nonverbal communication


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 “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 “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 “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.

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 “Robot lecture for enhancing presentation in lecture” by Ishino, T.; Goto, M. y Kashihara, A. (2022), in which authors carry out an experiment to know whether the use of robots with specialized skills in nonverbal communication is positive and beneficial for the learning process of students in class.

For some years now, the use of robots, especially small ones, has been spreading in various contexts such as care, nursing, education, guidance, hospitality… and moreover, people’s interest in implementing robots in some of these areas is growing exponentially, especially in education. 

In this article, authors focus on the use of communication robots to give lectures or short lessons in small classes. 

In a lecture, it is generally very important to present the contents with slides to support the oral presentation, so that a better and easier understanding by the students is achieved. This requires teachers to control the students’ attention, both to the slides and to the oral presentation, and this must be done by means of many non-verbal elements: the eyes, gestures, paralanguage, etcetera. 

For example, if teachers want to draw students’ attention to an important point on a particular slide, they should turn their face towards the presentation and point with a direct gesture simultaneously

On the other hand, nonverbal behavior that is histrionic, excessive, unnecessary, would prevent students from keeping their attention on understanding the content. Consequently, it is essential for teachers or lecture speakers to have some training in nonverbal communication. 

However, even for experienced communicators, it is not so easy to make proper use of the learned tools of nonverbal communication and maintain it throughout the lecture. And if we bear in mind that there are also inexperienced people who do not know the effective techniques in this type of situation, the matter becomes more complex. 

Those with less experience tend to concentrate more on oral explanation and leave aside non-verbal communication. As a result, the learning process for students will be more difficult. 

The authors propose the use of robots to give lectures, replacing human teachers. The aim in the experiment was to reproduce nonverbal behavior as adequate as possible for the students to pay attention to the most important contents of the lecture. 

The robot reproduced the presentation that was part of the supporting material of the lecture or class, and directed its face and gestures accordingly. 

The study compares the effectiveness of human-delivered and robot-delivered lectures in terms of student learning. 

The participants were 36 university students. Three different video lectures lasting 5-6 minutes were prepared. 

The obtained results reported that the robots had difficulties in performing accurate speaker behavior, due to their obvious limitations (they are not human beings), but their behavior was recognizable. 

In the case of a pointing gesture, performed by human teachers, it is required to point to precise locations. If it is imprecise, it can lead to confusion on the part of the students, and they will lose attention. The pointing gesture by a robot tends to be firmer, so students would pay immediate attention in the direction pointed. 

However, to make up for the possible shortcomings of robots in terms of gestures, the authors propose using laser pointers or visual effects on the slides.

As a point that also needs to be improved, the authors mention that the robot needs to recognize the learning and behavioral states in the classroom on the part of the students. For example, if there are people who feel that the lecture is difficult, the robot will have to present a different nonverbal behavior that helps to change this perception. 

The results are positive in terms of attention when it comes to lectures given by the robot, possibly because of the novelty factor, although it is also mentioned that they are short lectures and this can be a point in favor. For this reason, the authors propose the use of hybrid models where robots make the introductions to certain topics and human teachers explain the complex parts or those that require a less “technological” factor. 

In the future, authors intend to learn more about the applications of robots in the field of education. In the meantime, they invite other researchers to investigate the subject, in order to include more and more of this type of technology in our lives. 

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 “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.

Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper “Detecting deception using comparable truth baselines” by Bogaard, G.; Meijer, E. H.; Vrij, A. and Nahari, G. (2022), in which authors carry out a couple of experiments to know how the use of true base lines affects deception detection. 

We have already seen on several occasions throughout the different messages how the human capacity to detect lies is quite poor. Both the skill of laymen and the skill of professionals do not usually exceed the levels of luck.

Among the possible reasons that would explain the deficiency of these skills is the idea that people pay too much attention to behavioral signals, such as aversion to gaze and body movements. The reality is that there is not as much relationship as it is believed between these signs and deception.

Research has also shown that, in order to improve truth-lie detection accuracy, the observers should focus primarily on the content of people’s statements, as this has shown to be a more promising technique.

However, even verbal lie detection tools have a significant error rate, and one potential source of this error rate is individual differences in the verbal behavior of the liar; as meta-analytic research has shown.

That is, whether observers are able to detect a lie depends largely on the qualities of someone’s lying skills.

For example, fantasy-prone people are better at formulating believable lies, and people with verbal skills get away with it more often because they tend to include more detail in their false stories.

This is consistent with the finding that good liars report that they rely heavily on verbal strategies when lying.

One way to include the individual and verbal differences of liars in a lie detection procedure is through the baseline. That is, using a statement that is known to be true, or part of a statement that is also true, to compare between it and the lie.

The idea is that people are telling the truth during small talks, and any difference in behavior between this and the part of the interview that deals with the important issue being investigated is taken as a signal to pay attention to. attention and as a possible indicator of deception.

The problem is that this comparison is confusing. The topics covered in small talk are different from the ones being researched, and depending on the topic and personal relevance, people may respond differently. In addition, what is at stake contrasts substantially.

