Nonverbal communication is communication without words. You communicate nonverbally when you gesture, smile or frown, widen your eyes, move your chair closer to someone, wear jewelry, touch someone, raise your vocal volume, or even when you say nothing. The crucial aspect of nonverbal communication is that the message you send is in some way received by one or more other people. If you
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gesture while alone in your room and no one is there to see you, then, most theorists would argue, communication has not taken place. The same, of course, is true of verbal messages: if you recite a speech and no one hears it, then communication has not taken place. Your ability to use nonverbal communication effectively can yield two major benefits (Burgoon & Hoobler, 2002). First, the greater your ability to send and receive nonverbal signals, the higher your attraction, popularity, and psychosocial well-being are likely to be. Second, the greater your nonverbal skills, the more successful you’re likely to be in a wide variety of interpersonal communication situations, including close relationships, organizational communication, teacher–student communication, intercultural communication, courtroom communication, in politics, and in health care (Richmond, McCroskey, & Hickson, 2012; Riggio & Feldman, 2005). Principles of Nonverbal Communication 5.1 Describe the principles governing nonverbal messages. Perhaps the best way to begin the study of nonverbal communication is to examine several principles that, as you’ll see, also identify the varied functions that nonverbal messages serve (Afifi, 2007; Burgoon & Bacue, 2003; Burgoon & Hoobler, 2002; DeVito, 2013). Nonverbal Messages Interact with Verbal Messages Verbal and nonverbal messages interact with each other in six major ways: to accent, to complement, to contradict, to control, to repeat, and to substitute for each other. • Accent. Nonverbal communication is often used to accent or emphasize some part of the verbal message. You might, for example, raise your voice to underscore a particular word or phrase, bang your fist on the desk to stress your commitment, or look longingly into someone’s eyes when saying, “I love you.” • Complement. Nonverbal communication may be used to complement, to add nuances of meaning not communicated by your verbal message. Thus, you might smile when telling a story (to suggest that you find it humorous) or frown and shake your head when recounting someone’s deceit (to suggest your disapproval). • Contradict. You may deliberately contradict your verbal messages with nonverbal movements, for example, by crossing your fingers or winking to indicate that you’re lying. • Control. Nonverbal movements may be used to control, or to indicate your desire to control, the flow of verbal messages, as when you purse your lips, lean forward, or make hand movements to indicate that you want to speak. You might also put up your hand or vocalize your pauses (for example, with “um”) to indicate that you have not finished and aren’t ready to relinquish the floor to the next speaker. • Repeat. You can repeat or restate the verbal message nonverbally. You can, for example, follow your verbal “Is that all right?” with raised eyebrows and a questioning look, or you can motion with your head or hand to repeat your verbal “Let’s go.” • Substitute. You may also use nonverbal communication to substitute for verbal messages. You can, for example, signal “okay” with a hand gesture. You can nod your head to indicate yes or shake your head to indicate no. When you communicate electronically, of course, your message is communicated by means of typed letters without facial expressions or gestures that normally accompany face-to-face communication and without the changes in rate and volume that are part of normal telephone communication. To compensate for this lack of nonverbal behavior, emoticons were created. An emoticon or smiley is a typed symbol that communicates through a keyboard the nuances of the message normally conveyed by
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nonverbal expression. The absence of the nonverbal channel through which you can clarify your message—for example, smiling or winking to communicate sarcasm or humor—make such typed symbols extremely helpful. Not surprisingly, these symbols aren’t used universally (Pollack, 1996). The smiley face, after the ever-present :), is used frequently in western cultures to indicate the smile or smiling. But it is not used universally. For example, because it’s considered impolite for a Japanese woman to show her teeth when she smiles, the Japanese emoticon for a woman’s smile is (^ . ^), where the dot signifies a closed mouth. A man’s smile is written (^ _ ^). Nonverbal Messages Help Manage Impressions It is largely through the nonverbal communications of others that you form impressions of them. Based on a person’s body size, skin color, and dress, as well as on the way the person smiles, maintains eye contact, and expresses him- or herself facially, you form impressions—you judge who the person is and what the person is like. And, at the same time that you form impressions of others, you are also managing the impressions they form of you, using different strategies to achieve different impressions. Of course, many of these strategies involve nonverbal messages. For example: • To be liked, you might smile, pat another on the back, and shake hands warmly. See Table 5.1 for some additional ways in which nonverbal communication may make you seem more attractive and more likeable. • To be believed, you might use focused eye contact, a firm stance, and open gestures. • To excuse failure, you might look sad, cover your face with your hands, and shake your head. • To secure help, by indicating helplessness, you might use open hand gestures, a puzzled look, and inept movements.
