Perceiving Nonverbal Cues

Here is an interesting article--something quite different from what we normally see about nonverbal communication. The article (in the October issue of Smithsonian) discusses a course given to police brass to help them analyze crime scenes. The course is called, "The Art of Perception"--though "Perceiving Nonverbal Cues" might be a better title--and in it the instructor--Amy Herman--has police officers describe what they see in paintings. The idea is help police officers to "fine tune their attention to visual details" though I would think it would be equally valuable for health care workers, teachers, social workers, and a host of others who need to become more observant. It's an interesting way to teach sensitivity to nonverbal cues and also has enormous practical application.


Public speaking

A recent letter to the editor (regarding the op-ed piece in the New York Times where a variety of professors gave advice to students and posted recently), makes the point that amid all this good advice, no one mentioned the importance of public speaking. "One piece of advice that I didn't see," wrote this emeritus professor biology, "was that students should take a course and gain as much experience as possible in public speaking. No matter what career students pursue, they will have to stand up and speak to a group of people sometime, and they are usually not well prepared to do so." Of course, this is something we know but it's nice to see that people in other field also recognize the importance of public speaking.



While we teach our students the principles of research and the importance of consulting reliable sources, we read (New York Times, 9/11/09, B5)that several of the most important medical journals published articles actually written by drug company researchers but used the names of respected academics as authors. For example, it’s estimated that the New England Journal of Medicine published 10.9 percent ghostwritten articles—the highest among the journals surveyed and one of the best medical journals in the world. Not only does this create obvious problems for the MDs and patients, it also raises the question of academic fraud—these professors were apparently earning bonuses, promotions, and tenure on the basis of articles they never wrote.


College Advice

Here's a great series of op-ed pieces--advice for the college student from people like Stanley Fish, James MacGregor Burns, Harold Bloom, and my favorite from Carol Berkin--"Don't Alienate Your Professor." These should be required reading for all college students.


Making Numbers Real

In a recent ad to defeat the debt there’s an interesting example of using statistics (just numbers, actually) and making the numbers real for the audience, something we always tell our public speaking students. In this example, the $9 trillion debt for the next ten years is made real in this way: How big is a trillion? Well, one million seconds equals 12 days; one trillion seconds equals more than 30,000 years.
Of course we can expand that and say that 9 trillion seconds would equal 270,000 years.
Regardless of what you think of the political implications of this ad, it illustrates very clearly how large numbers can be made meaningful to an audience.