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This book is dedicated to Sherri, one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.

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An Applied Approach

Jonathan M. Bowman

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About the Author
Chapter � Nonverbal Communication Origins
Chapter � Nonverbal Communication Features
Chapter � Identity and the Nonverbal Codes
Chapter � Kinesics: Engaging Motion and Gestures
Chapter � Proxemics: Engaging Personal Space and Interpersonal Distance
Chapter � Haptics: Engaging Physical Contact and Touch
Chapter � Oculesics: Engaging Gaze and Other Eye Behaviors
Chapter � Vocalics: Engaging the Voice and Other Vocalizations
Chapter � Physical Appearance: Engaging Identity and Physical Features
Chapter �� Environmental Elements: Engaging Fixed and Semi-Fixed Features
Chapter �� Chronemics and Olfactics: Cultural Codes of Time and Scent
Chapter �� Nonverbal Communication Moving Forward

About the Author
Chapter � Nonverbal Communication Origins

Models of Communication
Linear Model of Communication
Transactional Model of Communication

Defining Nonverbal Communication
Why Isn’t ASL Considered Nonverbal?
Nonverbal Communication Primacy

Primacy of Species
Primacy of Individual
Primacy of Interaction

Nonverbal Communication Channels
Channel Reliance

A Summary of Nonverbal Communication Origins
Closing Questions
Key Terms

Chapter � Nonverbal Communication Features
Principles of Nonverbal Messaging

Nonverbal Messaging Is Ubiquitous
Nonverbal Messaging Functions in Many Ways
Nonverbal Messaging Is Widely Used
Nonverbal Messaging Impacts Meaning-Making
Nonverbal Messaging Has Primacy
Nonverbal Messaging Is Ambiguous
Nonverbal Messaging Is Accepted

Digital vs. Analog Representations
Message Processing

The Attention Stage
The Comprehension Stage

Dialogic Comprehension
Empathic comprehension
Analytic comprehension

The Memory Stage
Nonverbal Communication—Our Innate Ability
A Summary of Nonverbal Communication Features
Closing Questions
Key Terms

Chapter � Identity and the Nonverbal Codes
Managing Identities

Sex and Gender

Other Identities

Identity, Relationships, and Nonverbal Codes
Prominent Nonverbal Codes

Physical Appearance

A Summary of Identity and the Nonverbal Codes
Closing Questions
Key Terms

Chapter � Kinesics: Engaging Motion and Gestures
Communication, Movement, and the Face

Affect Displays
Neurocultural Theory
Ekman and Friesen’s microexpressions
Social signaling

Communication, Movement, and the Hands and Body
Body Orientation

A Summary of Kinesics: Engaging Motion and Gestures
Closing Questions
Key Terms

Chapter � Proxemics: Engaging Personal Space and Interpersonal Distance

Intimate Zone
Personal/Casual Zone
Social/Consultative Zone
Public Zone

Proxemic Violations
Physiological Arousal
Perceptions and Expectancy Violations Theory

Threat Threshold

Interactional Motivations

A Summary of Proxemics: Engaging Personal Space and Interpersonal Distance
Closing Questions
Key Terms

Chapter � Haptics: Engaging Physical Contact and Touch
Haptics and Human Development

Early Influences
The Harlow Monkey Experiment

Classifying Touch
Types of Touch
Functions of Touch

Ritualistic Touch
Positive Affect Touch
Control Touch
Playful Touch
Task-related Touch
Hybrid Touch

Diverse Attitudes Toward Touch
Affection Exchange Theory
Attachment Theory
A Summary of Haptics: Engaging Physical Contact and Touch
Closing Questions
Key Terms

Chapter � Oculesics: Engaging Gaze and Other Eye Behaviors

Looking Toward
Mutual Gaze and Eye Contact

Eye Movement
Pupil Dilation

Oculesics and Emotional Displays

A Summary of Oculesics: Engaging Gaze and Other Eye Behaviors
Closing Questions
Key Terms

Chapter � Vocalics: Engaging the Voice and Other Vocalizations
Vocal Characteristics

Vocal Properties
Vocal Qualities
The Use of Silence

Communication Accommodation Theory
Principles of CAT
Strategies of CAT


A Summary of Vocalics: Engaging the Voice and Other Vocalizations
Closing Questions
Key Terms

Chapter � Physical Appearance: Engaging Identity and Physical Features
Identity and Self-Esteem
Theories of Identity
Group Membership

Identity Badges
In-Groups and Out-Groups
Appearance and Identity

Natural Features
Body Shape
Facial Attractiveness

Artifacts and Adornments

Body Modifications
Tie-Signs and Expressions of Uniqueness
A Summary of Physical Appearance: Engaging Identity and Physical Features
Closing Questions
Key Terms

Chapter �� Environmental Elements: Engaging Fixed and Semi-Fixed Features
Environmental Elements
Fixed-Feature Environmental Elements
Use and Volume of Space

Lines and Curves

Semi-Fixed-Feature Environmental Elements
Visual Continua


Environmental Noise

A Summary of Environmental Elements: Engaging Fixed and Semi-Fixed Features
Closing Questions
Key Terms

Chapter �� Chronemics and Olfactics: Cultural Codes of Time and Scent
Codes and Culture

Created by Culture
Creating Culture

Group Membership Revisited

Biological Chronemics
Conceptualizations of Time


Active Scents
Passive Scents

A Summary of Chronemics and Olfactics: Cultural Codes of Time and Scent
Closing Questions
Key Terms

Chapter �� Nonverbal Communication Moving Forward
Nonverbal Communication in Review

Communication Potential of the Codes
Absorbing Popular Media, Moving Forward
Examining Ethical Behavior, Moving Forward
Recognizing Diverse Perspectives, Moving Forward
Assessing the Self, Moving Forward
Applying Nonverbal Principles Across Contexts, Moving Forward
A Summary of Nonverbal Communication Moving Forward
Closing Questions


Aren’t you tired of treating a textbook like an optional feature of a course? I know I am! Nonverbal messaging is
one of the most exciting topics in the study of human communication, and yet the structure of most course
textbooks has students disinterested within the first few weeks. It’s not that the entire course is filled with dull
material; instead, the way that the nonverbal communication course has been constrained by texts has
underserved students by under-engaging them from the very beginning. As students, teachers, and scholars of
nonverbal messaging, we are likely familiar with scholarly literature that describes the importance of first
impressions. Why, then, are we subjected to texts that initially lead to disengaged students, when we know about
the importance of those first interactions with a course?

By choosing Nonverbal Communication: An Applied Approach , an instructor can scaffold learning to the pace of
their own course while taking advantage of the narrative style that keeps students interested. In addition, the
writing style meets the needs of current students who otherwise disengage with the very material that may aid in
better navigating those daily experiences in a diverse world. While the nonverbal communication course continues
to be taught as a foundational course at the advanced sophomore or junior level, most of the textbooks have been
written at the advanced undergraduate or graduate level and follow a formulaic style. Rather than being written by
teachers and scholars who have immersed themselves in the lived experience of students, many of these books
focus on the minutia of nonverbal codes to the exclusion of the relational contexts that best demonstrate an
application of nonverbal communication research. Indeed, often a text only gains momentum and finally becomes
a truly engaging read in the last couple chapters.

Rather than waiting until the end of the semester to get students’ and teachers’ attention, Nonverbal
Communication: An Applied Approach has taken a narrative style and applied approach that is informed by the
important theories and research-driven knowledge of our interdisciplinary area of study. At times, such a text may
need to sacrifice a focus on the minutiae of a particular researcher’s advanced theoretical assumptions and
comprehensive treatment of a theory in order to better convey the larger goals of that researcher’s work. To be
sure, most scholars teaching nonverbal communication long for a book that can better engage students and cut
back on unnecessary complications in what can be read as relatively parsimonious theories. In order for a
nonverbal communication course textbook to be seen as practical, applied, and worth purchasing, the text must
take complex course material and breathe life into the work, targeting material to the complex technology-driven
lives of today’s undergraduates. By covering the same synthesized scholarship with a new narrative style and a
more consistent structure, the material comes alive without losing the summative knowledge of decades of
interdisciplinary research.

The textbook Nonverbal Communication: An Applied Approach is aimed primarily at sophomore- and junior-level
courses in nonverbal communication, regardless of the specific discipline in which the course is taught (e.g.,
communication studies or psychology). In addition, honors-level faculty could also assign a weekly scholarly
reading from among the chapter references to supplement the text. Such a course typically has an introductory
human communication course as a prerequisite that not only introduces human communication but also previews
the exciting content in nonverbal communication courses, depending upon the institution. At the same time, this
book is written in such a way as to highlight the needed foundational material so that it can even be taught as a

stand-alone core or general education course with great facility. Regardless of institution or discipline, the
nonverbal communication course is typically taken by a major or minor in communication (one of the faster
growing majors at colleges and universities in North America) or a major or minor in psychology, or perhaps even
by a student with an interest in marketing or advertising because of the added value of understanding some
nonverbal communication patterns across contexts.

While the switch to Nonverbal Communication: An Applied Approach should completely change the level of
student engagement with the material, the structure of the book is consistent enough with the overall nonverbal
communication market so as to not require a complete reworking of instructors’ lesson planning. Indeed, the book
starts off with an overview of both nonverbal messaging and the communication contexts and human behaviors in
which this universal form of messaging occurs. Moving next to the most significant nonverbal codes, theory-driven
conversations begin to emerge as students discover those codes in applied situations that they are likely to
encounter in their own lives. Finally, a few intentional relational contexts at the end of the book allow the student to
really explore the application of nonverbal course materials in a narrative way.

The main pedagogical devices for Nonverbal Communication: An Applied Approach include integrated box
features found in each chapter of the book that highlight important content for the work (rather than serving as
additional extraneous information, as so often occurs in many academic textbooks). The foci of these boxes will
include the important application and integration of material, designated by a specific action verb often used in
nonverbal messaging research. Each chapter includes a box called Measure that focuses on the measurement of
a nonverbal construct, using methods from nonverbal research to illustrate operationalization. An important series
of boxes in each chapter that focus on issues of diversity and social justice content are titled Engage, highlighting
nonverbal communication by including practical, real-world examples of nonverbal communication in diverse
contexts. Next, a feature in each chapter called Examine includes opportunities for personal reflection as well as
the consideration of the ethics of nonverbal communication as it relates to each chapter. To illustrate course
material using modern applications, the Absorb feature references YouTube video clips from current television or
film to explore a nonverbal communication behavior in an example from recent media. Finally, each chapter
includes Apply scenarios that help students consider how to practice content related to each section within their
own social worlds, encouraging students to become more fluent in navigating unique contexts.

In addition to these newer and innovative pedagogical features, many tried-and-true textbook features are also
included in Nonverbal Communication: An Applied Approach to ensure that students are able to successfully
navigate such important course content. These include the use of learning objectives and guiding questions at
the start of each chapter following an application-based opening vignette, many key terms throughout each
chapter, an end-of-chapter summary with closing questions, a glossary, and finally, line drawings or
photographs that help to illustrate essential course content or show contexts in which that content emerges.

I’d like to thank my beautiful family (Sherri, Michael, and Nala) who always offer encouragement and prayer
support. They mean the world to me. I’d also like to thank the incredible team at SAGE led by my editor, Lily
Norton, and all the people who have made my time at SAGE so lovely: Jen Jovin-Bernstein, Sarah Wilson, Monica
Eckman, Terri Accomazzo, Gagan Mahindra, and the rest of the group that has been working so diligently behind
the scenes. Finally, I’d like to acknowledge the hundreds of students both current and former who have made my
career so incredibly joyful over the years. I can’t wait to see what we accomplish for the world together!

Many scholars and teachers came together to ensure that this text more than met the needs of students and
instructors as they come together to learn about nonverbal communication. Your work and commitment to our
discipline is without peer. Thanks to the following individuals for their comments on earlier drafts of Nonverbal
Communication: An Applied Approach:

Raymond Blanton, The University of the Incarnate Word

Maria Brann, IUPUI

Stellina M. A. Chapman, State University New York at New Paltz

Monica L. Gracyalny, California Lutheran University

Trey Guinn, The University of the Incarnate Word

L. Jake Jacobsen, University of Nebraska at Kearney

Lynn Meade, University of Arkansas

Sara N. Morgan, Old Dominion University

Diana Karol Nagy, University of Florida

Kekeli K. Nuviadenu, Bethune-Cookman University

Naomi Bell O’Neil, Clarion University of Pennsylvania

Jillian K. Pierson, University of Southern California

Robyn Rowe, Missouri State University

Sheida Shirvani, Ohio University–Zanesville

Lisa J. van Raalte, Sam Houston State University

Robin N. Williamson, University of St. Thomas-Houston

Cheryl Wood, The George Washington University

Jonathan M. Bowman, PhD,

professor of communication studies, teaches courses in human communication processes and the methods
through which we obtain that knowledge about communication. He is heavily involved in the National
Communication Association where he currently serves as the chair of the Nonverbal Communication Division.
Bowman’s research focuses on communication processes associated with intimacy and close relationships, with
publications addressing nonverbal messaging, male friendships, and small-group communication. He has
authored, coauthored, or edited four books, and his most recent book Masculinity and Student Success in Higher
Education can be purchased anywhere books are sold. He was the recipient of the National Communication
Association Ecroyd Award for Outstanding Teaching in Higher Education, the highest teaching honor in the
discipline internationally, as well as the national Western States Communication Association Distinguished
Teaching Award. Bowman has also received a Keck Faculty Fellowship for his focus on undergraduate research,
an Innovations in Experiential Education Award for his commitment to high-impact practices, as well as an
Outstanding Preceptor Award for excellence in teaching and advising. He serves as a mentor to undergraduates
in multiple capacities, particularly those students involved in student government, Greek life, academic honors,
and campus faith-based organizations.


Learning Objectives
After reading this chapter you will be able to do the following:

Explain types of nonverbal primacy

Compare models of communication

Define nonverbal communication

Understand the impact of channel on messaging

Mika wasn’t thrilled about attending a friend’s start-of-semester get-together, but his new roommate dragged him
along to the location a few blocks from campus. Mika didn’t know most of the attendees and wasn’t particularly
motivated to meet someone new, so he spent a lot of time looking at memes on his mobile device or pretending to
take a few phone calls. After someone spilled a drink on his shoes for what must have been the third time, Mika
decided to call it a night and head home. Just as he was headed toward the door, he locked eyes with the most
attractive person he had ever seen. After feeling frozen for what seemed like an eternity, he nodded his head and
gave a shy smile right as the other person started to turn away. Resigned to leave again, he suddenly saw a smile
in response out of the corner of his eye. Mika decided to stick around and give the evening another chance as he
switched his phone to airplane mode and ran his fingers through his hair.

From the first impressions that we form about one another to the lifelong social interactions that shape and guide
our lives, communication is the primary social process. Without communication, it would prove nearly impossible
to navigate our daily lives. Communication allows us to signal a variety of things to one another, from letting our
caregivers know we are hungry to warning each other about dangerous predators.� Indeed, most living creatures
engage in some form of communication, from the ants marking a trail toward a picnic basket, to the pride of lions
using a sophisticated group hunting strategy to avoid starvation. Communication allows groups of creatures—both
human and nonhuman—to navigate a complex environment that otherwise may be difficult to survive on one’s
own.� Human communication includes the most complicated forms of messaging, as humans use systems of
established rule-driven strategies to send messages among themselves for a variety of reasons. Just as we read
in the story of Mika above, messaging can be subtle; from indicating interest to avoiding interaction, a variety of
verbal and nonverbal messages help us to move throughout our social world.

Guiding Questions

What kinds of messages help form a first impression in a context like the one above?

How do nonverbal signals impact our social experiences?

When considering how humans send messages to one another, it is first helpful to ensure that everyone has a
similar shared understanding of the basic models of communication. In order to establish a shared vocabulary
about the process of communication, we begin with the linear model of communication, which focuses on the
transmission of messages to an audience. Then, we will expand that model to include a more transactional
understanding of human interaction.

Linear Model of Communication

Over �� years ago, scholars Shannon and Weaver came up with a model of communication messaging that is still
one of the most widely known models of communication today.� As can be seen in Figure �.�, this linear model of
communication focuses on the transmission of a verbal or nonverbal message to another person or persons.
Because of that focus on one-way transmissions, the linear model starts with the person who originates the
message, called the sender. The sender begins the process of encoding, converting his or her thoughts into a
specific message that he or she hopes an audience will understand. By sending that message through one or
more channels, or ways of transmitting a message like a phone call or a written document or even a gesture, he
or she can convey that message directly to the target person, also known as the receiver. Once the receiver has
heard or seen the message, he or she then begins decoding the meaning from the message and trying to
understand the intent of the sender. When Cheance receives a text “Starving! Must eat now LOL” from her new
girlfriend Annabelle, as the receiver she needs to decode the message in an attempt to try to understand what
Annabelle’s intent was; are they canceling their later reservation and eating separately on their own, or are they
getting together earlier than they had previously planned?


Figure �.� Linear Model of Communication

Although perhaps not a comprehensive model thus far, we now have a working set of vocabulary terms about
messaging, as well as a basic understanding of how people send messages to one another. Still, the Shannon
and Weaver model goes a couple steps further than this general approach, including in the model the concepts of
context and noise. Context is defined as the setting in which communication occurs, not only the physical location
but also the time and social situation wherein messaging happens. This context influences both the creation and
the transmission of a message for a variety of reasons (i.e., influencing the sender’s mood and even restricting the
channels that they find available to them.) For example, Evan may be interested in sending a particularly funny
meme to his best friend when he’s in church on Sunday morning, but may not do so, in part because of the
emotional experience that he’s having or because of his inability to get to his cell phone without offending the
other congregants around him. As such, that funny text may have to wait until later that day. That being said, if he
looks across his church congregation and sees Ryan in another pew, he might find himself making a funny face or
at least trying to catch his best friend’s eye, despite being situated in a context that would suggest other more

reverent behaviors. The concept of noise, on the other hand, describes any barrier to hearing or understanding
that detracts from the successful transmission of a message.� Noise might be as simple as a physical sound that
stops you from perceiving a message (e.g., physical noise), to a mental state that distracts someone from
correctly understanding a message (e.g., psychological noise). In addition, noise could also be a receiver’s
physical state like hunger or sleepiness that interrupt his or her ability to decode a message (e.g., physiological
noise), or even may include a situation where individuals don’t understand these symbols that are being used in
the message due to specific words or pronunciations (semantic noise). The more noise present in a
communication context, the more difficult it will be for a receiver to successfully decode the message that a sender
has encoded. Take a look at an example of one possible effect of noise in this chapter’s Apply feature, next.

Box �.� Apply
Impacts of Noise on a Homecoming Conversation

Clarice and Sarah had been fighting for a long time. Not only had their mutual friends noticed the lack of
respect that they had shown to one another at a variety of social events over the past year, but they often
commented upon the disrespectful eye rolls and sighs that each exhibited when the other walked into the
room or tried to join the conversation. Finally, Clarice decided that “enough was enough.” At the
homecoming football game, Clarice finally decided that she and Sarah needed to have a conversation to
talk over their issues with one another. Right before the halftime show on their way to order food, Clarice
dragged Sarah away from their mutual group of friends over to a patch of grass away from the snack bar.
She started a long monologue about their friendship and how they used to be close, taking responsibility
for her own contribution to the deterioration of their relationship. As they both sat side by side watching the
marching band on the field, Clarice suddenly realized that Sarah didn’t even know that Clarice was talking.
With all the distractions on the field, combined with the sounds and the sights of the homecoming
festivities, Sarah was just enjoying the evening breeze, oblivious to the relational goals of Clarice.
Discouraged, Clarice decided to stop talking and watch the halftime show herself, vowing to maybe try
again some other time if she ever got an opportunity.

Even with the most detailed messaging plan, features of the context or of the relationship can impact our
communication attempts. The ability of one person to effectively understand the message of another
person is influenced by a variety of factors.

APPLY: Consider the features of the context in which Clarice and Sarah just interacted. What were all the
individual types of noise that impacted the quality of this communication situation? What should Clarice try
to avoid the next time that she wants to try to reach out to Sarah? How have you had noise disrupt your
own attempts as messaging?

