I raised my body erect again as one should walk, though my thoughts remained bowed down and shrunken. --Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Canto XII
Nonverbal sign. 1. A bearing, pose, or stance of the body or it parts: e.g., a crouched posture. 2. A fixed, stationary body position as opposed to a fluid body movement.
Usage: When sustained (i.e., held longer than two seconds), a body movement such as a bowed-head may be considered a posture. Though duration varies, postures frequently are more expressive of attitudes, feelings, and moods than are briefer gestures and fleeting motions of the body.
Primatology. "The stance of a baboon, independently of any specific gesture, may indicate differences in tension and of individual status. . . . . The dominant male baboon tends to walk very directly and 'confidently' through different parts of a feeding area or when moving across country" (Hall and DeVore 1972:166).
Salesmanship. "Your posture is almost military but not stiff and uncomfortable-looking. Your shoulders are not stooped with the weight of the world, because you are not bent and broken by your burdens" (Delmar 1984:33).
RESEARCH REPORTS: 1. An early experimental study (by James , based on ratings by judges) identified four postural categories: a.forward lean ("attentiveness"); b. drawing back or turning away ("negative," "refusing"); c. expansion ("proud," "conceited," "arrogant"); and d. forward-leaning trunk, bowed head, drooping shoulders, and sunken chest ("depressed," "downcast," "dejected") (Mehrabian 1972:19). 2. Frieda Fromm-Reichmann (1950) inferred feelings from observing and imitating the postures of psychiatric patients (Mehrabian 1972:17). 3. Albert Mehrabian proposed two primary dimensions of posture: a. immediacy, and b. relaxation (Richmond et al. 1991:63).
Photo of Neptune statue (Bologna, Italy) by Doreen K. Givens (copyright 2000)