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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper  “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 “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. 

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 “Effects of color-emotion association on facial expression judgments”, by Takei, A. and Imaizumi, S. (2022), in which authors carry out a couple of experiments to investigate how some colors are associated to emotions when it comes about inferring these from facial expressions. 

Human beings often express emotions by linking them to colors in our day-to-day conversations. For example, in English and Japanese, the color blue is widely used to express sadness (“I’m feeling blue”).

However, we also associate emotions with the visual perception of colors. For example, in WhatsApp we can use a red face emoticon to transmit anger. In fact, it is possible that because anger increases blood flow to the face, making it red, people have learned to see this color in an angry face.

All these linguistic and perceptual associations are part of the color-emotion associations.

Conceptual metaphor theory could explain the color-emotion association. According to this theory, to understand abstract concepts related to thought and action, humans apply the structures of other concrete concepts to specific abstract concepts, which are clear perceptual experiences. In other words, the metaphorical structures of concepts such as “sadness is blue” and “anger is red” facilitate the understanding of concepts related to emotions.

Because of such associations, color perception can remind people of corresponding emotions and even bias their judgments about the emotional stimuli they receive.

For example, in a 2020 study, participants tended to associate anger and love with red, sadness with gray, and joy with yellow. In another 2012 study, words written in red were linked to anger more quickly than words written in blue. This suggests that red is associated with anger and would improve linguistic processing related to it.

In terms of social cognition, it is important for humans to understand the emotional states of others. Facial expressions are especially useful for this, but other resources are also used. Similarly, the colors associated with emotions are also close to the recognition and judgment of emotions combined with facial expressions.

In a 2013 experiment, participants categorized angry faces against red, blue, or gray backgrounds. The results showed that the judgment of angry faces was faster against a red background, suggesting that the color facilitates the recognition of facial expressions.

In another experiment, this one from 2020, participants categorized images of faces and emoticons that represented happiness and anger on a red or green background. Images of anger were re-categorized more quickly correctly on the red background, the same thing happening with happiness and the color green.

Although previous studies like these have suggested color-emotion associations, some have been controversial, such as sadness and the color blue. In some countries there is an association between them, but in others it is associated with positive emotions. In a 2020 study it was suggested that gray was more related to sadness than the color blue, but this idea still needs to be explored further.

To delve into all this and find out which colors some emotions are associated with, the authors carried out a couple of experiments.

The first of them was carried out with 20 subjects and photographs of people showing happiness and sadness were used. They were placed on a yellow, blue or gray colored background, and the participants were asked to ignore the colors and judge whether the face expressed happiness or sadness.

Experiment two, involving 19 people, was the same as the first, except that the background color was shown slightly later than the face, superimposing the facial stimulus on the color stimulus.

The results suggest that yellow, which was thought to be associated with happiness, facilitates the judgment of happy facial expression, which is consistent with previous literature.

However, although blue and/or gray were expected to be associated with sadness, the results did not support this idea.

This is where conceptual metaphor theory comes in again, with the idea that “happiness is light” and “sadness is darkness.”

The contrast of joy and sadness can be interpreted not only as a different emotional valence, but also as extreme differences in brightness.

The results can be interpreted as suggesting that yellow facilitates the judgment of happiness because it activates a metaphorical “light-happiness” association that bright colors provide.

On the other hand, gray and blue might not be colors symbolic of darkness and, therefore, might not activate the “darkness-sadness” association.

Needs to be said that, thanks to experiment 2, it is suggested that the color-emotion association is stronger when color and emotion are perceptually experienced simultaneously.

Authors conclude that it would be very interesting to continue investigating how the luminance and brightness of colors affect the perception of emotions.

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.

Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper “Hong Kong women project a larger body when speaking to attractive men”, by Lee, A. and Ng, E. (2022), in which authors carry out a small experiment to know whether heterosexual women make changes in their voices when they’re speaking to men they find attractive. 

Does having a beautiful voice bring us social benefits? According to some studies, it seems so. Listeners tend to associate it with an attractive face, a nice personality, and even good health.

In addition, perceiving a person as attractive and more likeable leads to advantages in dating, job applications, promotions at work, public elections, more social support…

However, although physical appearance cannot be easily altered, the voice can be modulated and thereby it is possible to influence the perception that others have of our appearance.

So how to get this? What are the voice modulation tendencies to influence our physical attractiveness?

There are two apparently conflicting hypotheses that seek to explain the phonetics of an attractive voice. They are the average hypothesis and the body size projection.

The first hypothesis defends the phenomenon of average attractiveness, arguing that voices similar to the media in the population are considered more attractive.

From an evolutionary point of view, the average voice may indicate good genes as it has resisted adaptive changes and has become the norm, producing an effect similar to that of average faces, which seem to suggest good physical condition and health.

On the other hand, the body size projection hypothesis holds that animals use their voice to project different body sizes and fulfill certain communicative functions.

Extending this idea to humans, one study found that an attractive male English voice to heterosexual female listeners was one that sounded like it came from a large and tall person, while the opposite was true for a female voice and heterosexual male listeners.

In general, it seems that an attractive voice is one that resembles the average of the population, with certain projected body sizes that add enhancement effects, but without deviating from the average.

