A very good exercise for increasing one's mental capabilities is to learn how to read people accurately. Reading people and sizing them up is essential in every walk of life, and one who can make a good read has a built in edge in everything. I like to do a lot of people watching, constantly making a read, and have found the exercise to be very stimulating and illuminating. One starts a read by looking at a person's outward appearance, dress, the condition of their shoes, hands, and what kind of haircut they have.

Moving along, one notices things like posture, gestures, and facial expressions. Do they have a smile, a twinkle in their eye, or do they have dour personalities? Do they speak softly, or loud? Are they well spoken or not? What kind of affectations do they have? I like to observe exactly what people are doing, and the body motions they use, comparing the data to past observations of other people.

People readers get an added bonus is when a person is interacting with another, or in a group. Interactions between two or more people can give volumes of information regarding things like temper, character, and and general mental state. Subtle, nonverbal clues can let you know if the person is a dominant person or a follower, information which can prove to be valuable.

A good reader can tell you the socioeconomic status of the man by sight, can tell you if he has kids, and get a good estimate of what his spouse is like. An experienced reader can make a good estimate of one's income, marital status, level of either happiness or desperation.

The best place to start learning how to make a read is by going to a mall and watching the men sitting by while waiting for their wives who are shopping Practice on men at the mall allows you to size them up, and then check the accuracy of your observations when the wife shows up. This allows one to hone their skills in reading people.

I attempt to read people as a mental exercise, everywhere I go from a restaurant to an airport. Recently, I was at a very nice restaurant and startled my companion with the accuracy of my reads of the various patrons. I learned to read people from too many hours at the poker tables and the wheat pit. In today's electronic markets, reading people might not be as important, but the same thought process and mind set is a very valuable tool in the arsenal of the speculator. Incidentally, some of the best readers are car salesmen, and people in retail.

Reading skills can be learned, although it takes great self discipline and an open mind. Beginning readers will get things wrong but as their skill level increases, their accuracy will approach 80% or more. Learning to read people is a very fun exercise, and will develop critical thinking skills that will ennoble your mind.

Steve Ellison writes:

 Paul Ekman has studied the movements of every facial muscle and what thoughts these movements convey…here he is as described by Malcolm Gladwell in a wonderful article.

Ekman recalls the first time he saw Bill Clinton, during the 1992 Democratic primaries. "I was watching his facial expressions, and I said to my wife, 'This is Peck's Bad Boy,' " Ekman says. "This is a guy who wants to be caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and have us love him for it anyway. There was this expression that's one of his favorites. It's that hand-in-the-cookie-jar, love-me-Mommy-because-I'm-a-rascal look. It's A.U. twelve, fifteen, seventeen, and twenty-four, with an eye roll." Ekman paused, then reconstructed that particular sequence of expressions on his face. He contracted his zygomatic major, A.U. twelve, in a classic smile, then tugged the corners of his lips down with his triangularis, A.U. fifteen. He flexed the mentalis, A.U. seventeen, which raises the chin, slightly pressed his lips together in A.U. twenty-four, and finally rolled his eyes–and it was as if Slick Willie himself were suddenly in the room. 

Jordan Low comments:

 It is interesting how we can get different views over different topics from books. Almost similar to how movies come in pairs — Deep Impact and Armageddon, for example. In Gladwell's book The Tipping Point, the NYC crime rate decrease from a host of factors that tipped the scale contrasts with Freakonomics explanation of legalization of abortion lagged 16 or so years. In What Every Body Is Saying by Navarro, he claims that facial movements are the least accurate. The most accurate body part is the feet and as we move up, the conscious brain can fake responses.

Sushil Kedia adds:

 Desmond Morris. I urge everyone interested in the subject of watching, understanding non verbal behavior, deception & an endless array of related subjects to search this name on google. He is a maestro at this social science.

For over two decades I have been searching to obtain his lost title Ape Watching. One of my most revered teachers during my school days had shown me his copy and it was etched deeply in my mind. Resplendent pictures of apes capturing tell-tale nuances. Each picture therein is a unique shade of primal emotions. Just a glimpse through this tome, a flip across the hundreds of pictures taken by Morris was breathtaking. Based on a twenty year old memory, I reccomend you grab howsoever old and tattered a copy of this particular title if you see it. Amazon, google books, many other usual hunting pots in cyberia for books do not even mention it. Wonder if someone who has a serious interest in behavior studies has ensured that this title just vanishes. His numerous other works are fascinating as well, but Ape Watching would stand above any other book on any other subject I have ever seen. 


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