves swiftly down. And then grabs the outside of the cup swinging his body again away from the interviewer to block and  brings the coffee cup way up to cover as much of his face as possible and again used the exaggerated open eyes to show that he is ok and only gives a sideways glance to the interviewer.
“Difficult to hear all the reporting about you” he actually brings his brows together in slight scowl.
“Reports about you drinking” he does his fast blink (the only fast blink thus far in the interview.)
Wallowing in misery …but you look absolutely fine,  “ He gives another forced laugh bringing his head down. And he does almost a snarl smile closing his eyes and turning his head away.
Then he looks at the directory.  He says, “Since the first twilight.” And brings his whole hand up in a nose cleanse all the fingers whipping under his nose not once not twice but three times as he says, “you enter a realm where you get”  
Interesting the look to the director helps then the directory visibly comforts him he gets comforted by the director then once the director starts speaking Robert begins to relax he is still using the cup.
“Do you just laugh it off. “  He gets a sour face and looks down again and makes an audible tongue cleanse, looks away scowls a bit.
Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Also check out the body language quiz on her YouTube Channel at

Cost of Anger in the Workplace

Joe, a participant in my workshop, was upset when he came in this morning and in the first exercise shared his frustration. “I don’t understand why I was sent to this interpersonal skills workshop. I am a great manager. I am at work before everybody and I am the last one to leave. I walk around I tell my employees over and over again what they need to do to complete their work. I am there for them. I have an open door policy. They can talk to me anytime they want. But, everyone is walking around tense and they don’t do their work. Joe’s classmates that day already knew what could be the problem. Joe was yelling out his frustration and gesturing at us with his fist. They were scared of him. Joe needed to see how his behavior was affecting his body language and his health and his anger's impact on everyone he worked with.

”Workplace anger is costly to the employee, the company, and coworkers. Studies show that up to 42% of employee time is spent engaging in or trying to resolve conflict.  This results in wasted employee time, mistakes, stress, lower morale, hampered performance, and reduced profits and or service.

In 1993 the national Safe Workplace Institute released a study showing that workplace violence costs $4.2 billion each year, estimating over 111,000 violent incidents. Further, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 500,000 victims of violent crime in the workplace lose an estimated 1.8 million workdays each year.

Clearly, poorly handled anger, frustration and resentment will sabotage business productivity.

One solution for your workplace anger is to “Check In” on your behavior. Anger can be recognized by certain facial and body language cues. Notice what you are showing about your behavior.
Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Also check out the body language quiz on her YouTube Channel at

Why Men Look Angry and Women Look Happy

People are quicker to see anger on men's faces and happiness on women's. Is this research finding  a simple case of gender stereotyping, or something more deeply rooted? When I was conducting research on smiling my clients assumed that women always smiled more than men. Women do smile more than men, when they are in public. We like our women to smile that makes all of us men and women feel safe. There are more interesting insights in the following article by Beth Azar.

By Beth Azar
April 2007, Vol 38, No. 4
Print version: page 18

It might not be surprising that people find it easier to see men as angry and women as happy. Women do tend to be the nurturers and men--well--men do commit 80 to 90 percent of all violent crimes. More surprising, perhaps, is new research suggesting that the connection between men and anger and women and happiness goes deeper than these simple social stereotypes, regardless of how valid they are.

Our brains automatically link anger to men and happiness to women, even without the influence of gender stereotypes, indicate the findings of a series of experiments conducted by cognitive psychologist D. Vaughn Becker, PhD, of Arizona State University at the Polytechnic Campus, with colleagues Douglas T. Kenrick, PhD, Steven L. Neuberg, PhD, K.C. Blackwell and Dylan Smith, PhD. They even turned it around to show that people are more likely to think a face is masculine if it's making an angry expression and feminine if its expression is happy. In fact, their research, published in February's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 92, No. 2, pages 179-190), suggests that the cognitive processes that distinguish male and female may be co-mingled with those that distinguish anger from happiness, thereby leading to this perceptual bias.

Becker proposes that this bias may stem from our evolutionary past, when an angry man would have been one of the most dangerous characters around, and a nurturing, happy female might have been just the person to protect you from harm. Evolutionary psychologist Leda Cosmides, PhD, agrees.

