INSA Research and method of nonverbal strategy analysis


Nonverbal communication is a broad term.

It includes elements such as posture, gestures, facial expressions, rate of speech, breathing, intonation and eye contact. The combination of these elements is what mainly determines the message that is communicated to the receiver. We oftentimes approach others from the image we have of them. Our own perceptions, stemming from likes and dislikes and our own expectations and needs, decide what we see. Sometimes our perceptions are correct, but often they are not. Misunderstandings, disappointments, irritations and conflicts can be prevented when we learn to really see the other person. Understanding what the other person needs to experience contact can help us create a connection. He/she will then open up more and a good result will be more attainable.

It therefore pays off to be able to read those nonverbal messages.



There are some elements of nonverbal communication that people are (partially) aware of. For example, you can be aware of your posture (sitting, standing, leaning back, arms on the table, etc.) whether you are looking at the other person or not. But when the interactive situation becomes more exciting or intense, it is much harder to do so. 

Research shows that the many, fast and subtle micro-movements of the face are virtually 100% unconscious. Unconscious also means they cannot be influenced. To us, this is why these micro-movements are so interesting: they are a reliable source of information. 


The INSA Concept and Method have been developed by Herman Ilgen in collaboration with the University of Amsterdam. The professional negotiation and mediation practice and current scientific literature were his inspiration. He wanted to understand the impact of facial micromovements in interaction, aiming at a better understanding for and between people. INSA focuses on repetitive micro-movements in every individual’s face. We follow the insights of scientists like Frijda, Fischer, Fridlund and Russell: the face primarily has a functionality in interaction. With the facial micro-movements we communicate what we tend to do in the current interaction. For the most part this happens unconsciously. The other person registers and interprets this tendency in a general way, also unconsciously.


To create a solid base for our ideas INSA permanently conducts research in cooperation with the University of Amsterdam into these repetitive facial micro–movements. This research is innovative and unique up to this very day. Over the last 60 years, the international research on facial micro-movements almost exclusively concerned what is visible in incidental or momentary situations. INSA is the first to research facial micro-movements from the perspective of what is visible continually. INSA was able to show that every individual has a specific set of repetitive micro-movements, regardless of the situation. The first publication has appeared in January 2021:

We call this the Personal Nonverbal Repertoire (PNR). The  research also shows linkage between PNR and personality (behavioral tendencies). 




James Russell found in his research that people interpret each other’s faces along two dimensions: the level of arousal (high versus low) and the level of contact (cold versus warm). Nico Frijda discovered that with the mix of micromovements in our face we communicate what we tend to do in the interaction, that we show our behavioral tendency. 

INSA research shows that the ideas of these two scientists are not only valid for incidental or momentary situations, but also for what people show more structurally in their face (the PNR).  Consistent facial displays show consistent behavioral tendencies of a person. The Model we use to chart those consistent behavioral tendencies is closely related to the model Russell uses. We use a terminology that especially refers to behavioral tendencies:Acting versus Adapting, Analyzing versus Affiliating.   




At INSA, we constantly conduct research on the relationship between Personal Nonverbal Repertoire and behavioral strategies. 

We constantly conduct video analyses and test our findings in real-world interactive situations. Our research, together with our clients’ needs, is the basis for developing our trainings and services.  

In 2020 this has led to an important change and improvement of the INSA Concept and -Method.   

This is how we turn an interesting concept into something that also has practical value.