Paula Atienza


Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper “Nonverbal Synchrony: An Indicator of Clinical Communication Quality in Racially-Concordant and Racially- Discordant Oncology Interactions”, by Hamel, L. M.; Moulder, R.; Ramseyer, F. T.; Penner, L. A.; Albrecht, T. L.; Boker, S. and Eggly, S. (2022), in which authors use two previous studies to know how nonverbal synchrony affects the communicative process of the interactions between doctors and patients when their races match and when they do not match.

Communication, both verbal and nonverbal, is the key to social interactions in all areas, including healthcare.

Good, high-quality patient-physician communication is associated, as we have noted in previous articles, with good adherence to treatment. Conversely, poor communication can lead to poorer treatment outcomes, with consequences such as discontinuity of care, patient dissatisfaction, and higher costs overall.

Unfortunately, it appears that the quality of clinical care is also influenced by patient race. Black patients, for example, would experience poorer quality communication more frequently compared to white patients.

For oncology cases, previous research indicates that physicians tend to be less patient-centered, verbally more dominant, more confrontational, and also give less information during interactions with black patients.

Research has consistently demonstrated the relationship between verbal and nonverbal doctor-patient communication and patient health outcomes, considering elements such as trust, satisfaction, understanding, symptom resolution….

For example, it has been shown that, when it comes to focusing on the patient, having interactions with him/her, developing an empathic relationship and being aware of any psychological problems the patient may have, eye contact is a great ally.

Another example of the effect of nonverbal communication is that the authors’ team observed that, in an oncology setting, if patients and physicians smile and show “open to interaction postures”, the results of the interaction will be more positive.

In this week’s study, authors wanted to investigate the dynamic, interdependent, and unconscious nature of nonverbal interpersonal communication during oncology interactions with black patients in racially discordant contexts and, on the other hand, with white patients in racially concordant contexts.

And how did they do this? They used software that was able to measure the synchrony of patient-physician interactions based on the movement coordination. It is understood that the greater the synchrony, the greater the likelihood that communication is occurring effectively and to the benefit of both parties.

People synchronize more with those with whom they have existing positive relationships, or with those with whom they want to develop them. Higher levels of nonverbal synchrony result in more subsequent positive affect and sympathy.

The analysis in this article was conducted using data from two recent studies. The first was conducted between 2002 and 2006 and the second between 2012 and 2014. Both studied different aspects and influences of nonverbal communication in oncology patients and included video data.

The total number of patients analyzed reached more than 220 people. Numerous research studies have shown that unconscious processes affect the outcome of human interactions. Authors’ findings suggest that, among black patients and nonblack doctors, unconscious processes were operating to overcome possible cultural and racial barriers and, thus, help create greater nonverbal synchrony. These motivations may have been absent in racially concordant interactions between black physicians and black patients.

There is evidence that people with higher levels of implicit racial bias may work harder to control it during interracial interactions.

On the other hand, it appears that black patients who had experienced higher levels of prior discrimination were more verbally active when communicating with their white or nonblack physicians, which may suggest that black patients may use verbal and nonverbal strategies, consciously and unconsciously, to be more in control of the medical interaction.

Ideally, racial discordance or concordance would not affect the quality of communication in oncology interactions. The reality is, however, quite different. The authors concluded that there are differences in nonverbal communication that are almost certainly beyond conscious control.

An important idea to keep in mind for future studies is that one should study whether the differences found in nonverbal synchrony in racially discordant and concordant interactions replicate in other types of medical interactions. If they do, then why these differences in Healthcare occur and how to combat them should be investigated. 

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 “Nonverbal synchrony in subjects with hearing impairment and their significant others”, by Völter, C.; Oberländer, K.; Mertens, S. and Ramseyer, F. T. (2022), in which authors carry out a study to know which is the level of nonverbal synchrony between people with hearing problems and their partners, or, in general, their loved ones.

Hearing impairment is the third most common chronic disease and has numerous effects on physical, mental and social health, causing a decrease in quality of life in up to 49% of those affected.

Effective communication, which is crucial for social interaction, is very difficult for people with hearing impairment (hereafter referred to as PHI), and can lead to frustration and resentment, which in turn can affect the quality of social interaction.

