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Paula Atienza

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Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Club, this week we present the paper “Nonverbal Communication in Virtual Reality: Nodding as a social signal in virtual interactions”, by Aburumman, N.; Gillies, M.; Ward, J. A. and Hamilton, A. F. C. (2022), in which authors carry out a series of experiments to know how the nodding affects the perception that users have of human avatars in virtual reality contexts. 

Face-to-face interaction is a central part of human life, used to convey ideas, share information, understand others’ intentions and emotions, build trust, make decisions…. 

An important goal for computational science researchers is the design of virtual environments, including virtual humans and immersive virtual reality contexts, that can simulate a real face-to-face conversation. It is also an important goal for researchers in psychology to understand how humans behave during interactions and to test theories about which aspects of these interactions are most meaningful.

Whether in a physical or virtual setting, human communication involves both verbal exchanges and nonverbal behaviors.

Nonverbal communication is an effective and expressive tool used to send and receive social signals that humans have been using for thousands of years before the ability to communicate with words was developed. Therefore, both the analysis and synthesis of nonverbal communication is an essential part of human-computer interaction research.

Although physical communication is still more powerful, modern communication is often mediated by technology, and it takes place virtually.

Virtual reality is a digital form of communication that can facilitate the creation of immersive real-time interaction and enhance social presence in virtual environments. 

In the present study, virtual reality was employed in the experiments as the authors felt that it had unparalleled potential to impact the future of numerous sectors, such as virtual conferencing, education, consulting, social rehabilitation, medical care….

They also included nonverbal communication, which refers to such disparate aspects as nodding the head, maintaining eye contact, leaning forward or backward, body orientation, among many others. In particular, nodding plays an important role in regulating an interaction, signaling who should take the floor, for example, or whether or not someone is interested in a particular item. 

This type of signaling is commonly referred to as backchannelling, and often occurs to send subtle messages in a face-to-face interaction. Including this element in virtual environments, therefore, can be very important to make the interlocutor feel comfortable and heard.

In this paper, authors implement several experiments involving virtual interaction between a human-controlled avatar and a virtual human whose behavior is controlled by a computer program. In these experiments, authors focus on four different types of nonverbal cues that are very important in human face-to-face interaction: blinking, head nodding, facial expressions, and gaze shifting. In addition, they specifically manipulated the nodding behavior between two different virtual humans.

The experiments were conducted at the social interaction laboratory at University College London. Data could be collected from 21 participants, of which 15 were female and 6 were male, with an average age of 24 years.

The style of the virtual avatars was unrealistic, cartoon-like, as this type of virtual human is preferred over more realistic ones.

In the first task, participants were told that they would have a conversation with two different virtual humans in virtual reality, and discuss a series of facts about some U.S. states. The participant meets the first virtual human (Anna). She introduced herself, and asked the participant to introduce him/herself. Then, Anna performed a 45-55 second monologue, where she read facts about a US state and then, for 35-45 seconds, Anna and the participant discussed. After that, the process was done in reverse. In total, the participant had to complete four attempts with Anna and four with the other virtual human, Beth. 

Authors designed these two virtual humans to provide identical blinks, facial expressions, and changing gaze behaviors. The only difference between the behavior of the two virtual humans is that one of them manifested a naturalistic nodding behavior that depended on the actions of its partner, while the other only exhibited a preconfigured head movement. 

The second task used a virtual maze to implicitly measure the participant’s proximity, trust, and attraction to the virtual humans. 

Virtual humans Anna and Beth were placed at decision points in the maze; and the participant could choose to approach one or the other for advice on how to complete the activity. 

A positive impact of naturalistic nodding was found, showing that participants liked more, and trusted more, the virtual human who nodded in this way, as she was rated significantly higher than the other virtual human. 

When participants were asked what virtual human had shown more attention to what he/she was saying, opinions continued along these lines, and the virtual human with a naturalistic nod was perceived as more engaged in the interaction.

Furthermore, in the maze experiment, participants were closer to the virtual human who nodded more. 

These results support the claim that mimicry functions as a kind of social glue, and that by copying another person’s actions it is possible to generate trust and sympathy. 

Future studies could test how this extends to other types of conversation and other social groups, for example, by introducing the variable of gender. 

If you want to know more about nonverbal behavior and how it affects personal relationships, visit our Master of Science in Nonverbal and Deceptive Behavior, which you can take in English or Spanish, with special grants for readers of the Nonverbal Communication Blog.

Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper “Evidence of Phone vs Video-Conferencing for Mental Health Treatments: A Review of the Literature”, by Chen, P. V.; Helm, A.; Caloudas, S. G.; Ecker, A.; Day, G.; Hogan, J. and Jan, L. (2022), in which authors carry out a meta-analysis in which they draw conclusions from previous literature on the positive or negative outcomes of online with video and telephone psychological therapy compared to traditional face-to-face therapy.

The ability to receive mental health care remotely, either by video and audio or by telephone only, has been available since about 1960. However, many therapists felt, even in those years, that this type of care was of lower quality than traditional care.

Precisely this traditional model was forced to change in the early 2020s. The Covid-19 pandemic imposed very drastic measures for the population, including confinement and social isolation. Thus, in-person healthcare was limited and video and telephone modalities were brought to the forefront as patients and therapists sought to continue therapy while adhering to safety and prevention measures. 

However, it is not clear whether, in fact, video and/or telephone care is better than face-to-face or not, or which of the two might be its more direct competition, because their applications have been so disparate. 

For example, from April through June 2020, of all mental health encounters conducted at Veterans facilities in the United States, 63% occurred by telephone, 21% by video, and 14% face-to-face. A survey of the use of telematics by health insurance beneficiaries found that 56% of visits were by telephone only, compared to 28% of visits by video and 16% that were a combination of telephone and video. 

The goal of the article we present this week was to provide a comparative review of the use of telephone and video to provide mental health treatment. 

Authors extracted a number of articles on “video telehealth,” including those published between 2002 and 2022, to get as current a picture as possible, and divided their findings according to different blocks of mental health conditions or problems.

When it comes to anxiety and depression, it appears that video telehealth services may be particularly valuable, as patients diagnosed with a mood disorder are more likely to attend video-conferencing appointments than patients with other diagnoses. 

In addition, both video and telephone have been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms related to mood disorders. Telephone therapy for depression is more effective than no treatment, or even more effective than treatment as usual; and treatments for anxiety conducted by telephone are at least moderately effective in reducing symptoms compared to no treatment or traditional treatment.

In patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, the effectiveness of video treatment is comparable to in-person care, and results in symptom improvement. For telephone treatments, patients also reported a decrease in symptoms.

It appears that patients, on the other hand, are less satisfied with therapists when it comes to telephone care and, in addition, treatments via video had higher dropout rates. 

For substance use treatments, there are no significant differences in effectiveness when patients receive video or telephone treatment compared to in-person care. Patients who received in-person or video group therapy had comparable positive rates on their urine screening tests, similar duration of abstinence, and similar amounts of time spent in intensive counseling.

Studies of remotely delivered smoking cessation treatments show that no differences in treatment effectiveness have been found between telephone therapy, video therapy, and face-to-face therapy in terms of abstinence rates, cigarettes per day, and quit attempts. Overall, smoking cessation therapies can be delivered very effectively by non-face-to-face means. 

For obsessive-compulsive disorder, both telephone and video are viable modalities of care for its treatment. In two controlled trials, we compared telephone and face-to-face treatment and found that, for both, symptom reduction persisted 6 months after treatment. In addition, those who received treatment for OCD by telephone reported high satisfaction with their treatment compared to in-person patients. 

Although more comparative studies are needed between video therapy and audio therapy, it can be concluded that both have a very similar percentage of effectiveness to face-to-face therapy. However, it is necessary to dedicate more efforts to study aspects such as nonverbal communication in non face-to-face therapy, for example, in order to establish solid relationships between patient and therapist.

If you want to know more about nonverbal behavior and how it affects personal relationships, visit our Master of Science in Nonverbal and Deceptive Behavior, which you can take in English or Spanish, with special grants for readers of the Nonverbal Communication Blog.

Friends of Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper “Experiences of mimicry in eating disorders”, by Erwin, S. R.; Liu, P. J.; Nicholas, J.; Rivera-Cancel, A.; Leary, M.; Chartrand, T. L. and Zucker, N. L. (2022), in which authors carry out a study to know how mimicry and nonverbal imitation works in social relationships when it comes about people who suffer from eating disorders. 

In general, it has been shown that comparing oneself to others contributes to an increased likelihood of eating disorders. One example of this is in pro-anorexia online communities, where people share photos of the results of their dietary restrictions, as well as highly dangerous and health-damaging strategies designed to lose weight. 

Experts suggest that comparison with others may compromise the effectiveness, and possibly the safety, of inpatient treatment settings, and even go further and affect those who are not hospitalized, causing, for example, patients to learn new harmful behaviors. 

Despite compelling examples of explicit mimicry being problematic, mimicry has not been systematically studied with an eating disordered population.

One potentially fruitful area of research focuses on how people with a history of an eating disorder respond to being mimicked by others. For, while examples of social networks and contagion in a treatment setting describe potentially dangerous mimicry processes, there are others that have been associated with prosocial behaviors and increased affiliation among typically developing individuals.