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• To hide faults, you might avoid self-touching. • To be followed, you might dress the part of a leader or display your diploma or awards where others can see them. • To confirm your self-image and to communicate it to others, you might dress in certain ways or decorate your apartment with items that reflect your personality. Nonverbal Messages Help Form Relationships Much of your relationship life is lived nonverbally. You communicate affection, support, and love, in part at least, nonverbally (Floyd & Mikkelson, 2005). At the same time, you also communicate displeasure, anger, and animosity through nonverbal signals. You also use nonverbal signals to communicate the nature of your relationship to another person, and you and that person communicate nonverbally with each other. These signals that communicate your relationship status are known as tie signs: they indicate the ways in which your relationship is tied together (Afifi& Johnson, 2005; Goffman, 1967; Knapp & Hall, 2009). Tie signs are also used to confirm the level of the relationship; for example, you might hold hands to see if this is responded to positively. Of course, tie signs are often used to let others know that the two of you are tied together. Tie signs vary in intimacy and may extend from the relatively informal handshake through more intimate forms—such as hand-holding and arm linking—to very intimate contact—such as full mouth kissing (Andersen, 2004). You also use nonverbal signals to communicate your relationship dominance and status (Dunbar & Burgoon, 2005; Knapp & Hall, 2009). The large corner office with the huge desk communicates high status, just as the basement cubicle communicates low status. Nonverbal Messages Structure Conversation When you’re in conversation, you give and receive cues—signals that you’re ready to speak, to listen, to comment on what the speaker just said. These cues regulate and structure the interaction. These turn-taking cues may be verbal (as when you say, “What do you think?” and thereby give the speaking turn over to the listener). Most often, however, they’re nonverbal; a nod of the head in the direction of someone else, for example, signals that you’re ready to give up your speaking turn and want this other person to say something. You also show that you’re listening and that you want the conversation to continue (or that you’re not listening and want the conversation to end) largely through nonverbal signals of posture and eye contact (or the lack thereof). Nonverbal Messages Can Influence and Deceive You can influence others not only through what you say but also through your nonverbal signals. A focused glance that says you’re committed; gestures that further explain what you’re saying; appropriate dress that says, “I’ll easily fit in with this organization”—these are just a few examples of ways in which you can exert nonverbal influence. Gesturing even seems to help learning and memory (Dean, 2010). For example, children increase their learning when they gesture (Stevanoni & Salmon, 2005) and, among adults, those who gestured while solving a problem were quicker to solve the problem the second time (Beilock & Goldin-Meadow, 2010). Apparently, gesturing helps reinforce the message or activity in one’s memory. And with the ability to influence, of course, comes the ability to deceive—to mislead another person into thinking something is true when it’s false or that something is false when it’s true. One common example of nonverbal deception is using your eyes and facial expressions to communicate a liking for other people when you’re really interested only in gaining their support in some endeavor. Not surprisingly, you also use nonverbal signals to detect deception in others. For example, you may well suspect a person of lying if he or she avoids eye contact, fidgets, and conveys inconsistent verbal and nonverbal messages.
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Nonverbal Messages Are Crucial for Expressing Emotions Although people often explain and reveal emotions verbally, nonverbal signals communicate a great part of your emotional experience. For example, you reveal your level of happiness or sadness or confusion largely through facial expressions. Of course, you also reveal your feelings by posture (for example, whether tense or relaxed), gestures, eye movements, and even the dilation of your pupils. Nonverbal messages often help people communicate unpleasant messages that they might feel uncomfortable putting into words (Infante, Rancer, & Avtgis, 2010). For example, you might avoid eye contact and maintain large distances between yourself and someone with whom you didn’t want to interact or with whom you want to decrease the intensity of your relationship. You also use nonverbal messages to hide your emotions. You might, for example, smile even though you feel sad to avoid dampening the party spirit. Or you might laugh at someone’s joke even though you think it is silly. At the same time that you express emotions nonverbally, you also use nonverbal cues to decode or decipher the emotions of others. Of course, emotions are internal and a person can use emotional expression to deceive, so you can only make inferences about another’s emotional state. Not surprisingly, scientists working in a field called affective computing are developing programs that decode a person’s emotions by analyzing voices, facial movements, and style of walking (Savage, 2013). Table 5.2 summarizes these several principles of nonverbal communication. Channels of Nonverbal Communication 5.2 Explain the channels through which nonverbal messages are sent and received. Nonverbal communication involves a variety of channels. Here we look at: (1) body messages, (2) facial communication, (3) eye communication, (4) touch communication, (5) paralanguage, (6) silence, (7) spatial messages and territoriality, (8) artifactual communication, (9) olfactory messages, and (10) temporal communication. As you’ll see, nonverbal messages are heavily influenced by culture (Matsumoto, 2006; Matsumoto & Yoo, 2005; Matsumoto, Yoo, Hirayama, & Petrova, 2005). Body Messages In much interpersonal interaction, it’s the person’s body that communicates most immediately. Here we look at body gestures and body appearance—two main ways the body communicates.