For this reason, there is the so-called “comparable truth baseline” (CTB). This baseline is used to be considered comparable to the research topic.

Previous studies have thrown up the idea that liars whose lies are accompanied by truth include more details. That is, good liars calibrate their deceptive responses against truthful information. Therefore, two contradictory ideas appear. On the one hand, if liars calibrate the amount of detail they report in their lie based on a previous truthful response, a CTB could decrease the discriminability between the lie and the truth. However, if the liars cannot gauge their responses, the use of a CTB has the potential to improve the discrimination between lying and truth.

That is why, in two different experiments, two aspects are investigated: first, if providing a CTB influences the detail of a subsequent statement provided by the same person; and second, if using a CTB statement would improve lie detection ability thanks to verbal cues.

In the first experiment 171 people participated; in the second, 138. In them, the participants were basically assigned the role of telling the truth or lying according to certain conditions, a process that is more explained in the original article, and then passing their complete statement through a tool used to evaluate the credibility of the speech , which is Reality Monitoring.

The analysis showed the existence of an interesting verbal pattern: the objective statements (the main ones and references to the research topics) of the truth tellers tend to include more temporal and auditory details than their reference statement, or their CTB, while the liars’ results showed the opposite pattern.

In the first of the experiments, no evidence appeared that the use of a CTB improves the accuracy when detecting truths and lies.

In experiment 2, those who used the CTB became worse at truth detection, but just as accurate at lie detection, compared to those who did not use the CTB.

However, authors mention that their results should be interpreted with caution, because their support is weak and it seems premature to use them as a reference. Therefore, they encourage other researchers to continue delving into this topic, plus, they leave the door open for future related experiments.

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  “Shall I Show My Emotions? The Effects of Facial Expressions in the Ultimatum Game” by Ferracci, S.; Giuliani, F.; Brancucci, A. and Pietroni, D. (2021), in which authors carry out two experiments to know how the expression of some emotions affect the most tense moments in a negotiation. 

In recent years it has been shown that emotions play an essential and central role in the communication of intentions and desires.

Emotions and the information associated with them can be transmitted through facial expressions during specific social interactions, where their inference can influence decision-making processes, such as negotiations.

The ultimatum game has a lot to do with negotiations. It was developed forty years ago as a representation of the reality of negotiations. In this game, a player proposes how to allocate a certain amount of money between himself and another player. This second player can accept the proposal, in which case one will receive the decided amount, or he can reject it, causing neither player to receive any money.

According to classical economics, the respondent has to accept any offer greater than 0, since anything is better than nothing. However, it has been observed that participants tend to reject offers that are approximately below 30% of the total, preferring not to win anything rather than accept an unequal distribution of money. Therefore, in front of classical economic theory, human behavior and its intolerance to inequality appear.

From this idea, the question arises as to how the expression of human emotions influenced the negotiations, a topic that has been studied previously.

In some of these earlier articles, it appears that offers made with a smiling face were accepted more often than those made with a neutral facial expression. Also, there used to be lower acceptance rates if the offers were made by a person with an angry facial expression.

The responder’s behavior, on the other hand, might be more driven by the sense of perceived fairness and fairness that we discussed earlier.

For studies that had the participant assume the role of the proposer, Van Dijk studied the effects of responder joy and anger on the proposer’s offers. He found that the respondent’s anger led the proposer to make better offers.

These studies indicate that proponents must be very careful in capturing the emotional state of the respondent, as they can then use the information obtained to modulate their subsequent responses.

The role of anger is also interesting, with controversial results. For one thing, studies show that when the responder reacts in anger, the proponent makes more concessions. But on the other hand, there are studies that claim the opposite.

Authors decide to explore this and other questions in two experiments. 113 people participated in the first of them. The authors selected images of faces that were manipulated to offer four expressions: happy, neutral, angry and disgusted. The participants, in this case, were the ones who might answer whether or not they accepted the offer.

In the second experiment, all participants were assigned the opposite role, that of proposer. 134 subjects participated and the methodology and procedure were the same.

The results showed that, in experiment one, for the respondent the decision is strongly driven by fairness in supply, as the authors expected.

Emotions also had an effect: neutral emotion and happiness led to higher rates of acceptance compared to anger and disgust.

Some theories have attempted to explain irrational behaviors in equity-related decision-making, such as “inequality aversion”, which confirms individuals’ preferences for fair outcomes.

On the other hand, in experiment two, the participants, in the role of the proponents, modulated their offers based on the expressions they saw on the faces of the responders.

Specifically, anger and disgust had no differential effects and were perceived as equally negative. More generous offers were made to those with neutral expressions, and even more generous ones to those with happy facial expressions.

So what about the anger and previous studies with conflicting ideas? A study carried out by Steinel and colleagues proposes the idea that anger would have one effect or another depending on where it is projected.

When the emotion is directed to the offer, it can be understood as a strategy to know the limits of the opponent and, therefore, can lead to greater concessions.

Conversely, if the emotion is directed at the person, it can lead to negative outcomes, indicating poor cooperation.

Authors point out the need for further research, especially to understand the effects of anger and disgust in depth, and to improve these experiments, for example, with real and higher incentives.

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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