Transactional Model of Communication

The linear model of communication is a relatively decent way to think about how one person might send a
message to someone else. That being said, most communication is perhaps not quite as one sided as this model

may suggest. In most situations, people are sending messages at the same time to each other, with each person
serving as both a sender and a receiver of messages throughout the interaction. The transactional model of
communication better captures our understanding of that back-and-forth between people, as seen in Figure �.�.�
In this model, we are able to add in the concept of feedback, which is the verbal and nonverbal responses that
someone gives in reaction to a message that they are receiving—a set of responses that influence future
messaging. When Brooke and Adam were discussing restaurants in trying to decide where to have dinner, Adam’s
funny facial expressions helped her adapt her messaging on the fly; Adam’s happy or sad faces each time that
she suggested a different cuisine type or location helped her eventually decide that they should order some pizza
and chill on the couch with a good movie.


Figure �.� Transactional Model of Communication

Besides the addition of feedback, you’ll notice that the transactional model of communication also goes beyond
simple unidirectional messaging, or one-way messaging in which people take turns alternating between sender
or receiver. Instead, this model highlights that people take on roles as both sender and receiver at the same time
(e.g., transactional messaging), with messages and feedback being sent and received simultaneously
throughout most communication interactions. When Derek got back from a campus retreat having decided that he
wanted to pursue a calling to become a priest, he knew that it would involve some difficult conversations with
people he cared about—most of all, his girlfriend Jae-Min. In the conversation, he tried to explain his reasons for
breaking up with her, while at the same time expressing his love for her and managing the fact that he was
causing her quite a bit of pain. For her own experience, Jae-Min was working hard to manage her own emotions
about losing Derek, while also trying to keep alive the spark of hope that Derek seemed to express about his new
ambitions. Both Derek and Jae-Min sent verbal and nonverbal messages to one another, from their discussions of
hope to their smiles, anger, and tears. As they have difficult conversations like these, couples are often able to
manage and adapt their messaging to one another. The tone and manner of these messages can strongly impact
how people interpret both nonverbal and verbal messages, as evidenced in the popular media highlighted in this
chapter’s Absorb feature.

Box �.� Absorb
Sarcasm on Popular Media

Jimmy Fallon is known for his character Sara on The Tonight Show’s popular recurring bit, “Ew!” In the clip
below, Sara’s friend Addison (played by John Cena) drops by after a long absence, and the two friends
reminisce and catch up about life.

“‘Ew!’ with John Cena” from The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. March �, ����. Running Time: �:��.
Available on YouTube.

Although ridiculous at times, the clip shows some great examples of how tone of voice and context can
help clarify the meaning behind otherwise ambiguous phrases. Both Sara and Addison say the word “Ew!”
quite frequently throughout the clip. A casual observer might first think that both Sara and Addison are
exclaiming that everything is gross or disgusting, but after a while it becomes clear that Sara doesn’t
always have a negative view of everything that she says “Ew!” about.

ABSORB: How much does the meaning change for the word “Ew!” throughout the video clip? How many
different meanings can you discover for the word as you watch the video? What are the different cues that
you rely on to determine what Sara actually means, each time that she exclaims her trademark phrase?

The words that we use are very important. Indeed, the verbal content of the message (e.g., the verbal
communication) can have critical impact on the people, places, and things with which we interact or engage.
From a student ordering a burrito exactly how she wants, to an FBI agent negotiating a hostage situation, it is
important to make sure the words that we use convey the messages that we hope they convey. At the same time,
much of what we don’t say is just as important; our gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, and eye contact
(among others) can all have a strong impact within an environment. In our example from the opening of the
chapter, Mika didn’t say a single word yet he knew that he had a chance to get to know an attractive party-goer,
based on a series of unspoken messages. Those messages are considered nonverbal because they do not use
language to convey meaning.

Recently, nonverbal communication has been defined as “any communicative characteristic or behavior that
intentionally or unintentionally conveys a message without the use of verbal language.”� In this case, verbal
language would include words or behaviors that directly stand for a specific word or words. For example, consider
the offensive gesture of extending one’s middle finger in the direction of another person. Most everyone within the
larger North American culture has a clear understanding of what specific words go alongside such a gesture, even
though they aren’t reproduced here. Even though tone and context can change our understanding of what was
ultimately intended by using such a gesture (e.g., giving someone a wink while flipping them “the bird” may imply
humor and friendship rather than animosity) the gesture itself is considered formal language (and is therefore
verbal communication).

Another important point contained in the definition of nonverbal communication highlights the idea that nonverbal
communication can be either intentional or unintentional, as shown in this chapter’s Inspire feature. This is quite
significant, because we are not always aware of our communicative behaviors when we send a message,
oftentimes messaging others even when we don’t intend to be doing so.� Carl and Alysa were hanging out after
class at the local campus coffee shop. When Alysa offered to pay for Carl’s iced caramel macchiato, she had no
idea that her shy smile was interpreted by Carl to be a form of flirting. At the end of the interaction, Alysa thought
she had made a new platonic friend, while Carl had already begun picturing future romantic getaways together.

Box �.� Examine

The Ethics of Unintentional Communication

Have you ever accidentally hit reply-all to an e-mail when you meant to send a private message to just one
person? Or have you responded to a text on a group chat when you meant to send a personal message to
a friend? Sometimes, our messages reach a wider audience than we had originally intended.

That same type of accidental messaging occurs with nonverbal communication, but perhaps to an even
greater extent. Maybe a crush was able to notice your blush at their accidental eye contact, or a parent
saw the way you rolled their eyes when they didn’t understand a technology that seems so simple to every
single one of your peers. These messages can have a similar impact as those verbal messages at the
start of this box. People may just as easily take note of the nonverbal messages that you hoped would
never be seen.

Enrique loves his wife Kayla, and holds her in the highest regard. However, last week he caught Kayla
looking out the window at their neighbor Jake as he was doing some yard work shirtless. When Enrique
called her out on it, Kayla joked that he shouldn’t care if she ogled the neighbor, as he was too young for
her anyway. Enrique noticed that she was trying to laugh it off, but she couldn’t stop herself from blushing
at being caught in her daydreams.

INSPIRE: What should people do when confronted with an unintended message? Do you think that you
should be held responsible if one of your unintended nonverbal cues cause someone else to do something
that gets them in trouble or hurts a relationship? We may want others to give us the benefit of the doubt
when we express our feelings unintentionally through nonverbal cues; are we willing to do the same for
those around us?

One common misconception about a class in nonverbal communication is that it is going to be a sign language
class. Interestingly, sign languages in general—and American Sign Language (ASL) specifically—are actually
considered verbal forms of communication.� ASL is a system of language that is communicated through gesture.
Even though no words are audibly spoken, hand gestures and facial expressions combine to send specific and
discrete language-based messages. Not all verbal messages are necessarily vocal/auditory messages, as we
can use verbal communication to visually send messages through the written word or through the interpretation of
specific gestures used in sign language. These signs are considered verbal communication because each sign
has a direct verbal meaning attached to the sign, one that is codified and made formal much in the same way that
languages are formed and acquired throughout a culture. Indeed, when Sarah, who is deaf, tries to order food at a
restaurant without using vocal sounds, she may try to point to items on the menu or mime certain types of food. If
she is fortunate enough to find a restaurant that employs a server that uses ASL, she can simply sign the items
that she wants, using for example the sign for taco—a chop of the blade of one hand into the folded palm of the

One of the key reasons why nonverbal communication is so important to human interaction is that it has
represented many important firsts for individuals, for interpersonal interactions, and even for the species as a

whole. For this reason, we often describe nonverbal communication as having primacy.� We typically pay
attention to nonverbal messages first and foremost in an interaction. Juanito and Marieta are celebrating their fifth
anniversary as a couple. After a great dinner and evening of salsa dancing, Juanito pulled a gift out of his jacket
pocket, and presented it with a great flourish. Marieta’s eyes lit up, and she smiled coyly as she said, “I thought we
decided not to give each other gifts this year! You’re terrible.” After opening the envelope and discovering two
tickets to a show by her favorite musician, Marieta squealed and gave Juanito a kiss squarely on the lips. “I can’t
believe you did this, you monster!” she whispered, drawing him in for another kiss. Even though all of Marieta’s
words should have made Juanito think his gift was unwelcome, he knew he had made the right decision because
he was paying attention to her nonverbal behaviors. The surprise and delight on her face, coupled with some
passionate kissing for good measure, made it clear that Juanito had made this an anniversary to remember.

Primacy of Species

Over the course of human history, researchers have discovered that humans’ early ancestors were not able to use
verbal language.�� In fact, verbal language likely began with homo sapiens, although some scholars have noted
that bone structures in Neanderthal may have allowed for complex sound to be vocalized.�� However, primates of
all sorts are able to live in community and share the division of labor, including caring for children and sharing food
that has been hunted or gathered. How did such interactions occur if verbal language wasn’t a part of the lives of
our early ancestors? Nonverbal communication like grunts or slight vocalizations were likely the early auditory
forms of communication, and facial expressions or gestures may have been able to indicate important things like
danger or submission or even the presence of spoiled meat. The idea that nonverbal communication came first
over the course of our species’ evolution is known as phylogenetic primacy, highlighting that our nonhuman
ancestors had likely figured out social signaling before humans existed in our current form.

Primacy of Individual

Not only is nonverbal communication the earliest type of communication for our species, but also it’s the earliest
form of communication for each individual member of our species across the lifespan. The idea that nonverbal
communication comes before any other form of communication in each individual experience is known as
ontogenetic primacy. It’s a pretty complicated phrase to describe a very simple concept: from the moment of
birth, infants have to communicate with other humans nonverbally because they haven’t yet acquired a verbal
language system.�� Starting with those early moments of life, most infants can communicate their needs through
crying and receive help from a caretaker in return. These infants receive love and affection without understanding
or using formal language, and they are still able to communicate basic emotions (like contentedness) during those
early interactions. Even the earliest experience of nursing allows for nonverbal communication to occur far before
a verbal language system is required. For example, consider a child crying to indicate hunger to his mother.
Assuming that child is being breast-fed, the mother will pick up the child and hold to her chest, the two will make
eye contact, and then even the grasping and kneading behaviors of the child are an early form of touch
expression. Think about that one interaction and all that it entails: sound, touching, being touched, eye contact,
and other forms of auditory communication and affection. Indeed, small children are often given positive
affirmations for those early attempts at communicating despite not having learned a formal language.

To be sure, the vast majority of children do eventually develop a verbal communication system.�� From learning
what to ask for—or in some cases what to demand—children quickly learn that verbal language allows for greater
specificity in achieving their goals. That being said, most young parents will acknowledge the greater urgency that
is conveyed by nonverbal forms of expression like crying or a tantrum. Why does ontogenetic primacy matter
within the human experience? It is, at its most basic, each person’s earliest form of communication in their own
lifespan. Whether you had a good upbringing or an unhappy early life, nonverbal communication is the way that
you communicated throughout those earliest interactions.

Primacy of Interaction

Our ancestors used nonverbal messaging to communicate long before modern humans were around, and each
individual human on this planet has explored their social world through nonverbal messaging long before any
understanding of a verbal language system is developed. In addition to those forms of primacy, each time we
interact with someone we exhibit a common form of primacy as we pay attention to their nonverbal behaviors
before we consider any words that they might be using. This type of primacy is known as interactional primacy,
and it highlights that our first impressions are often based on nonverbal characteristics and behaviors of another
person. Consider the first day of an in-person class, perhaps your favorite class from high school (or even the
class that you are in right now). From the moment your instructor walked into the room, you began to make
decisions about them based solely upon the way they looked or acted, and also based on how it seemed that they
treated the people around them.��, �� Did you think they were going to be a difficult teacher, or relatively simple?
Did they seem easy-going or harsh and severe? Did you think that the instructor was going to be a good one, or
were you worried that it might be smarter to enroll in a section with a different instructor? Is the instructor likely to
be funny, to be cranky, or to be serious? You probably paid attention to a wide variety of personal characteristics
of the instructor in order to determine how you might best engage them over the course of the semester before
they even had a chance to say a single word. In this chapter’s Measure feature, we look at how this interactional
primacy may influence our subsequent perceptions of a person.

Box �.� Measure
Self-Assessments and First Impressions

Our briefest interactions with others often influence how we feel about them. At the slightest observation of
someone else’s behavior, we can make correct and incorrect guesses about a wide range of other
personal characteristics.

Scholars have figured out some relationships between our initial perceptions of other people and the
attitudes toward those people that result from our perceptions.�� The following is a shortened and modified
list of questions inspired by some early research on first impressions and attitude formation.

Instructions: Think carefully about someone you just recently met, someone with whom you have not
interacted significantly—perhaps the barista at the coffee shop on the corner or a new neighbor. Then,
write the number (e.g., � through �) that best corresponds with your attitudes toward each statement

1 2 3 4 5 6 7



Disagree Somewhat


Undecided Somewhat


Agree Strongly


__________ 1. This person seems considerate of others.

__________ 2. I imagine that this person is highly intelligent.

__________ 3. I don’t think this person seems humorless.

__________ 4. I would expect that this person will do very well in life.

__________ 5. I can’t imagine it is likely that this person is easily irritated.

__________ 6. This person is probably quite popular.

Add up your score and see what you get. The lowest score you can receive on this assessment is �, while
the highest score is ��. The higher your score, the more likely your first impression of that person was
influenced by an impression of interpersonal warmth, or a belief that the person would be pleasant and
likely to be a good friend. The lower your score, the more likely you evaluated that person as cold or

MEASURE: Are you surprised by your score of that other person? Was your impression of this relatively
new person warmer or colder overall? Think about the things that person did or the ways that they
behaved that may have impacted your evaluation of them as a person. If your scoring of the other person
is low, what kinds of observed behaviors might you avoid in your own life? If your scoring of the other
person is high, what positive characteristics do you hope you incorporate into new interactions?

These first impressions are made based upon a variety of different things that each person observes and
evaluates. Indeed, nonverbal messages can come through almost any of our senses, from seeing a co-worker’s
facial expressions, feeling the affectionate touch of a best friend, smelling the cologne or perfume of a romantic
partner, or hearing the heartbeat of a child during a long embrace. (Taste is the only sense through which we don’t
directly have a nonverbal code, and even then burgeoning research is looking at the area of how food and

communication are intermixed.�� As such, some scholars even highlight taste as a way of communicating!) And to
be sure, these are only the face-to-face channels of communication, not counting the range of nonverbal
messages that can still be expressed in mediated ways.

Nonverbal communication also occurs across a variety of mediated channels, like phone conversations, text
messages, e-mails, television and film, radio, Skype or FaceTime; the list is as long as the number of
communication technologies that exist. In the written word through messaging like text messages and e-mails,
emoticons and emojis—text-based images or graphics that replicate facial expressions or other visual cues—
serve as proxies for nonverbal communication. On phone conversations or on the radio, the vocal characteristics
of the speaker, including the pauses between speaking. serve as nonverbal indicators which may contain
information about the speaker’s emotional state. Television and film contexts provide for a rich expression of
nonverbal messages, but lose some of the interactivity of actual interaction. Skype, FaceTime, or other real-time
video messaging services allow for a variety of real-time interactive nonverbal messages to be shared, but some
scholars argue that they lack some of the important features of messages allowed through face-to-face
interactions.�� We explore the impact of channel selection in this chapter’s Engage feature.

Box �.� Engage
Diverse Channels, Diverse Choices

Across the diversity of a modern society, it is very common to have regular interactions among people from
different backgrounds who have new perspectives based on their everyday life. Brandi was excited to
move to a university located deep in a city center, as her main life experiences before that point occurred
in a suburban setting where everyone appeared relatively similar at first glance. Upon arriving for her
second year of college after a summer working at a regional camp, Brandi reflected on the many different
ways that she knew how to make friends and meet new people. While she was probably pretty popular at
camp that summer—she didn’t like to brag—Brandi had a lot of difficulty getting to know her neighbors she
encountered in the hall in her new downtown apartment building. She regularly tried to look people in the
eye directly and extend her arm for a handshake, but she often found that she had been “left hanging” by
her neighbors, whether intentionally or not.

Although Brandi quickly learned that not all of her neighbors relied primarily on face-to-face channels to
navigate their daily lives, she did find it strange that so many of her neighbors had their faces buried in
their phones or tablets and took little to no interest in her at all. After a conversation with one friendly long-
term resident helped her realize that people valued privacy in such a densely populated environment,
Brandi realized that her own way of doing things was not always the most common—or even most desired
—in every environment.

ENGAGE: What things might Brandi do that her classmates and new neighbors find to be strange? Do you
think Brandi will end up behaving similarly to those around her in a few years, or will she keep up her
outgoing “suburban” ways? How have you managed your relationships across a variety of channels as you
transitioned to college life?

Channel Reliance

Many scholars have even looked at characteristics of these channels more intentionally, trying to determine which
channels are most important for communicating a full range of messages. Indeed, humans have a form of
channel reliance in which we tend to rely on specific channels (like vocal or visual cues, for example) for specific
types of messages (e.g., paying the most attention to vocal cues when receiving a deceptive message).��, �� This
channel reliance will be discussed across multiple chapters in this book where appropriate. Significantly, the
interactivity of a variety of channel types may impact our ability to receive an intended message, as the degree to
which we can engage the message sender may influence what nonverbal characteristics we pay attention to.��

Although the transactional model of communication is the preferred way of thinking about the basic elements of
human communication, most all models highlight the complexities of messaging. Whether you prefer to use the
linear model or the transactional model of communication, it is difficult to ignore the variety of ways that we send
to the people in our lives through both verbal and nonverbal messaging. Nonverbal communication includes a
specific set of characteristics or behaviors that send messages to our friends, family, coworkers, romantic
partners, and any other individuals that we engage with throughout our lives. Because nonverbal communication
has come first throughout our existence, humans tend to rely on nonverbal messages much more than any verbal
forms of communication. Just like verbal messaging, these nonverbal messages are sent by an individual using a
specific channel; often, that same individual is receiving messages simultaneously, trying to decode the intended
message despite many noise and features of the context that may impede the successful transmission of the
message. With so many different nonverbal and verbal messages present in our daily lives, it is not surprising that
we grow increasingly reliant upon certain types of messages over the course of our life span, influenced in part by
the interactivity of the channel through which we received that message. Throughout the rest of the book, we will
explore specific features and contexts of the nonverbal messages in our daily lives.

Knowing the impact of first impressions, how will you manage your nonverbal self to make sure that your
messages fit your goals?

In what way do you expect to use nonverbal communication to influence your close relationships in the future?


channels �

channel reliance ��

context �

decoding �

emojis ��

emoticons ��

encoding �

feedback �

interactional primacy ��

linear model of communication �

message �

noise �

nonverbal communication �

ontogenetic primacy ��

phylogenetic primacy ��

physical noise �

physiological noise �

primacy ��

psychological noise �

receiver �

semantic noise �

sender �

transactional messaging �

transactional model of communication �

unidirectional messaging �

verbal communication �

vocal/auditory messages ��

Descriptions of Images and Figures
Back to Figure

The flow diagram is present within a large oval labeled “Context”. The flow diagram shows a sender sending a
message to a receiver through a channel. The message is presented as a one-way arrow. Surrounding the flow
diagram and within the context is noise.

Back to Figure

The flow diagram is present within a large oval labeled “Context”. The flow diagram shows a sender and receiver
and a receiver and sender connected through a message that travels through a channel. The message is
presented as a double-headed arrow. Surrounding the flow diagram and within the context is noise. A channel of
feedback flows from the sender and receiver to the receiver and sender, and vice versa.


Learning Objectives
After reading this chapter you will be able to do the following:

List the main principles of nonverbal messaging

Distinguish between digital and analog messages

Describe how humans process messages

Explain how nonverbal communication is innate

Chance and Kelly rarely hung out anymore. It’s not that they stopped liking each other, but they didn’t seem to
have as much in common as they did back when they were in high school student government together. Plus, they
were busy. Once she got to college, Kelly got a part-time job at a campus coffee shop and a full-time boyfriend; at
the same time, Chance got involved with the Pride community and began a minor in gender studies to
complement a full load of engineering coursework. When Kelly happened to be near Chance in the student union,
she didn’t immediately recognize Chance because of the new hairstyle. Chance had been happy to see Kelly from
a distance. Happy, that is, until Kelly walked closer and kept walking right on by en route to her shift at the coffee
shop without even a word. Chance was concerned that all the recent hours spent at the Pride Resource Center
rubbed Kelly the wrong way, and sent Kelly a text, fearing their casual friendship had taken a turn for the worse. A
later text of explanation from Kelly didn’t calm Chance’s fear that she might be unhappy with their friendship.

Guiding Questions
How do nonverbal messages lead to misunderstanding?