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BoDy GEsTurEs An especially useful classification in kinesics—or the study of communication through body movement—identifies five types: emblems, illustrators, affect displays, regulators, and adaptors (Ekman & Friesen, 1969). Table 5.3 summarizes and provides examples of these five types of movements. Emblems Emblems are substitutes for words; they’re body movements that have rather specific verbal translations, such as the nonverbal signs for “okay,” “peace,” “come here,” “go away,” “who, me?” “be quiet,” “I’m warning you,” “I’m tired,” and “it’s cold.” Emblems are as arbitrary as any words in any language. Consequently, your present culture’s emblems are not necessarily the same as your culture’s emblems of 300 years ago or the same as the emblems of other cultures. For example, the sign made by forming a circle with the thumb and index finger may mean “nothing” or “zero” in France, “money” in Japan, and something sexual in certain southern European cultures. Illustrators Illustrators accompany and literally illustrate verbal messages. Illustrators make your communications more vivid and help to maintain your listener’s attention. They also help to clarify and intensify your verbal messages. In saying, “Let’s go up,” for example, you probably move your head and perhaps your finger in an upward direction. In describing a circle or a square, you more than likely make circular or square movements with your hands. Research points to another advantage of illustrators: they increase your ability to remember. People who illustrated their verbal messages with gestures remembered some 20 percent more than those who didn’t gesture (Goldin-Meadow, Nusbaum, Kelly, & Wagner, 2001). We are aware of illustrators only part of the time; at times, they may have to be brought to our attention. Illustrators are more universal than emblems; illustrators are recognized and understood by members of more different cultures than are emblems. Affect Displays Affect displays are the movements of the face that convey emotional meaning—the expressions that show anger and fear, happiness and surprise, eagerness and fatigue. They’re the facial expressions that give you away when you try to present a false image and that lead people to say, “You look angry. What’s wrong?” We can, however, consciously control affect displays, as actors do when they play a role. Affect displays may be unintentional (as when they give you away) or intentional (as when you want to show anger, love, or surprise). A particular kind of affect display is the poker player’s “tell,” a bit of nonverbal behavior that communicates bluffing; it’s a nonverbal cue that tells others that a player is lying. In much the same way that you may want to conceal certain feelings from friends or relatives, the poker player tries to conceal any such tells. Regulators regulators monitor, maintain, or control the speaking of another individual. When you listen to another, you’re not passive; you nod your head, purse your
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lips, adjust your eye focus, and make various paralinguistic sounds such as “uh-huh” or “tsk.” Regulators are culture-bound: each culture develops its own rules for the regulation of conversation. Regulators also include broad movements such as shaking your head to show disbelief or leaning forward in your chair to show that you want to hear more. Regulators communicate what you expect or want speakers to do as they’re talking, for example, “Keep going,” “Tell me what else happened,” “I don’t believe that. Are you sure?” “Speed up,” and “Slow down.” Speakers often receive these nonverbal signals without being consciously aware of them. Depending on their degree of sensitivity, speakers modify their speaking behavior in accordance with these regulators. Adaptors Adaptors satisfy some need and usually occur without conscious awareness; they’re unintentional movements that usually go unnoticed. Nonverbal researchers identify three types of adaptors based on their focus, direction, or target: self-adaptors, alter-adaptors, and object-adaptors (Burgoon, Guerrero, & Floyd, 2010). • self-adaptors usually satisfy a physical need, generally serving to make you more comfortable; examples include scratching your head to relieve an itch, moistening your lips because they feel dry, or pushing your hair out of your eyes. • Alter-adaptors are the body movements you make in response to your interactions. Examples include crossing your arms over your chest when someone unpleasant approaches or moving closer to someone you like. • object-adaptors are movements that involve your manipulation of some object. Frequently observed examples include punching holes in or drawing on a styrofoam coffee cup, clicking a ballpoint pen, or chewing on a pencil. Objectadaptors are usually signs of negative feelings; for example, you emit more adaptors when feeling hostile than when feeling friendly (Burgoon, Guerrero, & Floyd, 2010). Gestures and Cultures There is much variation in gestures and their meanings among different cultures (Axtell, 2007). Consider a few common gestures that you may often use without thinking but that could easily get you into trouble if you used them in another culture (also examine Figure 5.1): • Folding your arms over your chest would be considered defiant and disrespectful in Fiji. • Waving your hand would be insulting in Nigeria and Greece. • Gesturing with the thumb up would be rude in Australia. • Tapping your two index fingers together would be considered an invitation to sleep together in Egypt. • Pointing with your index finger would be impolite in many Middle Eastern countries. • Bowing to a lesser degree than your host would be considered a statement of your superiority in Japan. • Inserting your thumb between your index and middle finger in a clenched fist would be viewed as a wish that evil fall on the person in some African countries. • Resting your feet on a table or chair would be insulting and disrespectful in some Middle Eastern cultures. BoDy AppEArANcE Of course, the body communicates even without movement. For example, others may form impressions of you from your general body build; from your height and weight; and from your skin, eye, and hair color. Assessments of your power, attractiveness, and suitability as a friend or romantic partner are often made on the basis of your body appearance (Sheppard & Strathman, 1989).
