The NonVerbal Dictionary of Gestures, Signs & Body Language Cues


Emotion cue. The excretion of eccrine-gland moisture onto the palmar surface of the hands in response to anxiety, stress, or fear.

Usage: Sweaty palms may be detected while shaking hands. It is reputed that former F.B.I. director J. Edgar Hoover would not hire candidates whose handshakes were moist and cold.

RESEARCH REPORTS1. Cannon's "emergency reaction" involves redistribution of blood from the skin and viscera to the muscles and brain (Cannon 1929; see FIGHT-OR-FLIGHT). 2. A college student's GSR (galvanic skin response) is greatest when he or she is approached frontally by a member of the opposite sex (McBride et al.1965; see STRANGER ANXIETY).

Neuro-notes I. Like other body-motion cues, sweating requires the movement of body parts to deliver its watery substance to the skin's surface. Myoepithelial cells, which contain smooth-visceral-muscle-like organs, contract to squeeze the sweaty fluid through thin ducts in the skin. Myoepithelial "muscles" are innervated by sympathetic nerve fibers; the muscle-like organs also contract in response to adrenaline (Horne 1995:411).

Neuro-notes II1. "Studies in animals have established that the amygdala is critical for emotional conditioning [e.g., of the SCR or skin conductance response (i.e., sweaty palms)], whereas several human and nonhuman primate studies have established that the hippocampus and surrounding regions are necessary for establishing declarative knowledge" (Bechara et al. 1995:1115). 2. "Bilateral damage to the amygdala entirely blocked the ability . . . to acquire conditioned SCRs . . ." (Bechara et al. 1995:1117). 3.The subject "failed to generate SCRs to the CSs [conditioned stimuli] in both the visual and auditory experiments but was able to provide accurate and complete factual information regarding which stimuli had been followed by the US [unconditioned stimulus]" (Bechara et al. 1995:1117). 4. The amygdala is "essential for the coupling of sensory stimuli with affect . . ." (Bechara et al. 1995:1117).

Drawing of "Showing My Nonverbal Side" by my son Aaron M. Huffman (copyright 2012 by Aaron M. Huffman)