It has been seen, however, that American female speakers are increasingly using a certain screeching tone in their voices. This seems to deviate from the projection principle of body size, as this feature is considered to belong to a large body because of its loudness. There is also evidence that the use of a scratchy voice by American women is considered less attractive than a normal voice.

Thus, it appears that not all changes in vocal strategies align with what the opposite sex finds attractive.

Other studies conducted with non-Western populations found that while the general principles of average voice and body size projection can be stabilized, there are certain specific deviations depending on the language in which it is spoken. For example, in Japanese and Mandarin, the projection of a very large body size would not be attractive to either men or women.

Building on these insights and studies, authors investigate vocal changes in heterosexual women when they are talking to a man they find attractive, in the context of Cantonese speech.

A total of 19 women participated in the study. They first saw some photographs of men and had to say which ones they found attractive, on a scale of 1 to 10. Based on the previous ratings, they were presented with images of the most attractive men on the one hand, and also the least attractive, and a role-playing game was proposed to women: they had to pretend they and the attractive man were university classmates, and had to ask them a spoken question, which would later be analyzed.

Even with cross-linguistic variations, authors expected that Cantonese women would use at least some cues that projected small body size. Unexpectedly, the participants seemed to be trying to project a big-sounding voice when they spoke with an attractive face.

This may be because they were deliberately trying to sound less nervous or anxious around an attractive potential partner. However, this idea should be interpreted with caution.

Future studies should analyze other factors, authors suggest investigating whether the menstrual cycle has any influence and also increasing the number of study subjects.

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 “Gender Biases in Estimation of Others’ Pain” by Zang, L.; Reynolds Losin, E. A.; Ashar, Y. K.; Koban, L. and Wager, T. D. (2021), where the authors carry out two experiments to know if women feel or express more pain than men, or if it happens the other way round. 

Accurately estimating the pain of others based on nonverbal signals is an essential aspect of interpersonal communication, since it is the basis of empathy and care.

Acknowledging the pain of others is an increasingly valuable interpersonal skill, both for doctors and for the rest of the population.

Although pain is usually assessed through self-reports, recognition of facial expressions of pain is a very important part of the assessment.

Because expressions of pain are communicative behaviors, observers’ interpretations of those expressions are a crucial aspect of pain communication. These interpretations are affected not only by the characteristics of the expressions of pain, but also by the observer’s knowledge and biases about pain and the characteristics of those who suffer from it.

For example, several studies have shown that psychological treatment is more likely to be recommended for women suffering any kind of pain than for men, who are prescribed painkillers. Therefore, female patients take longer to receive analgesic medication. However, it is important to note that there are other studies of gender bias in pain management that show the opposite pattern, or no significant gender difference.

Despite clinical evidence of underestimation and undertreatment of pain in female patients, laboratory results on gender bias have been inconsistent and, in fact, some studies have found that women felt more pain than men, having note their facial expressions.

That is, it seems that a large part of the results in the evaluation of pain is decided by facial expressions. Therefore, controlling the objective measures of facial expressiveness in general, and of pain in particular, is an important step in stopping the bias in the perceiver.

In this context, there are also gender stereotypes related to pain, for example, that women complain more than men and do not accurately report their pain, or that men are more sensible and when they complain about their pain, it is real. These beliefs would affect pain assessment and treatment.

To delve into the subject, authors conducted two experiments. First, they compared differences in pain estimation in men and women, controlling for the same level of facial expressiveness and also controlling for patients’ self-reported pain. This is necessary because the amount of pain patients experience is highly variable, also because the facial response to pain is one of the most salient cues we use to estimate pain, and lastly, because the expressiveness of patients can affect observer estimates through empathy.

For experiment 1, 50 volunteers participated and had to watch a series of videos of faces of people experiencing pain. Each video was coded through the FACS system, and the action units AU4 (lowering of the eyebrows), AU6 and 7 (contraction of the eyelids), AU9 and 10 (contraction of the elevator) and AU43 (closure of the eyes) were especially relevant. These action units are representative of the emotion of pain.

In addition, the videos included a self-report from the patients where they rated their own pain.

The objective of this experiment was to test whether the sex of the patients affects the estimation of pain according to the observers. The hypothesis was that if the intensity of facial expressions was not controlled, female patients would be perceived as being in more pain than male patients. If, on the other hand, there were similar levels of expression and self-reported pain, it would be the male patients who would be perceived as having more pain.

The results did not support the hypotheses. Male and female patients were not perceived to have different degrees of pain before controlling pain, facial expressiveness, and patient self-reported pain. However, female patients were perceived to have less pain than male patients when facial expressions and self-reports were controlled.

The second experiment was very similar, except that opinion questionnaires about pain treatment and gender stereotypes were added.

In general, women’s pain was underestimated relative to self-reported pain, while men’s was overestimated. In addition, female patients, according to observers, would benefit more from psychotherapy than male patients.

The underestimation of pain and psychologization in the treatment of women’s pain could have very negative side effects on their health. Therefore, the existence of these stereotypes must be taken into account and act accordingly, so that both men and women receive the treatment they need and their health is not harmed.

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.

NonVerbal Communication Blog