To what extent can individuals manage the impressions that they are sending to one another?

In their discipline-defining book, scholars Judee Burgoon and Thomas Paine highlighted some important
characteristics of nonverbal communication that are still significant today.� Even though communicators have

experienced dramatic changes in communication technologies over the past years, the basic principles of
nonverbal messaging are just as true now as they were decades ago, regardless of nonverbal channel.

Nonverbal Messaging Is Ubiquitous

The first characteristic of nonverbal communication is that it is everywhere. Every single interaction between
humans contains some nonverbal component, regardless of whether that interaction occurs face to face, over the
telephone, by text message, through a computer, on a boat, on a train, or on a plane. Whenever humans interact,
they use nonverbal messaging in some way. According to a receiver-based perspective of communication, even
the unintended behaviors of everyday life can be perceived to have some communicative value, so that student
sleeping in class next to you right now may be unintentionally letting your instructor know that he or she is more
sleepy than he or she is interested in class. This receiver-based perspective of communication is in keeping with
the oft-repeated maxim that you may have heard in another more introductory communication class: “One cannot
not communicate.”� This statement reminds us time and time again that we are always sending messages
regardless of intent. From the facial expressions we make when we think no one is looking, to the pause between
when we receive and then reply to a text message, other people are constantly ascribing meaning to the
behaviors and characteristics we exhibit throughout our life.

Nonverbal Messaging Functions in Many Ways

We can use nonverbal messages in almost any situation. Nonverbal communication can help people in giving
directions to a stranger, influencing someone to buy a fundraising raffle ticket, indicating a desire for a romantic
encounter with a new partner, or even deceiving someone about your feelings toward the horrible birthday gift you
just received. Sometimes the nonverbal messages occur alongside the verbal messages (e.g., alongside words)
that you are sending and receiving with a communication partner. Other times, the nonverbal messages are the
sole method of communicating—like when you are at a concert that is particularly loud and you want to let your
friends know that you are leaving early, but they wouldn’t be able to hear any words you might say so you must
resort to gestures instead.

Nonverbal Messaging Is Widely Used

In every culture and across every location, people use a variety of nonverbal behaviors to send messages to one
another. Some scholars have discovered that the facial expressions we use are near universal, meaning that
people understand some common nonverbal messages regardless of their background.� In almost every situation
across most any location on earth, for example, people are likely to know the difference between an angry face
and a smiling happy face, regardless of their unique culture or background.�

Have you ever traveled abroad? Or spent time with people or with families that don’t speak the language that you
personally grew up with? You may have found it relatively easy to interact with these people, even if you didn’t
have a single word of verbal communication shared between you.

Sherold enjoys having friends from around the world, and during a gap year before college, he wanted to meet up
with friends in a restaurant near the Mexico–U.S. border. When he arrived at the restaurant, he realized he had no
way to alert the staff to his significant tomato allergy. By pantomiming the shape of a round fruit, pointing to the

color red, and making a choking motion by wrapping his hands around his neck, he was able to communicate
enough information that the server appeared to understand. Retreating to the back and returning to the table while
holding a medium-size tomato—shaking her head and wagging her finger at it—the server was able to confirm
what Sherold meant by his “performance,” and the delicious meal ended up being a highlight of Sherold’s trip.
Even though Sherold didn’t speak a word of the local language, he was able to use nonverbal messaging to
communicate a relatively sophisticated message across cultures in a way that felt natural to him. In this chapter’s
Engage feature we have another example of cultural differences influencing nonverbal behavior.

Box �.� Engage
Nonverbal Behaviors in Diverse Contexts

North America is filled with a variety of people from all over the world. While Derek’s family has lived in his
hometown for generations, Derek’s boyfriend Marcus has recently emigrated from Europe—and Marcus’s
extended family is still learning the local language. Although Derek likes Marcus’s family quite a bit, he
feels a little left out because of not knowing exactly what they are saying. Plus, there was “the incident.”
Last time he visited the house, Derek used the restroom and ran out of toilet paper. Coming out from the
bathroom and realizing his own boyfriend had taken a quick trip to the store, Derek had a heck of a time
trying to get another roll without having a shared language system. Although he was able to eventually get
them to figure it out, Marcus confides that his family still makes some odd gestures every time Derek’s
name comes up.

Aside from being one of the more awkward moments of his life, Derek feels like an outsider as he
navigates his boyfriend’s life. Recently, his best friend Sadie encouraged him to think about all the
nonnative English speakers that he interacts with daily, immigrants and new citizens who don’t have his
considerable English speaking skills. Derek realized that he himself has been complicit in making others
feel badly when they don’t embrace the majority language, even to the point of dismissing them as people
without relevant opinions or feelings.

ENGAGE: What is our obligation when communicating with diverse others? Does that obligation change
when we don’t share a common language? Nonverbal communication is often described as a “universal
language.” Does that idea of universality impact our opinion at all when realizing that we can, in fact, send
messages to one another—and have had that shared nonverbal language system since our earliest years
as a child?

While not every nonverbal message translates well across cultures or locations, as aforementioned many facial
expressions are similar across cultures. In addition, many gestures are directly related to the things that they
represent, so the meaning is likely similar among most people. Raising one’s hand in the air above your head
when describing a person likely means “tall” across cultures, and rotating your arms like you are swimming will
likely convey something about water in many places around the world. Other nonverbal messages may not
transfer as well, like when mimicking typing on a keyboard to represent a computer or clicking an imaginary
mouse; in areas where computer usage is not widespread, obviously describing such technologies would be
difficult or impossible even with verbal language.

Nonverbal Messaging Impacts Meaning-Making

Nonverbal messages can add great significance to an interaction, such as giving a dear friend a comforting hug at
a funeral. Such a gesture may convey more than words alone could possibly communicate, helping someone to
know the depth of closeness and empathy shared between friends. Nonverbal messages can also inadvertently
send a message other than the one intended, however, such as when a coworker puts a hand of support on the
shoulder of their colleague, only to have such behavior interpreted as a sexual advance. The behavior that one
person intended to use to show friendship and familiarity could be taken for something which ultimately destroys
the collegial relationship.

While nonverbal behaviors can add to one’s understanding of an intended message, it can also lead to someone
being still further confused about a sender’s intent, sometimes even with dramatic results. When Chia-Yen was
driving on a winding, hilly road in the foothills just outside of the city, she came to a stop sign on a blind corner.
Noticing that someone in another car was having trouble using a manual transmission, she waited and waved the
other car through and let that other person have her turn. Unfortunately, that car then pulled out and was
immediately struck by an oncoming car. Even though it was a minor collision, Chia-Yen felt guilty when she
realized that the driver of the other car thought she was giving him the “all-clear” signal when she only meant to
give him her turn at navigating the intersection. A relatively simple wave of the hand meant two different things to
two different drivers on the road that day.

Nonverbal Messaging has Primacy

As discussed in Chapter �, nonverbal messaging is a “first” for us in many ways. It’s the first way that we learned
to communicate as a species (i.e., phylogenetic primacy), the first way that we learned to communicate across our
individual life span (i.e., ontogenetic primacy), and the first way that we continue to learn information about others
through first impressions (i.e., interactional primacy).� Because nonverbal communication has primacy by coming
before verbal language in so many ways, we have a longer history with—and a greater reliance on—nonverbal
messages than we have with words and other linguistic features. When Shelly turned a corner in the mall and
suddenly saw her “frenemy” Barbara from down the street, her face naturally turned into a look of contempt before
she even had time to think about it. By the time she reached Barbara, Shelly had composed a smile and politely
asked how Barbara was doing, but the overall tone of the interaction had already been set by an unintentional
facial expression before words were spoken.

Nonverbal Messaging Is Ambiguous

Even though nonverbal messaging is universal in a variety of ways, there is just enough ambiguity across
nonverbal behaviors to be useful in certain situations. Occasionally, people may want to send a message that
can’t (or shouldn’t) be put into words, whether it is a criticism or disagreement with an important relational partner,
a statement that needs to be off the record, or even a humorous jab that might be too edgy to say outright. In
those cases, nonverbal behaviors offer an opportunity to get a message across without the sender being held
accountable for the verbal content that would have replaced that message.

For example, when Santiago was giving his presentation at work last week, no one wanted to tell him that he was
boring and taking too long; at the same time, someone needed to get the meeting moving along or they would be
there all day. Santiago’s supervisor helped wrap things up by looking at his watch, quietly yawning, and stretching
his arms in such a way that Santiago got the hint without being publicly embarrassed. Later that evening, Santiago
put on his favorite silk shirt and was immediately confronted by his wife Stacia, who blocked his path, raised her
eyebrows at the shirt, and handed him a conservative polo. Instead of obviously criticizing Santiago’s clothing
options, Stacia also sent a message in a straightforward yet ambiguous way that did not hurt Santiago’s feelings
as much as a direct criticism of his favorite shirt might. To further refine your own ways of dealing with cultural
differences in communication, check out this chapter’s Apply feature where you can consider another example of
a difficult communication situation.

Box �.� Apply
Trusted Expressions of Excitement and Interest

LaShonda was trying to figure out what to get her niece Aaliyah for her eighth birthday party, but was
having trouble deciding between some options. As she was looking at possible toys online and trying to
figure out which one to get, she decided to FaceTime her sister’s family and have a conversation. After the
usual pleasantries, LaShonda decided it was time to sneakily figure out what to get. She mentioned a few
toys, and noticed that Aaliyah’s face really lit up at the mention of a remote-control robot that looked like a
dog, and then a few moments later LaShonda’s sister mentioned that the best option would be a different
toy that didn’t seem to really grab anyone’s attention. After exiting the FaceTime conversation, LaShonda
clicked over to the two different options for the birthday present, and her mouse hovered over the “add to
my basket” button for each of the two toys. LaShonda was in a bit of a conundrum.

LaShonda really struggled with what toy to purchase in this scenario. LaShonda’s sister clearly highlighted
a toy that her niece wanted, but Aaliyah looked so excited at the thought of that small remote-control robot
puppy. While both toys were great options, LaShonda really wanted to have her toy make a splash at the

APPLY: Which toy do you think LaShonda eventually purchased for Aaliyah? Why do you think that is the
case? How does this entire scenario illustrate how much stock we put in nonverbal messages over verbal
messages? Do you think the conversation would have had a different outcome if it had just happened over
a normal phone call?

Nonverbal Messaging Is Accepted

For a variety of reasons, people tend to trust nonverbal messages over the verbal messages that may accompany
them.�, � Perhaps because of the primacy of the nonverbal channels of communication, or maybe because people
know that nonverbals can be used to send information that one would prefer to remain off the record, the receivers
of messages often believe the messaging implied by nonverbal communication, even when it is in direct
contradiction to the verbal messages sent in the same interaction.�

This reliance on the nonverbal components of an overall interaction is one reason why sarcasm works so
effectively: The nonverbal messages occur alongside the verbal statements, and the facial expressions or tone of
voice serve to negate the words or phrases that are spoken by the messenger.

Ken and Myles have been married for a couple years now, and Myles loves to tease Ken about his family and their
strange mannerisms. When Myles gets a particularly good joke in about the way that Ken’s father snores on the
couch during a family visit, Ken jabs Myles in the side with his elbow and says, “Oh stop it, I hate you.” Because
Ken had a smile on his face, a soft casual tone to his voice, and kept good eye contact, Myles is confident that
Ken means the exact opposite of what he said. If Myles accepted Ken’s verbal message rather than his nonverbal
behaviors, they might have a long and uncomfortable conversation in store for the ride home after the visit.

In light of our previous discussion of the characteristics of nonverbal messaging, it becomes useful to further
clarify the distinction between nonverbal and verbal behaviors. One useful way to think of the difference between
nonverbal and verbal behaviors has to do with the distinction between digital representations and analog
representations during interactions.�, �� A digital representation is one in which the components of the message
have an arbitrary relationship to the thing that is being signified. This arbitrary relationship is assigned by cultural
experience, much in the same way that a specific set of letters are put together to form a word that is then
assigned to represent a concept. Consider, for example, the digital clock face represented on the previous page. If
you break it down to its most basic form, the passage of time is signified by a bunch of little lines moving places all
over a screen to create easily recognizable patterns that mean something. In the case of the clock face in the
picture, the lines have been lit in such a way as to indicate that it is currently �:�� a. m. A box of vegetables
delivered to a store might be clearly labeled c-o-r-n, a string of letters that we have arbitrarily decided can be used
to represent a particularly delicious ingredient in making taco shells.

Analog representations, on the other hand, are ones where there is a direct link between the message and the
thing being signified. An analog clock, for example, has minute hands which move around a dial to signal the

passing of time. As seen in the Photo, a sketch of an ear of corn in front of a farmer’s market stand looks enough
like the vegetable that people know exactly what the vendor is selling. Unlike digital representations that rely on
culture-specific symbols much like language, analog representations use signs that inherently relate to or imply
the object of discussion.��

Typically, verbal messages are considered two be digital representations of something, because they consist of a
string of symbolic letters or sounds that have come to represent a specific concept. Nonverbal messages are often
described as analog representations, because one need not have much (or sometimes even any) cultural
background to gain a solid impression of what message a skilled communicator is trying to convey.

This ability to successfully send or receive nonverbal messages is an important part of the concept of message
processing,��, �� which is the combination of encoding and decoding messages in human interaction. Think about
the models of communication that we looked at in Chapter �. When people are engaging in the encoding of
messages, they are constructing a message to send to their interaction partner, likely working to figure out how
best to produce a message in order to reach the audience. Thinking of the right words to say? Making sure that a
facial expression matches your emotion? Each of these are examples of encoding behaviors that people engage
to get their point across to an audience. Once the message is encoded, it is sent through a channel to the
receiver, who then begins the process of trying to interpret meaning from a communication act or behavior. The
receiver then begins decoding the message received, in an attempt to understand or act upon the verbal or
nonverbal messages received. We go into the stages of communicating—the encoding and decoding involved in
message processing—in the next section as we explore the ways that humans send and receive nonverbal
messages among one another. While some early research focused on the ways that nonverbal messaging
influenced how we attend to verbal messages,�� most scholars now understand that nonverbal messages are
more than just an added “bonus” to the verbal messages that people use in interpersonal interactions. Here we
look at a three-stage model of nonverbal message processing that explains how humans are able to successfully
receive messages from one another.��

The Attention Stage

In order for someone to receive a message from an interaction partner, first they must be attending to that partner,
a behavior that occurs during the attention stage. Rather than just seeing or hearing messages that are being
sent, one must listen and observe while engaging with another person. We are naturally likely to only give our
attention to a small subset of verbal and nonverbal messages in any situation, often because of the presence of
different types of noise as highlighted in Chapter �.�� The ability to screen out any distractions requires a great
deal of mental energy, and only when one is intentionally giving attention to a communicator can they then begin
to receive verbal or nonverbal messages. Interestingly, research has shown that women are significantly more
likely to give attention to nonverbal messages, highlighting a sex difference that may contribute to better
understanding of nuance in communication.�� As more and more things compete for our attention in our daily
lives, it is increasingly difficult to attend to the verbal and nonverbal messages of a particular individual, or to be
attended to by someone else. Some businesses even have a formal training system for employees on how to

appear to pay attention to a customer, because a lack of attention is so widespread that it is even beginning to be
considered “normal” in modern times.�� Fortunately, nonverbal communication has the potential to be quite
engaging, with people able to use gestures, vocal variety, direct eye contact, and kinesic movements to re-engage
an audience that appears to be losing interest quickly.��, �� In this chapter’s Absorb feature we look at the
attention of audience members in a popular late-night talk show.

Box �.� Absorb
Attention on Popular Media

James Corden is famous for his spontaneous audience interactions during The Late Late Show with
James Corden. With an audience full of people who came specifically to watch the show, he still highlights
the difficulty of paying attention when a lot is going on in his recurring game “Were you paying attention?”
in the clip below.

“Were You Paying Attention?” from The Late Late Show with James Corden. March ��, ����. Running
Time: ��:��. Available on YouTube.

As someone watching from home, it seems ludicrous that individuals would spend an entire day of their
lives focused on trying to see a live recording of a late night talk show, and then not be able to recount
details of the very show they are in the middle of taping. That being said, the majority of audience
participants were unable to recall even those significant moments from the program.

ABSORB: How does the clip illustrate just how easily individual attention is divided? How do you think you
would respond in a similar situation? Quick, without looking, what color was James Corden’s tie in the
video clip? As you might imagine, even the most in-your-face details may be difficult to remember when so
many things are competing for our attention.

The Comprehension Stage

The next stage of processing messages has to do with how we engage material to which we have given our
attention. Specifically, the comprehension stage involves a listener’s attempt to actually understand the verbal or
nonverbal messages, rather than just hear or see them (but not critically engage them). Scholars Stewart and
Huston argue that there are three main forms of active listening, or attending to a conversational partner in order
to create understanding.��, �� Indeed, these same attempts at comprehension apply for nonverbal messaging as
well and are adapted accordingly.

Dialogic Comprehension

Dialogic comprehension can emerge from an active process of paying attention to one another’s verbal and
nonverbal messaging. In this active form of engagement and observation, both parties seek to co-construct
shared meaning and understand each other’s thoughts and feelings through conversation and dialogue, while also
attending to the nonverbal displays of one another. In this chapter’s Measure feature you can assess your own
ability to take the perspective of another person.

Empathic Comprehension

Empathic comprehension can also emerge from active attention, in which partners develop an understanding of
one another and attempt to use all available information to assist in adopting the perspective of one’s
conversational partner and interpreting the world through that perspective.

Analytic Comprehension

Analytic comprehension is a form of active comprehension in which one party seeks to analyze or critique the
message and the implications of a communication interaction in order to determine the truth or veracity of the
verbal and nonverbal messages.

Box �.� Measure
Self-Assessments and Perspective-Taking

People often are self-involved when it comes to managing their own relationship difficulties. That is, most
people naturally want to act in what seems like their own best interests, even if it may ultimately damage
the relationship that they have with their interaction partner, whether a friend, family member, or romantic

Scholars have figured out a way to measure whether someone is likely to try to understand where their
interaction partner is coming from, a behavior often described as perspective-taking.��, �� The following is
a shortened and modified list of questions inspired by some original research on empathy and perspective-

Instructions: Think carefully about a person that you interact with regularly, someone close enough that
you might have normal moments of conflict as part of your relationship. With that person in mind, consider
whether the following statements describe you well. Write the number (e.g., � through �) that best
corresponds with your fit with each statement.

1 2 3 4

Does Not Does Not Somewhat Describes


Me At All


Me Well



Me Very


__________ 1. I seem to know how this person feels very often.

__________ 2. When I’m upset with this person, I try to put myself in their position.

__________ 3. I try to understand this person by imagining how things look to them.

__________ 4. I try to look at this person’s side of things before making a decision.

__________ 5. I know what it is like to “walk a mile in this person’s shoes.”

__________ 6. I am a pretty good judge of this person’s feelings.

Add up your score and see what you get. The lowest score you can receive on this assessment is �, while
the highest score is ��. The higher your score, the more likely you are trying to engage in empathy in this
relationship. The lower your score, the less likely you try to engage in perspective-taking with this one
relational partner

MEASURE: Are you surprised by your score? Was it higher or lower than the score you expected? Think
about the things that may impact whether you try to understand your interaction partner, including specific
characteristics of the relationship and the context. What might cause you to be more or less likely to
consider their perspective during a disagreement?

The Memory Stage

Finally, the third stage of message processing is called the memory stage, and focuses on our ability to recall
information about an interaction. This stage focuses on not only information about the content of the interaction,
but also information about the context in which the interaction occurred, the relational information implied by the
manner of interaction, as well as other nonverbal characteristics of the messaging beyond the simple verbal
information that usually comprises recall. Obviously, it is nearly impossible to remember all parts of an interaction,
both verbal and nonverbal; that being said, the greater the degree to which communicators attempt to actively
engage one another, the more likely they will be able to have significant recall of important features of the
interaction. Indeed, although much research on recall focuses on verbal communication, the nonverbal messaging
associated with human interaction is among our earliest and most primal communication skills.��

Box �.� Examine
The Ethics of Analysis

Our modern media landscape encourages us to reconsider whether people are telling us the truth. When
we are trying to evaluate the truthfulness of someone’s words or the sincerity of their actions or emotional
displays, it is essential to consider our own biases that we might have toward that person as we are
making our analysis. For example, it is common for people to dismiss the statements or expressions of

politicians from a different political party, or to disregard the explanations of athletes who play on a rival
team. When watching a basketball game, people are quick to dismiss something even as provable as a
potential foul on the court when it happens to a member of the visiting team.

