Posture (psychology)

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In humans, posture can provide important nonverbal communication. Posture deals with:

  • how the body is positioned in relation to another person or group of persons (e.g. leaning stance, posture, standing, sitting, etc.) and how they are positioned relative to each other various body parts (e.g. leg imposed on the leg, hand in pocket, etc.)
  • physique, that is how the body looks like (e.g. whether it is large, has a broad back, weak legs, large head, etc.)

Communication expressed posture

Non-verbal communication developed in humans earlier than verbal communication. In humans, one of the means of communication, such as its position in the hierarchy of the group or attitude toward others, is the appropriate attitude gain (in addition to facial expressions, personal distances, gestures and body movements). Posture conveys information about:

  • attitudes of interpersonal relations - for example I like - I do not like, want to avoid, etc.
  • personality traits - such as confidence, submissiveness, openness, the need
  • social standing - social origin, position in the social hierarchy (particularly if it is analyzed in the context of postures callers)
  • current emotional states - fear, sense of security, relaxation, tension
  • frustrations of developmental traits or character, mental injuries (traumas), etc.
  • characteristics of temperament - according to the theory of Hippocrates, Kretschmer, Sheldon.

Analysis of posture

Posture inform both the enduring characteristics of the person (character, temperament, etc.), and of its current internal states (emotions, attitudes that have been raised, etc.). Therefore, posture can be considered in the context of a given situation, and independently of it.

It should be noted, however, that people assume certain postures in a habitual manner. Although at the time of manufacture habit usually posture is a reflection of inner states, it is a habit may lose the function of inducing or suppressing relevant experience and experience.[1]

During the analysis of posture and other non-verbal communication, it is easy to commit a fundamental attribution error - that is subject to the illusion that informs the attitude of permanent human internal characteristics and not concerning the situation.

Changing states and habitual postures

Posture as information about the current state of the internal should be analyzed in the context of other messages, both verbal and nonverbal as well as cultural norms and social, that apply to your situation.

The same body position in different contexts may carry other information. It was found, for example, that the greater the enslavement of a social group, the stronger the tendency of its members to express courtesy.[2]

Open and closed body posture

The actors and researchers distinguish these two opposing attitudes. People with an open posture are perceived as friendly and positive attitude, creating a sense of security around him. People with a closed body posture gives the impression of detached, uninterested contact, hostile.

  • A Closed posture is one in which parts of the body most susceptible to trauma are obscured. These body parts are: throat, stomach and genitals. They are easily damaged and the damage could have fatal consequences. Damage to the genitals prevents the transfer of their genes to future generations and is synonymous with the death of the "point of view of the gene"[3] (see also: Theory of matching the total and William Donald Hamilton). Therefore, both humans and animals try to protect those vulnerable to injury part. In humans, have similar behavior: the enclosure of the neck by leaving or propping up the chin, tilting the head, arms weaving on the chest or abdomen, hands clasped obscure the genitals ("the attitude of the Soviet dignitary"), crossing the legs. Also, clothing may close stance: buttoned suit, golf, handbag or briefcase held in front of you, etc.
  • An open posture is one in which they are exposed: genitals, abdomen and neck (see photo below). The open character of the body raised the head, draped jacket, shirt undone at the neck, loosened his tie, bag on shoulder or in hand, slightly raised hips.

An important element of the closing or opening position of the body are the hands. Shown palms read as openness, friendliness, willingness to contact, especially if the hand is relaxed - that is, his fingers gently touch each other. Showing the back of your hand, gripping them, hiding the thumb is a signal closure (see also: the gestures and body movements).

Hands clasped behind his back after the close of the posture, even though its front is exposed. They call because the caller with the impression of hiding something. Hands are the most frequently touched the body zone, and their "hide" can be read as resistance to closer contact.

Closed and open posture also apply to the seat. Attaching feet, clinching the legs, arms crossing the closure body. Slightly bending forward, head hanging, showing the palms open position.

Interpersonal attitudes

Interpersonal attitudes (sympathy-disapproval, acceptance, trust, etc.) are communicated through:

  • the inclination of the body. During the conversation lean slightly toward the caller's trunk or tilted slightly away from him. It is usually unconscious The inclination "towards" is an expression of sympathy and acceptance. Reverse Buckling occurs along with the survival of dislike and disapproval or desire to break the relationship. Similar importance is slight, or postponing the ejection head.
  • During the conversation, people have an unconscious tendency to imitate their behavior. This happens when the conversation runs seamlessly and is enjoyable for both parties. This approximation of the attitudes and gestures and body movements indicate the emergence of a bond and sympathy. Lack of synchronization behavior leads to a sense that this contact is artificial, forced and unpleasant.
  • orientation of the body. Usually, people talk directed toward each other, but not in the position of "face to face," a confrontational attitude (see also: territoriality ). Therefore, the body usually callers are turned toward each other, but are set at an angle. When you ignore someone, we tend to ignore or avoid contact - set the side (shoulder) - this happens for example in a crowded elevator (more on this see: the theory of intimacy).
  • closed or open body

The social

The posture is highly dependent on cultural patterns.

