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Dutchess_III's avatar

What human gestures are universal?

Asked by Dutchess_III (27190 points ) January 7th, 2014

Is a nod of the head for “yes,” and a shake for “no” universal? Seems like they could be, because a nod is more like, “bringing it in,” and a “shake” is like shaking it away.

What are some gestures that are universal, and why?

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61 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

The bird. That speaks in every language. Thumbs up also seems pretty universal.

dxs's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe But the bird is different in other countries.
For instance, don’t even think about giving someone a thumbs up in the Middle East.

downtide's avatar

@SwanSwanHummingbird in some cultures (particularly Russia) a smile showing teeth is considered hostile.

Blackberry's avatar

Smiling, hopefully. But people will and can get upset at smiles, too. There’s nothing, actually lol.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think “come here’ and “follow me” gestures might be universal.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Handshake?
I realize there are some different protocols to this depending on where you’re at in the world but it seems like a pretty universal thing.

Dutchess_III's avatar

If not an actual shake, @uberbatman, a reaching out with open hand.

ibstubro's avatar

Hissing, growling, snarling and other overt, animalistic shows of aggression. Human’s are, after all, animals are respond to the universal warnings of attack.

talljasperman's avatar

The pee pee dance.

VS's avatar

The open arms for a hug, but I suppose in some cultures, hugging is too personal among people with whom you are not very familiar.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Right @ibstubro. I was thinking the same thing. But I’m thinking more of stylized, specific gestures which the other animals don’t have that all humans developed independently.

ibstubro's avatar

@Dutchess_III that’s exactly why I doubt that there are any ‘universal, stylized, specific gestures’ among humans.

I think that a smile is universal, yet we’re immediately (and not wrongly) given the information that a smile with teeth showing is a bad gesture to some. Probably because it resembles a snarl, or other sign of aggression.

To me, ‘universal’ would have to pretty much equate with ‘unlearned’ and I’ve yet to see a human baby that didn’t respond to/with a smile or grin. To that, then, we could probably add “laughter,” defined as a vocalized sound of mirth or happiness, and “sob” as the opposite?

Blondesjon's avatar

The palms up shrug.

janbb's avatar

The gestures for no and yes are reversed in some cultures or different – they are not universal.

thorninmud's avatar

The bow, perhaps.

Kardamom's avatar

The dance called The Hustle? Do do do do do do do do doooooo!

glacial's avatar

And that’s what it’s all about.

talljasperman's avatar

@glacial The holkey polky?

Kardamom's avatar

^^ Is that kind of like the hockey puckey?

AshLeigh's avatar

I think stabbing someone sends the same message everywhere.
Someone tell me I’m wrong.

Symbeline's avatar

@AshLeigh Prolly, yeah.

mattbrowne's avatar

None, except smiling as far as I know.

Smitha's avatar

Rubbing or patting our stomach (usually means you have had enough to eat)

mowens's avatar

Punching people in the face is pretty universal.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Good answers, guys! And not one person through a Google down on us. Awesome.

Seek's avatar

I was told by a former teacher that head-shakes mean different things in India than they do in the West. @Smitha – can you confirm or deny that?

Smitha's avatar

Yes, the head bobble. For those who are not exposed to Indian culture and body language, would definitely find it confusing. It can mean yes, no or maybe.

Seek's avatar

Clear as mud, huh?

dxs's avatar

Isn’t there also a determined head movement to indicate that you’re listening to someone?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Same as a dog’s @dxs? Head cocked to get the optimum sound waves?

Oh, I have one…smells stinky!!

Yetanotheruser's avatar

Put your thumbs in your ears and wag your hands and you’re sare to have someone chase you…if not shoot.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

Peace sign?

glacial's avatar

@ZEPHYRA Or is that a “V” for victory?

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think the V was originally for victory.

Seek's avatar

It’s also a middle-finger equivalent in several areas.

janbb's avatar

Yes – definitely not universal. I don’t think there are any made-up gestures that are universal. And even a smile can be interpreted as inappropriate at times in different cultures.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’d say no finger gestures are universal. Hand gestures and body language in many instances, yes, but finger gestures are too specialized.

glacial's avatar

@Dutchess_III Maybe. But it’s hard to imagine any human not understanding pointing, as @RealEyesRealizeRealLies mentioned.

Dutchess_III's avatar

U r right. Pointing is a universal gesture!

ibstubro's avatar

Universally RUDE my mamma told me!

Dutchess_III's avatar

It can be rude, too!

ragingloli's avatar

The V-sign with your tongue in between.

talljasperman's avatar

A grimace when someone gets hit in the nuts on live TV.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think maybe putting your finger to your mouth to tell someone to be quiet?

ibstubro's avatar

I think a prostitute might easily misinterpret that one, @Dutchess_III.

;-)

Dutchess_III's avatar

I said TO your mouth, not IN your mouth! Get yer brain outta the gutter @ibstubro!

ibstubro's avatar

Purse your lips and blow out a bit as you bring your finger to your lips, @Dutchess_III. Tell me a pro won’t get that suggestion!

AshLeigh's avatar

So… No one is going to tell me I’m wrong about the stabbing?

ibstubro's avatar

Okay, @AshLeigh. You are wrong, wrong, WRONG!
Happy now?

;-)

dxs's avatar

@AshLeigh Stabbing a masochistic person may send a different message…

Symbeline's avatar

Lol. Stab me baby, yeaaah, stick it in there deeper, oooh…ugh, now call the hospital. ’‘thump’’

ibstubro's avatar

“The First Cut is the Deepest” @Symbeline

talljasperman's avatar

The hand pistol for I’m going to shoot you.

dxs's avatar

Keep bleedin’! Keep, keep bleedin’ love!

AshLeigh's avatar

Thanks guys xD

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