Previous research on mimicry found that engaging in similar behavior creates feelings of empathy and relatedness among interactants. Other research found that when therapists mimicked the body position of their patients, the patients perceived a greater level of expressed empathy on their part.

Imitation processes often require both physical and emotional closeness, a certain degree of intimacy in relationships. However, people with anorexia and/or bulimia have been reported to experience interpersonal difficulties characterized by mistrust, negative interactions and conflicts with others. For people with restrictive eating behaviors, fear of intimacy may be characterized by avoidance of expressing feelings of personal importance to others. 

Since intimate interpersonal relationships necessarily involve some degree of dependence on another person, avoiding relationships makes these individuals feel more secure. However, it is also detrimental to them, since secure and close relationships promote recovery from eating disorders. Therefore, it is important to identify the barriers they create to developing these intimate relationships.

On the other hand, evidence of early disruptions in attachment may contribute to this reluctance toward intimacy. More specifically, insecure attachment with early caregivers. 

In summary, people with eating disorders possess a number of characteristics that make their interpersonal relationships different, more complex, and influenced by multicausal factors. 

The present study examines how adults with a history of an eating disorder react when a therapist subtly mimics them. The therapist subtly mirrored the participants’ postures, movements, and gestures. In addition, there was a control group, that is, a group of participants whom the therapist did not try to imitate. 

There was a final sample of 118 people, all of them women, with an average age of 21 years. 

It was found that, in all groups, the participants who were not imitated rated the therapist as nicer, and the interaction as smoother, than the participants who were imitated. 

There is a large body of research supporting that subtle mimicry increases comfort, however, it is possible that these prosocial influences have been downplayed due to certain interpersonal factors. 

Previous research has shown that, compared to healthy people, people with eating disorders are unconsciously more attentive to the bodies of others. It could be understood that the study participants may have been more sensitive to mimicry due to a hypervigilance inherent to the disorder.

Another explanation may be that, given the fears of intimacy and negative evaluation discussed above, it is possible that the experience of nonverbal mimicry is threatening due to possible rejection, contributing to increased scrutiny in interactions. 

Authors encourage further research on this topic, arguing that it is very important to continue to investigate how the verbal behavior or perception of verbal behavior of people with conduct disorders differs from the verbal behavior or perception of verbal behavior of healthy people to better understand their social and cognitive functioning.

If you want to know more about nonverbal behavior and how it affects personal relationships, visit our Master of Science in Nonverbal and Deceptive Behavior, which you can take in English or Spanish, with special grants for readers of the Nonverbal Communication Blog.

Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper “Communicatie deficits associated with maladaptive behavior in individuals with deafness and special needs”, by Fellinger, J.; Dall, M.; Weber, C. and Holzinger, D. (2022), in which the authors carry out a study to know whether a relationship between being deaf and having a maladaptive social behavior exists, considering quality communication deficits as another factor.

Prevalence rates of hearing loss range from 15-25% of the adult population. Hearing loss that begins before language acquisition can have a tremendous impact on communication and socioemotional and cognitive development.

The early years of life are critical for language and general development. If a child does not have sufficient access to spoken or signed language during this period, it can have lasting negative effects on his or her future ability to learn language, and this language deprivation can lead to social isolation, which in turn severely affects mental health throughout life. 

Approximately 33-50% of people with prelingual deafness or hearing difficulties in general have additional disabilities, for example, neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or other neurological disorders. 

This fact makes communication and mental health difficulties even more pronounced. The combination of deafness and intellectual disabilities is a double risk and has a much greater impact on people’s lives. 

In a Danish study, children with deafness and special needs were three times more likely to suffer from psychosocial problems compared to children with deafness but no additional needs. 

The emotional and behavioral problems of deaf children and how these relate to language are, in general, well documented in the literature, but it is true that these two elements associated with social communication and maladaptive behavior are not as popular, which is why the authors opted for the convergence of these issues. 

Communication, with its verbal and nonverbal elements, plays an essential role in our lives, as we have already pointed out on many occasions, but also in neurocognitive processes, including attention, learning, social norms…. 

In the literature, when we speak of maladaptive behavior, we refer to behavior that interferes with an individual’s daily life activities or with his/her ability to adapt and participate in environments. Using this definition, the authors conducted an analysis about the prevalence of maladaptive behavior and how it is associated with verbal and nonverbal language skills and social communication in adults with deafness and special needs. 