Although it is tempting to discount a statement of an unliked person as untruthful, or to write off the
crocodile tears of a man or woman confessing a personal failing, good communicators must evaluate
others’ statements and interpersonal situations based upon a variety of information inputs. For example,
what is this person’s history of truthfulness? Is there some personal trigger evident when I encounter this
person, one that makes me want to jump to conclusions without having heard their statement or without
having considered relevant evidence? Do I have reason to doubt the veracity of this individual’s verbal or
nonverbal messages? In our modern society, we are often tempted to dismiss information that could prove
helpful in making judgements of our own, often at our own peril.

EXAMINE: Considering our own biases allows us to approach message analysis in a more ethical way.
What kinds of things trigger you to distrust someone? Are there any sociodemographic categories (e.g.,
age, gender, race, religion, political party) about which you need to have a broader mind? Oftentimes, we
are able to overcome much bias simply by acknowledging the areas in which we might be inclined to jump
to conclusions. Even more importantly, interacting with people who are very different from ourselves can
also allow us to challenge our previously held beliefs.

As mentioned earlier in the chapter, nonverbal communication is a near-universal skill. There is something
inherent in being human that means that people will be able to communicate in some way without verbal
messaging. An inherited trait that is further enhanced throughout a lifetime of cultural learning, the ability to send
or receive messages nonverbally is a fundamental characteristic of being a human being. Indeed, scholars
regularly note that learning difficulties associated with poor nonverbal skills are often much more difficult to
remediate than those associated with verbal skills like speech or reading ability.��, �� Indeed, children who are
less skilled at using nonverbal messaging are often frequently the victim of a variety of forms of bullying or social
ostracization,�� likely the result of an inability to pick up on the subtleties of human interaction deemed necessary
to navigate the nuances of childhood playgrounds. Hale

Despite this innate ability to send or receive messages nonverbally, it becomes very obvious during adult social
situations that some people are more skilled at communicating nonverbally than are others. Nonverbal
communication is an important part of social competence or social intelligence.��, ��, �� Indeed, socially
intelligent adults can perceive a wide variety of individual observed characteristics based on subtle nonverbal
behaviors, including abstract characteristics like professional success, religious identity, political ideology, sexual
orientation, and a variety of other characteristics that may otherwise be available as information only through the
process of self-disclosure (i.e., revealing personal information about the self through verbal conversation).��

While scholars have worked to try to measure this ability to send or receive nonverbal messages,�� we can

probably easily identify in our own lives those who are more or less skilled at communicating nonverbally or
picking up on social skills.

Our understanding of the characteristics of nonverbal communication is extended even further by highlighting the
key principles of nonverbal messaging. First, nonverbal messaging is everywhere, a characteristic which is
highlighted in three of those principles: Nonverbal messaging is ubiquitous, nonverbal messaging is widely used,
and nonverbal messaging is widely accepted. Some specific caveats are also highlighted in those principles,
pointing out that nonverbal messaging functions in many ways, nonverbal messaging impacts meaning-making,
and nonverbal messaging is ambiguous. Lastly, it’s important to remember the final principle that was initially
discussed in Chapter �: nonverbal messaging Has primacy. One characteristic that helps in that primacy is the
direct nature of nonverbal representation; rather than being digital and therefor arbitrarily related, nonverbal
communication is analogic and has a direct relationship to the thing it represents. Finally, we turn our attention to
considering the ways that individuals process nonverbal information, highlighting the importance of active attention
in human interaction.

Now that you are aware of the possible misinterpretations of nonverbal messages, what will you do to make sure
that people better understand your intent?

Given that people form impressions of you based upon your verbal and nonverbal messaging, what do you plan to
do to best manage those impressions?


analog representation ��

analytic comprehension ��

attention stage ��

comprehension stage ��

dialogic comprehension ��

digital representation ��

empathic Comprehension ��

memory stage ��

message processing ��

self-disclosure ��

social competence ��

social intelligence ��


Learning Objectives
After reading this chapter you will be able to do the following:

Define the concept of nonverbal codes

List each of the nonverbal codes

Explain and give examples of each code

As a recent college graduate, Josefina was thrilled to get a position at a downtown marketing firm. Despite having
beat out over ��� other applicants for the position, Josefina was concerned at the end of the first week when she
found out she was her supervisor Kizzy’s second choice for the position. As a result, Josefina wanted to show her
new supervisor how diligent and qualified she truly was. By the end of the ��-day probationary period, Josefina’s
supervisor wrote a glowing review describing how well she was fitting in. In the review, Kizzy acknowledged how
warmly Josefina greeted new clients with a smile, direct eye contact, and a firm sustained handshake. She also
highlighted Josefina’s attention during meetings and ability to appear focused, using direct body orientation and
frequent nods or smiles to indicate her attention. Kizzy also mentioned her professional dress with slacks and a
muted blouse-and-blazer combination, in addition to her amazing timeliness in which she proved herself to be the
first to arrive to every client meeting. Josefina was happy to have the opportunity to continue to succeed at the
firm despite her early misgivings.

Guiding Questions
How do we use nonverbal messages to manage our identities?

Through which nonverbal codes should we attempt to reinforce a message?

How do we use different nonverbal codes to create a gestalt impression?

How would you describe yourself? What are the specific descriptions that help you explain to others who you are?
Identity is a word that describes the relatively unchanging or stable set of perceptions or ideas that we hold about

ourselves.� It is quite useful to consider the most basic building blocks of an individual’s identity as we begin to
consider our nonverbal behaviors and how they indicate who we think we are.

Sex and Gender

One of the primary identities that emerges in our modern world have to do with our perceptions of how we do or
don’t fit into traditional sex roles. Among our earliest experiences are moments where we are socialized to behave
like boys and girls, men and women. Much research has looked at the various influences on our gender
development, from the early messages our parents tell us like “boys don’t cry” or “be a pretty little lady,” to the
different toys that are marketed to boys and girls and whether they emphasize fighting and dominance (typically
for boys) or nurturance and cooperation (typically for girls). Over time, we develop an understanding about a
variety of nonverbal characteristics that help us to act out a gender identity including how much space we take up
in public, whether we act tough or accept needed help, the types of clothes we wear, and even the facial
expressions we allow ourselves to show to both known and unknown others.

Nonverbal communication becomes one of the most common ways to portray ourselves as having a specific sex
(defined in biological terms, this includes genital, chromosomal, and hormonal displays of maleness and
femaleness�) or gender (a culturally defined understanding of what social behaviors are generally believed to be
representations of masculinity, femininity, or both (androgynous), or neither (undifferentiated). At �� years old,
Kyoko has a very specific understanding of how she “should” behave as a woman; unfortunately, as a current
study-abroad participant in the United States, she is discovering that her perspective is different from the culture
that surrounds her, since her views are so strongly influenced by her childhood as a Japanese national. She
suddenly sees her own Harajuku-style clothing choices as overly feminine and almost infantile when compared to
many of her New England classmates, totally unaware of her classmates’ actual views of her stylings as “pretty
punk-rock.” To explore further the use of personal pronouns when talking about these gender concepts, see the
Examine feature in this chapter, next.

Box �.� Examine
The Ethics of Personal Pronouns

In the English language, we often use gendered pronouns to describe the actions of another person. The
structure “She forgot her phone when she went to her work today” may make a lot of sense when
answering your own romantic partner’s missed call, but in most other situations, it is not appropriate to
guess the gender identity of an unknown other despite a variety of nonverbal displays that may hint at a
particular gendered life. It is tempting to rely on long hair, the use of makeup, or even on feminine colors
(e.g., pinks or purples) or cuts of clothing (e.g., long, flowing, or even gauzy layers) to assume that
someone wants to be seen as a woman. Additionally, masculine, wide, expansive gestures or short hair
with accented musculature may make someone appear more manly, but even the most masculine of
clothing (i.e., a tuxedo) may not be a reliable indicator that the wearer is a man.

While some people may bemoan the “difficulties” of making their own communication match the lived
experiences of the people around them, it is incredibly easy to avoid mislabeling someone as a “him” (“he”)

or “her” (“she”) when that person actually uses another different pronoun. An important best practice to be
adopted by the skilled communicator is to simply ask someone what pronoun they use. Rather than asking
them what pronoun they prefer—which implies that there is a “real” pronoun that should be used but isn’t—
simply asking someone about their pronouns is easy and much less awkward than someone might
assume. For people who never give their own pronoun a second thought, a simple step can eliminate a
discouraging moment of someone’s day.

EXAMINE: A simple clarifying question can help us better navigate the social realities of our modern world.
Although many people may engage in nonverbal displays of gender that you automatically assume imply a
masculine or a feminine identity, what might that person feel if you incorrectly use the wrong pronoun?
Have you ever had someone make an incorrect assumption about you based upon some intentional or
unintentional nonverbal display? What is the best response that you can use if someone uses the wrong
pronoun when describing or interacting with you?


Other identities are also just as significant as our understanding of sex or gender, specifically those related to our
racial heritage. Because race is so often “displayed” for others to see before other impressions are given the
chance to be formed—for example, racial heritage can be somewhat displayed through skin or hair color, the
roundness of one’s eyes, general hair texture, and even facial structure—it is not unusual for people to feel that
people are seeing them more for their race than for any other characteristic (perhaps besides gender).� Although
there isn’t any biological basis for the many stereotypes associated with racial heritage, unfortunately many
people must navigate their world with the additional burden of unwarranted perceptions of their behavior,
character, biology, or ethics. At the same time, some people may be unjustly gifted with unearned privilege based
upon their racial heritage, typically referred to as white privilege for Caucasians in North America.� (Similarly, men
often benefit from male privilege.) Although privilege is often an emotionally charged topic because of all the
feelings such a conversation may bring to the surface, it is important for people to learn more about how they have
participated in society and to consider the ways in which they may have benefitted in different ways from unequal
power structures.

Individuals may have different perceptions of their own racial identity, depending upon the experiences that they
have had with members of not only other races but also with individuals that share their own racial background.
Xochitl, for example, was taught to embrace her Chicana identity and was very politically active in local Latinx
advocacy organizations. As a result, she is able to quickly identify with strong role models that share her
background. Her own mother had a very different childhood, not learning until later in life that her racial identity
was a strength to be acknowledged or highlighted, rather than simply a detriment to deal with as she tried to
assimilate into a majority culture. In this chapter’s Absorb feature we see an example from popular media of how
identity characteristics like these can influence perceptions of our interaction partners.

Box �.� Absorb
Nonverbal Identity Displays on Popular Media

Talk show host Seth Meyers plays with notions of racial and sexual identity in the recurring segment “Jokes
Seth Can’t Tell” on his Late Night with Seth Meyers show. Because of his visible whiteness and maleness

—and his self-admitted heterosexuality—Seth claims that certain jokes are off-limits because the punch
lines involve issues of blackness, queerness, or of women’s lived experiences. Watch as Seth navigates
identity in the clip below.

“Jokes Seth Can’t Tell: Possible Shoplifters, Artisan Lemonade.” from Late Night with Seth Meyers. July ��,
����. Available on YouTube.

Consider the nonverbal reactions of Seth’s writers when he finally tells an admittedly inappropriate joke at
the end of the segment. With just a couple facial expressions and some vocal variation, both women are
able to easily convey their shock and (faux) outrage at Seth’s attempt at humor.

ABSORB: How do the different identities impact your reaction to the jokes in this sketch? In what ways do
you as an audience member make assumptions about each panelist based on the nonverbal displays of
identity? Imagine the difference in your reaction (if any) were Seth Meyers the only one telling each of the
jokes, alone at his desk. Do you think you would feel differently about the segment?


People often think of culture as something associated with one’s national origin or racial background. In fact,
culture is much more about the combination of the various groups to which we belong. In addition, those groups
are often located within a particular geographic region, where local ways of doing things can emerge that influence
individual identity beyond members’ other group memberships. Margie, for example, grew up in a rural area where
horseback riding and the rodeo were part of daily life. Despite considering herself to be a “girly” young woman
because of her interest in fashion and makeup techniques—after all, Margie was taught to never go out of the
house without eyeliner, boots, and a tight French braid—she knew how to fix a tractor and regularly participated in
a variety of intense western horsemanship events. When she mentioned to her new college roommate Cheryl that
she was her “daddy’s little princess,” a whole series of misconceptions emerged starting with both the terminology
as well as the self-characterization that Margie used; Margie was the physically strongest and most confident
young woman that Cheryl knew—always seeming to fill up all available space with her expansive gestures and
direct eye contact—and those terms and descriptors were not a good fit based upon her own understandings of
her own city life. How do you imagine you might have accidentally created a wrong perception of your own identity
by trying to be humorous or by using a stereotype as a self-descriptor?


In addition to these more commonly considered identities, people often have closely held thoughts about their own
ways of navigating their world based upon their personalities. While an extrovert might look forward to an evening
out at a large party (because they tend to get their energy from social interaction with a variety of others), an
introvert likely prefers to recharge with a dear friend or loved one in a more personal context. Imagine the
significant nonverbal differences in eye contact and facial expression between an individual who wants to meet
new people at an event (exhibiting direct eye contact, an open body orientation that welcomes others, and
engagingly forward smile) as compared to someone who desperately wants to leave because they have had their

fill of new faces and unremembered names, making themselves appear both smaller and more unapproachable
as they head toward the exit furtively with an unwelcome facial expression and repeated glances at a watch.

Also consider a different form of personality-driven identity, such as where the Type A personality in a class
working group likely researched and completed a class project and submitted it to their faculty member early for
feedback,� while the serial procrastinator sitting a couple rows back is busy figuring out if they need to get home
by � p.m. or � p.m. in order to make the midnight deadline. Far more than personality descriptors as simply being
one way to describe the general tendencies of an individual, it is not difficult to internalize and then strongly
identify with a variety of personality and character traits—for both good and bad impact on our own lived

Other Identities

Finally, there are many other aspects of individual experience with which people may identify with strongly, weakly,
or even not at all. Are you a student athlete, a member of the marching band, or someone totally uninterested in
sports culture? Are you attracted to people of the opposite sex, the same sex, or some combination of both or
neither? Does the idea of attending a large Comic-Con fan event inspire you to save your money, or conversely
does it cause you to look up the definition of the term Comic-Con instead? A variety of interests and activities may
influence your sense of self to varying degrees; for some people, they may so strongly identify with something that
their world almost seems to revolve around it, while you may have never spent any time giving that topic a second
thought. Tom is a huge fan of the Disney theme parks, reading histories of the parks, keeping up with the current
trends and new attractions on an almost daily basis and even sleeping in a vintage Disneyland T-shirt. He
becomes almost unhinged—raising his voice and making extreme gestures and facial expressions—when people
try to relate to him by mentioning their own love of carnivals or even Six Flags coaster parks. To Tom, the
immersive nature of the Disney parks makes all other properties seem like a distant second. To someone who isn’t
a theme park fan, though, there really isn’t much difference between Disneyland and the local county fair. Tom’s
abrupt response incorporates a variety of nonverbal messages that help him clarify to others the important
aspects of his own identity.

People often send messages about their own personal identities using nonverbal messaging. When people send
nonverbal messages to one another, they may do so in a variety of ways. In the example that started the chapter,
Josefina used her voice, eye contact, facial expressions, clothing, and time management skills to send a valuable
message about herself as a new employee. In so doing, her job supervisor formed an overall positive opinion,
based upon each of these distinct sets of behaviors—behaviors which, importantly, did not use any words to
convey a message. Each of these behaviors falls under a different nonverbal code, or category of communicative
behaviors that have been grouped by nonverbal characteristics that they share.�

Although some scholars occasionally combine nonverbal codes into larger groups like contact cues (e.g., haptic
and proxemic codes) or time and place cues (e.g. chronemic and environment codes),� each code is best
understood on its own. While codes often occur alongside each other at the same time in any interaction, this
chapter explores some nuances of each code as distinct from each other nonverbal code.


Although people typically use multiple codes at the same time when sending messages to one another, it is useful
to separately consider each of the nine major nonverbal codes before we encounter them throughout the book.


The first major nonverbal code that we will discuss is probably the one that contains elements you expected to
study in a course on nonverbal communication. This nonverbal code most explicitly deals with movements and
motion-based behaviors known as kinesics, and will be introduced more comprehensively in Chapter �.
Encompassing a wide variety of behaviors, this code includes facial expressions, a wide variety of illustrative
gestures, motion-based ways of regulating conversational flow, and additional forms of communicating that use
movement to send a message to our interaction partners. In addition, this code contains other forms of movement
like motion-based ways to regulate conversational flow, or even that weird leg-jiggling thing you do when you are
excited for class to be over; occasionally people unintentionally convey messages that they are antsy or stressed
using motion, such as tapping one’s leg in class, clicking the end of a ballpoint pen habitually, or even braiding a
friend’s hair on a long bus ride.


The next major nonverbal code (and the author’s personal favorite), proxemics involves communicating through
the use of personal space and interpersonal distance. Each person has acquired their own slightly different
understanding of personal space based upon their own cultural background and experiences.� One of the most
commonly used conceptualizations of interpersonal distance comes from Edward T. Hall, who describes various
classifications of approximate distances and the types of relationships we’ll allow into each of those spaces.� In
Chapter �, we will look at the typical interaction distances between various types of people in North America
across a variety of situations, exploring how those situations help us manage our relationships with the people we
meet in those spaces.

Box �.� Engage
Diverse Attitudes Toward Personal Distance

While the distances may vary across cultures, there is a near-universal understanding that there is some
distance that is considered “good manners” within each individual culture. These differences in proxemic
distances can lead to misunderstandings when interacting with people who don’t share a similar

When Rachel first met Dan, she thought of him as a “close talker” and felt like he was getting in her
personal space. She worried about whether he might be hitting on her, considering that he always stood so
close. Dan, for his part, regularly went home and told his husband that his new coworker Rachel seemed
uncomfortable in their face-to-face conversations, despite working well together over the phone. Dan
incorrectly wondered if it might have something to do with the fact that he had recently transferred from a
different part of the country, or wondered whether maybe she had a problem with his sexual orientation.

Dan and Rachel are each using personal space in ways that seem normal to them, even though they
clearly are not normal to their workplace interaction partners. Cultures vary across regions, across
countries, and even across cultures within the same large city. If Dan and Rachel can confront the
misunderstandings about personal space directly, they may come to a shared understanding that helps
them move past the awkward beginning to their work relationship.

ENGAGE: How does Dan’s and Rachel’s different use of personal space impact each interaction partner?
What would be your attitude toward personal space if you were in this situation? Have you ever
encountered someone who shared a very different understanding of proxemic distance than you? How did
you manage that situation?


The closest unit of personal space can even get so close as to include one actually touching another person. The
nonverbal code dealing exclusively with touch is known as haptics, and it covers all forms of messaging related to
physical contact. From the embrace of a lover to a slap on the face from a frenemy, touch is one of the best ways
to communicate both affection and aggression.�� As we will discuss in Chapter �, haptics are one part of the
earliest messages that we receive as an infant, spanning a variety of caretaking and affectionate behaviors like
being burped or hugged or bathed as an infant. Over the course of the life span, our complex understanding of
touch emerges—including a developing culture-based understanding of what is considered appropriate or
inappropriate touch—and we develop ways to evaluate how we use touch to send messages and to communicate
a variety of messages in both personal and professional contexts.��


The nonverbal code dealing with the use of one’s eyes to send a message is known as oculesics, and it is one of
the most important ways to indicate attention to a partner, or to convey affection or a threat. When Dominic
wanted to let his teammate know that he was really upset with him, he stared at him angrily during the team’s
post-game meeting. Later that night, when Dominic saw a former lover enter the post-game party at the local pub,
he also used eye contact to send a message of a very different sort. Oculesic behaviors are among the most
significant ways of perceiving the world around us, with around ��% of our social information received through
sight.�� In Chapter �, we discuss the multiple forms of communication where people use their eyes to send a
message to another person. Source


Focusing on the ways in which we present verbal language to one another, the code of vocalics focuses on how
we express ourselves using both words and voice qualities. In Chapter �, we will revisit in great detail the specifics
of different qualities of the voice. Things such as rate, pitch, vocal tone, vocal variety, and even accent are each
helpful in adding a piece to the puzzle about a conversation partner’s intent and emotional state. By
understanding these nonverbal components that can accompany a verbal message, communicators can more
clearly navigate the complicated world of feelings and emotions and intentionality that seem so different and

unique from person to person. When Sarah called Aiko on the phone during a crisis, Aiko knew immediately that
something was wrong. Even though Sarah only talked about inane stuff like a trip to the grocery store, Aiko could
tell by the tone and pitch of Sarah’s voice that she was having a rough time. Pressing Sarah to find out what
happened, Aiko finally got Sarah to reveal that she had discovered that her partner was lying about an alcohol
addiction which Sarah didn’t know how to handle. Aiko was able to use her own vocalics to make sure that Sarah
knew she was comforted and supported and later met up with her to walk over to some campus resources that
could help Sarah out.

