[The following thread was originally posted on CMAlist in March 2014. Topics discussed include Movement Pattern Analysis, the analysis of movement in different cultures, and Tetrahedral movement/Shapes]
Nice to see Rudolf Laban's name in USA Today. Anyone else see the article in today's paper about the Pentagon using "movement pattern analysis" to predict what Putin might do? Which one of us is helping with that, I wonder? All top secret, I suppose.
Not top secret at all. Brenda Connors is the one who works inside. She brought Warren Lamb in to do some work, per the article, and probably others as well.
Oh I was just about to write again and ask if Brenda Connors is a CMA. Ok, thank you! They do mention her role in the article.
She [Brenda Connors] is not a CMA.
I was asked for a link for this article. So I went looking for it. Here it is. This is interesting. I saw this article in the physical newspaper, not online. This online article is much more detailed. They must have continued to work on it after the paper had gone to press. Now I see what you mean about Warren Lamb, "per the article," Karen. Warren Lamb was not mentioned in the physical newspaper. It was a much briefer article.
Oh I see. Since I got this newspaper at my hotel yesterday, I assumed it was Saturday's paper. But looking at it, I see it is Friday's. When I read they are analyzing 15 world leaders, I wonder about that. My experience with living in Asia is that movement is very different in different cultures, and has different meanings. Can you analyze movement from very different cultures without a baseline profile of movement in those cultures? And what do CMAs around the world think about this political use of LMA? I have been on this listserve for less than a year, so forgive me if you have already had this discussion in the past. If you search further online on this topic, you will find other articles from other publications ridiculing the idea of learning about anyone from their movement. Interesting to see LMA in the press like this.
I think that it is important to give legitimacy to the field of movement analysis. I also think we need - and of course this is where it becomes tricky and difficult - to debunk the reductionist and overly simplistic ideas too frequently ascribed to “body language”. What is being observed and in what context and for what purpose needs to be part of the equation. Looking at someone’s preferences and patterns and identifying them – for example a pattern of long phrases with an emphasis at the end (in LMA parlance impactive) is one matter and does give us interesting and significant information. However interpretation or assigning meaning to this pattern is quite another. My example of a pattern of long phrases with the emphasis at the end may give us a clue as to what is needed from us as the observer, and in interaction with the long impactive phrase person i.e. stay the course with them ‘til they get to the end of their phrase! We need to avoid simplistic interpretations, which is often what the media is looking for. It is very possible for two people to look at the exact same movement and to “see” the same thing but to interpret the information quite differently. This is extremely important in addressing your question re culture. In classes I teach on movement analysis I often give the example of how a specific politician who appeared to use emphasize a Remote State of Bound Flow and Direct Space Effort and whose use of space was specific and limited and often adopted a Tetrahedral Body Attitude in speaking, was interpreted as either: “consistent, firm and strong” or by the other side as, “inflexible, limited, rigid”. We see through our own value system of course. Movement on many levels reflect choices and our choices reflect our values - so while this can be valuable in understanding someone, we as movement analysts need to remain vigilant about the complexity of what we are seeing and its relation to interpretation. We also need to be clear about the limitations of what we are seeing. Moreover if we are focused on only certain aspects of someone’s movement patterns and excluding others we can be missing information that is potentially equally as significant as what we are addressing.
Thank you for a well articulated explanation regarding the over simplified consideration of "body language"
I'm always running up against the common expectations from people in my practice.
As a student if ethnography you are explaining what is termed Etic and Emic
I'm including the Wikipedia definition that is also useful for this social dilemma:
Emic and etic are terms used by anthropologists and by others in the social and behavioral sciences to refer to two kinds of data concerning human behavior. In particular, they are used in cultural anthropology to refer to kinds of fieldwork done and viewpoints obtained.
"The emic approach investigates how local people think" (Kottak, 2006): How they perceive and categorize the world, their rules for behavior, what has meaning for them, and how they imagine and explain things. "The etic (scientist-oriented) approach shifts the focus from local observations, categories, explanations, and interpretations to those of the anthropologist. The etic approach realizes that members of a culture often are too involved in what they are doing to interpret their cultures impartially. When using the etic approach, the ethnographer emphasizes what he or she considers important."
Although emics and etics are sometimes regarded as inherently in conflict and one can be preferred to the exclusion of the other, the complementarity of emic and etic approaches to anthropological research has been widely recognized, especially in the areas of interest concerning the characteristics of human nature as well as the form and function of human social systems.