"If it's more costly to make a mistake of not recognizing an angry man, you would expect the [perceptual] threshold to be set lower than for recognizing an angry female," says Cosmides, of the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).

More than a stereotype

Becker first noticed that people find it easier to detect anger on men and happiness on women a couple years ago while working on his dissertation at Arizona State. He was testing whether viewing an angry or happy expression "primes" people to more quickly identify a subsequent angry or happy expression. Becker confirmed his initial hypothesis, but when he ran an additional analysis to test whether the gender of the person making the facial expression affected his results, he found that gender was, by far, the biggest predictor of how quickly and accurately people identified facial expressions.

Becker couldn't find any mention of this gender effect in the literature. So he set out to confirm that people more quickly link men to anger and women to happiness and figure out why that might be.

In the first of a series of studies, 38 undergraduate participants viewed pictures of faces displaying prototypical angry and happy expressions. They pressed "A" or "H" on a computer keyboard to indicate whether the expression was angry or happy, and the researchers recorded their reaction times. As expected, participants were quicker to label male faces "angry" and female faces "happy."

The researchers then used a version of the "Implicit Association Test" to uncover unconscious biases that study participants may have linking men to anger and women to happiness. The well-documented test allows researchers to examine the strength of connections between categories, which lead to unconscious stereotypes. Becker tested whether study participants unconsciously linked male names with angry words and female names with happy words. Most did.

However, 13 students showed the opposite association (male-happy, female-angry), implying that their unconscious gender stereotypes run counter to those of the general public. It was an ideal opportunity to determine whether gender stereotypes are at the heart of the emotion/gender bias. They weren't: Just like the main group of participants, this subgroup more quickly and accurately categorized male faces as angry and female faces as happy.

"While gender stereotypes clearly influence perception, the implicit association test results made us think the effect is not solely a function of stereotypes," says Becker.

Overlapping signals

Since gender stereotypes don't seem to be the culprit, Becker looked toward more deeply rooted causes.

For example, perhaps we see more men with angry faces--on television, in movies--than we see women with angry faces, so our brains are well practiced at recognizing an angry expression on a man. To investigate this possibility, one of the co-authors, Arizona State University graduate student K.C. Blackwell, suggested they flip the experiment around. Instead of asking people to identify facial expressions while the experimenters manipulated gender, they asked them to identify whether a face was male or female while manipulating facial expressions.

"While you can argue that the majority of angry faces we see are male, it's tough to argue that the majority of male faces we see are angry," says Becker. So, if the relationship between emotional expression and gender is simply a matter of how frequently we see anger on men and happiness on women, the effect should disappear when researchers flip around the question. What they found, on the contrary, was that people were faster to identify angry faces as male and happy faces as female.

To follow-up on this finding, they conducted another study in which they used computer graphics software to control not only the intensity of facial expressions, but also the masculinity and femininity of the facial features, creating faces that were just slightly masculine or feminine. As predicted, people were more likely to see the more masculine faces as angrier, even when they had slightly happier expressions than the more feminine faces.

These findings suggest that the brain begins to associate emotions and gender very early in the cognitive process, says Becker. One possible explanation is that the brain has an "angry male detection module" enabling fast and accurate detection of what would have been one of the most dangerous entities in our evolutionary past. But Becker thinks there's a more parsimonious explanation.

"I'm more inclined to think that we've got a situation where the signals for facial expressions and those for masculinity and femininity have merged over time," he says.

In particular, features of masculinity --such as a heavy brow and angular face--somewhat overlap with the anger expression, and those of femininity--roundness and soft features--overlap with the happiness expression.

To test this hypothesis, Becker and his colleagues used computer animation software to individually manipulate masculine and feminine facial features of expressively neutral faces. As predicted, a heavier brow caused participants to see faces as both more masculine and more angry, implying that the mental processes for determining masculinity and anger may be intertwined.

"These results make a lot of sense," says University of Pittsburgh behavioral anthropologist and facial expression researcher Karen Schmidt, PhD. "Faces have always had gender, so if we're always activating gender and affect at the same time then the processing is likely highly coordinated."

The paper raises new and interesting questions about gender, says UCSB postdoctoral student Aaron Sell, PhD, who studies the evolution of gender. "Specifically," he says, "why do male and female faces differ, and what is the nature of emotion detection?"