Physical Appearance

A large part of identity in North American culture that has to do with the ways that we perceive ourselves based
upon our looks. Indeed, we are also constantly making judgments and assessments of others based upon their
physical appearance. Discussed further in Chapter �, the nonverbal code of physical appearance deals with our
faces and bodies, our clothing, and the artifacts that we carry with ourselves.�� Each of these things is an
important part of communicating information about ourselves to the world around us. For example, when Jorge
first got to college as a new transfer student, he met some students during transfer orientation but also found that
many continuing students had already made friends with one another in the previous years. That being said, Jorge
noticed a group of men and women hanging out while wearing T-shirts related to videogame culture. An avid
gamer himself, Jorge also paid attention to the fact that a bunch of those people looked genuine and relaxed, so
Jorge felt comfortable approaching that group in order to try to make new friends as he asked about where to best
get his videogame “fix.”��


The setting in which we find ourselves has a surprisingly large influence on our messaging. The nonverbal code
associated with our environment focuses on features of the communication context. While we don’t necessarily
acquire the environment as a nonverbal code, we do learn reactions to environmental features, discovering how
best to communicate across a variety of contexts. Normally a loud and outgoing person, the first time that
Guillaume walked into a large Catholic cathedral, he immediately fell silent. The soaring ceilings and the dim
lighting immediately signaled a sense of quiet reflection that was unusual for the agnostic young man. While he
didn’t necessarily have a belief in a higher power, or even a sense that he was in some special kind of place, the
environmental features signaled that it was a place for calm reflection and Guillaume responded accordingly.

A variety of environmental features may impact the messaging that occurs in that context, signaling cultural norms
about behavior or impacting the comfort or perceived intimacy of the physical space. Some elements are relatively
difficult to change (requiring major renovation or construction), while others are relatively easier to change
(rearranging furniture or repainting a wall), things which may not seem like much but definitely impact the
communication environment in significant ways. The moods and communication patterns often associated with
particular environmental features are discussed in greater detail in Chapter ��.

Box �.� Apply
Making Your Space Reflect Your Identity

Katya’s parents teased her that she seemed to be going through a “bit of a goth phase” even though Katya
herself argued it wasn’t that at all. Over the summer, Katya brought a gallon of dark dove grey paint to her
bedroom and covered over all the bright pink walls, finally removing the sponge-painted unicorn designs
she put up in third grade. After all, Katya had just turned ��, and she was over what she called “all that
baby stuff.” Putting up vintage posters of classic punk bands alongside quotes from modern philosophers,
Katya was working hard to show that she was developing her identity in new and interesting ways.
Although her parents jokingly derided the marked change in Katya’s living situation, they were impressed
at her initiative to make her room her own.

For her part, Katya really struggled with her own identity, particularly as the youngest sibling in a large
family. She tried to use color and art to highlight her emerging adulthood, often in ways that her parents
and other siblings failed to comprehend. Regardless of what the rest of the family thought, Katya felt
fortunate to be able to have a place of her own that she could retreat to in order to get away from the
problems she struggled with in everyday life.

APPLY: What was the immediate benefit of Katya’s redecoration of her space? How do you think she
should handle the teasing from her parents and siblings? What do you think the specific choices she made
said about her new identity? What ways do you try to make your space represent who you are as a


Although we may only lightly touch on the topic of scent in Chapter ��, it is important to highlight a rarely discussed
nonverbal code. Olfactics is the nonverbal code focusing on the sense of smell, and the ways that we send
messages using scent—both on our bodies and in our environment. Craig used to be teased about his body odor
as a preteen, and later his overuse of body spray as a high schooler. Now, Craig showers every morning and uses
expensive body washes and colognes to ensure that he smells fresh and clean throughout the day. Jonathan, on
the other hand, is obsessed with the ambient smells in his environment. He wants to make sure that his home
smells clean and welcoming during an upcoming dinner party event, so he heats up vanilla extract in the oven and
curates a variety of air fresheners and diffusers throughout the house so that each room has a signature scent.


Interestingly, our use of time can also send a definite message, even if we are unintentional in the ways that we
deal with time. This use of time will be discussed further in Chapter ��. The nonverbal code dealing with issues of
time is known as chronemics, and we are constantly sending time-related messages even when we least expect
it. Consider the response latency, or the amount of time that it takes to respond to someone; Cheryl can get
really annoyed with Peter even if he never saw her message while his phone was charging. Alternately, think
about Darren, who showed up to an interview a couple minutes late because of traffic; for some employers, being
� minutes late is seen as right on time. For this job interview, however, Darren was told that he missed his
opportunity and subsequently never even got a chance to sit down with the human resources representative.
Lastly, consider Valerie, who likes to make her appointments wait a few minutes before she sees them, in an
attempt to let them know that she is busy—and to make herself seem important. Clearly, we may be sending or
receiving messages using time, regardless of our intent to do so.

Box �.� Measure
Self-Assessments and Common “Scents”

Interestingly, while we may have lots of different names and descriptions of a variety of scents, most smells
are evaluated as somewhere on a continuum of “good” to “bad” smells.�� Each person places an individual
smell somewhere along the continuum based on a variety of personal experiences.

Instructions: Think carefully about the list of common scents below, and then rank them in order from �
(most pleasant) to � (least pleasant). Compare the order of your list with another classmate and discuss
what differences you might find.

Gasoline  Lavender  Cinnamon  Skunk  Garlic  Roses  Detergent  Coffee  Peppermint

Most Pleasant 1.__________________________________








Least Pleasant 9.__________________________________

Discuss the similarities and differences in the list with your classmate. For example, Heath loved to work
with his dad in the garage as a child, and the smell of gasoline brings him right back to those early
experiences. Rick, however, has horrible flashbacks to a car accident when he first got his driver’s license;
most any car smells are unpleasant to him because of his own personal experiences.

MEASURE: Consider your list and the list of your classmate’s. How do personal experiences influence
your attitudes toward certain smells? Were there any scent ranking differences that you were surprised
by? Did your classmate have any noticeable reactions to any of the rankings you made for your own list?

The different attitudes that we have about the self can impact the manner in which we express ourselves in a
variety of ways. Some common factors that influence our sense of self include our sex and gender, our race, our
individual personality characteristics, and the various cultures in which we find ourselves. Nonverbal codes can
help convey these identities, with a large range of behaviors and characteristics serving as messages across a
variety of channels and senses. Each of the nonverbal codes serves as a category of nonverbal behaviors that are
grouped based upon some common characteristics, and these codes often co-occur with one another. Kinesics
focuses on the use of motion in communication, whether through gestures or even the motion associated with
making affect displays (e.g., facial expressions). Proxemics deals with personal space and the distances we
normally interact apart from each other. Haptics, on the other hand, focuses on the closest use of space, that of
touch across a variety of personal and professional contexts. The study of oculesic messages focus on various
forms of communication using one’s eyes, while vocalics focus on the wide variety of vocal/auditory sounds we
can make to send a message. Physical appearance highlights how the ways we look and the clothing and artifacts
we keep with our body may send messages to those around us. Environmental features serve to constrain or
encourage a variety of communication patterns based upon cultural norms, hinting at rules of appropriateness for
both topic and manner of communication. Finally, olfactics focuses on how smells communicate information, and
chronemics highlights how the use of time can also communicate information to the people with whom we interact.
Looking at the complete list of nonverbal communication codes, one is struck by the incredible complexity of
messaging that occurs within human contexts. Indeed, everyone has a lot of information to sift through in order to
best understand each person with whom they interact and the unique identities that each person represents.

What can you identify as a main way that you use nonverbal messages to manage your identity?

Given what you now know about the nonverbal codes, which codes do you plan to most rely on to send and
reinforce a message?

Considering your close relationships, what nonverbal codes do you most pay attention to as you create an overall
gestalt impression?


androgynous ��

chronemics ��

environment ��

extrovert ��

gender ��

haptics ��

identity ��

introvert ��

kinesics ��

nonverbal code ��

oculesics ��

olfactics ��

physical appearance ��

proxemics ��

response latency ��

sex ��

Type-A ��

undifferentiated ��

vocalics ��


Learning Objectives
After reading this chapter you will be able to do the following:

Compare the functional and structural approaches to kinesics

Understand the impact of facial expressions on conveying emotion

Describe different categories of kinesic behaviors

Nala had always been an independent thinker. From her earliest days, she considered herself to be both regal and
approachable, taking her cues from the animated character after which she was named. As she grew older, she
began to learn more about the benefits of her position as the youngest member of her extended family; she
quickly had her single-parent father bending to her every whim and expectation. Nala knew how to influence her
father’s daily decisions with an upturned face and a well-timed gesture, eager with the anticipation of some
desired event. As she visited the houses of relatives who spoke a second language throughout her childhood
while her father was traveling for work, Nala quickly figured out how to use her face and hands to communicate
exactly what she wanted. Her transition to college, however, was a bit of a sharp lesson. Used to getting her own
way as the only child, Nala was unprepared for the necessary compromise and mutual negotiations required for
having a roommate. Fortunately, Nala quickly learned how to interpret how her roommate’s facial expressions
related to their underlying meanings, internalizing an understanding of these nonverbal behaviors in order to better
navigate their shared living arrangement.

Guiding Questions
What is the role of facial expressions in human interaction?

How do people use gestures and other motion-based behaviors to structure interactions?

How can people negotiate a balance between how they feel and how they display emotions?


Recently introduced in Chapter �, kinesics is the nonverbal code that focuses on movements and motion-based
behaviors. From the widening grin on someone’s face at a comedy club to the frantic signaling of someone trying
to get a driver to slow down on a residential street, humans have become quite adept at sending messages
without using any verbal language. Indeed, it is quite common for people to report being able to understand
“exactly” what a sibling or parent is thinking simply from the look on their face in a given situation.����

In fact, family often becomes the social structure through which we learn many of our earliest and most significant
forms of communication, both verbal and nonverbal in nature.� Our earliest patterns of communication are
established at a young age, and typically the majority of those patterns emerge as a function of the family
structure and the communication system in which each young child finds themself.� Indeed, our earliest
communication attempts occur within our own unique family structure, as infants use nonverbal communication in
an attempt to signal their needs to a parent, sibling, or other caregiver.� In fact, all of our early communication
attempts within and among members of our family structure are necessarily nonverbal for the first stages of our
human life, for we as humans don’t develop the ability to communicate with verbal language until many months
have passed (as discussed in Chapters � and �). Jericha learned at an early age to distinguish the different
sounds that her newest sibling Reese made, knowing instantly whether Reese wanted to eat, burp, or get a diaper
changed. As Reese grew, Jericha continued to keep close watch on her youngest sibling, learning quickly what
different faces meant and anticipating his reaction to most any external stimuli. Significantly, at the same time that
Jericha was studying Reese, young Reese was also watching his big sister Jericha, learning what faces she made
when she was happy (e.g., smile) or concerned (e.g., frown) and trying to mimic those faces himself. Eventually,
through the process of intermodal matching, Reese learned what emotional situations were likely to result in
specific facial expressions, quickly discovering the cultural rules that helped to shape his own later displays of
emotion as he discovered how to match his face to his feelings.

People can communicate a wide range of important messages through their faces—from using the muscles in the
face to convey a specific emotion to hinting at specific messages using the movement of the eyes. Humans have
become quite reliant upon looking at the face of an interaction partner to gather important information, and we
often are quite aware of situations where someone appears to be looking directly at us with intent.� Whether the
look is because someone is trying to scrutinize our face to understand our facial expression or because that
person is trying to use eye contact to get our attention, we are naturally programmed to notice when someone is
engaging in gaze behaviors.� Monica was excited to ride the subway for the first time; having grown up in a small
suburban town, she had never gotten the opportunity to engage in a behavior that many people considered to be
a normal part of daily life. After a full day out on the town, however, she was startled to notice that a handsome
older man was staring directly in her direction. Far from being flattered, Monica was alarmed—and showed it—as
she stared back at the direct and unflinching prolonged gaze of this man. As she looked to other passengers to
make sure she could get help if needed, she suddenly realized that many of them were all also staring blankly in
her direction. Her choice to sit directly under the subway’s system map had meant that people appeared to look at
her when in reality they were looking at the wall just above her head. Struggling to compose herself, Monica made
a facial expression of her own like she had just remembered something important, promptly burying her face in

her smartphone like many other passengers. In this chapter’s Absorb feature, we look at a popular media
representation of popular celebrities trying to manage their own facial expressions in a high-stakes situation.

Box �.� Absorb
Facial Expressiveness and Lie Detection on Popular Media

When Jimmy Fallon has guests on his weeknight variety talk show The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy
Fallon, it is quite common for him to play an unusual funny game with one or more of the guests. In this
clip, watch as Jimmy plays his signature game “Box of Lies” with celebrated Hollywood star Chris Pratt.

“Box of Lies with Chris Pratt,” from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. June ��, ����. Running Time:
�:��. Available on YouTube.

Consider the game’s use of facial expressions and tone of voice as cues for each player to try to determine
the truthfulness of their competitor. Even though the pair are face to face, they look one another directly in
the eyes as they try to convince each other to guess incorrectly about the contents of their box. Both
parties rely heavily on the facial expressions of the other, often with hilarious (and often incorrect) results.

ABSORB: What do you guess each player is most relying on to determine whether their competitor’s
statement is true or false? Do you think each partner is working hard to manage their own facial
expressions? Why do you think they set up the game in order to force each player to gaze directly into
each other’s eyes? Which of the two players do you personally think did the best job, and why?

Affect Displays

When we talk about the use of our face in communicating our feelings, it is important to remember that each facial
expression is a way to reveal an internal emotion in a public manner, with that facial expression known as an
affect display (where the term affect describes an emotion). Even though there are a variety of emotions that
people can possibly display, scholars often talk about the six most commonly discussed emotional displays of
happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust.� Indeed, much research on intercultural expressions of
emotion have found that these specific affect displays are recognizable across the human experience and occur in
every population of people to some degree.� Indeed, research has shown that people are able to easily
understand the facial expressions of other people in part because of their characteristic facial cues�, � as follows:

Happiness is characterized by smiling and raised cheeks.

Sadness is characterized by eyebrows that are raised and drawn together, with parted lips that have
depressed corners.

Fear is characterized by raised eyebrows and eyelids, and stretched lips surrounding an open mouth.

Anger is characterized by low eyebrows and raised eyelids, with a tight raised upper lip and a depressed
lower lip surrounding an open mouth.

Surprise is characterized by a head tilted upward sporting raised eyebrows and eyelids over eyes that are
moved down, typically with a jaw that is dropped.

Disgust is characterized by a raised chin with wrinkled nose, where the upper lip is raised over an open
mouth with a tongue sticking out.

Neurocultural Theory

Although initially scholars may have wondered whether the ability to produce and recognize facial expressions
was a product of biology�� (i.e., the universalist position) or of culture�� (i.e., the cultural relativist position),
scholars have long argued that these affect displays are actually a combination of our innate biologically based
inherited behaviors and our culture-specific learned behaviors.�� Specifically, Neurocultural Theory argues that
we have inherited a basic understanding of how to display emotion that is instinctual; we then display those
emotions as filtered through our learned cultural display rules that tell us how we are “supposed” to display
emotion within our culture (e.g., American men are allowed to display the emotion of anger but should refrain from
displaying the emotion of sadness).��, �� These display rules may cause us to diminish the expression of a certain
emotion, to enhance it so that others think we are feeling it more strongly than we actually are, or to even replace
that emotion with another different emotion; we may even display no emotion at all (e.g., flat affect). This
combination of factors, then, explains how humans can have both cultural and biological influences on the facial
expression of emotions and are able to navigate complicated situations that may arise. Alija

Chester received socks for Christmas every year, and each year he sarcastically asked that he be given
something else the following year. After all, his friends all received video games and expensive toys. His first year

in college, however, Chester had been looking forward to his holiday celebration and even eagerly anticipated the
annual family joke of socks for Christmas. When Chester opened his present and discovered a gift card for the
local department store, he pretended to be excited even though he secretly missed the routine of his earlier years.
His parents told him that he was a “college man now, and old enough to buy your own socks.” Even though he
knew he had been asking for something different every Christmas, Chester had to hide his disappointment that a
youthful era had ended and that he had finally gotten what he had (ostensibly) wanted. To explore yet another
situation where people often find themselves having to manage their nonverbal facial features like Chester above,
check out this chapter’s Apply feature, next.

Emotional expressions can also be enhanced by the use of eye contact in a way that subtly alters their meaning.
Consider, for example, having an angry facial expression while also making direct eye contact with a rival. What
might you be trying to communicate in such a scenario, beyond the idea that you are experiencing anger? Or
consider a situation where you make brief eye contact with someone, look away, and immediately register an
expression of disgust. In what way does this add specific meaning to the affect display (i.e., disgust) that you are
showing in this scenario? In each of these situation, our eye contact (or lack thereof) can add an additional layer
of meaning to the affect displays that we use in our interactions. Just as display rules may govern our use of
specific facial expressions, so also do we learn about the impact that our use of eye contact might have within a
specific cultural context. Eye behaviors like these will be discussed in great detail in Chapter �.

Box �.� Apply
Monitoring Nonverbals Around Small Children

Jaden was terrified to get his first vaccinations. His older brothers had talked with him for hours about how
painful their shots were, exaggerating the needles to seem the size of crayons. As Jaden walked down the
hallway in the clinic, he puffed out his tiny chest and made a low growling sound. When the assistant came
to swab the injection site with alcohol so they could get started, Jaden narrowed his eyes at her and
snarled, baring his teeth in her general direction. Seconds later, he started screaming at the shocked
assistant, balling his fists up and getting ready to take a swing at her. Horrified, Jaden’s mom rescheduled
the vaccinations and dragged Jaden out to the car, tight-lipped and beet red. After a few minutes of tense
silence in the car on the way home, Jaden’s mom started yelling at Jaden before even asking what had

As you have read, much of infants’ communication behaviors are patterned after the ways that family
members communicate with one another. Indeed, the display rules associated with each culture ensure
that small children are likely to display certain emotions based on what they have discovered is optimal or
more or less accessible within their own family structure. Jaden, for example, quickly learned that boys
don’t cry because he saw his older siblings and father keep a straight face, even when confronted with
situations that probably should have made each person cry. At the same time, he internalized his older
brothers’ rough play and responses to confrontations. Jaden was determined to be the “top dog” that his
brothers always admired, whatever that meant.

APPLY: What do you think caused Jaden to behave in such a manner? How can you explain his behavior
based upon the concepts of display rules and intermodal matching. Do you think that Jaden is a bad kid?
What are your attitudes toward the rest of Jaden’s family? What should his family have done in this

Ekman and Friesen’s Microexpressions

Interestingly, the Neurocultural Theory as discussed above highlights a situation where our innate biology may
trigger our face to begin to express a certain emotion, and then our cultural background helps to override that
expression, either by enhancing or diminishing—or even replacing—that specific expression of emotion.��

Surprisingly, Ekman and Friesen argue that there is a microexpression or brief flash of emotion on each
individual’s face that occurs between the moment that we begin to display our innate emotion and that we begin to
override that emotional display into something more culturally appropriate. This “flash” of emotions is incredibly
fast, just a fraction of a second, but scholars argue that we can subconsciously become aware of this
microexpression and register it in our interactions with other people.�� Chet got accepted into his first-choice
school and was thrilled because it meant he would finally be able to transfer out of state to be closer to his long-
term girlfriend. When he ran to his mother to share the good news, he noticed she seemed a little sad, even
though she had been very supportive every step of the way throughout his application. Even now, Chet’s mom
seemed to happily begin making a list of things to purchase for the cross-country move, but Chet couldn’t shake
the feeling that she would rather have him closer to home. Look at this chapter’s Measure feature to explore your
own perceptions about your use of facial expressions.

