June Author of the Month: Geoffrey Beattie

Geoffrey Beattie, author of Rethinking Body Language, is our Routledge Psychology Author of the Month for June! Read our exclusive interview and learn more about his fantastic new book!

"Hand movements reflect aspects of thinking and this gestural channel acts alongside speech in the communication of meaning."


I have been working on the relationship between thinking, speech and gesture since I was a Ph.D. student at Cambridge. Then it was a somewhat lonely activity! However, the research on this topic has blossomed over the past few decades not least because of the pioneering work of David McNeill from the University of Chicago. This has fundamentally changed how we think about certain types of bodily movement. Hand movements reflect aspects of thinking and this gestural channel acts alongside speech in the communication of meaning. I wanted to review some of this new evidence, including my own research on this topic, and spell out the not inconsiderable implications of all of this.

That this is a very exciting field of research with major implications for psychology, for linguistics and for society at large. There has been such a focus on the relationship between thinking and language for many years, now it appears that hand movement and gesture are also critical to this process. We are only starting to identify some of the implications of this for communication generally, for the possibility of accessing attitudes, including implicit attitudes, from speech and gesture, for detecting deception, for understanding people and their everyday interactions a good deal more.

This is very much a new way of thinking about body language. The possibilities are endless. Can implicit attitudes find expression in the largely unconscious gestural channel? Can we find evidence of deception in gesture-speech mismatches? I've been doing some research in this area, we need others to follow.

People seem to think that body language is easy to read and that it's all about emotions, interpersonal relationships and desires. But in reality, it is subtle and dynamic, often quite quick, working with speech, articulating aspects of our thinking, and far, far more interesting than we ever imagined!

I'm working on a new book called 'The Conflicted Mind', also for Routledge. Why do we say one thing and do another? This seems to me to be the essence of what it is to be a human being. We are deeply puzzling. I'm trying to find out why.

Challenging all of our old assumptions about the subject, Rethinking Body Language builds on the most recent cutting-edge research to offer a new theoretical perspective on this subject that will transform the way we look at other people. In contrast to the traditional view that body language is primarily concerned with the expression of emotions and the negotiation of social relationships, author Geoff Beattie argues instead that gestures reflect aspects of our thinking but in a different way to verbal language. Critically, the spontaneous hand movements that people make when they talk often communicate a good deal more than they intend.

This ground-breaking book takes body language analysis to a whole new level. Engagingly written by one of the leading experts in the field, it shows how we can detect deception in gesture–speech mismatches and how these unconscious movements can give us real insight into people's underlying implicit attitudes.

Geoff Beattie's personal website

Geoff Beattie is Professor of Psychology at Edge Hill University in the U.K. His research focusses primarily on embodied cognition/multi-modal communication and applied social psychology. The research on multi-modal communication offers a major reconceptualization of bodily communication, by focussing on the close connections between gestures, speech and thinking in linguistic generation (‘Visible Thought’, 2003; ‘Rethinking Body Language’, 2016). The applied social psychological research focusses primarily on implicit cognition, especially implicit attitudes and their effects on behaviour, in the context of the environment (‘Why Aren’t We Saving the Planet: A Psychologist’s Perspective’, 2010) and race (‘Our Racist Heart: An Exploration of Unconscious Prejudice in Everyday Life’, 2013).

He grew up in a working-class area of North Belfast and watched the Troubles unfold and take the lives of many of his friends and neighbours. He did his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge and was Professor of Psychology at the University of Manchester (UoM) from 1994 to 2012 and Head of Department/School from 2000 until 2011. He was Research Group Leader of the ‘Language and Communication Research Group’ (2004-2011), and a Professorial Research Fellow in the Sustainable Consumption Institute at UoM from 2008-2012. He was also Visiting Professor at the University of California Santa Barbara in 2012. He has published 20 books on a range of topics (including one semi-autobiographical novel ‘The Corner Boys‘, Victor Gollancz, 1998, about life during the Troubles in Belfast). His books have been translated into Chinese, Taiwanese, Portuguese, Italian, Finnish and German. He has also published over one hundred academic articles in journals including Nature, Nature Climate Change and Semiotica.

He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society (BPS) and the Royal Society of Medicine and was awarded the Spearman Medal by the BPS for ‘published psychological research of outstanding merit’ for his work on nonverbal communication. In 2010, with a number of colleagues he was awarded the internationally acclaimed Mouton d’Or for the best paper in the leading international journal Semiotica for research on the effects of deception on gesture production. His research has been funded from a range of sources, including research councils (ESRC; British Academy), the EU FP7, charities (Leverhulme Trust; Nuffield Foundation; Equality Challenge Unit) and from commercial sources like Tesco and Unilever.

He has always been keen to show the relevance of psychology to society in general and in 2005-2006 he was President of the Psychology Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. He has presented a number of television series including ‘Life’s Too Short’ (BBC1), ‘Family SOS’ (BBC1), ‘The Farm of Fussy Eaters’ (UKTV Style) and ‘Dump Your Mates in Four Days’ (Channel 4). He has also appeared as an expert commentator on a range of international media, including Big Brother. He has written extensively for the Guardian, the Observer, the Independent and The New Statesman, as well as contributing to Granta magazine, over a number of years.

Rethinking Body Language

  • Rethinking Body Language

    How Hand Movements Reveal Hidden Thoughts, 1st Edition

    By Geoffrey Beattie

    Challenging all of our old assumptions about the subject, Rethinking Body Language builds on the most recent cutting-edge research to offer a new theoretical perspective on this subject that will transform the way we look at other people. In contrast to the traditional view that body language is…

    Paperback – 2016-05-27

Other books by Geoffrey Beattie

  • Our Racist Heart?

    An Exploration of Unconscious Prejudice in Everyday Life, 1st Edition

    By Geoffrey Beattie

    Few people today would admit to being a racist, or to making assumptions about individuals based on their skin colour, or on their gender or social class. In this book, leading psychologist Geoffrey Beattie asks if prejudice, more subtle than before, is still a major part of our everyday lives.…

    Paperback – 2012-11-28

  • Why Aren't We Saving the Planet?

    A Psychologist's Perspective, 1st Edition

    By Geoffrey Beattie

    Global warming. Many of us believe that it is somebody else’s problem, that it will affect other people and that other people will come up with the solution. This is not true. "Global" warming is a global problem: it will affect every single one of us and will only be stopped by a huge shift in our…

    Paperback – 2010-05-05

  • Visible Thought

    The New Psychology of Body Language, 1st Edition

    By Geoffrey Beattie

    Are you saying one thing whilst your hands reveal another? Are you influenced by other people's body language without even knowing it? Darting through examples found anywhere from the controlled psychology laboratory to modern advertising and the Big Brother TV phenomenon, official Big Brother…

    Paperback – 2003-11-13

  • The Psychology of Language And Communication

    1st Edition

    By Geoffrey Beattie, Andrew Ellis

    This wide-ranging introduction to the psychology of human language use offers a new breadth of approach by breaching conventional disciplinary boundaries with examples and perspectives drawn from many subdisciplines - cognitive and social psychology, psycholinguistics, neuropsychology and sociology…

    Paperback – 1986-12-25
    Psychology Press