Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper “In the name of love: can nonverbal communication serve as a predictor of Acceptance and Rejection of Potential Partners?”, by van den Eijnden, L.; van Telgen, T.; van Viersen, J. and Visser, T. (2022), in which authors carry out a couple of studies to know whether nonverbal communication in general and facial expression in particular, may help us predict if a potential romantic or sexual partner will reject us or not.

For many years, researchers have agreed that nonverbal communication plays a very important role in the process of sending and receiving messages by conveying relevant information that goes beyond words. 

Authors’ research focuses specifically on couples, because verbal communication is considered to be a fundamental factor in the transmission of messages and, therefore, of people’s emotions. Since love is based on emotions rather than rationality, it is reasonable to say that nonverbal communication may be especially relevant to love. 

Therefore, authors ask: to what extent does nonverbal communication serve as a predictor in choosing our partner?

To investigate this issue, authors use a Dutch television program, where a group of male farmers are looking for love and go on dates with different female candidates. The current research considers the facial expression that the man who is going to decide, shows before verbalizing his decision. 

Facial expressions are often the means through which many emotions are inferred. People tend to associate certain facial movements with certain emotions and, therefore, it is possible that the nonverbal signals shown on the face of the decision-maker may reveal his response.

One hypothesis of the authors is that, by observing the farmer, it is possible to predict the decision he is going to make before he communicates it.

On the other hand, it is important to find out which are the elements that make us deduce that the farmer will make one decision or another. In other words, which movements tip the balance towards rejection or acceptance. Authors consider four: 1) raising the eyebrows, 2) smiling, 3) nodding and 4) shaking the head. 

Raising the eyebrows has often been associated with sadness and anger, even surprise or fear, depending on the movement. 

Smiling, on the other hand, can express happiness, but there are many types of smiles, such as false, or sad.

Nodding and shaking the head are also important because they can convey agreement and attention or disagreement, reluctance, even anger….

Therefore, authors predict that these elements will be important predictors of acceptance or rejection of the potential partner. 

A total of 40 clips were analyzed where some of the male farmers featured in the program just before rejecting their female candidates.

Unlike expectations, the results did not show support for the idea that we can predict whether the farmer will reject or accept a female candidate. There was also no support for the expectation that facial cues play a role in predicting rejection or acceptance. 

One possible explanation is that visual cues are often subjective. For example, a smile may indicate that someone is happy, but sometimes it can also signal shyness or cynicism. Raising eyebrows can indicate multiple emotions, such as astonishment or concern, which makes it difficult to judge people’s emotional state. 

Therefore, it is especially important to take into account the context and other nonverbal communication channels, as one alone provides us with scarce and unreliable information. 

Authors suggest investigating with more participants in future studies, as well as classifying the videos: on the one hand, those in which the candidate accepts someone, on the other hand, those in which he or she rejects the person. In this way, facial expressions can be contrasted with each other. 

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.


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