Social Signaling

Even as we talk about the cultural and inherited functions of emotions and emotional expression through the face
and eyes, we may wonder why humans developed the ability to express emotions in the first place. Interestingly,
the first emotional displays may have originated as a nonverbal communication system within the early family
structures as humans tried to send messages to each other about something impacting their lived experience.�� A
great example of this is the affect display for disgust, which is literally the facial expression that one would have if
they were trying to spit out spoiled or distasteful food while also preventing more from entering their system.��

Scholars have argued that in early humans, the distended tongue and open mouth demonstrates an active
attempt to spit out bad food while the wrinkled nose and closed eyes are attempts to close the system to any
additional bodily contamination from, say, a rotting animal carcass discovered by early prehistoric man. Eventually,
the practical nature of the facial expressions for confronting spoiled food may have signaled to other nearby
individuals that the food was distasteful and should not be approached. After many years of evolutionary and
social history, humans could show the affect display for disgust in order to communicate that something was gross
or undesirable, without actually needing to remove any spoiled food from their own mouth. In this way, emotional
displays through facial expressions became a form of signaling to one another about an underlying emotional
state or opinion; when someone makes that specific facial expression, they must be dealing with something (or
someone) disgusting. Over many years of social evolution, humans can now show that (or any) facial expression
to signal an underlying emotion, without needing to explain the emotion—or to even actually feel that emotion in
the first place!

Box �.� Measure
Self-Assessments and Facial Expressivity

Even though everyone has likely experienced that terrifying moment when you let someone know you feel
angry or upset even when you don’t want them to know, we all vary in how much we want to share various
emotions with other people. Sometimes we express our negative emotions in certain situations, while in
other contexts we may work hard to hide the way that we truly feel.

Scholars have figured out a way to measure our perceptions of the degree to which we feel like we
express our positive and negative emotions to other people.��, �� The following is a shortened and
significantly modified list of questions inspired by the original researchers’ �� items that measured a
person’s perceptions of their own emotional expressivity.

Instructions: Think carefully about your attitude toward the following statements. Write the number (e.g., �
through �) that best corresponds with your attitudes toward each statement.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7



Disagree Somewhat


Undecided Somewhat


Agree Strongly


__________ 1. I laugh out loud when I hear funny jokes.

__________ 2. I find that it is better to suppress my anger than to show it.

__________ 3. When I’m happy, people can tell what I am feeling.

__________ 4. People typically don’t notice when I am feeling stress.

__________ 5. If things go my way, my joy is written all over my face.

__________ 6. Even when I’m upset, I can keep a calm exterior.

__________ 7. People can look at my face and see exactly when I’m feeling good

__________ 8. I don’t let people see me cry when I see a sad movie.

Separately add up your score on the odd numbers and your score on the even numbers. The lowest score
you can receive on either one is �, while the highest score is ��. The odd numbers measure your

willingness to express your positive emotions, while the even numbers measure your attempts to hide your
negative emotions.

MEASURE: Are you surprised by your scores on the odd questions or the even questions? Which one of
the two was higher? Think about the things that may impact your willingness to show positive or negative
emotions. How do you think your own family experience has impacted the ways you display your emotions
to the people around you?

The human face is not the only place for motion-based messaging in our discussion of nonverbal communication.
Indeed, you probably didn’t even consider facial expressions as being motion-based before our discussion in this
chapter. But, the one thing that you likely did imagine would be part of a discussion of movement had to do with
the ways that we move our hands and bodies as we interact with other people. In fact, this is probably one of the
first things you considered when you thought about taking a class in nonverbal communication. Monica, for
example, feels disrespected by one of her supervisors at an on-campus internship. In talking with her faculty
members about advice they might have for the situation, she is constantly making gestures to highlight the extent
of her hard work, the length of time that the uncomfortable situation has been happening for, and even slaps her
own wrist to demonstrate that she constantly feels like she is being told what to do. This use of gestures helps to
strongly send a message about the extent of her distress about her internship experience and results in some
helpful advice from faculty and staff that know her well.


When people talk about “gestures,” they are typically describing illustrators, or the ways in which we use motion
with our hands to communicate a message or to aid in the communication of a message. When Eliza wanted to
explain to her husband Jim how wide she planned to plant her new vegetable garden, she used the spread of her
hands to send a message about the width and length of each raised planter that she expected to build. Jim then
had an idea about how much lumber he would need to budget for when they went to the hardware store later.
Later, at her job in human resources for a local manufacturer, Eliza was explaining to her employees how the cost
of health care had changed over time, using the swoop of her hands to give an idea of the sharp increase in prices
over the past few decades. Hand gestures like Eliza’s can be particularly useful in sending a message, but in this
chapter’s Examine feature we explore some ways that gestures can actually prove somewhat harmful.

Box �.� Examine
The Ethics of Expansive Gestures

People use power to influence their interactions with others, specifically with regard to their attempts to
gain access to privilege, prestige, or resources that are scarce or desirable. One of the more significant
ways of claiming that power may be the manner in which an individual uses kinesic behaviors like gestures

and body posture in order to send the message that they are a powerful person or someone whose favor is

Men are often the worst offenders at claiming power through gestures or body positioning, even though
many occasions do not necessitate having one person demonstrate power over the others present. By
using expansive, large gestures, a man may make himself appear larger or more in control of his space—
thus gaining more power over the other men and women in the room.�� Indeed, some people have begun
advocating that women also begin to use powerful gestures, to take up more space, and to try to make
themselves appear taller or more imposing in an attempt to gain more power over an interaction partner.
However, one wonders whether this attempt to wrest power from other individuals using kinesic behaviors
is a wise choice in terms of group experience. Might it not be better for all group members to instead
participate collaboratively, rather than trying to take power and control for oneself?

EXAMINE: Consider the ethics of gaining power at the expense of your peer group or of unknown others.
What are the justifications for engaging in such behaviors? What are the arguments against using kinesics
to access control or resources within a set of relationships? Men are historically taught cultural norms that
encourage such behaviors, and more and more discussions are advocating that women should behave
similarly to gain access to power. Is there a third option that encourages people to not express power in
these contexts? Is such a third option simply a naïve hope that will ultimately oppress women who opt out
of such power displays? What is the most ethical way to deal with these social realities, in your opinion?


Another important function of kinesic behaviors is to regulate conversational flow. From setting the cadence of the
interaction to indicating switches in turn-taking, regulators allow interaction partners to more smoothly know when
it is their turn to talk, and whether others wish to have a chance to speak or to retain the floor.�� By combining
gestures and head movements, people can more fluidly engage one another with far less conversational overlap
or missteps. When Chad and Derrick spend time with a client at their consulting firm, they could easily talk over
one another because they are both so outgoing and talkative. Fortunately, they appear to work like a united front
and are able to “pass the ball” back and forth to one another by gesturing toward one another or nodding their
heads at each other when it is their turn to talk. In this chapter’s Engage feature, we look at the ways that people
may differ in regulating interaction across cultures.

Box �.� Engage
Diverse Ways of Regulating Interaction

While there are many common ways of letting someone know that it is their turn to speak in North America,
like looking at someone while nodding or pointing directly at someone whose turn it is to speak, these are
not necessarily held in the same esteem across a variety of cultures. For example, in some cultures the
opportunity to speak may be given to the oldest person present, in an attempt to show respect to one’s
elders. In other cultures, pointing directly at someone is considered incredibly rude or even downright
offensive. When Garret and Sammy were working with a new set of clients, Sammy noticed that she was
often not acknowledged in her interactions with the all-male liaison team that handled her account. Sammy

tried to figure out how best to broach the subject with her coworker Garret, as she felt undervalued and a
bit out of touch with the goings-on of the current project as a result. At the same time, she was relatively
new to the company despite her experience and worried that Garret might not take her side of things.

Garret and Sammy are in a difficult position, as they don’t have much background about their new working
partnership with the members of the liaison team. Even more so, Sammy is in the unique position of
having the least power and the least privilege of anyone in the room. Sammy wants to impress her new
boss, she wants to wow her new clients, and she also wants to be seen as a valuable and contributing
member of the shared liaison team as a while.

ENGAGE: How might Garret and Sammy’s preexisting relationship offer insight into how Sammy should
handle this situation? Does the international nature of the liaison team possibly offer insight into the
situation where she finds herself? Have you ever been in a scenario where people treated you differently
than you expected to be treated? What advice would you give to Sammy on how to navigate this
encounter with her boss? What advice would you give to both Sammy and Garret in dealing better with the
liaison team? How would you handle this situation yourself?


When people are stressed or excited, their bodies often need an opportunity to release some of that extra energy.
Adaptors are kinesic behaviors that allow an individual to relieve some of that energy and can serve as an
indicator of both arousal or heightened awareness.�� When someone is tapping their leg in class or biting their
nails during a boring conversation, they are engaging in a self-adaptor, using their own bodies as a way to
occupy themselves. For the person using a gadget like a fidget spinner or clicking the end of a ballpoint pen
habitually, they are using an object-adaptor to release some of that excess energy. Finally, the child who braids a
friend’s hair on a long bus ride or the person who squeezes a friend’s hands constantly during a bumpy airplane
flight are each using an other-adaptor, in which the body of another person is used as a way to relieve stress
through this motion-based behavior. Although many of the adaptors are not necessarily mindful behaviors, there
may be some adaptors (e.g., braiding hair) that are done more intentionally than others. Images

Body Orientation

One of the last specific types of kinesic behaviors that we will discuss in this chapter is one that uses our entire
body to perform as we move our torso toward or away from interaction partners. This body orientation is often
described as “open” or “closed” depending upon where we aim the center of our torso. For those of you that might
remember the Care Bears who shot a beam of colored light out of their stomach/chest and could aim it in certain
directions, imagine that your body orientation is similarly described by where you aim the imaginary beam that
emerges from your own torso. When you face the trunk of your body directly at the body of an interaction partner,
this open body orientation indicates an openness or willingness to engage and interact with that person. When
Lori and Janey meet in the hallway at work, their bodies demonstrate their good relationships with one another
and their willingness to engage. A closed body orientation, however, highlights less desire to interact with
another person or even a lack of time to truly engage one another. When Catherine and Frances wanted to have a

personal conversation with one another without interruptions, they turned their bodies away from anyone else to
highlight the confidential nature of what they were saying.

Sometimes, people may turn their faces toward a potential interaction partner without actually displaying an open
body orientation. In this case, people often give off the impression that the partner may have their attention, but
that they should keep their interaction brief or that the interaction is generally unwanted. When Pauline walks by
Ron’s office and he asks her if she has a second, her response of “only a second” is far less impactful than the
fact that she didn’t take the time to turn her whole body in his direction but rather only turned her head.

Movements of the hands, body, or face offer a unique channel for messaging, as these kinesic behaviors are
among our earliest attempts at communication with others. For most people, the family unit is the first experience
with engaging in communication behaviors, as we learn how to engage in affect displays from interacting with our
family members, even as we begin to develop an understanding of how our culture wants us to override our
biological urges to communicate our internal feelings in an appropriate way. Indeed, our facial expressions
(especially when combined with our use of eye contact and other eye-related movement) are among the most
powerful ways to send messages to other people, forming one of the earliest types of social signaling. Add to that
the range of gestures and positioning that we produce as social information with our hands and body, and we
begin to see the complex ways that he have developed a greater understanding of how best to navigate our social
world using motion-based messaging.

Knowing what you have learned about the role of facial expressions in human interaction, how might you modify
your own use of facial expressions?

In your opinion, what is the politest way to use gestures—and other motion-based behaviors—to structure your
own future interactions?

In what ways have you figured out the best ways to manage both how you feel and how you display emotions
about how you feel?


adaptors ��

affect display ��

body orientation ��

closed body orientation ��

cultural relativist position ��

display rules ��

flat affect ��

gaze ��

illustrators ��

intermodal matching ��

microexpression ��

Neurocultural Theory ��

object-adaptor ��

open body orientation ��

other-adaptor ��

regulators ��

self-adaptor ��

universalist position ��


Learning Objectives
After reading this chapter, you will be able to do the following:

Distinguish among the four zones of interpersonal distance

Understand how proximity may lead to perceptions of similarity

Describe the impact of expectancy violations on interpersonal attraction

Shelby was frequently uncomfortable at her new university. As a trans woman of color, she found that she was
often on the receiving end of some questioning glances from the people that she interacted with regularly. It felt
like every one of the choices she made—from the shoes she wore, to the bathrooms she used—were under
constant scrutiny. Fortunately, she found a group of people in her themed residence hall that helped her to feel like
she fit in. Each of her new friends seemed to be struggling with self-presentation in some way, with Ibrahim having
difficulty wearing religious apparel as part of his identity, and her roommate Carolyn dealing with her brush with
fame as a newly popular YouTube personality. From the outside, this assortment of new friends seemed an
unusual grouping, but they had already developed a unique pattern of behaviors and inside jokes that helped
bond them. After only a few months at college together, each student found more and more ways that they
communicated similarly to one another. Eventually, each also found themselves paying more attention to their
shared similarities rather than to the differences that they had first noticed on move-in day.

Guiding Questions
Why do people seek out others who are similar to themselves?

How does proximity impact our perceptions of the people in our lives?

The second major nonverbal code that we will discuss, proxemics, involves the use of personal space and
interpersonal distance. Each person has acquired a slightly different understanding of their own personal space

based upon their own culture.� It is important to note, however, that while the distances may vary across cultures,
there is a near-universal understanding that each culture has its own understanding of some distance that is
considered “good manners.” These differences in proxemic distances can lead to misunderstandings when
interacting with people who don’t share a similar perspective. When Rachel first met Dan, for instance, she
thought of him as a “close talker” and felt like he was getting in her personal space. She worried about whether he
might be hitting on her, considering that he always stood so close. Dan, for his part, regularly went home and told
his husband that his new coworker Rachel seemed uncomfortable in their face-to-face conversations, despite
working well together over the phone. Dan incorrectly wondered if it might have something to do with the fact that
he had recently transferred from a different part of the country and was still seen as a sort of outsider.

One of the most commonly used conceptualizations of interpersonal distance comes from Edward T. Hall, who
describes four different classifications of approximate interaction distances as seen in Figure �.� (p. ��).� Each
category includes the amount of space between two people, and has implications for the likely nature of the
relationship between two people interacting with in those spaces. Let’s start with the closest of these four
distances, an area appropriately called the intimate zone.

Intimate Zone

Ranging from � inches—actual touch–to �� inches, the intimate zone is the closest of Hall’s interpersonal
distances. In the intimate zone, we only allow our closest interpersonal relationships, and as such, relatively few
individuals are allowed to enter. In the intimate zone, we are aware of every aspect of the other interactant, from
the sound of their breathing to the scent of their cologne or perfume. From accidentally bumping into one another
to feeling one’s body heat because of such close quarters, the intimate zone allows each person to have
kinesthetic awareness of each other (i.e., to fill one another’s senses). This much closeness would be
overwhelming, except when occupied by each person’s most trusted interpersonal partners, as seen in this
chapter’s Apply feature. Images

Box �.� Apply
The Intimacy of Kinesthetics

Gared wasn’t a huge fan of people. I mean, sure, he had some good friends and he loved his mom deeply,
but he didn’t like the general unknown “others” that made up the mass of humanity. Theme parks and
concerts were anathema to Gared, as they were “filled with teens and hormones and unattainable dreams”
as he often liked to say. In general, he couldn’t be bothered with people that he didn’t know very well; while
he was very well-liked by people that knew him, there were very few others who fit that category. When
Gared studied abroad and fell in love, however, he found himself in both a culture and a relationship that
didn’t care much for privacy or solitude, and he often found himself thrust into situations filled with many
people in close quarters.

Gared’s culture of origin—that is, the culture in which he grew up—was characterized by allowing
independence and individuality. If you grew up in North America, you had a pretty good chance of either
experiencing that pattern yourself or at least seeing that represented in the movies and television shows

that you were exposed to as a child and young adult. Not all cultures value the ability to get away from
other people like Western cultures, however, and independence is uniquely suited for people from such a
background. In contrast, much of the world encourages the constant regular enmeshment of people and
lives and bodies that Gared despised. Each culture has its own norms and values, and many of these
norms have to do with personal space and the use of touch and the potential for contact. Just as Gared is
having a hard time adjusting to his new relationship and his adopted culture, someone from that location
may have some trouble assimilating to Gared’s friends and family. Cultural norms are—well—cultural, and
as such they vary widely even within the same country.

APPLY: What do you think is likely the most difficult change for Gared? How do you think Gared’s
behaviors and attitudes influence his new relational partner’s life? Do you think Gared is confused or
stressed or surprised regularly in his “adopted” culture? If you were Gared’s partner, what would you say to
your friends before you introduced Gared to them? How do you think Gared is likely to behave differently
upon his return to his culture of origin?

Personal/Casual Zone

Ranging from �� inches to about � feet, the personal/casual zone is reserved for close friends and family
members. Relatively many more individuals are welcome to enter our personal/casual zone as compared to our
intimate zone, but typically these are still people we feel comfortable with or even people that we know quite well.
Allowing someone to get so physically close to us means that we still have a degree of trust, but the presence of
the other isn’t quite as overwhelming as it would be if that person were in the intimate zone. Rather than being a
perfect sphere, the personal/casual zone is often described as an egg-shaped bubble surrounding each person,
as seen in Figure �.�, shaped that way since our sense receptors (e.g., eyes, noses) typical face forward.

Social/Consultative Zone

Ranging from � feet to � feet, the social/consultative zone allows us to interact with others in a variety of
professional or acquaintance-based contexts. Workplace conversations, interactions with members of an
extended social circle in a public setting, or getting things accomplished at one’s place of business all typically
occur in the social/consultative zone. That distance of � feet is not arbitrary, but instead reflects the cultural
concept of keeping someone “at arm’s length” because this unknown other individual cannot suddenly move to
strike or attack, an important evolutionary adaptation.�

Figure �.� Our Egg-Shaped Personal Space

Public Zone

Ranging anywhere above � feet (to infinity), the public zone is where we are most comfortable keeping unknown
others with no professional obligations. Whether you are hanging out at the beach or walking your dog at the park,
in most normal situations you are relatively comfortable with a stranger staying beyond � feet away from you in
public settings.

Interestingly, we only allow certain people into certain zones, based upon our preexisting relationship with them.�

For example, you might be very comfortable allowing your romantic partner to give you a quick embrace but might

be very unwilling to shake hands with an unknown other on the street. Just as the relationship type may influence
the proxemic zone that you are comfortable allowing someone into, similarly the proxemics distance may also
influence your evaluation of your relationship with another person. If you have a positive attitude toward someone
and they interact more closely than you otherwise expected, this may cause you to subconsciously reevaluate
your relationship with that person and decide that you are closer than you had previously thought. These
proxemics violations—part of the larger Expectancy Violations Theory� discussed later in this chapter—are a
driver of the perceptions that we have about a variety of people in our personal lives. In the Examine feature, we
consider the ethical implications of personal space violations.

Figure �.� Zones of Interpersonal Distance

Box �.� Examine
The Ethics of Personal Space

Consider any throwback movie you have seen where kids are bullying one another on the playground.
What’s the first thing that you notice? The bully is typically getting right up in his victim’s personal space.
Think about your own experiences where someone has tried to intimidate you or tried to convince you to
do something against your better judgment. Wasn’t there an element of them trying to get closer than they
perhaps ought to have gotten?

In the theory we are about to present, Expectancy Violations Theory, one major takeaway point is that
people can use personal space violations to influence the outcome of their interactions with others. To be
sure, there may be cases of positive violations within positive relationships for positive reasons, but that
may not always be the norm. It isn’t difficult to imagine a scenario where someone can use their
understanding of proxemic violations to manipulate others in ways that may not be healthy or ethical. As
with most any social science theory, a good communicator needs to take the knowledge they have gained
from the research and apply that knowledge ethically.

EXAMINE: Consider the ethics of using personal space as a tool to influence others’ behaviors. What
might be the negative repercussions of a personal space violation? How might someone be triggered or
experience trauma by the incorrect or inappropriate use of proxemic violations? Far from just being a
social tool in our toolbelt, we need to remember that people might have strong negative reactions to known
or unknown others getting in their space.