Expressing respect by bending the body in half and tilt their heads in the Japanese culture has a different meaning than in Western culture.

Also, in certain environments, apply the unwritten norms gain postures. The gang members, soldiers, supporters take other items. In this way, the attitude of the body discloses information about the social origin and nationality, and the environment in which the unit was raised.

Finally, the body can tell you about the position in the social hierarchy. Otherwise, move, stand and sit aristocrats, otherwise used. Characteristic is a step, which moves in the power, the ruler sits differently than a subordinate.

  • If two people of different social standings and talk to each other, it usually the person with a higher position takes a more relaxed attitude. Her body is arranged rather unbalanced and may appear nonchalant attitude, such as legs on a table, hand in your pocket or under his jacket, etc.
  • A person with a lower position becomes symmetrical position (e.g. both hands on your lap or desk, and if it is - hands at your sides, possibly founded on his stomach, held clasped in front of you).
  • Typically, a person with higher status first sits down and talks while sitting. A person of lower status is not sitting, or sit as a second, usually also ask (for example, sight) for permission.
  • A person of lower social position is trying to deal with their attitude less space, for example, in the right way involves crossed his legs, holding your elbows close to the body, etc.


Mood influences on muscle tone, energy level, sense of well-being internal. Thus, body posture (e.g. head raised or hunched shoulders) reveals the current state of mind.

  • Experiencing stress is manifested, among others: by a stooping back and shoulders leaning towards each other, the willingness to carry weight on your toes or (more rarely) on the heels, buttocks and anus tightening, tightening the jaw and mouth, clenching. Also raises the general tone of the muscles, decreasing the peripheral circulation of blood, resulting in quench the hands, feet, tip of nose, ears. Changing their way of breathing is blocked skirt and tight abdominal muscles, there is a tendency to shortness of breath, during which mainly move the ribs or collarbone.
  • Well-being: back straight, raise your head.
  • Malaise: Drooping shoulders, looking down, head bowed, also tilted at an angle to the left or right.

In the popular literature has come to interpret the postures according to the assumptions of psychoanalysis - such as protecting the breast and leg crossing would be a symptom of a sexual complex.[4] These beliefs, however, have very limited support in systematic research and experimentation. Thus, it is more likely that this type of behavior reflect a certain style of self-presentation,[5] for example, "the man of God", "seductress", "eccentric artist", rather than unconscious conflicts and complexes.

Example analysis of postures

The posture and stable personality traits

The term "posture" means sometimes the appearance of the body. In psychology , there are several concepts involving the appearance of the permanent characteristics of individuals. Some habitual position may also reflect stable characteristics of "the inner man". None of the concepts has any basis on the ground of modern science.


The self-confidence, openness, a sense of security is expressed through posture.

  • Confident person is habitually more relaxed, resulting in frequent gain both asymmetrical posture when sitting and standing. This happens primarily in situations that do not enforce and standardize the behavior (see also: conformity).
  • Sense of security affects the alignment of the body in a dream. Some French saying has it that: "The king is sleeping on his back, the wise man on the side, and a rich man on his stomach." "King's position" (upside-down position, arms at your sides your legs straight and slightly open) takes by people feeling safe. In this position, using about 12% of people. Parts of "soft" (neck, abdomen, genital area) are not enclosed.


Wilhelm Reich, a student of Freud, first drew attention to the relationship between a shallow breath and blocked traffic and the difficulty in experiencing sexual pleasure and emotional disorders, especially neuroses.

This concept was developed by Alexander Lowen, founder of bioenergetics. He is also author of the concept of block of muscle. Lowen noted that when people do not want to experience certain emotions, then tighten certain muscles.[6] For example, when the boy did not want to cry, it can tighten the jaws, which suppresses the tears. The stress and anger tightens the muscles along the spine and thigh muscles, which can manifest itself in pain in those body parts, if the stress was prolonged.

According to Lowen some tensions become chronic: in progress continuously, regardless of the circumstances. This is called chronic tension blocks of muscle. There was also a notion of "muscular armor" as a metaphor of armor, which is designed to protect against unwanted emotional experience.

