More Than Just a Gesture

Whether they are performed to let you know something without saying anything or to conceal something one wants unknown, a person’s body language and visual cues can speak volumes to a researcher who is looking for the truth.

At User Insight we watch human behavior closely to best evaluate what is being said and experienced during a study. Merely cataloging what is being said and capturing a quote is not enough.  One must compare what is being said to what is being done, and potentially what is in their surroundings, to accurately capture a behavioral finding.

Gestures are a funny thing, aren’t they? Gestures are things we make day-to-day that say something about ourselves without even saying a word!

Here are some gestures that we all know very well:

  • A hand shake
  • Pointing
  • Waving hello/goodbye
  • Smiling
  • Nodding Head in agreement/disagreement

However, depending on a person’s personality type, mood, situation or behavior, these gestures can be tweaked slightly, resulting in a new gesture. Those edited gestures cause us as humans to then begin evaluating the other person based on exactly how they performed a well-known gesture.

Let me give you an example:

You go in for a handshake, but instead you get one of the following:

  • A limp hand
    • Thought process: Is this person timid? Weak? Nervous?
  • An EXTRA firm handshake
    • Thought process: Is this person overcompensating? Weak? Nervous?
  • A mess of jumbled up fingers
    • Thought process: Is this person actually left-handed? Are we both nervous? Or not paying attention?
  • A hug!
    • Thought process: This person doesn’t have a personal bubble! Loving? Maybe this is normal for this person.
  • A high five
    • Thought process: This person is casual. This person wants to have fun! But now I have to switch from reaching out to high-fiving.
  • A handshake and a hand on your arm or shoulder
    • Thought process: This person means business. This person wants me to pay attention to what they are doing/saying.

Another example, and one of my personal favorites, is when I ask someone if a given interface is easy to use and they say, “yes it is easy to use,” while actually shaking their head.  They are telling me yes, but their body language is telling me no.  So instead of calling that out, I follow up with a series of questions to get to the areas that are confusing to them.  This can’t be done with online surveys or even automated user testing.  If you ask someone on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being not at all easy and 5 being very easy) how easy is it to use this interface, there is a group of consumers that will automatically tell you it is a 4 or 5, even though they actually feel it is a 1 or 2.  But you do not have the ability to verify that information through body language or to understand whether or not there were points of confusion or ways to make it better for them even though they gave the 4 or 5 rating.

Needless to say, the devil is in the details.

User Insight understands that what a consumer says or how they perform a task is not the defining line. Every move and statement must be calculated and cross-examined to understand exactly what another human is doing or thinking and why he or she may be thinking that way.

If you would like to understand your customer’s gestures, contact us.