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Newark, NJ – A recent Parenting Magazine survey has revealed that more parents-to-be are taking advantage of fetal body language analysis using advanced prenatal ultrasound technology in order to help plan for their new arrival.

“There is so much uncertainty out there for new parents,” Kim Jacobs, a fetal body language expert and owner of the Getting to Know You 4D Ultrasound Studio in Newark, explained. “What is the baby’s favorite color? Do they want to be fed breast milk or formula? What pronouns should the medical team use? Parents are desperate for any information that might help them prepare.”

The use of cutting edge 4D ultrasound systems has revolutionized fetal body language analysis in recent years. In the past, experts like Jacobs were forced to rely on 2D flipbooks that were crudely fashioned from printed ultrasound pictures in order to perform an analysis. “Looking back on those days, I have to laugh at how generalized we had to be. I could see that a baby is interested in art, but not what particular style or period. Parents had to make a lot of assumptions.”

Thanks to these advances in ultrasound technology, experts can now acquire and display 3D data sets in real time, just like a movie in the DC Extended Universe. This allows for analysis that is significantly more accurate, but also a lot more expensive. Jacobs says that most parents find that her service is worth the cost. “We can make a list of songs to play in the birthing suite that incorporates input from the developing fetus. How can you put a price tag on something like that? Also, we can set up a monthly payment plan.”

Though the science of fetal body language analysis is still in its infancy, testimonials from pleased parents are piling up. Recent Getting to Know You clients Wild and Carli Howell are helping to spread the word around Newark. “We loved learning about our baby’s personality and her preferences before the birth. It helped us prepare. It gave us hope.”

Be skeptical of body language analysis claims

Human language is, obviously, an incredibly complex endeavor and I would never claim that nonverbal communication isn’t an important component of it. The scientific study of nonverbal behavior related to movement of the human body, known as kinesics, is fascinating and important. But the way that we move or position one or more of the many parts of our bodies isn’t language in and of itself, and it cannot provide the kind of detailed information that so-called body language experts claim to derive from it.

I’m confident that you have seen these “experts” on TV or read articles, like this nonsense from Business Insider, involving the supposed analysis of body language to gain access to the secret inner workings of the human mind. They analyze the behavior of subjects, often celebrities or politicians, and describe hidden emotions and motivations. Naturally it is implied that their analysis is based on solid scientific research demonstrating standardized and reproducible algorithms. It’s all a sham, however.

In reality, the claims made in articles such as the one I’ve linked to above are not supported by research. They are full of assumptions and opinion that disregard what is actually known about human communication, which is that so-called body language has few universals and that there are large variations in the meaning of facial expressions and other movement based behaviors both within and between cultures. These variations in meaning can be reduced down to the level of the individual, and even then it often depends greatly on the context in which the behavior is expressed.

Essentially, the only way that an analysis of an individual’s body language has a chance of being accurate is if the analyst knows the subject very well. Even then it’s still subjective and there is a high risk of error. The bottom line is that the so-called body language analysis experts are largely making it up as they go along, regurgitating unproven clichés, or simply performing an amateurish cold reading.

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Posted by Clay Jones

Clay Jones, M.D. is a pediatrician and a regular contributor to the Science-Based Medicine blog. He primarily cares for healthy newborns and hospitalized children, and devotes his full time to educating pediatric residents and medical students. Dr. Jones first became aware of and interested in the incursion of pseudoscience into his chosen profession while completing his pediatric residency at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital a decade ago. He has since focused his efforts on teaching the application of critical thinking and scientific skepticism to the practice of pediatric medicine. Dr. Jones has no conflicts of interest to disclose and no ties to the pharmaceutical industry. He can be found on Twitter as @SBMPediatrics and is the co-host of The Prism Podcast with fellow SBM contributor Grant Ritchey. The comments expressed by Dr. Jones are his own and do not represent the views or opinions of Newton-Wellesley Hospital or its administration.