Nonverbal cues can be perceived and interpreted, but not “read.” – The term body “language” is misleading. – Nonverbal communication is not a language. – Nonverbal communication has no grammar, no syntax. If you could read a person like a book: – No one could successfully lie to another person. – Poker players couldn’t bluff. – Undercover cops would be exposed. – Relationships would be damaged. There is no one-to-one correspondence between a specific nonverbal cue and its meaning. – direct eye contact could signal attraction or hostility. Nonverbal behavior is highly idiosyncratic – It varies greatly from person to person.
93% of the meaning or impact is communicated nonverbally (Mehrabian & Ferris, 1967; Mehrabian & Weiner, 1967) “No more than 30 to 35 percent of the social meaning of a conversation or interaction is carried by words” (Birdwhistle, 1970, p. 158) Mehrabian (1972, 1981) the face conveys 55% of the emotional meaning of a message, vocal cues convey 38%, as little as 7% is communicated verbally.
The exact percentage is an unknowable statistic. If you watched a film in a foreign language would you understand 93% of it? If police were investigating a crime, and the only witness were a mime, would they obtain 93% of the information they needed? If you watched a stand- up comedian while wearing earplugs, would she/he be just as funny?
We can’t hide our true feelings. – Nonverbal communication is reflexive. People can’t help but leak nonverbal cues. – People give off “natural signs” about what they are thinking and feeling. Nonverbal communication is more trustworthy, believable.
Nonverbal communication is a powerful medium. The majority of the emotional or affective meaning is carried via the nonverbal channel. When there is a contradiction between verbal and nonverbal cues, people tend to assign more weight to the nonverbal message. Nonverbal cues convey generalized feelings and mood states. – mad, angry, upset, frustrated Words provide more subtle, nuanced expressions of feeling. – furious, peeved, irate, livid, outraged, riled up, in a huff, pissed off, ticked off, infuriated, miffed
Nonverbal communication often operates at a low level of awareness – Or even unconsciously Nonverbal behavior can also be highly conscious and strategic – fake laughter – feigning interest – crocodile tears – fake orgasm Most people consider themselves good judges of emotion. – Self-serving bias – Confirmation bias A person’s expressive repertoire can be used deceptively.
People may assume that nonverbal behavior is instinctive or part of “human nature.” Biologically innate Evolutionarily adaptive Charles Darwin, The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals Universality of basic emotional expressions 1. Anger 2. Disgust 3. Fear 4. Happiness 5. Sadness 6. Surprise 7. Contempt
There are some cultural universals, however… Fear and disgust are easily confused Blended facial expressions are more culture-bound Sarcastic smile, smirk, smug look Cultural displays rules moderate emotional displays Example: When people sit, where should their legs and feet go? Gender differences Cultural differences
1. Slight sadness 2. Disgust 3. Slight enjoyment 4. Slight or highly controlled anger 5. Slight or highly controlled fear 6. Masked anger 7. Fear or surprise 8. Contempt, smug, or disdainful 9. Worry, apprehension, controlled fear
Movies and TV shows perpetuate this myth Lie To Me Casino Royale Cops vastly overestimate their deception detection skills Jurors overestimate their deception detection skills Laypersons believe liars leak cues to deception via: Gaze avoidance Postural shifting Response latency
On average, people are about 54% accurate in detecting deception. Cops fare no better than college students The three most common “signs” are false correlates of deception. Liars do not necessarily look up and to the left NLP is unreliable