The sample consisted of 61 participants with deafness and intellectual disability and/or other neurodevelopmental disorders. All participants had in common that, before the age of 6 years, when they were enrolled in a school for children with deafness, they had had almost no access to sign language. They grew up without adequate access to language and with only minimal expressive language. In most families only a limited number of simple signs and gestures were used, leading to severe language deprivation during childhood. 

The findings showed that there was a prevalence rate of high maladaptive behavior of 41% and a particularly high score in 18% of the participants. This is quite a high rate, considering that the participants were living in an environment that had been adapted to their needs.

Language delays, especially in sign language, were found to be significantly more pronounced the more intense the patient’s neurological difficulty. 

Language and social communication skills were shown to explain 14% of the variance in the tendency to have more or less maladaptive behaviors, confirming the authors’ hypothesis that it has a fairly strong influence. 

The results emphasize the importance of early access to language, whatever the child’s circumstances, and the constant promotion of verbal and nonverbal communication skills, as those with better language and social communication skills demonstrated lower levels of maladaptive behavior. 

In addition, the findings highlight the need to foster the development of social communication in all individuals, regardless of cognitive functioning. 

If you want to know more about nonverbal behavior and how it affects personal relationships, visit our Master of Science in Nonverbal and Deceptive Behavior, which you can take in English or Spanish, with special grants for readers of the Nonverbal Communication Blog.

Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper “Conditions Influencing Effective Nurse Nonverbal Communication With Hospitalized Older Adults in Cameroon”, by Wanko-Keutchafo, E. L.; Kerr, J.; Baloyi, O. B. and Duma, S. E. (2022), in which authors carry out a study in Cameroonian hospitals to know which factors affect the quality of nonverbal communication between elder patients and nurses that are in charge of their care. 

Elder adults make up a very significant proportion of the population worldwide, and are often the forgotten ones.

These adults have reached the figure of more than 32 million people in sub-Saharan Africa in 2019 (the context of this article), and are projected to reach 101 million by 2050, which is an increase of 218%.

This rapid growth means that, over time, there will be a greater need for medical care for the elderly, and nurses are expected to interact with these patients more than with any other. 

However, patients have a wide range of personal experiences that influence their perceptions, which increase in diversity as they age. 

In addition, elder adults may experience auditory deficits, changes in attention and information encoding, which can restrict their interaction, participation and effective communication. All this indicates that good communication skills will be essential in nursing. 

As we have said on numerous occasions, communication is the core of human society and sustains community life. 

In healthcare settings, effective communication is the foundation of any relationship. It is important for understanding patients’ needs and supporting the improvement of their health and well-being. 

Communication, as we already know, has both verbal and nonverbal components and is therefore more complicated than the simple transmission of information. 

The nonverbal aspect refers to facial expressions, how we behave in general, the use of touch, space and distances, how we move our body, physical appearance, silences and the tone of our voice… among many other elements. 

The factors that influence communication between nurses and patients seem to be divided into those related to the nurse, the patient, the environment, the physical or the psychological aspects. 

Authors have identified some within these groups. For example, nurse-related factors could be job dissatisfaction, a high workload or insufficient time. Regarding the environment, we could point out the fact that it is a busy, hectic place. Within the physical factors we could mention the space in the rooms, the noise or the lack of privacy. And in the psychological factors, anxiety, level of self-esteem, disorders, and even religion. 

When communication is effective, patients feel taken care of, respected and more able to describe their concerns. 

Age discriminatory attitudes, prejudices and stereotypes based on age, such as condescending speech, are also worth investigating. 

In this article, authors aim to describe the conditions that influence nurses’ effective nonverbal communication with hospitalized elder adults in the Cameroonian context. 

The study was conducted in two public referral and teaching hospitals in Cameroon. Ten female nurses, four students, two managers and one nursing assistant participated, allowing their behavior in dealing with elderly patients to be observed. Data were collected between July 2018 and January 2020. 

The findings revealed that the most influential factors were those related to nurses. 

It appears that the most determinant ones are beliefs and prejudices, their personality traits, personal experiences, and their love and vocation for their work. 

On the other hand, it appears that religious beliefs facilitate positive verbal communication between nurses and patients; however, this is not always the case, as a 2019 study reported that some Muslim patients expected nurses to bow to them when caring for them and, if they did not, they were perceived as insolent. 

Nurses’ awareness of their nonverbal behavior is also very important, since the more they seem to be mindful of conveying positive feelings, the more effective they appear to be. This point is, of course, influenced by experience. 

It is suggested that, in order to increasingly improve nonverbal communication between nurses and patients, educational programs for health professionals should be created, promoting mainly empathy.

If you want to know more about nonverbal behavior and how it affects personal relationships, visit our Master of Science in Nonverbal and Deceptive Behavior, which you can take in English or Spanish, with special grants for readers of the Nonverbal Communication Blog.

Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper “No evidence that instructions to ignore nonverbal cues improve deception detection accuracy”, by Bogaard, G. and Meijer, E. H. (2022), in which authors carry out a series of experiments to know whether, when somebody receives the order of ignoring the nonverbal behavior of other person, effectively, he/she does, and pays more attention to verbal cues, making it easy the deception detection process, and doing it more effectively. 

When people are asked what they look for in a person when trying to unmask and uncover their lies, most of them answer that they pay attention to nonverbal signs such as gaze aversion or general nervousness.

People believe that such nonverbal signals are the most difficult to suppress and control, more so than verbal signals, therefore, they are very useful in detecting lies. 

This belief that nonverbal cues are a foolproof diagnostic method for deception diagnoses is common in most countries. Even dedicated experts such as police officers, correctional officers, probation officers, prosecutors or judges strongly believe it on many occasions. 

However, this belief is at odds with empirical research, which shows that the relationship between nonverbal cues and deception is actually weaker than we think. 

Knowledge of nonverbal communication cues is useful in many areas, but empirical evidence has shown that paying attention to them alone is not the most reliable method of catching a liar.

Judges and prosecutors are often warned not to pay attention to whether a witness looks away, moves, is nervous, or speaks too fast, as these signals may lead us to errors. 

Even police departments around the world, such as the Dutch police, expressly advise officers that stereotypical nonverbal cues do not indicate deception and therefore should not be used to make credibility judgments. 

Based on legal research, there is reason to be skeptical about the effectiveness of ignoring instructions when making a judgment. Authors point out that when evidence (that is, evident nonverbal cues) makes a significant impression on jurors, it is very difficult to eliminate the impact, even if they have been expressly instructed to please disregard a specific element. 

Empirical research shows that verbal cues are indeed more diagnostic for lying than nonverbal cues. Liars are generally less forthcoming, tell stories less convincingly and plausibly, and include fewer verifiable details. And therefore, people who rely more on these types of cues when making deception judgments outperform those who rely solely on nonverbal cues in accuracy. 

In addition, having training in what verbal behaviors we should pay attention to, is positively correlated with accuracy in lie detection. 

Thus, being instructed to pay attention to verbal cues is likely to result in increased accuracy in lie diagnosis. 

To test this, authors conducted three experiments that had more or less the same basis. Participants were asked to watch videos in which people were interviewed and told about events in their lives. Some of these stories were lies and others were true. The participants were divided into several groups, each with a condition: one group received no instructions at all, another group was instructed to ignore the nonverbal cues, and the last group was instructed to pay attention only to the verbal cues in addition to ignoring the nonverbal cues. 

The results show that giving instructions to ignore nonverbal cues is far from sufficient to prevent people from being influenced by them, and thus far from improving deception detection. 

In one of the three experiments it seems to have improved the latter point, however, not in a statistically significant way. 

Ignoring nonverbal cues seems to be a very complicated task, possibly because they play a vital role in everyday social interaction. This reliance on nonverbal cues is called visual bias.

It is suggested that future research should devote efforts to investigate this issue, as relying too much on nonverbal cues may lead us to make wrong decisions in diagnoses of truthfulness and deception, which, depending on the context, may go hand in hand with very negative consequences that, with research, could be prevented. 

If you want to know more about the criminal mind, criminal profiling, and forensic science, don’t miss our Master of Science in Criminal Profiling or our Master of Science in Anti-Fraud Behavioral Analysis, 100% online programs that can be taken in Spanish or English, with special grants for the Forensic Science Club readers.

Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper “Effectiveness, Attractiveness, and Emotional Response to Voice Pitch and Hand Gestures in Public Speaking”, by Rodero, E. (2022), in which the author carries out a study to know how the variations in the tone of voice intensity, and the frequency and exaggeration of hand gestures influence the effectiveness of public speeches.

When we see and hear a person speaking, we can distinguish two distinct parts of the communication that are very important: what the person says and how he or she says it, that is, the content and the form of the message. Or, in other words, verbal and nonverbal communication, both equally important. 

The author decides to focus, in this case, on nonverbal communication, since every part of our body, every movement, facial expression or variation of tone, has a meaning. In fact, our brain can create an impression about a person giving a speech in just milliseconds, just by looking at his/her face, his/her body, or listening to his/her voice. 

We have already mentioned on numerous occasions that there are different channels of nonverbal communication. On the one hand, we have everything related to kinesics, such as gestures, postures or movement; there is also paralanguage, which are the features of the voice; proxemics, which refers to space and distance management; the appearance of people, such as clothing, jewelry, even skin color. 

