Today's John Tierney-authored Findings column discusses the evolution and significance of the upturned palm and its variants--the shrug, the downturned palm, etc:
That simple gesture, the upturned palm, is one of the oldest and most widely understood signals in the world. It's activated by neural circuits inherited from ancient reptiles that abased themselves before larger animals. Chimps and other apes, notably humans, adapted it to ask not just for food, but also for more abstract forms of help, creating a new kind of signal that some researchers believe was the origin of human language.
Gestures as proto-language! Body language, in general, has always held my interest. Apparently, gesticulating wildly with your hands is supposed to make you a more articulate speaker (I swear this is true: I've participated in cruel games in which subjects were supposed to tell stories while sitting on their hands).
Recently, my company cast a body language expert on a game show, and he was rumored to give you an apt diagnostic reading after just a brief introduction. When I finally met him, I consciously tried to slacken my entire body and avoid any gestures that might leak out insight, but the man was stealthy, and charming, and after he offered me a cup of water and observed how I held it, I was had: by holding the cup in front of my heart chakra, he explained, I was guarding my emotions. He suggested if I wanted to better connect with people, I needed to be conscious of which chakras I was blocking. He also said the number one thing to do in job interviews was to mimic the interviewer's body language. Has anyone ever critiqued your body language?