Wonderful Discussion! Many trajectories worthy of further conversation here, but I think we have to talk about Penny's initial question re: "My experience with living in Asia is that movement is very different in different cultures, and has different meanings. Can you analyze movement from very different cultures without a baseline profile of movement in those cultures?" Karen below reminds us about the complexity of movement analysis, the rigor involved, and also the subjective readings of movement phrases and events (how different people "see" movement attributes). Yes, we absolutely have to ward off the hijacking and "dumbing-down" of movement analysis that can easily happen in the media; we have had long conversations about this on "body language" segments in the Media News shows. Penny's above question though opens discussion on the foundations of LMA as Western, modernist thinking that continues to evolve and develop, but does have a particular frame for looking at and understanding the world. This does not mean that LMA-based discussion of movement profiles is not a valid way of talking about movement and its significance. But I think we have to be ready to admit that we look at movement from a particular, be it a very intricate lens. Megan's point regarding etic and emic analysis is an important one I think. Recall the flood of criticism over Alan Lomax's ethnographic work because--from what I understand--he did not differentiate these ways of looking in his own work. Yet, it seems some were willing to throw "the baby out with the bath water" and dismiss some valuable work--in my estimation--that he did accomplish. Brenda Connors has a long and respected career in diplomacy and a parallel career in dance and movement, so in regard to the snippet included in the USA Today article on Putin's signature, I think she is speaking with insider understanding of the "world" of international relations and western dance/movement practices. Obviously Alexander Putin is not a Western male, but he operates in a political arena to which I believe LMA based movement profiling can speak to with some truth. (I mean, after all with what is going on in Crimea recently, do we not have another iteration of Kurt Jooss' The Green Table?) For the future of the LMA field at large, as it is applied in many differing contexts in the world (that is my hope at least!!), we may see Penny's question arise again. I for one would love to have an adequate response; not sure we have one yet. Thanks--keep the conversation going,
Thanks to all of you for this enlivening discussion! This is a really complex area, and the questions Penny brings up are always present. There are of, course many different levels of observation skills in our LMA community. It is always worth getting inter-observer reliability, and invite Certified Movement Analysts who themselves have very different movement preferences to participate in the process. We all know that there is not a one-to-one interpretation of any action.
I agree with Karen Studd, Megan, and Tara. And as we all know in LMA, the context in which the person is observed is quite important.We train for this in our LMA Certificate Programs by encouraging the Buddy Project observations be done in different situations (large movement, small task oriented movement, conversation, out in the everyday world, etc.)
In his own political realm a politician, speaking to his own "base" is often more committed to his own beliefs than when he is speaking to the press or to a world leader from a different part of the world. I was very aware of this when I did my analysis of Romney and Obama during the last election. And, naturally, for a world leader, speaking in one's own native language--is likely to bring out different aspects of the person's movement preferences than speaking in a foreign language.
Yes, its very exciting to see the work gain recognition, and its frustrating how simplistically the media wants to reduce thinking and understanding. While I've not spent time analyzing political figures, I do address Karen's point about not "dumbing down" movement analysis as a dance educator Just last week, for example, in our study of West Side Story, my 7th and 8th graders analyzed the action (and sound) of Robbin's use of snaps in three different clips of the movie: in the Prologue when the boys are hanging out and messing around on the streets, in the Dance at the Gym when Tony and Maria fall in love at first sight, and in Cool after the Rumble (and Riff has been killed.) The students observed and analyzed the same snap action performed with very different uses of Effort, Space and Shape in each scene - in various contexts, by various characters, used for different purposes to express a range of intentions and communicating very different meaning. A Simple movement, expressing Complexity.
Great point Peggy:
"It is always worth getting inter-observer reliability, and invite Certified Movement Analysts who themselves have very different movement preferences to participate in the process."
I would also like to hear more discussion on how we adapt LMA to differing cultural contexts--if we are to use this system in political analysis of world leaders...who come from different cultural contexts.
"reductionist and overly simplistic ideas"
Alas, that is more often than not the standard style at USA Today, especially the print edition.
OK, but forgive me, (please forgive me), this is not a forum that intends to do a full scale analysis--of anything! This is a combination of media and journalism, and those are the standards in that genre now.
"Tetrahedral Body Attitude."
As a GL-CMA and a Movement Pattern Analyst, I want to clarify a few points that have arisen since the USA Today article regarding the observation of Putin by MPA Brenda Connors.
The way I understand Laban’s theories is that the qualities of movement identified by Laban were cross cultural. In my GL-CMA training we observed film of tribes in other underdeveloped countries, for instance, for which the qualities (Time, Weight, Space and Flow) were constant. These qualities of movement are what Warren uses in his Seven Creative Concepts which are the foundation of MPA. The Posture-Gesture-Merger we observe and code as Movement Pattern Analysts are not impeded by cultural norms that impact body language cues or isolated gestures. The MPA profile has been used successfully in 30 different countries spanning a breadth of ethnicities and cultures.
That being said, Warren Lamb never pretended or expected his work to be a decision-making end all. He states in A Framework for Understanding Movement, “I have never claimed that Movement Pattern Analysis tells us everything about a person’s decision-making that we need to know.” He goes on to say that “a strong leader will choose a strategy which appeals to his/her decision-making style, and will reject any options which do not. Where such leaders have big responsibility some predictability is inevitable.” I believe it is this predictability that is useful for global situations and we must keep in mind that the USA Today article indicates the Movement Pattern Analysis observations are only a piece of a larger puzzle with input from psychologists and others.
I applaud Brenda Connors for her work and bringing MPA some recognition in larger circles than just the movement-educated population.
Warm regards to all,
Thank you, Allison, for this clear and very interesting response to our discussion. I appreciate you taking the time to give us--and particularly me, as a new and still learning CMA--a better look into MPA. I am intrigued by the idea of "instinctive motivations that remain constant despite the situation." I will most certainly try to get Warren Lamb's book and read/ learn more about MPA.
Hej Fanchon and all,
Thanks to Alison for offering more informed, insightful analysis of MPA applications.
We have still not addressed one of Penny's initial questions:
"My experience with living in Asia is that movement is
very different in different cultures, and has
different meanings. Can you analyze movement from very
different cultures without a baseline profile of
movement in those cultures?"
As we use the wonderful tools of MPA/LMA more widely/globally, we have to address its origins and inherent bias.
Another link about tetrahedral body attitude as used in LMA is this article "Choreutic Tetrahedra" by Jeffrey Scott Longstaff
Hej Peggy, Fanchon and all,
Great answer, Wanda. Thanks!
Thanks Wanda for your full and clear commentary