Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Potential of Nonverbal Communication Research for Research in Dance

  • Martha Davis and Lois Andreasen


There is a growing body of knowledge about movement behavior (as it is variously called--kinesics, nonverbal communciation, expressive movement, body language, etc.). Increasingly anthropologists, psychologists, researchers in child development, etc. are attending to body movement. One could argue that although this is still a relatively underdeveloped area of research and that studies we have now will probably be rendered quite obsolete in five years, there is enough of a picture of what can be done and may be discovered to talk about it as a field in its own right. Further, one could argue that the preliminary research techinques and findings of movement research may, even at this point, be useful and relevant to research in dance. As an introduction to the topic a survey of some of the most important behavioral studies of body movement will be presented, followed by a discussion of a dance film and then implications of a practical, methodological, empirical, and theoretical nature that may be of interest to dance researchers.

For purposes of discussion, this survey is divided into three parts according to those studies which deal with (1) movement and expression of emotions, (2) movement style (from individual to cultural), and (3) movement in interaction.

It seems that the most common assumption about body movement is that it reveals inner emotions or attitudes. Darwin first made this idea the subject of serious scientific study in 1872 when he published The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.



Hide All
Bartenieff, Irmgard and Davis, Martha. “Effort-Shape Analysis of Movement: The Unity of Expression and Function.” 1965; Reprinted in Research Approaches to Movement and Personality, Davis, Martha (advisory editor), New York: Arno Press, 1973.
Bartenieff, Irmgard and Paulay, Forrestine. “Choreometric Profiles.” in Folk Song Style and Culture by Lomax, A., 248261, Washington, D. C.: AAAS Publication No. 88, 1968.
Bartenieff, Irmgard; Davis, Martha; and Paulay, Forrestine. Four Adaptations of Effort Theory in Research and Teaching. New York: DNB Publications, 1972.
Birdwhistell, Ray L.Kinesics and Context. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1970.
Condon, William S.Linguistic-Kinesic Research and Dance Therapy.” American Dance Therapy Association Proceedings, 2144, 1968.
Darwin, Charles. The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1965.
Davis, Martha and Schmais, Claire. “An Analysis of the Style and Composition of ‘Water Study’.” In Research in Dance: Problems and Possibilities, Ball, Richard, ed., 105113, New York: CORD Publications, 1967.
Davis, Martha. “Movement Characteristics of Hospitalized Psychiatric Patients.” In Proceedings of the Fifth Annual Conference of the American Dance Therapy Association, 1970 a.
Davis, Martha. “An Effort-Shape Movement Analysis of a Family Therapy Session.” DNB Publications, 1970 b.
Davis, Martha. Understanding Body Movement: An Annotated Bibliography. New York: Arno Press, 1972.
Davis, Martha. “Towards Understanding the Intrinsic in Body Movement.” Ph.D. dissertation, Yeshiva University, 1973.
Deutsch, Felix. “Analysis of Postural Behavior.” Psychoanalytic Quarterly. 16(1947): 195213.
Dittmann, Allen T.; Parloff, Morris B. and Boomer, Donald S.Facial and Bodily Expression: A Study of Receptivity of Emotional Cues.” Psychiatry 28(1965): 239–44.
Duncan, Starkey. “Towards a Grammar for Floor Apportionment: A System Approach to Face-to-Face Interaction.” In Proceedings of the 2nd Annual Environmental Design Research Association Conference, 1970, 225235.
Efron, Davis. Gesture and Environment. New York: King's Crown Press, 1941. (Reprinted as Gesture and Culture, The Hague: Mouton Publishers).
Ekman, Paul; Sorenson, E. Richard; and Friesen, Wallace V.Pan-Cultural Elements in Facial Displays of Emotion.” Science 164(1969): 8688.
Ekman, Paul, Friesen, Wallace V. and Ellsworth, P.Emotion in the Human Face. New York: Bergamon Press, forthcoming.
Fortier, Cheryl E.Male-Female Differences in Movement.” Unpublished Masters Thesis, Hunter College, 1973.
Freud, Sigmund. “Symptomatic and Change Actions.” In The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud, trans, and ed. by Brill, A.A., 129140. New York: Random House, 1938.
Gesell, Arnold, et al.The First Five Years of Life. New York: Harper and Row, 1940.
Gunther, Phyllis Frant and Richards, Jill. “Movement Characteristics of Urban Adolescents.” Unpublished Masters Thesis, Hunter College, 1973.
Hall, E.T.The Hidden Dimension. New York: Doubleday and Company, 1966.
Henley, Nancy M.The Politics of Touch.” Presented at a meeting of the American Psychological Association, 1970.
Hewes, Gordon W.World Distribution of Certain Postural Habits.” American Anthropologist 57(1955): 231244.
Jablonko, Allison. “Dance and Daily Activities Among the Maring People of New Guinea: A Cinimatographic Analysis of Body Movement Style.” Ph.D. Dissertation, Columbia University, 1968.
Jourard, Sidney M.An Exploratory Study of Body-Accessibility”. British Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 5(1966): 221231.
Kestenberg, Judith al.Development of the Young Child as Expressed through Bodily Movement. I. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 19(1971); 746764.
Matchotka, Pavel. “Body Movement as Communication.” In Dialogues: Behavioral Science Research, Vol. 2. Boulder, Colo.: Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, 1965.
Mehrabian, Albert. “Inference of Attitudes from the Posture, Orientation, and Distance of a Communicator.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 32(1968): 296308.
Mehrabian, Albert. “Significance of Posture and Position in the Communication of Attitude and Status Relationships.” Psychological Bulletin 71(1969): 359372.
Moorehead, Alan. Darwin and the Beagle. New York: Harper and Row, 1969.
North, Marion. Personality Assessment through Movement. London: Macdonald and Evans, 1971.
Richards, Jill. “Variations on a Theme by Margaret: The Process of Seeing.” Unpublished paper, Hunter College, 1973.
Reich, Wilhelm. Character-Analysis. 3rd. ed. Trans, by Wolfe, T.P., New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1949.
Scheflen, Albert E.The Stream and Structure of Communicational Behavior: Context Analysis of a Psychotherapy Session. 1965a Revised Ed. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, forthcoming.
Scheflen, Albert E.Quasi-Courtship Behavior in Psychotherapy.” Psychiatry 28(1965): 245257.
Stone, Wendy. “Gesture Styles of the Kung Bushmen and the Blackfoot Indians.” Unpublished Masters Thesis, Hunter College, 1973.
Van Vlack, Jacques. “Filming Psychotherapy from the Viewpoint of a Research Cinematographer.” In Methods of Research in Psychotherapy. Gottschalk, L. and Auerback, A. H., eds., 1524. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1966.

The Potential of Nonverbal Communication Research for Research in Dance

  • Martha Davis and Lois Andreasen


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed