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Visible thought: The new psychology of body language


Book reviews > Visible thought: The new psychology of body language


Beattie, G. (2003). Visible Thought: The new psychology of body language, London: Routledge


Geoffrey Beattie is professor of psychology at the University of Manchester, England. He is also the resident psychologist on the popular TV reality show Big Brother. Although one is seriously academic and the other outrageously popular culture, they do go together, and he uses the TV work to inform his researches into non-verbal communication.

Be sure of this: this is not a 'popular psychology' book and, although it does make use of Big Brother for examples, it does not major on it and it appears only in a few chapters.

The focus of this book is in Beattie's challenge to traditional body language, in which there is a deliberate separation of non-verbal and verbal communication. Traditionally, verbal communication is conscious and largely considered, whilst body language is subconscious and emotional. Beattie's thesis is that gestures stand apart from the rest of the body in their connection with language. He contends that gestures are not only closely connected with language but they are intimately related. The sub-title of 'the new psychology of body language' is rather ambitious, given the relatively narrow focus of the text, but this should not detract from its real contribution to the field.

As you might expect from a university professor, the book is academically sound, making strong use of references (including Beattie's original journal publications on the subject) and is carefully argued. It is also surprisingly readable, which you might also expect from someone who regularly appears on TV. The core arguments are well-illustrated with examples, although greater use of pictures or diagrams would have been welcome.

The target audience of the book is not really the general public; the subject is too specialized and the content too academic for the majority of the Big Brother audience. Academic readers will find it a useful extension to the literature on non-verbal communication. The intelligent lay reader should also find it both readable and interesting.


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Geoffrey Beattie, Visible thought: The new psychology of body language, Routledge, London, 2003 

Geoffrey Beattie is a university professor and resident psychologist on UK TV reality show Big Brother. Here he mixes academics with TV events to add depth to the meaning of gestures, including new challenges to traditional interpretations. Useful and very readable.



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