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Figure 5.1 Some Cultural Meanings of Gestures Cultural differences in the meanings of nonverbal gestures are often significant. The over-the-head clasped hands that signify victory to an American may signify friendship to a Russian. To an American, holding up two fingers to make a V signifies victory or peace. To certain South Americans, however, it is an obscene gesture that corresponds to an American’s extended middle finger. This figure highlights some additional nonverbal differences. Can you identify others?
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Your body also reveals your race, through skin color and tone, and also may give clues about your more specific nationality. Your weight in proportion to your height communicates messages to others, as do the length, color, and style of your hair. Your general attractiveness is also part of body communication. Attractive people have the advantage in just about every activity you can name. They get better grades in school, are more valued as friends and lovers, and are preferred as coworkers (Burgoon, Guerrero, & Floyd, 2010). Although we normally think that attractiveness is culturally determined—and to some degree it is—research seems to indicate that definitions of attractiveness are becoming universal (Brody, 1994). That is, a person rated as attractive in one culture is likely to be rated as attractive in other cultures—even in cultures whose people are widely different in appearance. Height is an especially important part of body appearance. Before reading about this, try estimating the heights of the following famous people whom you’ve probably read about or heard about (but probably not seen in person) by circling the guessed height. In each of these examples, one of the heights given is correct. 1. Baby Face Nelson (bank robber and murderer in the 1930s): 5’5″, 5’11”, 6’2″ 2. Ludwig Van Beethoven (influential German composer): 5’6″, 6’0″, 6’5″ 3. Kim Kardashian (media personality): 5’2″, 5’5″, 5’8″ 4. Buckminster Fuller (scientist, credited with inventing the geodesic dome): 5’2″, 5’10”, 6’3″ 5. Bruno Mars (singer): 5’5″, 5’8″, 5’10” 6. Mahatma Gandhi (Indian political leader whose civil disobedience led to India’s independence from British rule): 5’3″, 5’8″, 6’0″ 7. Jada Pinkett Smith (actor): 5’0″, 5’6″, 5’9″
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8. Joan of Arc (military leader, burned for heresy at age 19, and declared a saint) 4’11”, 5’4″, 5’10” 9. T. E. Lawrence of Arabia (adventurer and British army officer) 5’5″, 6’0″, 6’5″ 10. Salma Hayek (actor): 5’2″, 5’5″, 5’8″ This exercise was designed to see if you would overestimate the heights of a number of these people. Fame seems to be associated with height, and so most people would think these people were taller than they really were. The specific heights for all are the shortest heights given above: Baby Face Nelson, 5’5″; Ludwig Van Beethoven, 5’6″; Kim Kardashian, 5’2″; Buckminister Fuller, 5’2″; Bruno Mars, 5’5″; Mahatma Gandhi, 5’3″; Jada Pinkett Smith, 5’0″; Joan of Arc, 4’11”; T. E. Lawrence, 5’5″; and Salma Hayek, 5’2″. Height is an especially important part of general body appearance and has been shown to be significant in a wide variety of situations (Keyes, 1980; Knapp & Hall, 2010). For example, when corporate recruiters were shown identical résumés for people some of whom were noted as being 5’5″ and others as being 6’1″—everything else being the same—the taller individual was chosen significantly more often than were the shorter individuals. In another study, it was found that the salaries of those between 6’2″ and 6’4″ were more than 12 percent higher than the salaries of those shorter than 6 feet. Tall presidential candidates have a much better record of winning elections than do their shorter opponents. In an investigation of height and satisfaction, it was found that boys were less satisfied with their heights than were girls. Fifty percent of the boys surveyed indicated that they wanted to be taller, 2 percent said they wanted to be shorter, and 48 percent indicated satisfaction. Only 20 percent of the girls indicated that they wanted to be taller, 13 percent said they wanted to be shorter, and 67 percent indicated they were satisfied. Perhaps because of the perceived importance of height, this is one of the things that men lie about in their Internet dating profiles, making themselves appear a bit taller. Women, on the other hand, present themselves as weighing a bit less (Toma, Hancock, & Ellison, 2008; Dean, 2010b). Preferences for different heights seem to be influenced greatly by culture. Today in the United States, tall seems to be preferred to short. For both men and women, being tall is an advantage, at least in the perceptions of other people. Facial Communication Throughout your interpersonal interactions, your face communicates—especially signaling your emotions. In fact, facial movements alone seem to communicate the degree of pleasantness, agreement, and sympathy a person feels; the rest of the body doesn’t provide any additional information. For other aspects—for example, the intensity with which an emotion is felt— both facial and bodily cues are used (Graham & Argyle, 1975; Graham, Bitti, & Argyle, 1975). Some nonverbal communication researchers claim that facial movements may communicate at least the following eight emotions: happiness, surprise, fear, anger, sadness, disgust, contempt, and interest (Ekman, Friesen, & Ellsworth, 1972). Others propose that, in addition, facial movements may communicate bewilderment and determination (Leathers & Eaves, 2008). And, to complicate matters just a bit, biological researchers, from an analysis of the 42 facial muscles and their expressions, argue that there are four basic emotions (anger, fear, happiness, and sadness) and that other emotions are combinations of these four (Jack, Garrod, & Schyns, 2014; Dean, 2014).
