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Martha Davis papers

 Collection 0373-SCPA

Martha Davis (b. July 15, 1942), Ph.D., C.M.A, is a psychologist and certified movement analyst (by the Bartenieff/Laban Institute of Movement Studies) who has published articles and books on nonverbal communication research. The Martha Davis papers cover the period from 1873–2017; the bulk of the materials date from 1960–1995. The collection consists of publication drafts, books, conference papers, research accounts, and newspaper clippings related to Davis’ work as in non-verbal communications research in psychiatry and psychotherapy.


  • 1873–2017
  • Majority of material found within 1960–1995

Conditions Governing Access

Materials from this collection must be used in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library's Irving and Margery Morgan Lowens Special Collections Room, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Please contact SCPA's curator to make an appointment: Email:, Tel: 301.405.9220.

Conditions Governing Use

There are no restricted files in this collection.


6.00 Linear Feet

Scope and Contents of Collection

The Martha Davis papers covers the period from 1873–2017; the bulk of the materials date from 1960–1995. The collection consists of publication drafts, books, conference papers, research accounts, and newspaper clippings related to Davis’s work as in non-verbal communications research in psychiatry and psychotherapy, including her involvement with the journal, Kinesis, and the American Institute for Non-Verbal Communication Research.

Historical Note

Martha Davis (b. July 15, 1942), Ph.D., C.M.A, is a psychologist and certified movement analyst (by the Bartenieff/Laban Institute of Movement Studies) who has published articles and books on nonverbal communication research. She apprenticed in movement observation and dance therapy with Irmgard Bartenieff (February 24, 1900–August 27, 1981), and in 1965, together with Bartenieff and Forrestine Paulay, founded the training program that would become the Laban Movement Analysis Certificate Program. She received her doctorate in clinical psychology from Yeshiva University in 1973. From 1962 through 1985, she conducted research on movement and psychodiagnosis, and nonverbal patterns of therapist/patient interaction first at Albert Einstein College of Medicine Psychiatric Day Hospital, followed by Bronx Psychiatric Hospital, Roosevelt Hospital, Psychiatric Institute at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, and Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia.

In the mid–1980s, she was on the faculty of New York University’s Tisch School Department of Performance Studies where she did studies of movement patterns in presidential debates and speeches. During the 1990s, she led a study of behavioral cues to stress and deception in videotapes of criminal confessions at John Jay College of Justice, City University of New York. Davis has taught courses in nonverbal communication research and the Movement Psychodiagnostic Inventory that she developed in dance/movement therapy programs from Hunter College in 1973 until recently at the National Centre for Dance Therapy in Montreal. After her retirement from research, she became involved in the movement to reform the American Psychological Association’s policy supporting psychologists’ involvement in detainee interrogations.

Arrangement of Collection

This collection is organized into four series:

  1. Publications
  2. Conference dossiers
  3. Publications by colleagues and other scholars
  4. Bartenieff and Lewis items

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

Gift of Martha Randall, October 2015.