Muscular block affects the posture and the way we move, and also reduces the experience of feelings and awareness, including awareness of one's body. (See also: denial). Certain experiences influence the formation of specific blocks of muscle, and thus its appearance, structure and attitude, so you can read some past experience of human imprinted in his body, "just as one can read or summer was warm by the observations of tree rings".[7]

This idea is reformulated by American psychotherapist Stephen M. Johnson in his theory of style, character. According to Johnson, muscle tension occur early in a child's life (see also: psycho-sexual development) and affect the specific appearance of the body. In these periods of life comes to the formation of certain psychological characteristics of human ways of thinking and experiencing the world, causing the appearance goes hand in hand with the specified character. Thus was born the concept of "style of character."

According to this theory, there is the following characteristic types of body building and associated psychological characteristics:[8]

  • Schizoid nature - in the first months after birth there are strong tensions in the vicinity of joints, resulting in very stiff and then limp joints. The body gives the impression of undernourished, frail, very thin, poorly developed, often small. Is noticeable shortness of breath, chest very slim and very moving diaphragm. Blocks are present in the neck muscles and tension around the eyes. These people often have problems with their eyesight and wear glasses.
    • A person with a schizoid feel insecure in social situations, has the feeling that it is unwanted by others. Avoids physical contact and does not like it, well my body feels weak and is often dissatisfied with it, bad it feels. It is "detached from the earth," which results in a specific way of walking - a light, as if on tiptoe. Often, such people are creative and have developed abstract thinking.
  • Oral nature - sunken chest, where the arms bend toward each other, very shallow breathing, sunken abdomen and stiff knees. Rzepka knees are raised up, which means that the legs are bent at the knees as if to back. Sometimes the knee converge toward each other ("x's feet"), head pushed forward. Often such persons are poorly developed lower jaw, poor teeth.
    • Oral types tend to relate the extreme dependency: make easily from humans, the substance of certain activities (e.g. computer games). They feel that alone will not give you advice and continuous desire to close others. They behave as if they needed continuous assistance, guidance and support of other people, even in small things. At the same time tend to have well-developed social skills. The nature of oral sex may result in the denial of dependency needs. Such a person feels confident that no one needs to be happy, yet afraid of the situation of dependence on others and have needs. An example might be a mountain climber, who spent two weeks going through the snow and not feel the need odezwania to someone.
  • narcissistic (psychopathic) nature - weak legs and feet, poor grounding (the term derived from bio-energy), pulled upwards stomach and inflated chest.
    • These persons are very afraid of humiliation and ridicule. They want to dominate and inspire fear in others (see also: ingracjacji techniques), they want to control other people. It is easy to cope with difficult situations, but they are not capable of a long commitment and effort. They are prone to exploitation and use of others.
  • Masochistic nature - very strong legs, thighs and overgrown muscle fat around the thighs, rounded, hunched backs, bent head, the folds of fat on the neck.
    • Masochists have problems with their free will, they feel deprived of spontaneity, and controlled by others. They have a large shipment of passive aggression and resistance. The apparent humility agree with adversity, while having in themselves a large portion of suppressed anger.
  • Rigid character - the body leaning slightly forward, shoulders pulled back, wypięta chest, buttocks wypięte. The body is rather smooth, but with very tight, "prepared to act" muscles. Sometimes it is said also of the hysterical variety of body type (see also: the nature of hysterical) with strong tensions in the muscles of the chest.
    • Such persons are in constant activity, without a break doing something "not forgiven myself," put on the achievements. They try to give my more and more, even though they are never satisfied with himself until the end.

Features of temperament

Constitutional theories in psychology (e.g., Sheldon, Kretschmer) emphasize the relationship between body structure and temperament. Ever since Hippocrates thought that the body structure goes hand in hand with the temperament and susceptibility to certain diseases. These beliefs have become common knowledge - for example, there is a conviction that "Chubs are benign and listless, while a person with an athletic body types are more aggressive and active".

Scientific research on relationship of body appearance and temperament traits began in the early twentieth century German psychiatrist Ernst Kretschmer. He studied the relationship between body structure and the onset of psychosis. These tests are now to the history of psychology. Broader their discussion - see The constitutional theory of Kretschmer.