The problems are numerous and include misunderstandings in communication in general and, more specifically, changes in the frequency and/or type of communication. Conversations are often hampered by loss of spontaneity and difficulty in sharing unexpected small observations in everyday interactions, which has a strong impact on marital relationships, for example. 

It seems that, regarding the communicative relationship between PHIs and their partners, there are three specific risk factors: first, relationship satisfaction; then, the age difference between the couples; and finally, the perception of typically hearing partners about the disability of the other

Because of this, research is trying to propose specific interventions to help PHIs and their significant others to implement more effective coping strategies in their relationships, since interpersonal synchrony is fundamental for human beings, among other things, to constitute social connections and feelings of understanding.

These processes are essential for our development in the social world; in fact, one of the benefits of nonverbal synchrony is that it works as a kind of “social glue” that strengthens the connection between people. And it is important to note that this nonverbal coordination generally occurs in the absence of conscious control. 

In the last decade, nonverbal synchrony has received increasing attention from different areas. For example, from psychotherapy. Nonverbal synchrony provides valuable information about the patient-therapist relationship and their engagement with the sessions. 

Authors mention that an objective method to measure synchrony is motion energy analysis (MEA). Through a certain software, the amounts of pixels changing in the frames are summed and simple approximations of the motion are extracted. 

Until now, the synchrony of nonverbal communication between PHIs and their loved ones has rarely been the focus of research, being related, moreover, to aural rehabilitation. 

One observation obtained a few years ago, in a 2005 study, indicated that if a person perceived their partner’s hearing loss to be low, the relationship was significantly better, with the opposite occurring if the person perceived the impairment to be greater.

In general terms, understanding the etiology of the problem and being able to express emotions and have some nonverbal synchrony seems to be essential for good interpersonal relationships. 

For this research, the authors gathered a total of 39 hearing impaired adults and their significant others. The couples were asked to talk, during 10 minutes and being recorded, about an imaginary party they were going to organize together. 

The results yielded interesting findings. For example, it appears that couples formed between a hearing impaired person and a person with typical hearing ability possess a nonverbal synchrony comparable to the nonverbal synchrony between two people without hearing impairment, and is higher than that generally reported in psychotherapy sessions.

For the data on healthy people and psychotherapy sessions, several studies noted in the original article, from 2011, 2014, and 2021, were taken as references.

The authors’ interpretation, considering this finding, is that many hearing-impaired people have been able to experience a withdrawal from certain social activities and therefore, their social efforts have been able to be devoted more to strengthening their close relationships. 

In addition, it is interesting to note that in heterosexual couples in which the hearing-impaired person is a man, the one who took the communicative leadership position was the female partner. This may reflect that the impact of hearing impairment is greater in these couples.

Another interesting fact is that in couples with a small age difference there is an even greater synchrony. 

Authors point out that more effort and resources are needed to investigate how the communication skills, both verbal and nonverbal, of hearing impaired people can be improved so that they can enjoy a quality of life similar to those with typical hearing ability.

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 “Prediction of Communication Effectiveness During Media Skills Training Using Commercial Automatic Non-Verbal Recognition Systems”, by Pereira, M.; Meng, H. and Hone, K. (2022), in which authors carry out a study with commercial technology to know whether with it, nonverbal useful cues to media speeches can be detected. 

Being able to communicate effectively in media interviews is important in a multitude of job roles. In fact, huge investments are made to improve people’s communication skills so that they show themselves positively.

This does not surprise us, since for some years it has been known that verbal communication represents a small percentage of social communication, where non-verbal signals are especially important.

Therefore, it is important that accurate and objective observations of nonverbal cues be incorporated into the evaluation of people’s performance in media interviews, and in interventions to improve the skills of these people so it’s easier for them to succeed. However, the current tools for this are more limited than it seems.

Previous research about nonverbal communication was based solely on careful observation and analysis of video recordings. The problem is that this method is likely to be subjective and time consuming.

In this article, authors propose the alternative of using commercial technologies available to practically any user, to perform a faster and more objective measurement of non-verbal elements.

But, before getting to this point, they do a little review of the most basic aspects of non-verbal language.

