Subliminal Hacking
The Art and Science of Social Engineering


June 14, 2010

Body Talk.. Its torsotastic

This week we are going to look at body language again. In a previous post we looked at how the legs and feet have a lot to tell us, in this post we are going to uncover what the upper body can reveal to us.


The torso is made up of the shoulders, chest, abdomen and hips. The torso is capable of giving us some clear limbic responses, due to what is housed inside, we subconsciously look to protect what matters most. A perfect example of this is when an individual crosses their arms, or holds an object in front of them. This is a clear sign of protection and or comfort, which will often signify discomfort with a topic of discussion, or the presence of someone who makes them uncomfortable. Its also important to be aware of the subtle forms of this which may appear in the prolonged adjustment of a tie, cuff links, breast buttons, etc.

People pivoting, leaning and moving there torso away from an individual is also an interesting tell of disgust. This may be to the individual themselves, the opinions they share, or the activities they have done. This can sometimes be coupled with arm crossing for even more impact. On the other hand, someone who is leaning in and open shows interest, admiration and a strong focus of interest. A middle ground can often be peoples stiffness and a form of rigidity. This can be an opinionated position, standing tall and snooty, as well possibly a freeze type of approach, trapped in the head lights. Another sign is when someone is bowing at the waist, leaning over a little with head looking at the floor is another gesture of shame.

We have spoken before about looking to acquire more territory, this can also be seen from how people are seated, all splayed out, torso laid back in an effort to take up more space, and be perceived as more dominant. This can also be a clear signal of lacking of interest, and disregard for an authoritative figure. They are clearly playing their game, you need to make swift adjustments to get them playing your game. Another form of being territorial is the puffing out of the chest. This is done by all animals, including humans and is an initial sign of trying to be more dominant, looking to be bigger and stronger than your opponent, this is a clear sign of challengement.

On the flip side, shrugged shoulder with someone’s head lowering is a clear sign of heavy burden and shame. These tells give a good indication when challenging in a group of someone who is ashamed or disappointed, or in regret. Shoulders can tell you more also, especially in a shrugging situation under questioning. A clear high shrugging of the shoulders is a sign of a confident response, a lower half level shrug, or perhaps only one shoulder moving should be considered dubious, and demonstrates a lack of commitment in the response being given. Something in-between where the shoulders rise and fall slowly shows signs of discomfort, they are perhaps uncomfortable and are not feeling confident.

Some people say the torso is the billboard of the human body, and this is very true. We reveal and hide alot of information in the torso area. This is where we have our badges, wear jewellery on show, may have shirts buttoned up or down. This is another example of really being what we wear, and this also sends a message in conjunction with the other tells we observe.

As before this information should be a guide, and built from a persons baseline of how they move and operate. I know you will have seen these body signals before, and perhaps have been unaware what’s going on. Have fun and watch people, and look for the other information people are dishing out in this area. Body language is relatively easy to understand as you look at it over time, and listen to the associated discussions to build up a frame, and remember to use this information to adjust what body signals you are giving off.

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    About the Author

    Dale Pearson
    has worked in IT since 1998, Infosec since 2004, and studied and performed hypnosis, mentalism etc since 2009. Dale is a full time Red Teamer with a love of social engineering and qualified hypnotherapist. He spends a great deal of time researching the various skills and techniques that make up the art and science of Social Engineering.


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