Body Language: Pulling Your Leg

This morning a reader emailed the following article to me: This is What the Position of Your Legs While Sitting Reveals About You.

“Is it true?” she asked.

The article features the following image and presents an analysis of each way of sitting.


The author claims that Position A reveals “this person thinks that neglecting their problems will make the problems go away” while Position B is a dreamer who has a “vivid imagination”. The person sitting in Position C is very picky “when it comes to choosing clothes, shoes, perfumes, or furniture” and the person in Position D has “a hard time accepting criticism because they consider it to be a personal attack and they will immediately start defending themselves.”

People who sit like the woman in Position E:

“Are never in a hurry and they believe that everything will come at the right time. They’re stubborn and persistent and never give up until they achieve their goal. To them, their outer appearance is crucial and they’re ready to invest a lot of effort to look as better as possible. However, this could be a sign of insecurity and lack of self-confidence. They also have a hard time accepting criticism.”

You might find yourself looking at these poses and thinking, “I sit like that! And that analysis sounds just like me!”

The analyses in this article read like a kind of horoscope for sitting positions. Just like horoscopes, they are general and can apply to everyone (although they can be interpreted as specific and personalized). This phenomenon has been studied for some time and is known as the Forer effect (or the Barnum effect).

We’ve taken a look at body language in a previous article and what I said there applies here too. There is no standardized or universal meaning in our body movements. Body language interpretations are generalizations. Of course, our nonverbal actions carry meaning and we are receptive to body language but there is no magical formula for understanding it. Every act has numerous potential meanings and causes which are open to misinterpretation and misunderstanding.

So, is it true?

Well, no. This theory doesn’t have a leg to stand on.



Thanks to Debbie R. for the tip-off.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Karen Stollznow

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Stollznow is a linguist and researcher. She is the author of the best-selling book God Bless America. Her other titles include Hits & Mrs., Language Myths, Mysteries and Magic, Would You Believe It? and Haunting America. Her forthcoming book is On the Offensive: Prejudice in Language Past and Present.

6 Comments on "Body Language: Pulling Your Leg"

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  1. Buzz says:

    It probably says something about your leg length. I am 6’1″, and 36″ inseam. At work, I sit on a taller chair than most. If I have to sit in a lower one, my legs are in a constant state of fidget, unable to get comfortable.

    • Lyndsey says:

      I agree with you. I have the reverse problem though. I’m slightly shorter than usual (5″1′ in sneakers) and only the balls of my feet touch the ground in most chairs. Because of that I usually sit cross legged (not with my legs crossed, but like a half lotus) in chairs. I never realized that was weird until one day I caught a waitress staring at me and she apologized and said that she couldn’t believe I was balanced like that on such a small chair. My friend said “I know right!” And began listing all of the places that I would sit like that. It really surprised me because that’ just how I was comfortable sitting. I realized pretty fast that it was because my heels are generally a good half inch off the floor when I sit normally in most chairs.

  2. Matt says:

    I always think that it is a good idea to be reminded of the Forer Effect every so often. When I first read about this leg position thing, I was having a hard time explaining to my wife why it was wrong. This blog brought it all back! Thanks.

  3. Gene Brown says:

    This chart makes me think the phrenologists have moved from head to legs. g

  4. Kristi Evans says:

    I sit in many different positions depending on the seat height, the activity I’m involved in, and how I’m dressed. Does that mean I have multiple personality disorder?

  5. Bruce Albright says:

    Hm… Your analysis sounds a LOT like something someone who’s sitting in position E would write.

    Prove me wrong Karen! PROVE ME WRONG!!!!


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