Nonverbal communication signals can influence perception and message processing. We use our body and voice changes to reinforce or qualify what we say, convey emotions, attitudes, intentions, regulate the flow of communication….

According to experts, charismatic leaders use variations in tone of voice, eye contact, gestures and facial expressions to differentiate themselves from the rest. The way television presenters, for example, use their voices and gestures when speaking in public is crucial to engage the audience, attract their attention and provoke emotions. 

This research analyzes the effectiveness, appeal and emotional response of different strategies related to tone of voice and hand gestures in public speeches. But why these two elements?

First of all, voice plays a very important role in our social relationships, and therefore in persuasive messages, such as public speeches. How we use our voice is called prosody, and it represents the set of characteristics we use when speaking. 

One of the most important components of prosody is intonation, yet research on the influence of intonation variations when it comes to public speaking is scarce, despite its importance. 

In 2011, a study found that substantial changes in pitch increased persuasiveness and credibility, and in 2021 it was concluded that a higher and more varied pitch in the voice is related to greater charisma. In public speeches, a moderate emphatic intonation is considered the most effective, captures more attention and provokes greater excitement, improving comprehension, due to its dynamism. 

However, although these changes are very positive, excessive variations could be counterproductive and make the speech exaggerated and unnatural, so the author’s hypothesis is that the moderate strategy would be the best option. 

On the other hand, we have hand gestures. According to experts, people who use hand gestures are perceived as more effective, persuasive, credible, dominant, outgoing, sociable and honest. Therefore, there is a tendency to associate positive traits with hand movements. 

A study conducted with TED talks concluded that hand gestures make the speaker appear more convincing. However, as with the tone of voice, too much intensity could be overdone and cause distractions. 

For the study, a total of 48 videos of short speeches were recorded in which three variations of voice pitch (soft, moderate, intense) and three intensities of hand gestures (soft, moderate, intense) were combined. 120 university students formed the study sample. 

The findings showed that the nonverbal communication cues examined were relevant in determining the effectiveness and attractiveness of a public speech.

The strategy with moderate pitch variations, in terms of tone of voice, was the most effective and attractive, followed by the high variation style and, in third place, few variations. The result is in line with the findings of previous studies.

A balanced strategy with tone changes, neither too few nor too many, is perceived as more dynamic and therefore more effective, since a more expressive voice is always perceived better than a dull voice, and brings charisma. 

As for gestures, it was exactly the same. The moderate strategy was the most successful, followed by the strategy of many gestures and, in last position, few gestures. 

By combining strategies related to voice tone and gestures, the author obtained the novel finding that, when the voice uses moderate variations in tone, both moderate gestures and exaggerated gestures are effective. 

The results of this study allow us to advance in the analysis of nonverbal cues, especially, as is logical, in the study of voice tone and gestures. The author points out the need to devote greater efforts to studying the effects of both channels combined, which, as we have seen, can offer promising answers to interesting questions. 

If you want to know more about nonverbal behavior and how it affects personal relationships, visit our Master of Science in Nonverbal and Deceptive Behavior, which you can take in English or Spanish, with special grants for readers of the Nonverbal Communication Blog.

Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper “‘You never get a second chance’: First impressions of Physicians depend on their Body Posture and Gender” by Grün, F. C.; Heibges, M.; Westfal, V. and Feufel, M. A. (2022), in which authors carry out a study to know whether open and/or closed postures influence the perception we have about doctors, as well as their gender. 

The way a patient perceives his or her physician influences a multitude of factors that determine the success of treatment, such as the information shared between the two, patient-physician communication, patient satisfaction, medication adherence and, ultimately, health outcomes. 

First impressions lay the foundation for successful patient-physician interactions, particularly when encounters are brief, which is often the case for many health care visits. 

Recently, empirical research has begun to ask how nonverbal behavior, related to body postures, can affect patients’ first impressions of physicians. 

A 2019 study, demonstrated that physicians who adopt high power postures, put another way, open postures (for instance, arms on hips), are more likely to be perceived as competent, than when they assume low power postures, that is, closed postures (arms crossed), however, it did not take gender into account. This same study also concluded that empathic ability was also related to perceived physician competence. 

The quality of the doctor-patient interaction is not only influenced by the communication of information about the patient’s health, but also by other elements, including the nonverbal one. 

The influence of physicians’ physical appearance has recently been studied in relation to their clothing, the ethnic group to which they belong or their gender, but the authors focus in this case on postures and, moreover, on these related to gender.

In 2002, a study reported that nodding the head, leaning forward, and uncrossed legs and arms lead to greater patient satisfaction. 