This select bibliography features links to PDFs of Dr. Martha Davis' works. It was compiled by Dr. Martha Davis in January 2018 and annotated by Dr. Susan Wiesner in March 2018 (updated February 2019).
  • Martha Davis. (1985). "Nonverbal behavior research and psychotherapy." In From Research to Clinical Practice. Ed. by G. Stricker and R. H. Keisner, New York: Plenum Press, 89-112. Book chapter. This paper considers the breadth of non-verbal research as applied to psychotherapy and offers two examples per the focus of study. After opening with a list of anthologies and texts pertaining to non-verbal movement analysis, Davis examines the complexities inherent with interpretations of movement and offers two specific areas of study: movement and personality and relationships and therapeutic interactions. Considering both empirical evidence and clinical observation as approaches, Davis concludes with implications for therapeutic training and practice. (DOWNLOAD)
  • Elliot D. Chapple and Martha Davis. (1988). "Expressive movement and performance: Toward a unifying theory." TDR: The Drama Review, 32, 53-79. Article. In this paper the authors propose a theory in which performance elements and the physiological components of movement are related. Basing their theory on those of movement analyst Rudolph Laban and music theorist Deryck Cooke they argue that the neurophysiological bases of voluntary movement and motor rhythms support performance. The discussion is based on two "Performance Trees," each with six levels, and each moving up from the roots (functional and structural bases of performance such as breathing aligned with autonomic systems of the body) to the performance event (poetry, music, dance) aligning with the coupling of 'interaction rhythms' among performers and audience. (DOWNLOAD)
  • Martha Davis and Dean Hadiks. (1990). "Nonverbal behavior and client state changes during psychotherapy." Journal of Clinical Psychology, 46, 340-351. Article. Using a study of the movement of one psychotherapy client over a series of 10 sessions, this paper considers the validity and efficacy of one method for coding non-verbal behavior: the DNSS (Davis Nonverbal States Scales). Davis, a student of Irmgard Bartenieff (founder of the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies (LIMS)), used Laban movement analysis as a basis for the DNSS system she developed, and which is shown to be supported by the research methods and results as outlined in the discussion section of the paper. In the method section, the authors discuss the random selection of seven-minute video clips, the method of rating and the raters (LIMS-trained Certified Movement Analysts), non-verbal variables, and the means for verbal analysis (using the Experiencing Scale). The results of the study are offered as tables of coefficients and percentages of the reliability of CMA coding, factor analyses, and verbal to nonverbal correlations. The discussion concludes with support for the somewhat complex DNSS which is "designed to capture details of motor behavior sufficiently gross that clinicians may perceive them either peripherally and subliminally, or explicitly through training." (DOWNLOAD)
  • Martha Davis. (1991). "Guide to Movement Analysis Methods." Part 1, Movement Signature Analysis (MSA); Part 2, Movement Psychodiagnostic Inventory (MPI); Part 3, Nonverbal Interaction and States Analysis (NISA). Unpublished (copyright held by author). This 'how-to' guide to Davis's system of analysis provides descriptions of the elements of the system (e.g. MSA, MPI, NISA) along with examples of coded movement observation. Graphical representations of codes are shown and explained. Keys are included. Each stage of the process is discussed (for example: the MSA includes six stages from selecting segments of film and movement for study to interpretation and hypothesis generation). Throughout the text Davis's study of Rudolph Laban's theories and Irmgard Bartenieff's Fundamentals support her methods and system, as demonstrated in the section on the categorizations of movement (e.g. postural shifts, gaze, Reach Space, Shaping, Dynamic Intensity, etc.). This is an in-depth, instructional text. (DOWNLOAD)
  • Martha Davis, Dianne Dulicai, Dean Hadiks, and Miriam Roskin Berger. (1992). "Body language of world leaders." Presented at the Convention of the American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C. Conference paper. Using three different approaches to observing and documenting movement, this collaborative paper discusses the movement patterns of George H.W. Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Saddam Hussein. Each set of observations incorporated video (with and without sound) recorded for posterity; in each case an interlocutor was 'interviewing' and/or questioning the subject. Full-body views were required for macro- and micro-analysis. Additional information (e.g. available print media prior to the recorded event, previous analyses, etc.) was often used to supplement study results after observations. Descriptions of coding instruments developed for this study and statistical assessments are included throughout the paper. An appendix contains observational materials for each of the world leaders studied. (DOWNLOAD)
  • Martha Davis and Dianne Dulicai. (1995). "Hitler's Movement Signature." TDR: The Drama Review, 36, 152-172. Article. This article takes an in-depth look at Adolf Hitler's movements, with emphasis on his Reichschancellor Address from 1933. The authors, Davis and Dulicai, both proficient in Laban Movement Analysis, begin the article with a brief overview of Hitler's oratorical style including his gestures, phrasing, focus, time shifts, and flow, although not in those terms. Instead, their approach is to use general language and easily understood nomenclature for his gestural patterns, naming them as "forward stabs," "crushing fists," and "crushing/punching." As the article breaks down a series of 'kinetographs,' the authors equate movement/body/gesture with language, grammar, punctuation. There is a description of a discourse between Hitler and his audience through his gestures and words and the audience's applause. And, while there is mention of Labantaion, Laban Movement Analysis, and Alan Lomax's Choreometric classification system as different means of micro-analysis, the main focus for observation study is Movement Signature Analysis, which is described in detail with a step-by-step guide. The article conclude with a comparative analysis of two dictatorial men: Hitler and Saddam Hussein, and the Hitler impressions offered by Charlie Chaplin and Sir Alec Guinness. (DOWNLOAD)