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Of course, some emotions are easier to communicate and to decode than others. For example, in one study, happiness was judged with an accuracy ranging from 55 percent to 100 percent, surprise from 38 percent to 86 percent, and sadness from 19 percent to 88 percent (Ekman, Friesen, & Ellsworth, 1972). Research finds that women and girls are more accurate judges of facial emotional expression than are men and boys (Argyle, 1988; Hall, 1984). As you’ve probably experienced, you may interpret the same facial expression differently depending on the context in which it occurs. For example, in a classic study, when a smiling face was presented looking at a glum face, the smiling face was judged to be vicious and taunting. But when the same smiling face was presented looking at a frowning face, it was judged peaceful and friendly (Cline, 1956). ThE smIlE The smile is likely to be the first thing you think about when focusing on facial communication, probably because it’s so important. The smile is, in fact, important in just about any relationship you can imagine. One of the most interesting things about smiles is that they’re more often displayed in social situations than in private ones (Andersen, 2004). Although you may smile when spotting a cute photo or joke you read even when alone, most smiling occurs in response to social situations; most often you smile at other people rather than at yourself. In general, and not surprisingly, people who smile are judged to be more likable and more approachable than people who don’t smile or people who pretend to smile (Gladstone & Parker, 2002; Kluger, 2005; Woodzicka & LaFrance, 2005). Profile photos in which the person smiled (and showed teeth) were much more highly valued than any other expressions. Fifty-four percent of the photos judged the hottest showed the person smiling with teeth; the percentage drops to 13 for smiles without teeth (Roper, 2014). And women perceive men who are smiled at by other women as being more attractive than men who are not smiled at. But men— perhaps being more competitive—perceive men whom women smile at as being less attractive than men who are not smiled at (Jones, DeBruine, Little, Burriss, & Feinberg, 2007). Nonverbal communication researchers distinguish between two kinds of smiles: the real and the fake. The real smile, known as the Duchenne smile, is genuine; it’s an unconscious movement that accurately reflects your feelings at the time. It is a smile that spreads across your face in about one-half second. The fake smile, on the other hand, is conscious. It takes about one-tenth of a second to spread throughout the face (Dean, 2010). Distinguishing between these two is crucial in a wide variety of situations. For example, you distinguish between these smiles when you make judgments about whether someone is genuinely pleased at your good fortune or is really jealous. You distinguish between these smiles when you infer that the person really likes you or is just being polite. In each of these cases, you’re making judgments about whether someone is lying; you’re engaging in deception detection. Not surprisingly, then, Duchenne smiles are responded to positively and fake smiles—especially if they are obvious—are responded to negatively. Computer programs for facial recognition are becoming more and more proficient. For example, one recent study reported in Science Digest.com found that smiles of delight and smiles of aggravation were distinguished by the computer, whereas human observation was unable to detect the difference (Hogue, McDuff, & Picard, 2012). Smiling is usually an expression of enjoyment and pleasure; it’s a happy reaction and seems to be responded to positively in almost all situations. One study, for example, found that participants rated people who smile as more likeable and more approachable than people who don’t smile or who only pretend to smile (Gladstone & Parker, 2002). In another study, men and women signaled that they wanted to hitchhike (this study was done in France, where it’s legal and common to hitchhike) to some 800 motorists. Motorists stopped more often for the smiling women than for those who didn’t smile. Smiling had no effect on whether motorists would stop for men (Guéguen & Fischer-Lokou, 2004). Smiling female servers earned more tips than those who didn’t smile (Tidd & Lockard, 1978; Dean 2011b). Research also shows that women in a bar or club are seen as more attractive