With respect to the clinical setting, there is also research showing that physician-patient interaction is influenced by gender, and patients appreciate behavior that fits stereotypes, such as women who speak in a soft voice. 

Other studies show conflicting results on gender regarding the latter idea. One meta-analysis showed that patients generally prefer to interact with male physicians, but there is other research indicating that gender does not exist, and others saying that women prefer to be seen by female gynecologists. 

In a nutshell, the inconsistent findings of the effects of gender on physicians’ perceptions call for further research on the topic. 

In the research at hand, authors focused on open postures and closed postures, and introduced gender as an additional variable, to study patients’ perceptions of physicians.

They gathered a total of 200 North American adults and conducted an online survey. The survey material consisted of photographs of doctors in open and closed postures, so that there were male doctors with open and closed postures, and the same for female doctors. In the online survey, participants were asked to rate their perceptions of these physicians. 

The results obtained showed that male physicians tend to be perceived as more professionally competent when they assume open body postures and, in addition, seem to encourage patients to take an active role in the patient-physician interaction.

On the other hand, female physicians who assumed open postures were perceived as more professionally competent than those with closed postures, but no more so than male physicians. And, interestingly, female physicians were rated more positively in social competencies when they had closed postures. 

Plus, male physicians in open postures and showing empathy tended to be perceived as warm, as well as competent. 

In other words, it seems that women tend to have high scores in competence when they show open postures, but low scores in warmth; this would not be the case with male physicians, who would have high scores in both. 

Body postures influence patients’ perceptions. Therefore, in addition to training the verbal aspects of interaction, medical professionals should be aware of the nonverbal dimensions and incorporate them into their day-to-day work, in order to have greater control of their patients’ perceptions of them.  

If you want to know more about nonverbal behavior and how it affects personal relationships, visit our Master of Science in Nonverbal and Deceptive Behavior, which you can take in English or Spanish, with special grants for readers of the Nonverbal Communication Blog.

Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper  “Can third-party observers detect attraction in others based on subtle nonverbal cues?” by Samara, I.; Roth, T. S.; Nikolic, M.; Prochazkova, E. and Kret, M. E. (2022), in which authors carry out three experiments to know if a third observer person is able to know, through nonverbal cues, whether both sides of a couple feel attraction between them. 

Human beings quickly produce and infer emotional states through facial or body expressions in everyday life. 

Although some emotions are easier to recognize than others, people can communicate them efficiently using nonverbal cues. 

One of these most important emotional states is attraction, which is crucial for the choice of a partner. 

Observing and deciphering subtle nonverbal messages, such as blushing or smiling slightly, could make it easier to answer the question of whether a person is interested in seeing another person again. However, it has not yet been examined whether such nonverbal signals can be detected as accurately as other emotions. 

In the study that is the subject of this paper, authors investigate whether external observers can detect attraction between strangers during speed dating using video clips. 

This topic is of particular interest to authors because attraction is a very powerful emotion. It can guide our behavior during social interactions, drawing us closer to or away from people. Like other emotions, attraction also influences others. In particular, the experience of attraction is related to increased arousal, which can even be observed with physiological processes.

Previous research has shown that, in speed dating, a person can indicate whether they would like to meet their date again just three seconds after looking at them. This suggests that attraction can arise quickly and guide behavior during social action. 

Humans are able to hide their feelings or convey something contrary to what they feel in order to direct their social interactions as desired. However, despite our best efforts, there are specific cues over which we have no control. For example, upon seeing someone we are sexually interested in, our pupils may dilate and a distinct blush may appear on our cheeks. 

Although there is no clear expression, there are subtle nonverbal signals that when expressed indicate interest and availability. However, they can be ambiguous. It is important to keep in mind that there are many factors that can influence the detection of attraction.

In a series of three experiments, authors study whether observers can detect attraction in a dating stranger couple by attending only to small portions of that interaction. Specifically, they examine whether this is influenced by age, phase of the interaction, and/or duration of the stimulus. 

The videos were collected during a blind dating study conducted in the Netherlands in 2021. In it, participants sat at opposite ends of a table and were informed that they would have three separate interactions with their partner: a first impression phase, an eye contact phase (as they were initially blindfolded), and a verbal phase. 

The observers in the article’s study were instructed to watch the videos, with no specific instructions as to what specifically they should pay attention to. At the end, they were asked whether they thought the people in each date would want to repeat it. 

Ultimately, authors found no strong evidence to support the idea that people can reliably detect attraction or lack of attraction through watching snippets of dating videos, and based on nonverbal cues.

However, it appears that accuracy increased when people in the videos did feel attraction, and decreased when people did not. 