As discussed, there are culturally agreed-upon norms for the use of personal space that vary across cultures. In
Western cultures like much of Europe and North America, residents are known for preferring relatively larger
proxemic distances between interaction partners than in some other countries. Watching movies set in Asian
cultures, for example, one often sees people in crowded marketplaces or subway environments where the mass
of people seems almost unbearable to a non-Asian viewer. A Westerner lining up to buy stamps at a post office in
some African countries may be surprised to find that people stand in queues very close to one another, in many

cases almost touching the bodies of the people lined up in front of or behind them. In any scenario where one
finds a challenge to his or her own notion of acceptable interpersonal distance, it leaves the observer to wonder
what the impact of these proxemic violations are likely to be. Interestingly, scholars have discovered that these
violations likely lead to a physical response (physiological arousal) and to an evaluative response of one’s
interaction partner.

Physiological Arousal

It makes sense to most anyone that a fight-or-flight response must likely be a natural outcome of a personal space
violation. That is, if someone gets closer than they otherwise ought to be, then from an evolutionary perspective,
we likely need to immediately determine an appropriate response. Is the person a threat? Is the person likely to try
to cause us harm or steal our resources? Is the person attempting to engage in a romantic or sexual act? Our
minds and our bodies immediately jump into action in an attempt to allow us to best evaluate what we need to do
in order to manage the situation.

Many of the effects of physiological arousal may not be immediately apparent to our interaction partners. For
example, biological responses like skin conductance or respiration rate or even heart rate are ways that our
bodies prepare ourselves to think and act quickly.� People experiencing physiological arousal may also report
feeling stressed or anxious� as discussed in this chapter’s Measure feature or may even report a feeling of
heightened awareness or excitement.� These biological and emotional responses to proxemics violations likely
influence the ways that we interact with the individuals around us at the time of violation; at the same time, these
feelings and reactions may not be immediately noticeable to anyone but the person who is feeling physiologically

Perceptions and Expectancy Violations Theory

One thing that is certain is that these proxemic violations may influence our perceptions or subsequent
evaluations of our interaction partners. When an individual behaves in a manner other than what we expect—for
example, a person standing only a couple feet away when we barely know them—we immediately become
physiologically aroused and then try to make sense of that fight-or-flight feeling. When Alberto noticed that
someone was in his personal space, he immediately got on the defensive from the very moment he became
startled. It was only when Alberto realized that his new girlfriend was showing up to surprise him at work that he
relaxed and leaned into a welcoming hug.

Box �.� Measure
Self-Assessments and Anxiety

Each person has a different response to various stressors in their lives. For some people, the thought of
public speaking is one of the most terrifying things in the world, while others may fear walking into a
cocktail party where they don’t know many people. Social anxieties aren’t just relegated to a public
performance where the opportunity for failure exists. When someone enters our personal space and we

don’t think they should be there, we are also likely to feel some measure of anxiety. The anxiousness that
we feel depends on our personal experiences and also what our culture has taught us about the use of
personal space and proxemic distances.

Scholars have figured out a way to measure our anxiety both during and after social situations.� The
following is a modified list of statements based upon the original researchers’ items that measured a
person’s perceptions of their own emotional state.

Instructions: Think carefully about a recent time that someone was unexpectedly close, whether that
person was a stranger or a classmate or a romantic partner or a family member—any situation will do.
Write the number (e.g., � through �) that best corresponds with your attitudes toward each statement.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7



Disagree Somewhat


Undecided Somewhat


Agree Strongly


__________ 1. I felt relaxed when this person was near me.

__________ 2. When this person got close, I felt worried.

__________ 3. I was content to have this person relatively close.

__________ 4. It made me upset to have this person so near.

__________ 5. I remained calm when this person moved close.

__________ 6. When I noticed this person was near me, I felt tense.

Separately add up your score on the odd numbers and your score on the even numbers. Subtract your
combined score on the odd numbers from your score on the even numbers, and add ��. The lowest
combined score you can receive is �, while the highest score is ��. The higher your score, the higher your
anxiety in that unexpectedly close situation.

MEASURE: Are you surprised by your score on the measure, or does it fit with your understanding of how
you react when people get in your space? For some people, your score was probably quite low because
you are used to people in your space. For others, your background may have led you to feel anxious
because you place a high value on independence or privacy. What individual and cultural influences likely

made you have the score that you got? How would that score look different if you were thinking about a
different person or a different distance when you took the self-assessment?

In her early work on these proxemics violations, scholar Judee Burgoon looked at the ways that these violations
can impact our perceptions of our interaction partners.��, ��, �� She first proposed that we all have expectations
about normal social distances based upon our cultural norms (as discussed earlier in the chapter) and also based
upon our known “idiosyncrasies” or individual patterns of behavior of our interaction partner. For example, Rupie
understood that about � feet of interpersonal distance felt normal for members of her friend group, but she also
knew that her friend Katya was a bit of a “close talker,” which meant that Rupie expected Katya to stand a little
closer than expected. Rupie knows from experience that the general group norm is about � feet, and that her one
friend Katya probably will stand a little closer than everyone else, just because that’s how she is. Her expectation,
therefore, is that most friends stand around � feet away except for Katya. Over time, this ends up feeling rather
normal for Rupie and her friends.

Next, Burgoon noted that violations of these norms and expectations would likely cause people to pause and think
about the situation, and in part, to reevaluate their relationship. When Rupie noticed that her other friend Trix had
started standing really close in social situations, she naturally began to wonder a couple things. Is Trix a closer
friend than she had previously thought? Does Trix maybe have a crush on Rupie, or perhaps was there some sort
of recent shared experience that has made them closer than they were previously? Suddenly, Rupie remembered
that she and Trix had stayed up late after a night out and talked about their experiences as children of alcoholics.
That must be it—Rupie and Trix are closer as friends than they used to be because of their willingness to disclose
deeply personal information with one another. This appears to be reflected in their closer proximity to one another
as well.

But sometimes, the process of reevaluating a relationship may create additional feelings of closeness where none
existed before. For example, Jake was excited to finally be attending the annual corporate retreat. On a guided
nature walk before one of the group meetings for new young executives, the CEO of the company Harris put his
hand on Jake’s shoulder briefly as they rounded a particularly difficult-to-navigate corner. Upon returning home,
Jake told his fiancée just how thrilling it was to realize that he was “on the inside track” with the company and the
CEO based on their close relationship, never realizing that Harris had simply stumbled on a tree root and held on
to Jake’s shoulder to ensure he didn’t fall down. Jake had imagined an entire closer relationship with his
company’s CEO—a man who in actuality didn’t even know his name.

Expectancy Violation Theory posits that we form perceptions about our interaction partners based upon some
personal and situational characteristics that arise in each interaction. These perceptions about our interaction
partners are influenced by three separate factors: the magnitude of the difference from what is expected (e.g.,
deviation), the ability of the violator to offer interpersonal rewards or punishment, and the reactance of the violated
person to the proxemic infringement (e.g., threat threshold).��


First, the deviation or amount of difference from what is expected will likely impact the overall physiological
arousal of the person whose space is threatened. A very slight deviation from normal is unlikely to produce a large
response, but imagine if an unknown stranger got right up in your face. This huge violation of one’s expected
personal space is likely to create a strong response reaction in the person being violated. Kathryn thought she
saw her best friend Cienna at the mall and ran up to her, tapping her on the shoulder and standing directly behind
her. When the woman turned around and they both realized that they didn’t know each other, the response was
sudden and swift. Fortunately for Kathryn, the woman was understanding of the situation, but for a brief moment
there was some tension between the two strangers.


The second factor, the ability of the violator to offer rewards or punishment, highlights the valence (or
interpersonal evaluation) of the violator.�� Rather than thinking of “reward” or “punishment” as goods or physical
harm, it is better to think of these concepts in terms of what that person can make an individual feel. If Ducote has
a romantic crush on Nathalie, then Nathalie can make him feel good about himself by offering attention or interest
or respect or any number of other positive responses to Ducote. At the same time, Nathalie can make Ducote feel
badly about himself if she decides to reject Ducote or offer criticism or even display distaste or repulsion at the
sight of him.�� These may be rewards or punishments that Ducote might experience when in close proximity to
Nathalie. More so, Ducote can also experience “punishment” by simply having to spend time with someone he
finds distasteful; Ducote finds Carmine to be irritating, unattractive, and generally ill-tempered, so any interaction
with Carmine feels inherently punishing.

Threat Threshold

The third factor has to do with the threat threshold of the person being violated. For some individuals, life has
arranged itself in such a way that they are triggered by relatively many things, and even the slightest proxemic
violation is likely to gain their notice. For others, their tolerance is quite high or their likelihood of noticing is quite
low, and as a result, they are unlikely to respond significantly when their personal space is invaded. Lacey grew
up with six siblings and currently works part-time throughout college as a day care professional and a camp
counselor in the summers. As a result, she is pretty used to being clambered over by children and young adults on
a regular basis; as such, she barely notices the compression of bodies when she takes the subway for the first
time abroad. A bit of a misanthrope, however, Winston doesn’t like to be touched and is used to a lot of alone time;
he is decidedly aware of each and every person in his vicinity and remains nervous until he is once again alone at

What does all this mean? As people move throughout one another’s daily lives—and one another’s personal
space—we are constantly observing and experiencing proxemic threats. When a threat occurs, we make
judgments about our interaction partners based the magnitude of the threat, our attitude toward the violator, and
also our own individual and cultural experiences. Sometimes these factors come together in such a way that we
actually have a higher opinion of the violator or our relationship with that violator, such as when Jake felt closer to
the CEO because of his accidental space violation. Other times, we lower our opinion of the other person, such as
Winston is likely to do whenever he encounters an unknown other violating his proxemic space. In general, people

should behave according to shared cultural norms and expectations about personal space unless they have direct
personal knowledge about their interaction partner that informs them about potential positive repercussions of
these unexpected violations of personal space.

Who do we let into our personal space in the first place? What makes us assign a positive or negative valence to
someone upon our initial interactions? While Expectancy Violation Theory gives us a great deal of insight into how
people respond to one another in a variety of interaction encounters, it may be useful to also explore some of the
reasons that individuals find someone to be a desirable interaction partner in the first place. Here we explore the
motivations that people might have for engaging one another in interaction.

Although people may interact with one another for a variety of reasons, scholars have identified a few prominent
motivations that most likely cause people to seek out relationships with other people. Whether friendships,
romantic relationships, close family relationships, or even relationships with coworkers in a workplace context,
individuals are remarkably similar to one another in their reasons for wanting to have a close relationship with the
people that surround them.


In general, people are motivated to interact with people who are similar to themselves.�� Indeed, one of the
primary reasons that an individual might select to have a relationship with another person is because of the
perceptions of similarity that one or both individuals have about each other. These perceptions of similarity may
be based upon observable nonverbal characteristics like sharing the same style of dress or having similar racial
backgrounds as one another or they may be based upon unobservable characteristics, things like similar cultural
experiences or shared religious identities (e.g., things that are likely only discovered through attending the same
events or services or perhaps through participating in the same kinds of ceremonies or rituals with one another).
Brenda and Carsten, for example, knew that they had something in common when they first saw each other
across the room in their chemistry lab class. The unmistakable navy and red logo of the Boston Red Sox ball caps
that each student wore stood out as unique among a classroom full of students wearing clothing from their native
Southern states. Since people naturally are inclined to seek out some others who are similar to themselves, and
Brenda and Carsten quickly paired up as lab partners, and eventually as friends.����

Much research has highlighted our desire to spend time with people who are similar to ourselves, and there is
even a term for the motivation to interact with those people who have characteristics in common with ourselves.
Homophily is the term reserved for the liking that occurs when we interact with similar others,�� with homo
meaning “same” and –phily indicating “liking” (i.e., homophily can be thought of as meaning “liking sameness”).
Indeed, many people may feel comfortable with perceived similarity in those around them for a couple reasons.
First, knowing that someone is similar to yourself helps to reduce uncertainty about how that person will act in a
variety of situations.�� Rather than trying to predict the attitudes, values, beliefs, or behaviors of an unknown other
person, if you think that a person is similar to yourself you probably assume (correctly or incorrectly) that they
would likely behave in just the same way that you would behave in similar situations.

As humans, we are motivated to reduce unknown information about other people.�� Choosing to spend time with
people who seem similar gives people a simple way to quickly reduce uncertainty about otherwise unknown
others, an assumption of similarity which may or may not necessarily be legitimate. Curtis and Allison first met on
an immersion trip sponsored by their university which focused on community service. While they both eventually
became friends despite their many differences, Curtis had incorrectly assumed they must have a lot in common
based upon their similar physical style and their participation in the immersion trip. In fact, Curtis was on the trip to
determine whether he wanted to apply for service positions in either the Peace Corps or Teach for America after
graduation; Allison was required to attend the immersion trip as part of her sanctions associated with a serious
negative conduct violation on campus during her second semester. Even though both attended the same relatively
unknown service trip, their motivations for doing so were decidedly different.

Another explanation for why an individual might be particularly interested in interacting with people who are similar
to himself or herself has to do with the affirmation that we often receive from interacting with people who have
those similar attitudes. When we engage and discuss with people who are similar to ourselves, they may affirm
many of our related (or unrelated) life choices and preferences.�� If an out-of-state student came to your university
from a totally different region of the country, they might have many motivations for leaving their home state and
choosing a college location in common with someone else who also came to this school to study. Leanne, for
example, loved her native Hawaii but felt that the nursing program at her new school was among the highest rated
out of the schools that she could afford. When Leanne met Bonnie, another native Hawaiian student studying on
the mainland, she naturally assumed that Bonnie made similar choices. By meeting Bonnie in nursing school,
Leanne felt that her own decisions to attend that particular school were affirmed; see, she wasn’t the only one who
left her beloved home island to attend the same school and the same program. Both Bonnie and Leanne felt
affirmed that they made good choices because they found someone else who echoed their own behaviors and
sentiments. Productions


Given the compelling reasons mentioned above that highlight the reasons why we like forming relationships with
people who are similar, it may seem counterintuitive to discover that we are also motivated to interact with people
who are different from us. The word difference may not fully capture the complexity of this motivation, however, as
individuals are likely to be motivated to engage an unusual or unique other person only after determining some
base level of similarity.�� Stephanie, for example, joined the same sorority that her mother and grandmother had
been a part of during their own college years. While she wasn’t particularly interested in the specifics of the
sorority, she certainly appeared to share many of the same characteristics of the other young women that she
met. When she was paired with Tonya during the recruitment process, she was pleased to discover that, in fact,
Tonya had a very different background than herself, often in surprising or extraordinary ways. Rather than
gravitating toward the other students who seemed to exactly mirror her own life in both external appearance and
lived experience, Stephanie enjoyed getting to know what made her new friend Tonya so unique among her peers.
Check out this chapter’s Engage feature to see another example of difference in communication.

One aspect of difference that is often cited as a motivator for human interaction is related to the degree to which
individuals see one another as complementing the values, beliefs, behaviors, or aspirations of each other.�� This
complementarity is related to one individual exhibiting traits or behaviors that the other either does not or cannot

exhibit, or to being particularly gifted in one area that the other sees himself or herself as lacking. Donna and
Carlos met in church, but they were not immediately interested in one another. It wasn’t until they attended the
same dinner party at a mutual friend’s house that Donna discovered Carlos’s deep appreciation for and
knowledge of fine wines. Given that Donna’s background was more likely to include a cold can of cola on a warm
summer night, she found Carlos’s knowledge and background to be both interesting and appealing. Many of their
early dates included her increasing her understanding of how to appreciate wine, and Donna made sure to include
plenty of opportunities to grab a glass with Carlos despite her otherwise busy social calendar.

Box �.� Engage
Diverse Engagement With Dissimilar Others

Curtis, Tina, and Dexter were placed into the same group for a project at their internship. Unlike their
normal day-to-day duties in different parts of the television studio that they worked all summer, this project
required that each group of interns find their own overlapping time throughout the day to work together. As
days went by, the group seemed to have difficulties because of their cultural differences. Both Curtis and
Tina were used to making plans to accomplish tasks far in advance, while Dexter came from a perspective
that was a little more organic and fluid—frustrating Curtis and Tina to no end. At the same time, both Curtis
and Dexter were used to masculine forms of communication, and they weren’t quite as skilled at picking up
on the hints and signals that Tina expected were quite clear. Curtis had a hearing implant, which worked
great in most situations; however, whenever Tina or Dexter suggested getting together in the noisy studio
commissary, Curtis visibly expressed his disapproval without giving reasons why. And for each of their
parts, their own racial backgrounds led them to make unfair assumptions about the work habits of each
other, based on cultural stereotypes. Even though their group was comprised of three of the smartest
interns the studio had that summer, it was slow-going for the accomplishment of their required group
project. It was safe to assume that none of the interns would likely list each other as references for future
employment opportunities.

Although each group member had valid (and perhaps even expected) reasons for behaving the way that
they did, none of the group members did a great job helping each other interpret their own nonverbal
behaviors with one another. Indeed, the summer may have gone much more smoothly had someone taken
the initiative to clarify the reasons for their behaviors for the other group members.

ENGAGE: How do you think the nonverbal behaviors of each group member would have impacted you if
you were in their situation? What nonverbal communication techniques could each member have done to
better their workgroup experience? Do you think that any of these members were unfairly treated in this
experience? Why or why not? If you were their supervisor, what would you have done in this
uncomfortable situation?

Although difference is not necessarily always noticeable and does not function as a specific nonverbal code, there
are many characteristics of nonverbal communication that people use to determine whether someone is more or
less similar to themselves. For example, an individual might use attributes of physical appearance (e.g.,
attractiveness, race, artifacts) to guess at the personality (e.g., extroverted, fun, ill-tempered) or sociodemographic
characteristics (e.g., cultural background, wealth, education) of another person in order to determine markers of
similarity or difference.�� In addition, the clothing that people wear may hint at skills, interests, or behaviors that

others possess.�� When Sherri went to Comic Con, a convention about popular culture, she was sure to wear her
Pokémon T-shirt in order to meet others who shared interest in the game. At the same time, she also was happy
to meet Mike, a construction worker in work boots and a high-vis vest posted outside the convention center who
asked her about her shirt and wanted to learn more about how to play the game.


One of the final reasons that people may be more motivated to interact with one another is related to individuals’
physical distances from one another.�� This physical closeness in geography is known as proximity and is related
directly to the proxemic code we discuss in this chapter. Research has demonstrated that we are more attracted to
people with whom we share the same physical space. For example, you are more likely to interact with someone
from your residence hall than with an off-campus local, and you are probably going to be more willing to go on a
date with someone who you have seen regularly at your local coffee shop than you are with a random stranger
who happens to be passing through town near your university.

One possible explanation of the impact of proximity on our attraction toward one another may be related to the
mere exposure effect, a situation that emerges when an individual is more likely to be attracted to things that
they see frequently, relative to those things that are rarely or never seen.�� As we interact with individuals multiple
times, we may make assumptions about those individuals, specifically that they are very much like ourselves—
after all, the thinking goes, we must be very similar to one another if we keep finding ourselves in similar
situations. This idea of mere exposure implies that the social function of proximity is likely the result of the same
social processes that make similarity a reason people are likely to interact. In this chapter’s Absorb feature, you’ll
see an example of the mere exposure effect in action.

An altogether different explanation could also emerge for why we are interested in interacting with people who
also share our physical space. Indeed, as we seek to reduce the uncertainty about others that surround us,
communication becomes one of the best ways to figure out the attitudes, values, and beliefs of those that
surround us.�� If we are indeed motivated to reduce uncertainty about people we are likely to meet again, then
those individuals we have interacted with multiple times in our personal space are probably the ones most likely to
feature once again in our daily experience. As such, uncertainty reduction may provide an explanation for why we
are more interested in interacting with unknown others whom we regularly see in our near vicinity.�� Joel lives in a
relatively rural area, and it is rare that he sees anyone driving along the road out to his family farm. Rare, that is,
until this past month, where three times a week he sees a woman about his age walking a dog toward his mailbox,
touching it, and then turning around and heading back down the road from whence she came. Is this a new
neighbor? A particularly motivated walking advocate from the city who uses his mailbox as a goal? Perhaps she is
someone training for the ���-mile fundraising walk for breast cancer research he saw advertised in the coffee
shop in town? Joel has so many questions about the “mysterious” young lady walking along the stretch of road
that so often otherwise goes unwalked. As such, he decides he’ll just “happen to check the mail” the next time he
sees her off in the distance, hoping to introduce himself and find out more specifics about the logic behind her
seemingly peculiar habits.

