Paula Atienza


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. 

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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.

Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper “Perception of emergent leaders’ faces and evolution of social cheating: cross-cultural experiments” by Rostovsteva, V. V.; Mezentseva, A. A. and Butovskaya, M. L. (2022), in which authors carry out a study to know whether the appearance of the face is a source of real information about people’s leadership skills. 

From an evolutionary point of view, it is assumed that leaders will be the ones who must act in the interest of the group and facilitate coordination among group members to achieve the common good. 

Some empirical studies suggest that deception can also occur in the context of human leadership, which, in turn, is closely related to the specific personality traits of each leader. 

For example, people who score high in Machiavellianism in personality tests are usually perceived by others as charismatic and good leaders, and tend to occupy top management positions, especially in companies with a short track record. On the contrary, in the long term, these leaders have a detrimental effect on the careers and well-being of their followers. 

In an earlier study by the same authors, where a game (based on the Public Goods Game, or iPGG) was used in which three types of leadership were revealed: first, those non-leaders; then, those with prosocial leadership; finally, those identified as leader-cheaters

The analysis of this study revealed that each of these behaviors had a set of distinctive personality, communication and cooperation characteristics. Both prosocial and cheater-leaders were equally followed by other group members, in 88% of the cases, indicating the existence of successful communicative strategies for both types of leaders, even the cheaters, which probably allowed them to generate a sense of trust in others, despite actual deceptive intentions. This study prior to the one at hand was conducted with young Buryats from southern Siberia, a group of traditional herders of Mongolian origin. 

The present study was designed to extend previous findings. The authors posed several questions, such as: do the neutral faces of the individuals have common characteristics that define them in one group or another, if so what physical and behavioral traits are attributed to each group, among others. 

It was hypothesized that observers could differentiate leadership potential and leadership styles by certain physical and behavioral characteristics based on static facial information alone, and, on the other hand, the authors expected that leaders’ faces would be perceived as more masculine, stronger, dominant, and healthy compared to others. 

In this study, prototype photographs were constructed from the faces of the participants in the first study. Specifically, a portrait of the non-leader, a portrait of the prosocial leader and a portrait of the leader-cheater were obtained by mixing the faces of all the participants in each group. We recall that these young people belonged to a particular ethnic group.

Then, a total of 104 young people were gathered, some of them were Russians and others were also part of the Buryat community in southern Siberia.

They divided the participants into groups. Each of the individuals in the groups had 20 tokens and among all the members they would have a common pool, which they would lose or gain depending on their opinions regarding the photographs obtained from the first study: they had to negotiate what it conveyed to them and why, and reach a consensus. 

The results showed that living in a mixed-race social environment did not affect portrait judgments, as Russians did not differ from Buryats in portrait ratings or in the consistency of their judgments. 

It appears that the characteristics that distinguish leader-cheaters and prosocial leaders are the shape of the eyes, lips, jaw, and eyebrows. Cheater-leaders have larger and rounder eyes, fuller lips, rounder jaw and more prominent eyebrows. 

The study opens new perspectives for future research, calling for investigation of particular facial structures that may distinguish individuals with different leadership qualities. Authors recommend further study on the subject for even more conclusive insights.

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Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper “Does attention to one’s own emotion relate to the emotional interpretation of other people’s faces?”, by Munin, S. and Beer, J. S. (2022), in which authors carry out a couple of studies to know whether, as it seems logical, a positive association exists between giving attention to our own emotions and correctly inferring other’s emotions judging by their facial expressions.

Because of the interest in nonverbal communication in recent years, some experts have asked an apparently logical question: does people’s tendency to pay attention to their own emotions predict their ability to correctly perceive the emotions of others? 

Research has shown that, from childhood through adulthood, people tend to watch the expressions on the faces of others for clues about how they may be feeling, but there are few studies that focus on whether a relationship as described above exists. 

Although no research has directly examined attention to one’s own emotions in relation to the perception of others’, it is possible to extrapolate hypotheses from previous research on individual differences in attention to emotions and how this is associated with categorization, also of emotions. 

One of these is the possibility that individuals with greater attention to emotion have a greater ability to differentiate perceived facial expressions in others and may indicate the intensity or authenticity of those expressions. This is the idea we mentioned above, since it is the one that comes to mind when we think about the subject, but is it true?

What we know is that people with greater attention to emotions more often control their own emotions, are more likely to be driven by them, and also have a greater tendency to use their moods as a basis for making decisions. 

However, it is not so simple when it comes to other people’s emotions, a topic on which more research is needed. 

With the existing articles and publications, some hypotheses can be developed. First, it appears that individuals who pay more attention to emotions would show a greater ability to differentiate cues that report emotional intensity and authenticity. Second, they also appear to be able to more accurately label another person’s emotions. Finally, there is other research claiming that these people may overestimate the authenticity of the emotions they see in the faces of others. 

To clarify these issues, the authors decided to conduct two studies. The first study examined whether individual differences in attention to emotions are significantly related to perceptions of the intensity and authenticity of emotions in other people. 

A total of 256 people participated. In the experiment, they viewed 48 images of randomly presented facial expressions with the emotions of anger, happiness or sadness, and rated their emotional intensity. On the other hand, they saw 10 randomly presented pictures of smiles, 5 of them were “Duchenne smiles”, and subjects had to rate the authenticity of all of them. 

The second study was very similar to the first one. It had 254 participants, who completed an online survey with emotional intensity tasks, related tests, demographic questions, among others. 

The observed results were not consistent with the hypotheses suggested by previous research. In study 1, it was found that the ability to pay attention to one’s own emotions did not significantly moderate the ability to perceive others’ emotional intensity or authenticity.

Furthermore, perceptions of emotions from other people’s faces are not always accurate, and perceivers often make biased interpretations. 

Future research may investigate situations in which the facial behavior of others is very brief, or also take into account these biases that may appear when interpreting facial expressions and identifying them. 

As future research broadens its focus and pays attention to how individual differences in attention to emotion may shape the interpretation of facial movements, it may also consider new hypotheses and, with them, lead, in turn, to other relevant and important research. 

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