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and are approached by men more when they smile. Oddly enough that doesn’t work for men; smiling men are not seen as more attractive (Dean, 2011b; Tracy & Beall, 2011; Walsh & Hewitt, 1985). Women, research finds, smile significantly more than men—regardless of whether women are talking with women or men (Hall, 1984; Helgeson, 2009). This is a difference that can also be observed in very young girls and boys. The reasons for these differences are interesting to consider. For example, is there a biological reason for the differences? Do women simply have more positive feelings than do men and consequently smile more to reflect their feelings? Did our culture teach women to smile and men not to smile? FAcIAl mANAGEmENT As you learned the nonverbal system of communication, you also learned certain facial management techniques that enable you to communicate your feelings to achieve the effect you want—for example, to hide certain emotions and to emphasize others. Consider your own use of such facial management techniques. As you do so, think about the types of interpersonal situations in which you would use each of these facial management techniques (Malandro, Barker, & Barker, 1989; Metts & Planalp, 2002). Would you: • intensify to exaggerate your surprise when friends throw you a party to make your friends feel better? • deintensify to cover up your own joy in the presence of a friend who didn’t receive such good news? • neutralize to cover up your sadness to keep from depressing others? • mask to express happiness in order to cover up your disappointment at not receiving the gift you expected? • simulate to express an emotion you don’t feel? These facial management techniques help you display emotions in socially acceptable ways. For example, when someone gets bad news in which you may secretly take pleasure, the display rule dictates that you frown and otherwise signal your sorrow nonverbally. If you place first in a race and your best friend barely finishes, the display rule requires that you minimize your expression of pleasure in winning and avoid any signs of gloating. If you violate these display rules, you’ll be judged as insensitive. Although facial management techniques may be deceptive, they’re also expected—and, in fact, required—by the rules of polite interaction. FAcIAl FEEDBAck The facial feedback hypothesis holds that your facial expressions influence your physiological arousal (Lanzetta, Cartwright-Smith, & Kleck, 1976; Zuckerman, Klorman, Larrance, & Spiegel, 1981). For example, in one study, participants held a pen in their teeth simulating a sad expression and then rated a series of photographs. Results showed that mimicking sad expressions actually increased the degree of sadness the subjects reported feeling when viewing the photographs (Larsen, Kasimatis, & Frey, 1992). Generally, research finds that facial expressions can produce or heighten feelings of sadness, fear, disgust, and anger. But this effect does not occur with all emotions; smiling, for example, won’t make you feel happier. And if you’re feeling sad, smiling is not likely to replace your sadness with happiness. A reasonable conclusion seems to be that your facial expressions can influence some feelings but not all of them (Burgoon & Bacue, 2003). culTurE AND FAcIAl commuNIcATIoN The wide variations in facial communication that we observe in different cultures seem to reflect which reactions are publicly permissible rather than a fundamental difference in the way emotions
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are facially expressed. In one study, for example, Japanese and American students watched a film of a surgical operation (Ekman, 1985). The students were videorecorded both during an interview about the film and alone while watching the film. When alone, the students showed very similar reactions, but in the interview, the American students displayed facial expressions indicating displeasure, whereas the Japanese students did not show any great emotion. Similarly, it’s considered “forward” or inappropriate for Japanese women to reveal broad smiles, so many Japanese women hide their smile, sometimes with their hands (Ma, 1996). Women in the United States, on the other hand, have no such restrictions and so are more likely to smile openly. Thus, the difference may not be in the way different cultures express emotions but rather in the society’s cultural display rules, or rules about the appropriate display of emotions in public (Aune, 2005; Matsumoto, 1991). For example, the well-documented finding that women smile more than men is likely due, at least in part, to display rules that allow women to smile more than men (Hall, 2006). Eye Communication occulesis is the study of the messages communicated by the eyes, which vary depending on the duration, direction, and quality of the eye behavior. For example, in every culture there are rather strict, though unstated, rules for the proper duration for eye contact. In much of England and the United States, for example, the average length of gaze is 2.95 seconds. The average length of mutual gaze (two persons gazing at each other) is 1.18 seconds (Argyle, 1988; Argyle & Ingham, 1972). When the duration of eye contact is shorter than 1.18 seconds, you may think the person is uninterested, shy, or preoccupied. When the appropriate amount of time is exceeded, you may perceive this as showing high interest. In much of the United States, direct eye contact is considered an expression of honesty and forthrightness. But the Japanese often view eye contact as a lack of respect. The Japanese glance at the other person’s face rarely and then only for very short periods (Axtell, 2007). In many Hispanic cultures, direct eye contact signifies a certain equality and so should be avoided by, say, children when speaking to a person in authority. Try visualizing the potential misunderstandings