Types of angry gestures

Written by lizzie brooks
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Types of angry gestures
Angry gestures are a particularly eloquent form of non-verbal communication. (Siri Stafford/Lifesize/Getty Images)

A gesture can be as broad as the movement of an entire arm, or a small as the angling of one part of the face. Gestures are a type of non-verbal communication that can express anger in ways that are subtle and subconscious, or unmistakable and intentional.

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Middle Finger

The most famous of all angry gestures is likely a raised middle finger. Also called flipping the bird, the one-finger salute or the expressway digit, this particular gesture has been in use since the time of Augustus Caesar, when the emperor expelled a spectator from a play for giving the finger to a performer. It was not known, however, in Korea in the 1960s when members of the American Navy were taken prisoner and would give the "Hawaiian Good Luck Sign" to their captors in propaganda photos.

Throat Slash

Another unmistakable angry gesture is the throat slash. This gesture, in which a finger is pulled through the air in front of the throat, is intended to communicate anger and aggression. In October of 2010, hockey player James Wisniewski, a defenceman for the New York Islanders, received a two-game suspension for giving the throat slash gesture to a member of the opposing team during an NHL game.

Hand Position

A person putting one arm behind their back and grabbing that wrist or forearm with their other hand is giving a sign of frustration and anger. It is believed that this hand-gripping-wrist gesture is an unconscious attempt at self-control and that the gesture is a literal embodiment of trying to "get a hold of oneself." The farther the hand has moved up the arm, the more angry the person has become. Other signs of anger involving the hands include clenched fists or hands positioned on hips.

Touching the Neck

Pulling on the collar of a shirt can be a sign of anger, or of telling a lie. A person can be "hot under the collar" and pull on their shirt to let cool air under their skin in an attempt to "cool down." Also, rubbing the back of the neck is another sign not only of irritation, but also that the irritating person is a "pain in the neck." The more forcefully the hand meets the neck, the greater the individual's anger.

Facial Expression

Angry gestures that involve the face include the well-know pulling down of the eyebrows. If a person's eyebrows move down, especially in combination with the turning down of the mouth, this is a sign of anger. Another, more intentional angry gesture, is the bull-like blowing of air out of the nose. This gesture is especially aggressive if the blower is smoking and forcefully blows smoke out of their nostrils. If this gesture is accompanied by a downward tilt of the head, it particularly indicates the person's contempt of the one at which they are blowing smoke.

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