Starting in 2017, some of Leverage’s psychology researchers stumbled across unusual effects relating to the importance and power of subtle nonverbal communication. Initially, researchers began by attempting to understand and replicate some surprising effects caused by practitioners in traditions like bodywork and energy healing. Over time researchers investigated a wide range of phenomena in subtle nonverbal communication and developed an explanation for these phenomena according to which one’s expectations about what will happen (one’s intentions) in part determine what information is communicated and received nonverbally. This area of research is known as “intention research.”
Those involved in intention research report encountering phenomena that they found quite surprising and challenging to explain. Their findings led many of Leverage’s psychology researchers to conclude that nonverbal communication is at least as expressive and psychologically central as verbal communication. Unfortunately, it also led to some negative psychological and psychosomatic effects and contributed to a significant increase in social tension at Leverage prior to its dissolution in 2019.
This research report describes what intention research was, why researchers pursued it, what they discovered, and the historical antecedents for these discoveries. The piece concludes with a discussion of the risks and challenges associated with further research.
The Muscle-Readers, a Historical Sketch
Muscle reading was an area of psychology research into the practice of discerning or intuiting someone’s train of thought from bodily cues.
This historical sketch provides a brief introduction to this research and what researchers discovered about nonverbal communication.