The Chin

Body Language Signals of the Chin

The chin—a part of the face—conveys its own body language in the following ways:

  1. Pointing
    The chin can be used as a subtle pointing device. A slight flick of the head may give a small signal that only people in the know are likely to notice. Pointing at a person briefly with the chin can be a gesture of insult. It is more covert than pointing with a finger and non-threatening.
  2. Jutting
    Jutting out the chin towards a person exposes it and says ‘Go on, I dare you, try to hit me and see what happens!’ This can thus be a signal of defiance, if not towards the other person then instead towards some situation or person in the conversation.
  3. Stroking
    Stroking the chin is often a signal that the person is thinking hard. He may well be judging or evaluating something, particularly if the conversation has offered him an option or a decision to make.
  4. Holding
    Propping up the head by holding the chin in a cupped hand, particularly when one is tired, prevents the head dropping due to it sheer weight. Particularly when one is bored and feels sleepy, the hand under the chin stops an embarrassing drop of the head.

    Holding the chin also prevents the head from moving and can signal that the person is in two minds about sending a head signal. For instance, when he emotionally agrees and wants to nod, but intellectually want more information, he holds his head steady so that he can have good reason to say yes.

    Holding in the chin protects both it and the throat, and hence is a naturally defensive move that people use when they feel threatened. Holding the chin in also lowers the head, which is a submissive gesture. This is distinct from the defensive move as the head tilts down more and the eyes are often largely downcast. This can similarly be a shy or flirting gesture.
  5. Beard
    The beard, moustache, or goatee each makes a nonverbal statement. Beards make the lower face appear wider; moustaches, by turning the lip corners down, produce a fiercer look (Givens, 1999). They are sometimes controversial items, particularly in cultures where being clean-shaven is the norm.

    A bear may thus be an indicator of a nonconformist. A full beard is more likely to indicate a person who has no vanity needs and is confident and relaxed as he is. When the beard is shaped and neatly clipped, it may indicate a vainer and fussy person who is particular about how he appears and what he does. An unkempt beard that is left to grow wild may indicate an untidy mind or simply that the person is lazy. It may also point to a person for whom external appearance is unimportant, such as a university intellectual. Stroking a beard can be a preening gesture, symbolically making oneself look beautiful and hence sending ‘I’m gorgeous’ signals.

    The presence of facial hair might suggest nonconformity or conformity depending upon the times and the context. Some interpret a thick beard as a sign of aloofness. Well-groomed facial hair might signify meticulousness; in the way, unkemptness can suggest laxity (Sussman and Deep, 1989).