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Studies Point To Power Of Nonverbal Signals Essay

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STUDIES POINT TO POWER OF NONVERBAL SIGNALS

By Daniel Goleman
Published: April 8, 1986
THE nonverbal messages people send, with a look, a gesture, a tone of voice, are far more pervasive and important in the workaday world than have been generally realized, and researchers are finding. But they are concluding, too, that these messages are more complex and subtle than the popular accounts of ''body language'' that have appeared in recent years have indicated.
Such covert cues, the new data show, have a strong impact in key relationships such as those between judge and jury, physician and patient, or teacher and student.
Indeed, the tacit communication of expectations between one person and another are found, in many cases, to make all the difference between success and failure in various kinds of endeavors:
How a judge gives his instructions to a jury was perceived to double the likelihood that the jury would deliver a verdict of guilty or not guilty -even when on the surface the judge's demeanor seemed perfectly impartial. A doctor's attitude affected the course of a patient's disease; a teacher's attitude influenced the intellectual progress of students.
And findings of the new research are likely to have repercussions in areas of life where it is crucial to avoid bias, even the most subtle. For example, according to some legal experts, one consequence of the study of research on judges, if it is borne out by further research, may be to provide a more precise basis for showing when a judge may have silently biased a trial.
The judicial study, reported in the November issue of The Stanford Law Review, is believed to be one of the first scientific tests of the courtroom lore that the judge's attitudes, even if never openly expressed, are often crucial to a trial's outcome. One striking finding concerned trials in which the judge knew that the defendant had a record of previous felonies, a fact that a jury, by law, is not allowed to know unless the...

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