Given that previous findings have emphasized the importance of subtle nonverbal cues in communicating attraction, it is worth asking whether the observed low accuracy in attraction detection may be due to an absence of attraction-associated behaviors. That is, would there be enough information present for observers to collect it? 

The conclusion is that people cannot detect with certainty when there is attraction between two people based on nonverbal cues alone, but it seems that when people are attracted to each other, it is easier to perceive it, which, the authors point out, may be very interesting for future research.

If you want to know more about nonverbal behavior and how it affects personal relationships, visit our Master of Science in Nonverbal and Deceptive Behavior, which you can take in English or Spanish, with special grants for readers of the Nonverbal Communication Blog.

Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper “I saw him first: Competitive nonverbal flirting among women, the tactics used and their perceived effectiveness”, by Wade, T. J.; Fisher, M. L. and Clark, E. (2021), in which authors carry out two studies to know what are the nonverbal cues most used by women when they want to win the same man’s heart.

Universally, people have a desire to form intimate relationships, whether long-term, or just one-night stands. One of the challenges faced by people interested in establishing sex-affective relationships is partner recruitment, and one way to overcome this obstacle is flirting. 

Flirting is an essential aspect of human interpersonal interaction, and it can be used in many ways. For example, single people may use it to attract a partner, but those who are in relationships may flirt to provoke jealousy in their current partner. 

It can also be used as an attempt to intensify the relationship one already has and promote its development, as well as the growth of bonds between people in that couple. 

While flirting can be used for many purposes, the most well-known and evolutionarily important is that of mating. In fact, most of the literature on the subject is concerned with how to signal to a person that you are interested in dating them. 

Interestingly, flirting differs between men and women, reflecting their different priorities when choosing a mate. For example, evolutionary psychologists argue that heterosexual men tend to choose their partners based on signals of fertility and reproductive potential, as well as sexual access. 

On the other hand, heterosexual women tend to engage in intrasexual competitive behavior with each other to gain access to desirable mates. 

While these differences have been documented in previous literature, how they relate to flirtation and subsequent relationship formation is complex. 

For example, men’s preference for sexually accessible partners may lead one to believe that women’s flirting should emphasize these qualities to generate interest, but appearing sexually receptive is counterproductive for women when it comes to establishing a long-term relationship, according to previous literature. 

How women flirt to attract a potential partner presumably depends on many factors, such as, for example, whether the partner is of sufficient quality or has been selected as a potential long-term partner.

While flirting can be done verbally, the nonverbal component is more abundant and, moreover, more important in this context. For example, females may attempt to manifest their sexual availability, which is easier to do through nonverbal means. In addition, nonverbal signals tend to be associated with greater credibility than verbal signals. 

Authors propose the idea that women tend to compete intrasexually, that is, with each other, for potential male partners. However, this is a topic that has not yet been investigated through the prism of nonverbal language, nor has it been explored how this competition is executed. This is the aim of the article.

Authors focus primarily on the use of “tie signals” or “bond signals”, which are nonverbal public displays, signs, or objects (such as wedding rings or shaking hands) that indicate that a relationship exists between two people. They are considered an effective way that people use to say that a relationship exists between them. 

In the first study, 91 women were gathered and participated in an online questionnaire. They answered questions such as “how would you get your flirt’s attention to shift from another woman to you, in the context of a pub?” among others. The 11 most popular actions were used for the following study. These were: eye contact, dancing in his field of vision, smiling at him, touching him, laughing at his jokes, dancing between the other woman and the man, showing disgust or dislike towards her, brushing up against the man, hugging him, flirting with other men or waving at him. 

The second study gathered 139 participants, including men and women, and also through an online questionnaire they were asked which tactics they considered most effective for this purpose, using a scale.

It seems that touching a man on the arm, shoulder, chest or leg is the most effective flirting act, because it signifies to other women that a bond is being formed with the man. From the point of view of intrasexual competition, once a partner is “taken,” it is more useful to approach an alternative partner rather than try to compete with a rival. 

This is a simplistic explanation, as the authors acknowledge, since intrasexual competition involves many more factors, some from an evolutionary point of view, others from a social prism, and so on. 

Other useful techniques proved to be eye contact, hugging (which can be seen as a sign of bonding and also releases oxytocin, which brings people together), or laughing at their jokes.

Authors propose the interesting idea of exploring in future research how the self-perceived value of the partner influences flirting techniques and, in particular, competitive flirting.

If you want to know more about nonverbal behavior and how it affects personal relationships, visit our Master of Science in Nonverbal and Deceptive Behavior, which you can take in English or Spanish, with special grants for readers of the Nonverbal Communication Blog.

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