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August 1979

Nonverbal Behavior and Thought Processing

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1979;36(9):940-943. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1979.01780090026003

• Generally, clinicians assessing mental status interpret patients' nonverbal behavior in terms of its discharge, expressive, interactional, or neurological properties. The present study addresses the conceptualization of hand movement behavior as related to central cognitive processes, and attempts to identify encoding-related motor behavior by comparing the hand movements of subordinate bilingual subjects in situations of dominant- and nondominant-language and low- and high-imagery verbalization. Compared to the parallel dominant-language situation, subjects verbalizing in their nondominant language produced more speech-primacy and groping hand movements. Also, in comparison with the verbalization about a high-imagery topic, when the subjects encoded a low-imagery topic they displayed more pointing movements. Unless they are aware of these movements, clinicians evaluating bilingual patients may interpret an increase in encoding-related motor activity as reflecting psychopathology. Apart from this psychodiagnostic significance, hypothetical implications of these findings for the study of aphasia and information processing mechanisms are discussed.

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