Kinesics is the non-verbal behavior related to movement, either of a part of the body or the body as a whole. Kinesics communication is the most obvious non-verbal communication form. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most confusing area since the various meanings communicated through body movements seem endless across cultures. Kinesics may be subdivided into five categories.
- Emblems. Emblems are non-verbal messages that have a verbal counterpart. Emblems have a bewildering array of possible interpretations and meanings. For example, the British sign for Victory (forefinger and middle finger erect) symbolizes the letter V, a sign for victory. However, the same movement may symbolize the number two in the United States, and may be seen as insulting in Australia.
- Illustrators. Illustrators are less clearly linked to specific sayings or words being used. Illustrators are consciously used to illustrate what is being said, such as holding the hands wide apart to illustrate something big. Again, the usage and the amount of illustrators used is different from culture to culture. For example in some Asian cultures, extensive use of illustrators is often interpreted as a lack of intelligence, whereas in Latin cultures the absence of illustrators may be construed as a lack of interest.
- Affective Displays. Affective displays are body or, more frequently, facial movements that display a certain affective state, such as emotions. For example, facial expressions that show anger. Affective displays are often less conscious than illustrators and occur less frequently. The subconscious nature of affective displays and the varying degrees of their usage, make the interpretation of affective displays frequently quite bewildering across cultures. For example, the frequent and extensive subconscious usage of affective display movements by an Italian may be understood as threatening in a culture in which affective display movements are more restrained.
- Regulators. Regulators are non-verbal signs that regulate, modulate, and maintain the flow of speech during a conversation. They may be both kinesics, such as the nodding of a head, as well as non-kinesics, such as eye movements. These are the most culturally determined kinesics signs. As regulators moderate the flow of information, and are used as feedback of whether or not a person has understood the message, they may be confusing.
- Adapters. Adaptors include postural changes and other movements at a low level of awareness, frequently made to feel more comfortable or to perform a specific physical function. Because adaptors are usually carried out a low level of awareness, they have been hailed as the secret to understanding what your conversation partner really thinks. However, many adaptor movements, such as moving in a chair, may be employed more frequently to resolve a specific physical situation, rather than being an indicator of "secret thoughts."