that eye communication alone could create when people from Tokyo, San Francisco, and San Juan try to communicate. The direction of the eye also communicates. Generally, in communicating with another person, you glance alternatively at the other person’s face, then away, then again at the face, and so on. When these directional rules are broken, different meanings are communicated—abnormally high or low interest, self-consciousness, nervousness over the interaction, and so on. The quality of the gaze—how wide or how narrow your eyes get during interaction—also communicates meaning, especially interest level and emotions such as surprise, fear, and disgust. EyE coNTAcT You use eye contact to serve several important functions (Knapp & Hall, 2009; Malandro, Barker, & Barker, 1989; Richmond, McCroskey, & Hickson, 2012): • To monitor feedback. For example, when you talk with others, you look at them and try to understand their reactions to what you’re saying. You try to read their feedback, and on this basis you adjust what you say. As you can imagine, successful readings of feedback helps considerably in your overall effectiveness when it comes to communication.
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• To secure attention. When you speak with two or three other people, you maintain eye contact to secure the attention and interest of your listeners. When someone fails to pay you the attention you want, you probably increase your eye contact, hoping that this will increase attention. When online dating profile photos were analyzed, those women who made eye contact with the camera received significantly more responses than did those who looked away. Men, on the other hand, did better when they looked away from the camera (Dean, 2010b). • To regulate the conversation. Eye contact helps you regulate, manage, and control the conversation. With eye movements, you can inform the other person that she or he should speak. A clear example of this occurs in the college classroom, where the instructor asks a question and then locks eyes with a student. This type of eye contact tells the student to answer the question. • To signal the nature of the relationship. Eye communication can also serve as a tie sign or signal of the nature of the relationship between two people—for example, to indicate positive or negative regard. Depending on the culture, eye contact may communicate your romantic interest in another person, or eye avoidance may indicate respect. Some researchers note that eye contact serves to enable gay men and lesbians to signal their orientation and perhaps their interest in someone—an ability referred to as “gaydar” (Nicholas, 2004). • To signal status. Eye contact is often used to signal status and aggression. Among many younger people, prolonged eye contact from a stranger is taken to signify aggressiveness and frequently prompts physical violence—merely because one person looked perhaps a little longer than was considered normal in that specific culture (Matsumoto, 1996). • To compensate for physical distance. Eye contact is often used to compensate for increased physical distance. By making eye contact, you overcome psychologically the physical distance between yourself and another person. When you catch someone’s eye at a party, for example, you become psychologically closer even though you may be separated by considerable physical distance. EyE AvoIDANcE The eyes, sociologist Erving Goffman observed in Interaction Ritual (1967), are “great intruders.” When you avoid eye contact or avert your glance, you allow others to maintain their privacy. You probably do this when you see a couple arguing in the street or on a bus. You turn your eyes away, as if to say, “I don’t mean to intrude; I respect your privacy.” Goffman refers to this behavior as civil inattention. Eye avoidance can also signal lack of interest—in a person, a conversation, or some visual stimulus. At times, like the ostrich, we hide our eyes to try to cut off unpleasant stimuli. Notice, for example, how quickly people close their eyes in the face of some extreme unpleasantness. Even if the unpleasantness is auditory, we tend to shut it out by closing our eyes. At other times, we close our eyes to block out visual stimuli and thus to heighten our other senses; for example, we often listen to music with our eyes closed. Lovers often close their eyes while kissing, and many prefer to make love in a dark or dimly lit room. The research and theory discussed above is, of course, based on people without visual impairment. Table 5.4, addresses this imbalance and identifies some suggestions for communicating between people with and people without visual impairment. pupIl DIlATIoN In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Italian women used to put drops of belladonna (which literally means “beautiful woman”) into their eyes to enlarge the pupils so that they would look more attractive. Research in the field of pupillometrics supports the intuitive logic of these women: dilated pupils are in fact judged more attractive than constricted ones (Hess, 1975; Marshall, 1983). In one study, for example, photographs of women were retouched (Hess, 1975). In one set of photographs the pupils were enlarged, and in the other they were made smaller. Men were then asked to judge the women’s personalities from the
DeVito, Joseph A.. Interpersonal Communication Book, The (Page 121). Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.
