Dr Pentland of the MIT Media Lab, recently published the book 'Honest Signals' which focuses on several nonverbal communications. The book was featured in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required):

  • Autonomic nervous system: how listeners pay attention to the speaker: finishing their sentences and looking at them while they speak.
  • Mirror neuron system: mimicing each others' gestures which creates the empathetic sense that we're on the same page. [I've experienced this too. From time to time I have observed my wife and a long time friend both move their lips in sync with the words I'm saying].
  • Consistency: in tone or motion refers to the confidence that the speaker knows whats going on. Here Dr Pentland referred to the experiment with business executives pitching business plans. It turns out the highest scoring business plans were those delivered with particularly positive tone of voice, irregardless if the plan made sense.

Implications for business include decision makers being aware of these unconscious signaling and take steps to correct for them by reading written submissions and speaking to references when viewing business plans or hiring. All three of these communications systems are empowered in a visual communications setting.


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