The data appear to suggest that the anger expression has evolved to make a face seem more masculine, says Sell. Even female faces may communicate anger more effectively the more masculine they appear, says Becker. Future studies will have to tackle questions about the intentions expressed by the angry face and why looking more male would be an evolutionary advantage in communicating these intentions.

"I see this article as opening the book on a new research topic more than having the final say on the issue," says Sell.
Beth Azar is a writer in Portland, Ore.

Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Also check out the body language quiz on her YouTube Channel at

18 Attributes of Highly Effective Liars, Characteristics of a Good Liar

18 Attributes of Highly Effective Liars.
 Have your heard of Machiavellianism? It is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "the employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct Niccolò Machiavelli might well have titled his 16th-century Dell’arte Della Guerra (" The Art of War ") as The Art of Lying, since verbal deception—mainly, how to get away with it—was so central to his political psychology. To say that the exquisitely light-of-tongue are "talented" is, of course, sure to be met with moral outrage. We place a social premium on the ability to ferret out other people’s lies, especially, as we’ve seen just this week in the news, when they may hide brutal and ugly crimes.
Still, there is something darkly fascinating about those skilled in verbal legerdemain. And at least one team of scientists, led by Dutch psychologist Aldert Vrij , believes that it has identified the precise ingredients of "good liars." These researchers outline the following 18 traits (pdf) that, if ever they were to coalesce in a perfect storm of a single perpetrator, would strain even seasoned interrogators’ lie-detection abilities:
(1) manipulativeness. "Machiavellians" are pragmatic liars who aren’t fearful or anxious. They are "scheming but not stupid," explain the authors. "In conversations, they tend to dominate, but they also seem relaxed, talented and confident."
(2) acting. Good actors make good liars; receptive audiences encourage confidence.
(3) expressiveness. Animated people create favorable first impressions, making liars seductive and their expressions distracting.
(4) physical attractiveness. Fair or unfair, pretty people are judged as being more honest than unattractive people.
(5) natural performers. These people can adapt to abrupt changes in the discourse with a convincing spontaneity.
(6) experience. Prior lying helps people manage familiar emotions, such as guilt and fear, which can “leak” behaviorally and tip off observers.
(7) confidence. Like anything else, believing in yourself is half the battle; you’ve got to believe in your ability to deceive others.
(8) emotional camouflage. Liars "mask their stark inclination to show the emotional expressions they truly feel" by feigning the opposite affect. So you might see a liar cry, or rage to "cover their deception.
(9) eloquence. Eloquent speakers confound listeners with word play and buy extra time to ponder a plausible answer by giving long-winded responses.
(10) well-preparedness. This minimizes fabrication on the spot, which is vulnerable to detection.
(11) unverifiable responding. Concealing information ("I honestly don’t remember") is preferable to a constructed lie because it cannot be disconfirmed.
(12) information frugality. Saying as little as possible in response to pointed questions makes it all the more difficult to confirm or disconfirm details.
(13) original thinking. Even meticulous liars can be thrown by the unexpected, so the ability to give original, convincing, non-scripted responses comes in handy.
(14) rapid thinking. Delays and verbal fillers ("ums" and "ahs") signal deception, so good liars are quick-witted, thinking fast on their feet.
(15) intelligence. Intelligence enables an efficient shouldering of the “cognitive load” imposed by lying, since there are many complex, simultaneously occurring demands associated with monitoring one’s own deceptiveness.
(16) good memory. Interrogators’ ears will prick at inconsistencies. A good memory allows a liar to remember details without tripping in their own fibs.
(17) truth adherence. Lies that "bend the truth" are generally more convincing, and require less cognitive effort, than those that involve fabricating an entire story.
(18) decoding. The ability to detect suspicion in the listener allows the liar to make the necessary adjustments, borrowing from strategies in the preceding skill set. Liars can be readers of body language.
Why give the criminals such helpful advice? The authors anticipated these concerns, clarifying that they hope this knowledge will assist interrogators, rather than those sitting on the other side of the table. Furthermore, "Undoubtedly," they write, "this [work] provides tips that liars could use to make their performance more convincing, but most characteristics we mentioned are inherent, and related to personality."
In other words, there’s still a certain, inimitable je ne sais quoi to the great deluders. And should you find yourself so burdened with this particular type of genius, perhaps, as Mark Twain offered:
… the wise thing is to train [yourself] to lie thoughtfully,
judiciously; to lie with a good object, and not an evil one; to lie
for others’ advantage, and not [y]our own; to lie healingly,
charitably, humanely, not cruelly, hurtfully, maliciously; to lie
gracefully and graciously, not awkwardly and clumsily; to lie firmly,
frankly, squarely, with head erect, not haltingly, tortuously, with
pusillanimous mien, as being ashamed of [y]our high calling.
Good advice from Samuel, as always.
Image: Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito, from Wikimedia Commons
About The Author: Want more Bering in Mind? Follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseBering, visit, or friend Jesse on Facebook. Jesse is the author of newly released book, The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny and the Meaning of Life (W. W. Norton).

Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Also check out the body language quiz on her YouTube Channel at

First Impressions Do Count!

First impressions do count: Research shows made-to-measure suit makes you appear more confident, successful September 16, 2011 ( -- It’s often said that we make judgments about people in the first three seconds of seeing them. Now new research from the University of Hertfordshire, in collaboration with Mathieson & Brooke Tailors (M&BT), shows how much clothing influences these opinions. The study shows that wearing a made-to-measure suit, rather than an off-the-peg equivalent, positively affects the judgments people make in those first three seconds. google_protectAndRun("render_ads.js::google_render_ad", google_handleError, google_render_ad);Ads by GoogleVistage® Gets Results. - Successful CEOs become members to get better business results! - In the research, conducted by the University of Hertfordshire and led by Professors Karen Pine and Ben Fletcher of the School of Psychology, over 300 participants (males and females aged from 14 to 67) viewed a series of separate images of a man and a woman for just 3 seconds. They were then asked to make ‘snap judgements’ about the person in the picture. When the man in the picture wore a made-to-measure suit he made a more favourable impression than when he wore a very similar off-the-peg suit of the same colour. People judged him to be more confident, successful, flexible and a higher earner than the same man wearing a similar high street equivalent. The man’s face in the picture was blanked out so these different judgments arose purely from observing his attire. Commenting on the importance of first impressions David Brooke of M&BT, who started his visiting tailoring business in 2004, says, “This research shows that twice as many people will view you as confident, flexible and successful in the first three seconds of seeing you if you are wearing a made-to-measure suit. We have believed for years that first impressions are important and now we can prove it. A made-to-measure, as opposed to an off-the-peg suit, gives you more confidence and ultimately success.” Speaking of her team’s findings, Professor Karen Pine says; “This research is very important in our ongoing work to better understand the psychology of fashion. This study endorses, with real evidence, the popular view that we make up our minds about people within the first three seconds of seeing them although this view comes mainly from research using human faces. In our study people formed very different views of the same faceless man or woman, in the same position, when an apparently minor change was made to what they were wearing. The two suits worn by the man looked very similar at first glance, yet the subtle differences clearly made an impact. This is big news for the fashion industry and certainly highlights the importance of good tailoring.” The findings of the research do raise obvious questions about the affordability of made-to-measure versus off-the-peg, particularly in the current economic climate. David Brooke is keen to answer them; “A made-to-measure suit is undoubtedly more expensive than some high street suits, but does not need to break the bank. In fact, an M&BT made-to-measure suit is always better quality and lasts far longer than off-the-peg suits.” He continues, “A bespoke, or made-to-measure suit, in light of this research, must be seen as an investment in your career and an essential ingredient to your personal success.” The University of Hertfordshire will be publishing the research in a peer-reviewed journal. The executive summary and key findings can be found here: . Provided by University of Hertfordshire

Read more at:

Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Also check out the body language quiz on her YouTube Channel at

Can a cool head help cure your insomnia tonight?

We are so stressed and sleep deprived. A new study indicates that a cool head may help us sleep. Subjects using a special cooled water cap helped them go to sleep more quickly and have a deeper nights sleep.

Until the cap comes out on the home shopping network I think I will try putting a gel sleep masks from the freezer on my head tonight and see if I wake up with my whole body feeling refreshed. I am hoping that this new study will lead to a simple cure for insomnia.

Can brain freeze cure insomnia?