photographs. The photos of women with small pupils drew responses such as cold, hard, and selfish; those with dilated pupils drew responses such as feminine and soft. However, the male observers could not verbalize the reasons for the different perceptions. Both pupil dilation itself and people’s reactions to changes in the pupil size of others seem to function below the level of conscious awareness. Pupil size also reveals your interest and level of emotional arousal. Your pupils enlarge when you’re interested in something or when you’re emotionally aroused. In one study, gay men and heterosexuals were shown pictures of nude bodies; the gay men’s pupils dilated more when viewing same-sex bodies, whereas the heterosexuals’ pupils dilated more when viewing opposite-sex bodies (Hess, Seltzer, & Schlien, 1965). These pupillary responses are unconscious and are even observed in persons with profound mental retardation (Chaney, Givens, Aoki, & Gombiner, 1989). Perhaps we find dilated pupils more attractive because we judge them as indicative of a person’s interest in us. That may be why models, Beanie Babies, and Teletubbies, for example, have exceptionally large pupils. Although belladonna is no longer used, the cosmetics industry has made millions selling eye enhancers—eye shadow, eyeliner, false eyelashes, and tinted contact lenses that change eye color. These items function (ideally, at least) to draw attention to these most powerful communicators.
DeVito, Joseph A.. Interpersonal Communication Book, The (Page 122). Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.
culTurE AND EyE commuNIcATIoN Eye messages vary with both culture and gender. Americans, for example, consider direct eye contact an expression of honesty and forthrightness, but the Japanese often view this as showing a lack of respect. A Japanese person will glance at the other person’s face rarely, and then only for very short periods (Axtell, 2007). Interpreting another’s eye contact messages according to your own cultural rules is a risky undertaking; eye movements that you may interpret as insulting may have been intended to show respect. Women make eye contact more and maintain it longer (both in speaking and in listening) than do men. This holds true whether women are interacting with other women or with men. This difference in eye behavior may result from women’s greater tendency to display their emotions (Wood, 1994). When women interact with other women, they display affiliative and supportive eye contact, whereas when men interact with other men, they avert their gaze (Gamble & Gamble, 2003). Cultural differences also exist in the ways people decode the meanings of facial expressions. For example, American and Japanese students judged the meaning of a smiling and a neutral facial expression. The Americans rated the smiling face as more attractive, more intelligent, and more sociable than the neutral face. In contrast, the Japanese rated the smiling face as more sociable but not as more attractive—and they rated the neutral face as more intelligent (Matsumoto & Kudoh, 1993). Touch Communication Tactile communication, or communication by touch, also referred to as haptics, is perhaps the most primitive form of communication. Developmentally, touch is probably the first sense to be used; even in the womb, the child is stimulated by touch.
DeVito, Joseph A.. Interpersonal Communication Book, The (Page 123). Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.
Soon after birth, the infant is fondled, caressed, patted, and stroked. In turn, the child explores its world through touch. In a very short time, the child learns to communicate a wide variety of meanings through touch. Not surprisingly, touch also varies with your relationship stage. In the early stages of a relationship, you touch little; in intermediate stages (involvement and intimacy), you touch a great deal; and at stable or deteriorating stages, you again touch little (Guerrero & Andersen, 1991). ThE mEANINGs oF Touch Touch may communicate at least five major meanings (Jones, 2005; Jones & Yarbrough, 1985): • Emotions. Touch often communicates emotions, mainly between intimates or others who have a relatively close relationship. Among the most important of these positive emotions are support, appreciation, inclusion, sexual interest or intent, and affection. Additional research found that touch communicated positive feelings such as composure, immediacy, trust, similarity and equality, and informality (Burgoon, 1991). In one study, people were able to identify emotions such as fear, disgust, anger, sympathy, love, and gratitude from a simple touch on the forearm, even when the person doing the touching could not be seen (Dean, 2011a; Hertenstein et al., 2006). Touch also has been found to facilitate self-disclosure (Rabinowitz, 1991). And, not surprisingly, those who touch are perceived more positively (more sincere, honest, and friendly) than those who don’t touch (Erceau & Gueguen, 2007). •Playfulness. Touch often communicates a desire to play, either affectionately or aggressively. When touch is used in this manner, the playfulness deemphasizes the emotion and tells the other person that it’s not to be taken seriously. Playful touches lighten an interaction. • Control. Touch also may seek to control the behaviors, attitudes, or feelings of the other person. Such control may communicate various different kinds of messages. To ask for compliance, for example, we touch the other person to communicate, “Move over,” “Hurry,” “Stay here,” or “Do it.” In one study people were asked to complete a questionnaire; those who were touched twice on the upper arm complied more