  • Davis, Martha. (1995). "Body politics: nonverbal behavior of the presidential candidates." Semiotica, 106, 205-244. Article. Covering several years of presidential debates in the USA and press conferences given by political leaders across the world, Davis's presented her findings at the Tisch School of the Arts. The presentation includes explanations of the 'presidentialness' coding instrument and other methods used for analysis, and provides examples of the codes completed using video/film without sound (Davis's recommended method for observation of nonverbal elements). Several debates are included both for president and vice-president: 1960 Kennedy/Nixon; 1976 Ford/Carter; 1988 Bush/Dukakis; independent candidate John Anderson/Reagan and 1984 Mondale/Reagan; Quayle/Gore VP. She notes not only her movement observations, but makes comparisons with voter impressions and voter behavior as related by the media and professional pundits. Press conferences and interviews conducted during and after political and personal crises (e.g. Gorbachev after the coup and Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs) are also analyzed. (DOWNLOAD)
  • Martha Davis. (2001). "Film Projectors as Microscopes: Ray L. Birdwhistell and Microanalysis of Interaction (1955-1975)." Paper presented at the Conference on Origins of Visual Anthropology, Goettingen. Published later in Visual Anthropology Review. Presented at the Conference on the Origins of Visual Anthropology (later prepared for publication in the Visual Anthropology Review), this paper offers a comprehensive overview of the use of film in the study of movement in interpersonal communication. Davis considers the history and methods used by psychologists in what was known in the 1960's as the 'movement movement,' an effort undertaken by the likes of Ray Birdwhistell, David Efron, Eliot Chapple, and Paul Ekman, among others. With a solid understanding and affinity for film (Davis's father was a research chemist at Eastman Kodak), Davis underscores the challenges and benefits of using film for 'naturalistic observations' of individuals' bodily expressions. She touts the benefits derived from the ability to pause, repeat, and slow down film for microanalysis, yet also notes the artificiality of controlled settings and the unconscious censorship of the filmmakers (camera and editing). (DOWNLOAD)
  • Martha Davis, Keith A. Markus, Stan B. Walters, Neal Vorus, and Brenda Connors. (2005). "Behavioral cues to deception vs. topic incriminating potential in criminal confessions." Law and Human Behavior, 29, 683-704. Article. Incorporating statistical analysis and in-depth descriptions of methodology, this paper considers deceptions within truth rather than straightforward True/False statements made by criminals during confessions. During the study the research team not only gathered results (which were then weighted), but did so by testing earlier hypotheses about movement and speech patterns that indicated deception and incriminating potential. A large team of detectives, grad students (trained in coding movement, etc.), and the research team considered word repetition, non-lexical sounds, speech speed and volume in conjunction with animated physical movements, head-shakes, and other non-verbal cues. Observations were validated by transcripts and audio recordings. (DOWNLOAD)
  • Martha Davis. (2019). 2019 Guide to the Movement Psychodiagnostic Inventory (MPI). In this new edition of the previous Guide to Movement Analysis Methods, Part 2 Movement Diagnostic Inventory (MPI) (1997), Davis provides an introductory instruction manual as well as support for her theoretical approach to the recording of movements observed in patients with signs of psychopathologies. Updated textual and technological resources supporting Davis’ approaches developed first in the 1960s and advanced in the 60 years since are in included in the main content, bibliography, and exercises. For example, the MPI, originally developed for assessing patients during verbal sessions and interviews, is now applied to observation of nonverbal recordings: video. Considerations as to length of video, camera placement, and editing are added, and the instructional exercises utilize online examples via As the greatest change in the guide reflects updates to the coding forms and procedures; the forms are offered in appendices to the paper. Short, yet detailed, descriptions of the eleven primary categories of movement patterns, along with exercises, offer insight into the process for observation (e.g. disorganization, reduced mobility, perserveration, flaccidity, etc.). Elements and features of the 60 MPI patterns within the categories are explained in more detail through definition of units within the patterns themselves. Coding conventions are covered in depth with examples of code followed by a discussion of one patient’s profile developed by Davis several years ago. Finally, the guide offers a look the future of the MPI through work on computer coding being accomplished by Hedda Lausberg: the NEUROGES-ELAN Method. A bibliography is included. (DOWNLOAD) (RELATED VIDEO)
Martha Davis papers
Evangeline Athanasiou
December 2017–January 2018
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Library Details

Part of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library

University of Maryland Libraries
8270 Alumni Drive
College Park MD 20742 United States