Two sleep experts say they've devised a simple way to help insomniacs get some shuteye: Chilling their brains. Will that really work?

posted on June 15, 2011, at 11:45 AM

Sleep experts say a cool brain can help insomniacs get to sleep faster. Photo: Bloomimage/CorbisSEE ALL 22 PHOTOS

Good news for the 1 in 10 Americans afflicted with chronic insomnia: According to a new study, you might be able to forgo the sleeping pills, white noise machines, warm milk, hypnosis tapes, and other slumber strategies, and simply cool your forehead to lull yourself to sleep. University of Pittsburgh sleep experts Dr. Eric Nofzinger and Dr. Daniel Buysse reported to colleagues this week that a water-circulating cooling cap helped insomniacs doze off as easily as normal sleepers. Here, a brief guide:

What is this sleeping cap like?
The 24 test subjects — 12 with natural insomnia, 12 with no sleep problems — wore soft plastic caps outfitted with tubes carrying temperature-controlled water. They slept in a lab for two nights with no cap, two nights with the caps on a "neutral" setting of about 86 degrees Fahrenheit, two more with the caps set to 72 degrees, and a final two nights with 57-degree water cooling their heads. At the higher temperatures, the caps made no difference, but on the 57-degree nights, about three-quarters of the insomniacs said they slept much better.

How much did these caps help?
The cooling caps helped insomniacs sleep better than "normal" sleepers, apparently. The insomniacs fell asleep quicker — in 13 minutes, versus 16 minutes for the control group — and spent more of the night in slow-wave sleep, which is the deepest, most restorative sleep cycle. Both groups spent an average of 89 percent of their time in bed asleep.

Why do the caps work?
Researchers already knew that insomniacs are "hyper-aroused," with a higher level of activity in their prefrontal cortex. Nofzinger and Buysse hypothesized that "frontal cerebral thermal transfer," or cooling the scalp above that part of the brain, would slow the brain's metabolism and help insomniacs sleep better. This research appears to bear that out.

When will these miracle caps be available to buy?
Nofzinger will likely bring his invention to market, but only after more testing. The researchers don't foresee any safety problems — if the cap is too cold, people will just take it off. "But before crafting your own brain-cooling device, keep in mind that the research was conducted under controlled conditions on a small sample," cautions Marianne English at Discovery News. Also, while the caps promise greater success than sleeping pills and no side effects, there are some drawbacks. "Most of us don't find it pleasurable to have a cold head — and certainly not in bed," says British sleep consultant Neil Stanley.

Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Also check out the body language quiz on her YouTube Channel at

How writing by hand helps your memory and creativity

My godchild Morgan is taking a study skills course this summer and was surprised that the teacher thought it was good study technique for them to hand write out an outline of the chapters in their textbooks to prepare for tests. She is a smart kid and she felt writing by hand was a waste of time when she could simply type her notes and outlines on the computer. Her mom and I shared with her how that when we were in school we wrote hand written outlines to prepare for our tests and that it helped.

Her mom and I both being “teachers” also told her that writing by hand helps the brain process information differently and aids memory. Being the research junkie that I am I of course had to look up the research. I found it The Wall Street journal and a bit more on that piece my favorite magazine The Week it is fascinating.  Take out a pen now and write a reminder to read this article to your children.

FYI, I of course being a true nerdette in school outlines the book chapters before classes on the content in one notebook then took notes in class in a second notebook and then the week before the test I used a third notebook the week before the exam to rewrite all the book notes integrating in the class notes and color coded them. )

Recent research illustrates how writing by hand engages the brain in learning. During one study at Indiana University published this year, researchers invited children to man a "spaceship," actually an MRI machine using a specialized scan called "functional" MRI that spots neural activity in the brain. The kids were shown letters before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction. In children who had practiced printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and "adult-like" than in those who had simply looked at letters.

"It seems there is something really important about manually manipulating and drawing out two-dimensional things we see all the time," says Karin Harman James, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Indiana University who led the study.


Adults may benefit similarly when learning a new graphically different language, such as Mandarin, or symbol systems for mathematics, music and chemistry, Dr. James says. For instance, in a 2008 study in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, adults were asked to distinguish between new characters and a mirror image of them after producing the characters using pen-and-paper writing and a computer keyboard. The result: For those writing by hand, there was stronger and longer-lasting recognition of the characters' proper orientation, suggesting that the specific movements memorized when learning how to write aided the visual identification of graphic shapes.