For example, they mention that non-verbal language fulfills an important function from an evolutionary point of view, showing emotions and, thereby, benefiting both the senders and receivers of the message in social relationships.

They also explain the channels that exist: facial expressions, prosody (vocal behavior), gestures, postures…

They also mention the existence of Ekman and his investigations, such as the FACS facial coding system, which we have already explained several times.

Within prosody, they talk about the importance of non-linguistic and linguistic vocalizations, as well as the quality of the voice or silence. For example, intonation can change a message so that it is ironic or sarcastic.

Gestures are often used to regulate interactions, changing arm movements, leg movements, postures, all to show emotion.

In addition, it is known that the communication between two interlocutors depends on its objective and the context. For example, the most important nonverbal cue identified in a job interview is smiling more, while in the classroom, the most important nonverbal cues are voice quality and gestural activity.

Recommendations for media interviews are made in some manuals. For example, lack of eye contact, fast rate of speech, monotonous voice, negatively influences how the person is perceived by the audience. On the contrary, it is recommended to imitate the interviewer’s movements, maintain eye contact and smile.

What happens is that, if software is used to analyze this, it is expensive and difficult to access it. That is why authors mention the usefulness of accessible and commercial programs such as Emotients FACET, Affectiva or Microsoft Kinect.

The objectives of this work are two. On the one hand, to investigate which combination of non-verbal cues are important in a media interview during media interviews and, on the other hand, to present a possible more objective method of capturing social cues during media interviews.

Interviews of 39 participants were recorded and used for the research. In the first session, 17 were recorded and in another one, 22.

The results suggest that body position, facial expressions, vocal cues, and hand gestures are, as we already assumed, relevant to the context of media interviews.

It seems that people who are apparently relaxed and calm are considered to project more honesty and comfort.

The results on facial expressions suggested that those who showed more anger and disgust were classified as better communicators. This may be because the lowering of the forehead and eyebrows can often be understood as concentration, suggesting that the subjects are listening and reflecting.

The study shows that the commercial technology used, detailed in the article, can be used successfully for the measurement of nonverbal signals from different channels, which can be used to help trainers by providing them with an easier mechanism to provide a students objective feedback on their training.

It may also be relevant to social psychology researchers, who need high-quality evaluations of media interviews.

If you want to know more about nonverbal behavior and how it influences our personal relationships, visit our Nonverbal Communication Certificate, a 100% online program certificated by the Heritage University (Washington) with special discounts for readers of the Nonverbal Communication Blog.

Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper “Online communication and body language” by Paradisi, P.; Raglianti, M. and Sebastiani, L. (2021), in which authors comment some hypotheses about the changes that online communication is bringing on to nonverbal communication.

The progress of digital technologies is having a deep impact on interpersonal communication.

The emergence of Covid-19 brought to light the need to further exploit digital technologies online to transfer interpersonal relationships to this context. Due to the need for physical isolation, we were also forced to adapt through a very fast process.

Therefore, the natural modality of face-to-face interaction today is often replaced by interactions through online communication platforms.

In fact, these types of platforms are now used much more routinely for meetings, courses, etc., all of them in different contexts: work environments, educational ones, and in general for any activity that involves social interaction.

Even older people, who previously were only marginal users of these technologies, were forced to use them as their only opportunity to maintain social contact with those close to them.

This new way of communication has brought about a great improvement in the possibilities of social interaction by overcoming the limitations of time and space. However, this have also modified the rules of communication, for example, those related to proxemics.

How is this? When we communicate through online video platforms, the distance that separates the image from the screen and the real interlocutor is a few tens of centimeters, which is less than the distance between the people involved in a face-to-face conversation.

Such closeness would presuppose an intimacy between people that does not really exist and a mutual predisposition to the potential use of the tactile channel (handshake, hug, etc.).

The problems noted suggest that online communication changes are complex and should be studied.

The body language is crucial both in nonverbal communication based on emotions, and in social interactions based on cognition. Therefore, it is foreseeable that the extensive use of online technologies may have important effects on cognitive processes, not only those related to educational activities, but also those related to emotional relationships in social life.

An example proposed by authors is “dance therapy.” In this therapy, body movements are used to promote personal and social well-being. The social component through bodily interaction plays a crucial role in this type of therapy: it is played with distances, perspectives, and reciprocity, creating a communicative context where movement takes place.

Studies that have previously been carried out, have shown that online meditation is compatible with the idea of ​​working with oneself, but this does not happen regarding interactions with other members of the group.

Authors suggest that the “human touch” plays a crucial role in establishing a sense of closeness between people, in addition, it facilitates affiliative behavior and social bonding. In fact, previous studies have shown a close relationship between a pleasant social touch and the release of oxytocin (modulator of social behavior and emotions).

The sense of smell is also involved in human nonverbal social communication; in fact, through it, we may inadvertently transmit personal information. And this sense would also be impaired by online communication.

Therefore, authors conclude that smell and touch are absent in online social interactions, visual stimuli are limited to 2d perception, while auditory stimuli are practically no different; there are changes in the relationship between perceived distances and knowledge, and there are no direct bodily interactions.

When people are online, those who interact cannot retrieve most of the relevant characteristics of the environment and the bodily behavior of others, adapting theirs accordingly.

These changes can undermine the emotional and empathic aspects of interpersonal communication.

A better understanding of these aspects might require a partial revision of the classical theories of communication, to consider the new modalities introduced by online interactions.

An open question, which authors consider for further investigation, is the quantification of perceived virtual distances in online interactions.

Although it seems that only negative points are observed, authors encourage us to approach the matter differently. We should not think about what we lose, but what lies ahead and what is new in this unexplored context.

Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper “Nonverbal Auditory Cues Allow Relationship Quality to be Inferred During Conversations”, by Dunbar, R. I. M.; Robledo, J. P.; Tamarit, I.; Cross, I. and Smith, E. (2021), in which authors wonder whether it is possible to infer through auditory nonverbal cues the quality of the relationship between the people who talk and how.

Language is undoubtedly one of the most important evolutionary developments achieved by humans. Apart from its obviously central role in enriching culture, it is also invaluable as a medium through which we transmit information, negotiate cooperation, or convey emotions.

For some years now, there has been a growing interest in studying which aspects of communication are most important, whether the verbal or the nonverbal.

The first investigations affirmed that the nonverbal elements predominated. Mehrabian was one of the experts who affirmed this idea, saying that, at least regarding the communication of affections, more than 90% of the conversation was transmitted by nonverbal signals, such as intonation, volume or facial expressions.

Although there are many other experts who deny this version, no one doubts that nonverbal signals provide a great deal of information during verbal exchanges. In fact, they are what allow us to infer the meaning of a sentence.

This also has something to do with Mehrabian and his famous claim that only 7% of the meaning of any sentence is found in its verbal component.

On the other hand, other experts found, after conducting their experiments, that both audio and visual channels independently report characteristics such as social dominance or reliability.

Authors point out that the criticism that previous studies on the subject have received the most is that they have focused on the transfer of information of a very low level, such as the recognition of emotional states. Simply recognizing the expression of an emotion, or an affective disposition, is not comparable with, for example, recognizing the degree of rapport between two individuals who are having a conversation.

A recent attempt to overcome this challenge found that listening to a short clip of two people laughing together was enough to allow the listener to predict whether the couple was in a friendly relationship or, on the contrary, were strangers, with an accuracy between 53-67%, in 24 different cultures.

Although this is just above the level of luck, the results suggest that it may be possible to infer some information about the quality of social interaction from just nonverbal cues.

Authors’ study differs from the others in that it uses natural recordings of real situations in which two or more people interact. Previous studies focused on how we interpret emotional information with the intervention of a single speaker.

The fact that natural conversations are used, ensures that the stimuli are ecologically valid and do not include prosodic exaggerations such as those introduced by actors in laboratory studies.

On the other hand, while most previous studies have focused on the emotional cues of expressions, authors focus on interpreting the quality of the relationship.

The objective of the study, therefore, is to evaluate to what extent semantic and prosodic information is required for listeners to identify the quality of the relationship between speakers.

Participants listened to three different versions of the same audio clip: the original clip, with all prosodic and verbal cues preserved; a version in which the prosodic clues were preserved but the verbal content was removed; and a version in which the audio stream was converted solely to tones and rhythm.

It involved 199 native English speakers and 139 native Spanish speakers to determine if familiarity with the language had any effect.

Authors made three predictions: if verbal content is essential, they expected performance to be above luck when participants listened to the full audio; whereas if nonverbal cues play such an important role, performance will be above luck even when verbal content is degraded.

On the other hand, if verbal content is crucial, authors expected that participants would perform better when listening to their own language, with which they are more familiar.

By classifying the clips, participants could choose between friendly situations, such as: free agreement, difference of opinion with respect (where the speakers still want to maintain a good relationship), phatic communion (the speakers are not concerned with the topic of conversation, but simply spend time together) and friendly provocation/jokes.

They could also choose between unfriendly interactions, such as enforced agreements, disagreements without regard, malicious gossip, or aggressive provocation.

The first of the results surprised the authors, as it did not agree with their predictions: there were no significant differences in the performance of Spanish and English speakers when listening to their own language and the other.

The lowest rates of correct responses were obtained by clips that effectively corresponded to enforced agreements and malicious gossip. This may be because a broader range of signals is needed to clarify the meaning of the interaction in these cases.

There was also a tendency to misclassify friendly provocation/jokes as free arrangements, and vice versa, which seems like a reasonable alternative.

In the delexicalized clips, participants were 80% correct when it came to classifying them as belonging to positive or negative interactions (that is, they made a binary decision).

The overall results confirmed that nonverbal cues from conversational exchanges alone provide significant information about the quality of the relationship between those who interact.

This study is interesting because, among other things, it can have many implications for understanding messages online, where we have fewer verbal and non-verbal channels available, depending on the interaction.

Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper “The Impact of Poor Nonverbal Social Perception on Functional Capacity in Schizophrenia”, by Chapellier, V.; Palivdou, A.; Maderthaner, L.; von Känel, S. and Walther, S. (2022), in which authors carry out a study with people with schizophrenia to know if their ability to recognize nonverbal cues is the same as that of people who do not live with the disease.

Schizophrenia is a severe psychiatric disorder, affecting almost 1% of the world’s population. It is characterized by delusions, hallucinations and, in general, negative symptoms that impair social cognition. 

Generally, by social cognition we mean the psychological processes that allow us to decode the behaviors and intentions of others. Moreover, its impairment is not only frequent in patients with schizophrenia, but also in patients with psychosis. 

Social cognitive deficits are assumed to be a stable trait that precedes and thus helps predict the onset of schizophrenia. And furthermore, it informs on the relapse frequency of patients. 

Therefore, these deficiencies play a key role, not only in the development of the disorder but also in the functional outcome of patients. 

Nonverbal social perception, which is the ability to decode relevant, nonverbal interpersonal cues, appears to be impaired in patients with schizophrenia, according to several studies from some years ago (reference to these can be found in the original article). 

The correct interpretation of, for example, facial expressions and body movements, greatly limits the communication of patients with schizophrenia: they have a greater tendency to perceive ambiguous gestures and direct gaze as self-referential or even threatening. 

Despite attempts to understand these social cognitive deficits in people with schizophrenia, the role of nonverbal social perception remains poorly understood. 

A 2002 study mentions that impaired nonverbal social perception is related to symptoms of disorganization, which, in turn, could be associated with schizophrenia.

In addition, deficits in nonverbal social perception have been associated in some studies with poor functional outcome, and this in turn is related to poor adaptive skills relevant in the real world for people’s daily functioning. 

The aim of this study was to determine whether patients with schizophrenia are more successful performing nonverbal cue recognition tasks, in addition to briefly exploring the above ideas. 

To do so, they gathered 41 clinical patients suffering from schizophrenia and 30 people without the disease to act as a control group. Data were collected between December 2019 and June 2021. 

Nonverbal social perception was assessed using sound videos and psychologically valid scales with subscales to obtain information about accuracy in interpreting facial expressions, emotional prosody, and body movements. 

Authors obtained data that allowed them to confirm that patients with schizophrenia do, indeed, have worse accuracy in nonverbal social perception compared to the control group. 

Most interestingly, their performance worsens markedly when it comes to recognizing prosodic cues. Regarding other channels of nonverbal expression, the differences were not very marked. 

Moreover, as authors expected, impaired nonverbal social perception was associated with limited functional ability. This has repercussions in, for example, poor self-care skills, few activities in general or impaired work skills. 

Thus, the difficulty in decoding nonverbal cues in patients with schizophrenia is key to their ability to function normally in daily life. 

Authors propose that future studies should attempt to determine if there is any type of intervention that will alive these nonverbal perception deficits. This is tremendously important for improving the social and community functioning of people living with schizophrenia, as well as helping them to have an overall higher quality of life, similar to those who are fortunate enough not to have schizophrenia. 

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 “Looking guilty: Handcuffing suspects influences judgements of deception”, by Zloteanu, M.; Salman, N. L.; Krumhuber, E. G. and Richardson, D. C. (2022), in which authors carry out a study with police officers and civilian citizens to know how does the fact that suspects are handcuffed or not to the interviewers’ judgment.

Detecting deception may be crucial in forensic investigation contexts, where the judge’s and/or jury’s decision may depend on the credibility of victim, witness or suspect’s testimony. 

However, truthfulness trials are a major challenge, especially for those whose decision is the one that will condemn or acquit a defendant. 

As we have discussed several times before, people tend to be bad at detecting lies. Our judgment is biased toward overestimating the honesty of others and relying too much on ourselves. 

Given the enormous importance of these judgments in the legal context, it is vital to examine the role of situational factors in this process. 

For this reason, authors decided to use an experimental scenario in which they simulated a real interrogation. They handcuffed some people who were to play the role of suspects, and examined how this might affect the truthfulness judgments of those who had to decide whether the suspect was lying or not.

Before explaining the study and the conclusions, the authors give a brief review of the existing literature. 

The reality is that those who make these truthfulness judgments (hereafter we will call them “judges”) do so with poor quality. This is something that has been attributed, in part, to the lack of reliable behavioral cues that differentiate liars from truth-tellers. 

For example, people believe that liars touch themselves more, move more, tend to look away, and are generally anxious and nervous. However, these beliefs rarely match reality. 

In fact, one of the reasons the authors chose this topic for their study was that, according to studies from 2006, 2007 and 2004, liars tend to make fewer hand and finger movements and use fewer illustrative gestures compared to those who tell the truth. Therefore, the idea of restricting the movements of “suspects” in this study may have an impact on the discriminability of liars and truth-tellers. 

That is, in this case, the reality contrasted by different studies is contrary to popular belief.

On the other hand, the literature on deception detection has largely overlooked the impact of situational factors (external elements that influence the process) on liars and truth-tellers. That is, the situation in which they find themselves can affect their behavior. 

For example, manipulating people’s clothing can affect the judges’ empathy for the suspect. And wearing glasses can increase the judge’s perception of the suspect’s intelligence, honesty, and trustworthiness.

Authors decided to include police officers in this study because research with police professionals is often scarce in the field of deception detection. 

The available data suggest that police officers show similar performance to other citizens regarding this matter. This may be due to police officers relying on signals to determine deception that are not entirely correct. 

In the study at hand, a number of 83 people were obtained who would take the role of “judges”; of these, 23 were police officers. The suspects were 19 persons, who were randomly distributed into two groups: handcuffed and uncuffed persons. 

Prior to interrogation, the suspects completed four items from a questionnaire used to measure individual differences in Machiavellianism. Subsequently, two of these four responses were modified so that the suspect had two honest and two dishonest responses.

Afterwards, they were allowed to read the modified responses and were instructed to justify them to the interviewer when the time came. 

As expected by the authors, it appears that the handcuff manipulation affected both police officers and those who were civilian citizens. Statements made by handcuffed suspects were more difficult to classify for both groups. That is, the probability that a handcuffed suspect would be misclassified in terms of the truthfulness of his or her statement was nearly 65%.

One result that the authors found troubling was that police officers showed greater confidence in their decisions without being more accurate than the civilian citizen group.