Presented here in brief is the theory of William Sheldon, the best set of systematic research.[9] Sheldon distinguished three "dimensions" of body (he called them "types of somatic"), which in different people can come in different intensity:

  • Endomorphic - body, soft, rounded figure, poor development of bones and muscles, a low ratio of body surface area to its mass. Are well developed digestive organs that develop from the endoderm of the embryo - hence the name.
  • Endomorphic correlates positively with the characteristics of temperament, which Sheldon called wiscerotonią . This dimension of temperament manifested a tendency to comfort, sociability, desire, food, people and feelings. Such persons have a relaxed posture, slow reacting, they are balanced, very easy to live with and tolerant. In moments of stress and tension seek the company of other people.
  • Mesomorphic - body structure is solid and angular, is dominated by muscle and bone. The body is strong and hard, fault-tolerant and adapted to the physical effort. This type of body develops from the mesoderm.
  • Mesomorphic correlates of temperamental traits, which was named somatotonia. manifested a propensity for adventure and risk, a strong need for intense exercise and muscle exercise. Such persons are characterized by relatively strong aggression , insensitivity to the feelings of others, a tendency to dominance, power and action.
  • Ectomorphic - slim and frail body, flat chest, delicate. Typically, such people are thin and poorly muscled, unable to prolonged physical effort. The large area of the body in relation to its mass. The largest is the brain and central nervous system.
  • Ectomorphic goes with cerebrotonią as manifested by discomfort, shyness, inhibition, fear of people. The reactions of these people are too fast, bad dream. In moments of stress and tension they avoid humans.

Some researchers have argued that a strong relationship between body structure and the type of temperament are associated with methodological shortcomings, and this relationship is actually lower than shown by Sheldon[10]

The appearance of the body and the appeal of authority

The size of the body, especially the increase is an important factor influencing the perception of a person as an authority and a tendency to succumb to it (see: the impact of authority).

Men spend much more time on shaping the muscles of the chest and shoulders, while women in the exercise the muscles of the thighs and the lap belt. It is related to the effort of interpersonal attraction, one of whose major components is physical attractiveness.

An attractive male body is one in which the arms are wider than the hips, while female beauty formula contains the appropriate ratio of the circumference to hip circumference of the waist. Deck must be narrower, but not too narrow. Perceived attractiveness of such figures of the body is linked to evolutionary conditioning preferences in choosing a partner and the amount of sex hormones - testosterone and oestrogen.


Posture can easily be impacted by poor health and thus, using posture to assess personality, character, psychology, etc. must first rule out possible underlying medical conditions--known to the Patient or not--which may be causing a person's inability to comfortably resist the effects of gravity.


  1. ^ Haley J. (1995). Remarkable therapy. Gdańsk: Gdansk Psychology Publishing. ISBN 83-85416-24-2
  2. ^ Hall J.A. (1979). Nonverbal sex differences: Communication accuracy and expressive style. Balitmore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press
  3. ^ Buss DM (2001). Evolutionary psychology. Gdańsk: Gdansk Psychology Publishing.
  4. ^ Collins, A. (2003). Gestures, body language and behavior. New York: DKC. ISBN 83-89314-01-0
  5. ^ Szmajke A. (1999). Autopresentation. 83-910489-1-8 Masks, poses, expressions. Olsztyn: Ursa Consulting. ISBN 83-910489-1-8
  6. ^ Lowen A. (1991). Spiritual body. New York: Publishing Agency Jacek Santorski & CO.. ISBN 83-85386-00-9
  7. ^ Lowen A. (1992). Introduction to bioenergetics. Santorski & CO. Jacek Publishing Agency.
  8. ^ Siems (1992). The body knows the answer. Warszawa: Jacek Santorski & Co. Publishing Agency. ISBN 83-85386-15-7
  9. ^ Hall CS, Lindsey G. (1990). Theories of Personality. Warszawa: OWN. ISBN 83-01-09240-8
  10. ^ Humphreys LG Characteristics of type concepts with special reference to Sheldon's typology. "Psychology Bulletin" 1957, 54, 218-228


  • Argyle M. (1999). Psychology of interpersonal relations. Warszawa, OWN. ISBN 83-01-12809-7
  • Birkenbihl VF, (1997). Non-verbal communication. ISBN 83-87197-17-3 Psychology of the negotiations. New York: Publisher ASTRUM. ISBN 83-87197-17-3
  • Birkenbihl VF (1998). Non-verbal communication. The signals of the body. New York: Publisher ASTRUM. ISBN 83-87197-63-7
  • Domachowski W. (1998). Guide to Social Psychology. New York: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 83-01-12541-1
  • Johnson SM (1993). Humanized narcissistic style. Warszawa: Jacek Santorski & Co. Publishing Agency. ISBN 83-85386-28-9
  • Johnson SM (1993). The transformation of character. The miracle of hard work. Warszawa: Jacek Santorski & Co. ISBN 83-85386-24-6
  • Johnson SM (1994). Style character. Poznań: Wydawnictwo Zysk i S-ka. ISBN 83-7150-324-5
  • Kepner JI (1991). The body in the process of Gestalt psychotherapy. New York: Empty Cloud. ISBN 83-85041-24-9

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