But what about the nod of the head? It would make sense for Darwin to try to pursue a similar explanation for our exceptional confirmation signal. He observed that when his children put food in their mouths, they often tilted their heads forward. Of course, this action, when repeated, looks like a nod. And so he came to the conclusion that nodding, just like shaking the head, has a «natural beginning.» Researchers have since repeated this report . René Spitz, one of the most erudite physical affirmation and negation, also attributed the nod and trembling of the head to nursing movements. A second remark: blind children shake their heads but do not seem to nod their heads. A 2000 study by Jana Iverson and colleagues compared five congenital blind children and five sighted children (aged 14 to 28 months). There were two common gestures that were not used by blind children: shruging (quite interesting — see previous post) and nodding. Similarly, a 2007 study of seven deafblind children aged 4 to 8 years found no cases of no nodding (but also, as we noted, a very sparse use of head tremors). These accounts actually contradict Darwin`s own claim about the head gestures of blind children.
He quotes the account of a blind child who «constantly accompanied his yes with the usual affirmative nod.» But I am inclined to trust the most recent second-hand evidence on Darwin`s anecdote. Acheson describes his research as follows: «If I show a video with a female nod in my head, more than 80% of the men in my audience will approve and less than 25% of the time you`re right. He points out that nodding is the most common source of misunderstanding between men and women. When you`re in Bulgaria, nodding up and down means «no» and nodding from side to side means «yes,» which is the exact opposite of most cultures. I have read that the same is true if you are Inuit, although I do not remember the reference. The woman may even give verbal signals of approval with an occasional «uh huh,» but be careful; it can only be an indication of understanding and not a complete agreement. Most men nod their heads to show their approval. The message is, «I hear you and I agree with your point of view.» Acheson`s research has shown that women nod their heads much more often than men, and that it`s not always about indicating consent. A third clue, which in my opinion is the most revealing: with the exception of nods, most of the affirmation signals used across cultures do not seem plausibly due to the acceptance of food.
(Darwin does not directly acknowledge this fact, but may have felt it. He casually noted that there appears to be a greater variety of signals used for confirmation than for negation.) Darwin`s list of affirmation signals includes: a lateral gesture (probably the one famous in Bulgaria and other Balkan countries that would look like shaking his head), a backward-facing headbutt with an eyebrow lift (which he says is used in the Philippines and Abyssinia), an «elevation» of the head and chin (New Zealand), and a head-toe throw from the side (India). The correct reasoning is notoriously inventive, but it is quite difficult to invent stories that link these actions to food acceptance. Somewhere, the recently deceased and recently traded Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant looked and nodded knowingly and said, «That`s why I left.» (The lawyer) August. 6, 2003 — — It goes without saying that the people reading this column are all rational people who draw conclusions entirely based on evidence, and they cannot be influenced by events as disjointed as their own body language. For example, there is no chance that your beliefs will be influenced by something as insignificant as nodding in accordance with someone else`s statement or shaking back and forth if there is disagreement. In Greece, the only nod of the head indicating «yes» is often combined with the simultaneous closing of the eyes. This nod usually involves a very slight, almost unnoticed, rotation of the head to the left (or right). In most cultures, nodding is used to mean «yes» or approval.
It is a stunted form of the bow — the person symbolically goes to the bow, but stops briefly, which leads to a nod. Bowing is a gesture of submission, so the nod of the head shows that we agree with the other person`s point of view. Research with people born deafblind shows that they also use this gesture to mean «yes,» which appears to be an innate gesture of submission. «I remember every piece,» Rahoi says, nodding happily as he reflected on his many adventures on this earth during his century. (The Iron Mountain Daily News) Of course, the «we» here needs further feedback. As soon as Darwin set out to study the physical signals of negation and affirmation, he learned through his widely dispersed circle of correspondents that the whim is not the only way people say «no» across cultures. (For a catalogue of the negation gestures Darwin studies, see pp. 6-7 here.) But he noted that many of the alternatives could also be plausibly traced to the first measures of food refusal. For example, a quick head jolt backwards – used for negation in parts of the Mediterranean – is another great way to refuse a spoon on the face .
A variant of this signal used elsewhere is to shake your head back while sticking out your tongue – which, of course, fits well with the food refusal hypothesis. If you zoom out, the suggestion that head shaking and other negation gestures are due to rejection of food in early childhood is now widely accepted. In fact, few other proposals have been made. 3. Roman Jakobson, who took a different path, thought the wink had a symbolic origin. Noting his resemblance to tilt and other body signals of reverence, he wrote: «The movement of the head forward and down is an obvious visual representation of inclination to the other participant`s request, desire, suggestion or opinion, symbolizing the obedient will of a positive answer to a positively formulated question.» He then continues, contrary to Darwin`s suggestion of «natural beginnings,» that the headbutt is formed in contrast to this symbolically rooted nod. «The forward bending motion used in an affirmative nod found its clear opposite in the lateral rotational movement characteristic of the head movement synonymous with the word `no`. This last sign, whose outer shape was probably built in contrast with the affirmative movement of the head, is also not free of iconicity. As we will see, I think Jakobson was right to point out the «antithetical» construction of these signals, but he was wrong in his specific story.
But there may be reason to doubt the proposal of «natural beginnings.» It turns out that there are some interesting differences between shaking your head and nodding your head – differences that have gone unnoticed or skipped in previous research and still don`t seem to have attracted much attention. Taken together, these differences cast doubt on the idea that these two basic head gestures are rooted in early eating routines. In other words, these are indications that something else might be going on. Different cultures attribute different meanings to the gesture. Nodding «yes» is widespread and appears in many different cultural and linguistic groups. Areas where nodding usually has this meaning include the Indian subcontinent (note that the head rocker also shows his agreement there), the Middle East, Southeast Asia, most of Europe (see below), South America, and North America. Nodding can also be used in some areas as a sign of appreciation or as a sign of respect. An insult can be concluded if it is not reciprocal in the same way. .