Overall, both police and non-police officers performed worse on their task when the suspect was handcuffed, supporting the authors’ assertions that situational factors can negatively affect.

That is, the results illustrate that situational elements can affect people’s perception and judgment. Reducing the impact of these factors could improve forensic practices and, more importantly, deception detection procedures, while reducing the risk of potential miscarriages of justice. 

Authors recommend that future research along these lines should be devoted to studying in more depth how exactly it affects whether or not the suspect is handcuffed when it comes to making truthfulness judgments. They also note as very interesting a focus on the suspect’s ability to gesticulate.

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 “Intentional-Deception Detection Based on Facial Muscle Movements in an Interactive Social Context”, by Dong, Z.; Wang, G.; Lu, S.; Dai, L.; Huang, S. and Liu, Y. (2022), in which authors carry out a study using the facial electromyography technique to study the facial muscles that may be associated with deception.

Deception detection has been a social topic of interest throughout human history, in which facial expressions have played a key role. 

The face can be used as a clue to interpret the mental activity of a person and, therefore, it may be useful to know if we are facing an honest speech or not. 

We have already mentioned that there are two types of facial expressions, depending on their duration: macroexpressions and microexpressions. Macroexpressions are more frequent, last longer and are, therefore, easier to control and suppress. Microexpressions, on the other hand, are brief, subtle and more discreet. They are born from a failed attempt to hide or suppress emotions. Thus, they are believed to be the most reliable clues for detecting lies and dishonesty. Ekman argued, on this subject, that uncontrollable and quick muscle movements in the forehead area could be important clues to detect lies.

One of the techniques with the highest success rate for the study of microexpressions and their relationship with lying is the analysis of facial expressions on video. However, in this type of analysis an algorithm is needed to classify expressions, for instance, using facial action units (AUs), making manual annotation somewhat necessary. 

The truth is that the accuracy of humans in deception detection does not usually exceed randomness, based on previous research, reaching just over 50% accuracy. But what happens if we use computerized means? According to experts, accuracy would increase to approximately 70%. 

These computerized means, such as the polygraph, normally focus on analyzing physiological responses like facial temperature, pulse, heart rate, blood pressure… It is understood that the liar will suffer moments of emotional stress because he/her will be frightened, nervous and anxious when lying, and that is precisely what these indicators relate to.  

The problem is that innocent people who tell the truth may also be frightened and nervous in a situation where their honesty is being judged. Therefore, this method is not completely reliable. 

Other lie detection studies have relied on brain imaging techniques, such as electroencephalography, and have had very positive results. However, this method requires the use of inaccessible sensors and machinery. 

In recent years, facial electromyography has been proposed as a method to investigate facial muscle movements and their association with lying. It has had positive results, although its usefulness in this field needs to be further explored. 

This is precisely the method of analysis tested by the authors of the article, who carried out an experiment with 22 volunteers who were divided into pairs.

The activity consisted of a role-play: one of the two people would be the informant and the other would be the detective. The detective would ask a series of simple autobiographical questions, and others more extensive about personal preferences. In a second stage of the experiment, the roles were exchanged and finally, in a third stage, the subjects tried to recognize who was lying and when. While this was going on, the participants underwent facial electromyography. 

Authors obtained several interesting insights. First, it looks like humans tend to use the zygomatic muscle for expressions associated with positive emotions and to hide emotions while lying

On the other hand, the corrugator muscle was associated with expressions related to negative emotions (for example, frowning). 

Besides, most interestingly, it seems that those who lied in this experiment had a higher activity of the zygomatic muscle.

Therefore, since this muscle is associated with expressions of positive emotions, the authors infer that the liars may be experiencing some joy due to having succeeded in their lie. 

One idea that would support this proposal of the authors is the Duchenne smile, which, with zygomatic muscle activation, is an indicator of happy emotions. 

Both the zygomatic muscle and the corrugator muscle are located in the upper facial area and the muscles in this area are subject to less volitional control by the motor cortex that is responsible for their movement. As a result, some researchers believe that when people lie, their upper facial muscles filter out emotions more easily. This idea would be supported by the results of the authors’ experiment, which, while inviting further research on the subject, yield revealing information that should be taken into account. 

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 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.

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