If you want to know what non verbal cues are, you must be able to pay attention, because they can flash across the face of an individual in perhaps 1/25th second, according to Paul Ekman,Ph.D., whose 30 years of research into facial expressions is a wonderful resource for those of us looking to understand non verbal cues.
According to Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi,Ph.D., author of the book FLOW, we pay very close attention to subtle changes in intonation and facial expression, and we do that in parallel processing, which means the human central nervous system is capable of processing auditory and visual and smell and gustatory and touch data at the same time, in packets of seven bits of data at the same time and the shortest amount of time between packets of data is 1/18th second.
It takes me 1/10th second to blink my eyes, so we are attending to non verbal cues in a very short period of time.
But those are non verbal cues of the individual kind, and there are other systems for identifying patterns of behavior.
For example, Helen Fisher,Ph.D., is an anthropologist who has been studying the human mating dance for about 30 years, including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of in love and just out of love brains. Dr. Fisher could walk into a coffee shop with us and point out the discrete behaviors that individuals are demonstrating in the larger process of finding a mate.
As a counselor, when I am sitting with clients in a session or in a group, I look for subtle individual non verbal cues about internal feeling states.
I first heard those called 'truth responses' at a New Warrior Adventure Weekend a couple of decades ago, and those words are usually used to describe the non verbal cue we reveal when touching a painful memory or a fear for the future.
So looking at non verbal cues might involve two processes, an individual expression of a cue, and an understanding of where that cue fits in a larger system that humans involve themselves in.
Law enforcement and spy agencies use non verbal cues a little differently, to determine whether an individual is telling the truth or not, and there are patterns and signals those folks are looking for also.
I am not trained in those and haven't been interrogated for about 50 years, so I am unfamiliar with them.
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