Other research highlights the hand's unique relationship with the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas. Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, says handwriting differs from typing because it requires executing sequential strokes to form a letter, whereas keyboarding involves selecting a whole letter by touching a key.

She says pictures of the brain have illustrated that sequential finger movements activated massive regions involved in thinking, language and working memory—the system for temporarily storing and managing information.

And one recent study of hers demonstrated that in grades two, four and six, children wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.

AJ Mast for the Wall Street Journal

For research at Indiana University, children undergo specialized MRI brain scans that spot neurological activity.

The Week.

How writing by hand makes kids smarter

Younger Americans are typing or texting more and writing less, even in school — and that's a problem when it comes to brain development

posted on October 6, 2010, at 12:59 PM

Most grade-school children are spending only one hour a week on penmanship. Photo: CorbisSEE ALL 203 PHOTOS

With the ubiquity of keyboards large and small, neither children nor adults need to write much of anything by hand. That's a big problem, says Gwendolyn Bounds in The Wall Street Journal. Study after study suggests that handwriting is important for brain development and cognition — helping kids hone fine motor skills and learn to express and generate ideas. Yet the time devoted to teaching penmanship in most grade schools has shrunk to just one hour a week. Is it time to break out the legal pad? Here's a look at how the brain and penmanship interact:

Writing by hand can get ideas out faster
University of Wisconsin psychologist Virginia Berninger tested students in grades 2, 4, and 6, and found that they not only wrote faster by hand than by keyboard — but also generated more ideas when composing essays in longhand. In other research, Berninger shows that the sequential finger movements required to write by hand activate brain regions involved with thought, language, and short-term memory.

Writing increases neural activity
A recent Indiana University study had one group of children practice printing letters by hand while a second group just looked at examples of A's, B's, and C's. Then, both groups of kids entered a functional MRI (disguised as a "spaceship") that scanned their brains as the researchers showed them letters. The neural activity in the first group was far more advanced and "adult-like," researchers found.

Good handwriting makes you seem smarter
Handwriting also affects other people's perceptions of adults and children. Several studies have shown that the same mediocre essay will score much higher if written with good penmanship and much lower if written out in poor handwriting, says Vanderbilt University education professor Steve Graham. "There is a reader effect that is insidious," he says. "People judge the quality of your ideas based on your handwriting." And the consequences are real: On standardized tests with handwritten sections, like the SAT, an essay deemed illegible gets a big zero.

This isn't only an English-language phenomenon
Chinese and Japanese youths are suffering from "character amnesia," says AFP's Judith Evans. They can't remember how to create letters, thanks to computers and text messaging. In China, the problem is so prevalent, there's a word for it: "Tibiwangzi", or "take pen, forget character." "It's like you're forgetting your culture," says Zeng Ming, 22. So closely are Chinese writing and reading linked in the brain, says Hong Kong University linguist Siok Wai Ting, that China's reading ability as a nation could suffer.

New technology is part of the solution
New touch-screen phones and tablets, like the iPhone and iPad, are providing a countervailing force, translating handwriting into digital letter forms or making writing practice fun (a $1.99 iPhone app called "abc PocketPhonics" rewards kids with "cheering pencils"). In Japan, an iPhone game called kanji kentei — a character quiz with 12 levels — has become a hit with all age groups.

Science may just be catching up with common sense
Heather Horn in The Atlantic Wire says that while all this research is fascinating, it mostly shows that "scientists are finally beginning to explore what writers have long suspected." She notes a 1985 article in the Paris Review in which the interviewer asks novelist Robert Stone if he mostly types his manuscripts. His reply: "Yes, until something becomes elusive. Then I write in longhand in order to be precise. On a typewriter or word processor you can rush something that shouldn't be rushed — you can lose nuance, richness, lucidity. The pen compels lucidity."

Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Also check out the body language quiz on her YouTube Channel at

Communication Dynamics Receives 2012 Best of Decatur Award

Our company won the best continuing education award for Decatur Georiga for Patti’s work on the Continuing Education at Emory University and her work with Court Reporters.

Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Also check out the body language quiz on her YouTube Channel at