Ever wondered whether your child can actually use non-verbal cues to develop social perception and perhaps decide the person holding power as well, via evaluating body language, facial expressions, and by studying emotional versification in their surroundings?

Your child’s brain observes more than you can imagine. Four studies (number of children = 192) tested whether young children use nonverbal information to make inferences about differences in social power. In this study, children were made to see the interaction between two people and figure out who is in charge using their body language. Apparently, children with more than 5 years of age were able to determine the social power among the individuals using nonverbal cues.

Another interesting possibility is that girls are more sensitive than boys to certain absolute cues in social interactions (Hall, 1978; Wood, Murko, & Nopoulos, 2008). This sensitivity may be especially evident when girls watch interactions between women (maybe because they spend more time around women or are more engaged by people who match their own gender).

Children are active social observers (Bigler & Liben, 2007) and may notice over the course of many interactions that people who hold familiar positions of power (e.g., president, principal, boss) tend to exhibit non-verbal cues such as more expansive posture, maintain direct gaze at their social targets, and tilt their heads back. Further, they may eventually generalize this learning at times when they have no idea about people’s roles (as in the present studies). In another study, younger kids viewed photographs in which one adult either displayed one cue or all four high-power cues, while the other adult displayed one or four low-power cues.

There were five kinds of power displays:
  1. Expansive vs. hunched posture
  2. Tilted up vs. down head position
  3. Forward vs. down gaze
  4. Lowered vs. raised eyebrows
  5. Differences in all cues (posture, head, gaze, and eyebrows)

Body language for kids

These studies amazingly discuss the potential of young children, especially after crossing the age of 5 years. These cues are not only inculcated in a child’s behavioral setting, but also helps them reprimand and guide their own social cues and personality in their developmental stages. Given the omnipresence of nonverbal information in the social world, it would be wise to attune oneself to understanding the origins and all development levels of children’s attention to a broad range of nonverbal behaviors.

Know about our Body Language Champion Program for Kids

Attending schools may provide children with relationships defined by power differences—between the principal and teachers, administrative and supporting staff, different leadership opportunities amongst students. But children learn a lot from their home and surroundings. Hence making them learn the right cues and guide them right, they should be handled with care and with right non-verbal gestures. Can you list the body gestures you exhibit while showing power at home? Is the power exhibited comforting and a matter of responsibility? Let us know in the comments.


Children Use Nonverbal Cues to Make Inferences About Social Power, Elizabeth Brey and Kristin Shutts.