Box �.� Absorb
Diversemere Exposure Effect on Popular Media

The cast at Saturday Night Live loves to take their shots at all the biggest players in contemporary media.
One of the largest media companies, Disney, gets a turn at being mocked during a satirical look at the
fictional Disney Channel Acting School. In this clip, watch as guest host Miley Cyrus returns to help make
fun of her former employer.

“Disney Channel Acting School.” from Saturday Night Live. Running Time: �:��. Available on YouTube.

Consider the implications of the advice given by Hannah and Raven in the acting school’s commercial. In
it, they are making fun of some repetitive and potentially annoying acting methods that are commonly used
on Disney Channel programs. Even though the suggested behaviors might seem a little over the top in a
typical television program, regular viewers of the Disney Channel likely know and love these familiar ways
of behaving on screen.

ABSORB: Did you find the acting methods annoying or a little over the top? How does a concept like the
mere exposure effect perhaps explain why regular viewers of the Disney Channel likely enjoy these
methods that might drive someone else away? Although mere exposure is typically applied to people and
things, what do you think about the idea of mere exposure being potentially applied to repetitive nonverbal
behaviors? Do you have any nonverbal behaviors that are “signature” to you, but may not be typical in your
wider communication culture?

Until he has met her and figured out some aspects of her unusual behavior, in the example above, Joel likely sees
this mysterious stranger as an unknown other who is dissimilar to himself. Indeed, humans are quick to
characterize individuals who do not behave in a typical or expected manner as “different.” Often, when these
characterizations emerge, we develop an understanding of how this person fits into our schemata (or
classification) of how we see ourselves.

People often believe that they have unique knowledge about the others in their life. Not only are we evaluating
one another on the basis of whether they fit into specific groupings or schemata, but we are also reevaluating our
own identity based upon the very schemata in which we place ourselves. Interestingly, sometimes we change our
nonverbal behaviors to be more or less like another person, perhaps trying to seem more similar to a desirable
other person, or even to make it clear that we are in a different social grouping than the person with whom we find
ourselves interacting. The ways that we interact with others is highly influenced by the ways that we see
ourselves, and our identity is a strong predictor of our nonverbal and verbal communication behaviors.

Culture and individual experience both influence the interactional styles of people across the world. Within each
culture, there are proxemic norms for how closely or how far apart people should interact, often based upon the
preexisting relationship that those individuals have with one another. Expectancy Violation Theory has been
developed to describe the complex relationship between personal space, individual experience, and the

perceptions that we develop about one another. Interestingly, our use of personal space is based in part upon
what draws us toward one another in the first place. People are naturally drawn to interact with and relate to
others who seem similar to the self. As discussed in this chapter, however, the nature of relationships is much
more complicated. Indeed, people are constantly sending messages of both approach and avoidance to one
another based on very subtle nonverbal cues. We can let people know that we are interested in interacting with
them from across a crowded room, and at the same time we can stop a relationship from forming before it even
starts. As people get more and more fluent in using their nonverbal communication behaviors, they are able to
manage friendships, romantic relationships, workplace partnerships, and family interactions with skill and
intentionality. The factors influencing our use of personal space are much more complicated than one might
initially believe.

Knowing that people seek out others who are similar to themselves, what might you do differently in your life to
change the variety of people with whom you interact?

Given the impact of personal space and proximity on our evaluation of interaction partners, what steps will you
take to change your use of personal space across a variety of contexts in order to be a better communicator?


complementarity ��

deviation ��

homophily ��

intimate zone ��

kinesthetic awareness ��

mere exposure effect ��

personal/casual zone ��

proxemic violations ��

proximity ��

public zone ��

schemata ��

similarity ��

social/consultative zone ��

threat threshold ��

valence ��


Learning Objectives
After reading this chapter you will be able to do the following:

Describe the functions of interpersonal touch across relationships

Compare different influences of gender on touch

Explain how early experiences with touch influence later relationships

As a young teenager, Abdul felt like there was a long list of topics that he just couldn’t discuss with his relatively
conservative parents. Even though he would describe himself as pretty conservative as well, he was interested in
the ways that people thought and acted that were different from his own thoughts and actions. Even though his
siblings were much older, he was happy that he could always have honest conversations with them about their
own life experiences. This week, Abdul texted his brother that he needed to talk to him right away. There was a
new kid at school, and Abdul found himself curious in ways that he never had before. When walking by one
another in the hallway, Abdul felt the new kid brush up against his arm and he remembered that unintentional
touch for the rest of the day. Abdul felt like he wanted to find ways to bump into the new student again, but that
didn’t make any sense to him. After all, it was just an arm—but oh, it seemed somehow different from any arm
Abdul had ever encountered before. Abdul wanted his older brother’s advice before things got out of hand.

Guiding Questions
How do we learn the cultural norms toward touch?

In what ways do our early experiences with touch influence our later lives?

Is it possible that certain individual characteristics might influence the ways that we engage in and
understand touch with a variety of people?


Some of the earliest messages that we receive as humans are related to touch, as most of us are birthed and
swaddled and cuddled close to one or both parents within the first few moments of life.� Indeed, the important
influence of touch upon our early developmental experiences cannot be overlooked.� These experiences can
influence our lifelong attitudes toward touch, as highlighted in this chapter’s Measure feature and later in our
discussion of Attachment Theory.

Box �.� Measure
Self-Assessments and Touch Avoidance

Although we will discuss the importance of touch in human interaction, not all individuals are likely thrilled
with the idea that touch is a necessary part of close relationships. Indeed, it is not uncommon to regularly
meet people who are uncomfortable with giving or receiving touch for a variety of reasons.

Scholars have figured out a way to measure whether someone is likely to avoid nonverbal forms of touch
in their interactions with others.� The following is a shortened and modified list of questions inspired by the
original researchers’ �� items that measured a person’s attitude toward touch.

Instructions: Think carefully about your attitude toward the following statements. Write the number (e.g., �
through �) that best corresponds with your attitudes toward each statement.

1 2 3 4 5



Disagree Undecided Agree Strongly


__________ 1. I often put my arms around friends.

__________ 2. I like to touch my friends.

__________ 3. I don’t mind getting kissed by a relative.

__________ 4. I think it is helpful to touch another person when showing emotion.

__________ 5. I find it enjoyable to kiss a date.

__________ 6. I find it acceptable to be touched by another person.

__________ 7. I wish I was able to receive more touch in my daily life.

Add up your score and see what you get. The lowest score you can receive on this assessment is �, while
the highest score is ��. The lower your score, the more likely you are going to avoid touch in interpersonal

MEASURE: Are you surprised by your score? Was it higher or lower than the score you expected? Think
about the things that may impact how you feel about touch, including the nature of the relationship you
have with the other person, or whether both parties are in good health. What might be likely to cause you
to be more or less touch avoidant in your daily life?

Early Influences

From our earliest age, we begin to learn that things are certainly real when we can touch them. Have you ever
been to a �-D movie or ride that is also attended by at least a couple children? You may notice that kids are often
reaching forward to see if they can touch or grab the items that appear nearest to them in an attempt to learn
whether those items are actually floating in front of their eyes.� The sense of touch helps us to process information
about the world around us, and we use touch to explore our environments from the very beginning.� When
Candace was very young, her parents had a particularly fuzzy cat named Tourmaline that she apparently spent
many hours staring at each day. When Candace finally grew old enough to be allowed to interact with the cat, she
immediately grabbed Tourmaline’s tail and felt the fluffiness, the softest thing that she had touched in her early
existence. Her parents often joke that she regularly “pet” everything she could for the next few months, clearly
trying to see if there were any additional things that felt much different than they looked.

In addition to helping us explore our physical world, humans are likely to be impacted by the use of touch across a
variety of relationships in our social world. Touch can causing bonding and relational escalation (i.e., incremental
increases in closeness) to occur and is one of the strongest ways of influencing another person’s behaviors.�, �

When Jay was running for a local political office, he made sure to shake the hands of every single person he met.
While Jay didn’t shake enough hands to actually be elected mayor, his personal touch certainly influenced a lot
more people to vote for him than would have otherwise. Touch causes people to feel connected to one another
(and, to be fair, people are actually connected when they engage in touch). On the other hand, a lack of touch can
serve as an indicator of emotional detachment.� Touch is a significant social force; positive casual touch can
increase personal evaluations even among strangers.� Admittedly, the location (on the body) of that casual touch
is very important, with a variety of desirable or undesirable locations depending upon the social bond with the
toucher as well as the type of relationship (e.g., family, romantic partner, friend, colleague).�� Greg meant well in
his relationships with other new undergraduate students at his school. He tried to appear warm and friendly in
ways that worked well for him in high school and was always sure to touch everyone that he met during his first
few weeks at college. Unfortunately, Greg did not read every situation well, and his high-touch behaviors quickly
earned him the reputation as “Creepy Greg.” People like Greg need to carefully monitor the closeness and nature
of their relationships, as well the types of touch that are considered acceptable in the society that one finds
oneself. As Greg discovered, the use of interpersonal touch can either help or hurt relational development, as
explored in this chapter’s Apply feature.

Box �.� Apply
Using Touch to Facilitate Relationships

Before he met his partner, Ricky wasn’t fond of being touched. He was adopted later in his childhood after
some time in the foster system, and his early experiences did not include much physical affection. His lack
of touch wasn’t his fault, as he was a normal young boy doing typical young boy things; but the specifics of
his early experience just worked out in such a way that he didn’t experience much affection from the adults
or other kids around him throughout his daily life. As he grew into an adult and began to explore having
romantic relationships, Ricky wasn’t used to touch in the same way that his partners were. While he didn’t
necessarily recoil from touch, he also didn’t initiate touch—a practice which occasionally led to
misunderstandings and hurt feelings in relationships. But with his current partner, Ricky felt like he needed
to try something different. After all, this guy seemed special and he didn’t want to lose him.

Fortunately, Ricky realized that although his own experiences with touch had likely influenced his individual
perceptions,�� he operated in a culture where many kids received a great deal of childhood touch and that
it would be expected that he was used to interpersonal touch as well. It was important for Ricky to talk
about it early on to avoid causing any undue pain. Fortunately, his partner was patient and caring, and
after a conversation about the use of touch, they figured out a plan for how to avoid annoying one another
while also avoiding hurting one another’s feelings.

APPLY: Do you or someone you love identify with Ricky’s lack of experience with interpersonal touch?
Based on what we have learned in this chapter, why is touch important in most relationships? If you decide
to have children someday, what does Ricky’s story tell you about the importance of early childhood touch?
How would you describe to a partner your own ideas about using touch?

Indeed, nonverbal communication scholars have learned quite a bit about the positive role that other people can
have in our life as we receive positive forms of touch (e.g., affection or caretaking); such positive experiences with
touch can have significant impact on our experience with affection and touch as adults.��, ��, �� In fact, early forms
of touch (i.e., maternal touch with infants) are increasingly seen as being directly related to the cognitive
development of young humans.��

The Harlow Monkey Experiment

How important is touch to early human development? In the ����s, one researcher wanted to understand the
social functions of touch and whether the tactile (touch-related) experience of relationships was most related to
other more instrumental functions of touch (e.g., feeding, caregiving) rather than to social functions of touch. In a
test of the importance of touch across multiple species, the researcher Harry Harlow used infant monkeys and
gave them the opportunity to spend time with one of two surrogate “mothers” that could provide warmth, food, and
a pleasant soft fuzzy “body” to cling to, as seen in Photo �.�.��

Interestingly, even in situations where the wire “mother” was the sole source of food (through a nursing bottle), in
general the monkey would go get food briefly but then return and spend time (and even cuddle with or give
affection to) the soft “mother.” If the infant monkey ever needed comforting or a sense of security (e.g., a new or
scary situation emerged near or in the infant’s cage), the infant typically went to the “mother” that provided the
softest sense of touch. While this finding seems rather intuitive now, given what we know about the importance of
affection for individual health,�� this study contradicted many scientists at the time who argued that perceptions of
affection and love were likely just a natural response to receiving food from a maternal figure.

Although the Harlow Monkey Experiment (as it came to be known) helped convince nonverbal researchers that
there is a fundamentally natural drive to touch and be touched that also extended beyond human populations,
there was still much work to be done to explain what motivates the drive for social touch. And even more so,
scholars wanted to understand what drove people to be more or less likely to engage in touch with one another—
and why. In an attempt to explain those factors, a new perspective emerged on the usefulness of affectionate
social touch. But first, let’s talk a little bit about how best we can understand the different touches that people use
in their interpersonal relationships with one another.

One of the most helpful ways to understand touch is to first describe and classify touch. In the process, giving us a
picture of the different components of touch can help us to better understand more clearly how touch works in
different relationships. Scholars have come up with a structural understanding of touch that focuses on the
different types of touch, and also a functional understanding of touch that looks at each individual function that
might be accomplished by using that specific type of touch. Jake, for example, might have pinched his sibling on
the cheek after having not seen him for many years. While a pinch from Jake might have irritated or even pained
Gary during their younger years, the good-natured teasing and broad smile helped Gary to know that the type of
touch Jake was using (that is, a pinch) was intended to function as an indicator of brotherly love and closeness.
Here we talk about the two main ways to categorize touch, both by type of touch and function of touch.

Types of Touch

The structural approach to categorizing touch focuses on specific acts that are physically distinct from one
another; these categories can exist regardless of the intent of the toucher and also regardless of the perceptions
of the person who is being touched. In the example above, regardless of when it happened or what Gary or Jake
were thinking, the specific type of touch was a “pinch.” A pinch looks very different from other types of touch (even
similarly aggressive types of touch like a poke or a punch or a kick) and is categorized as its own thing,
accordingly. Figure �.� gives a relatively comprehensive list of the types of touch used in interpersonal
relationships that has been created by many scholars over the years,��, ��, �� although it is useful to note that the
list is not completely exhaustive. Can you think of any types of touch not represented in the figure?

Functions of Touch

While the specific types of touch are easily brought to mind and have some utility in describing what has
happened between two people, unfortunately that form of categorization doesn’t capture the reasons behind or the

outcomes of each individual touch that occurs in interpersonal relationships. A functional approach to touch
doesn’t look at each specific touch behavior (e.g., poke, nuzzle, or slap) but instead looks at the social outcome
that emerges from that touch. The functional approach can be thought of as answering the question of what an
individual instance of touch accomplished in a particular context. Returning once again to the example between
Jake and Gary, a seemingly aggressive pinch was actually used to demonstrate love and affection between
brothers. In this chapter’s Absorb feature we explore the aftermath that may happen when the intent behind a
touch doesn’t function socially in the same way it was expected for by the message sender.


Figure �.� Some Types of Touch in Interpersonal Relationship

Box �.� Absorb
Inappropriate Touch on Popular Media

In their recurring segment “Weekend Update” on Saturday Night Live, hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che
poke fun at the controversy of former Vice President Joe Biden being accused of using inappropriate touch
in the runup to the ���� elections. Video was released of Joe Biden placing his hands on the shoulders of
a woman, something that he claimed was normal while many viewers of the clip described the touch as
inappropriate or even condescending. Watch as both Colin and Michael discuss the controversy in the clip

“Weekend Update: Joe Biden’s Inappropriate Touching.” from Saturday Night Live. Running Time: �:��.
Available on YouTube.

This isn’t the first time that inappropriate touch has entered the political conversation in recent years.
During the previous election cycle, then-candidate Trump was recorded discussing nonconsensual touch in
a positive manner as well. Each incident reminds viewers of the importance of boundaries and respect and
a good understanding of one’s interaction partner before attempting to engage in touch-related behaviors.
Even though Colin and Michael joke about the issue in the clip above, the issue is not at all funny for those

ABSORB: How might you want to rethink the manner in which you use interpersonal touch with both
known and unknown others? What scripted or normalized forms of touch, like a handshake, do you think
are widely accepted? Are there any things that you engage in using touch that you might need to rethink?
If you were counseling a politician before a variety of public appearances, what advice would you give
them about the use of interpersonal touch?

Scholars who have studied that functional approach to touch have looked at how the touch functions within a
specific relationship type�� or at how people described the six main intentions of the toucher, depending upon the
context.�� Those six functions of touch are each associated with a relational outcome that can be accomplished
by engaging in that touch.

Ritualistic touch

The first function of touch is ritualistic touch which occurs when people touch one another as part of a routine
behavior or social script, usually related to one’s arrival to or departure from where the other person is located.
When Dashawn arrived at a wedding with his parents, he shook hands with each person that he met and greeted
him or her politely. He was relieved, however, when he noticed the small gathering of kids his age. Placing his
hand on the small of his mother’s back to signal his departure, he went over and engaged in a complicated
combination of high fives and handshakes with his cousins visiting from out of town.

Positive Affect Touch

The second function of touch is positive affect touch which occurs when people express positive emotions for a
partner through touch, including but not limited to affection, support/nurturance, inclusion/togetherness,
appreciation, or sexual interest. Ann-Marie was having a rough day of waiting tables after a customer left the diner
without paying for his meal, and when Brenda caught her sobbing in the break room she put her arm around her
shoulders and expressed her sympathy and care for Ann-Marie with a gentle squeeze and a well-timed word of

Control Touch

The third function of touch is control touch, which occurs whenever touch is used to direct or influence the
attitudes, emotions, attention, or behaviors of another individual. Pete didn’t want his daughter dating anyone even
though she was already old enough to drive, so each time that Heidi brought a young man over to the house to
study, Pete would “greet” him with a firm handshake, so firm in fact as to be both intimidating and a little bit painful.
(Lately, Heidi hasn’t often brought a young man over to the house for a second visit.)

Playful Touch

The next function of touch is playful touch which happens when people use touch to bring some fun or inject
some humor into a situation. It can also occur when people are trying to indicate that something that they said is
not meant to be taken seriously (e.g., sarcasm). When Jeremy walked into the computer lab on campus and saw
his two roommates hunched over their screens working on their final design projects for an engineering class, he
exclaimed to his girlfriend, “Look at these two guys goofing around, never getting any work done or taking things
seriously!” Jeremy then nudged them both with his elbows to let them know that he was just joking, although the
irritated looks on their faces stopped Jeremy from any further attempts at levity.

Task-related touch

Another function of touch is task-related touch which occurs when people use touch necessarily as part of
accomplishing some other instrumental task. Going to the dentist, having a pedicure, figuring out your shoe size,
or getting your ears pierced at the mall each likely involve someone else touching you—in part, because there is

no easy way to accomplish each task without someone else’s physical assistance. When Sylvie upgraded her
haircut to include a shampoo and blowout, she received touch from multiple people throughout the salon
experience. What would normally have been awkwardly intimate forms of touch for Sylvie went barely unnoticed,
however, as the touch was both functional and professional.

Hybrid Touch

The final function of touch is known as the hybrid touch which combines multiple forms of touch listed above into
one single interaction. The most commonly experienced combination might be the mixture of ritualistic and
positive affect touches, such as when best friends Brea and Nathan reunited after not having seen one another for
the summer. Their touch with one another was complicated, a frenzied mix of cheek-kisses and hugs and hands
on one another’s shoulders as they excitedly greeted each other and exclaimed about how happy they were to
see one another.

One interesting thing about haptic interactions and the use of touch involves the different ways that people use
touch within a culture and around the world. As mentioned earlier in the chapter, not everyone uses touch in the
same way. There are cultural differences in the use of touch, and also regional differences within larger social
cultures.�� In the contiguous United States (excluding Alaska, Hawaii, or any territories), for example, people are
generally more likely to express comfort with touch as you move further south and further west.��, �� While you
may not notice much difference between the two Dakotas, for example, you’ll definitely see some difference in
comfort with touch between someone who grew up in the Back Bay of Boston and the Ocean Beach community of
San Diego, some ���� miles to the southwest.

Not only are there regional differences associated with touch, but also there are sex and gender differences in the
use and comfort with touch. Women are more likely to avoid the touch of the opposite sex than are men,�� for
example, although in general women are most likely to give and receive touch overall.�� Certain places on the
body are also more or less acceptable as locations for touch based upon one’s displayed gender, and each
individual likely has an understanding of who may touch them where, based upon both their relationship and their
gender identity.��, �� Sex differences in the use of touch have recently been highlighted as likely stemming from
other cultural rules and norms; heterosexual men, for example, may avoid using touch with other men except in
situations where their masculinity is affirmed in other ways.��, �� Erik, for example, was quick to smack his
teammates on the butt on the soccer field after a particularly good play, but limited his use of touch with the guys
off the field to handshakes and high fives.

A third area associated with touch has to do with the age of the interaction partners. In general, older people
receive less touch and also use touch in different patterns than do younger people.��, �� Surprisingly, older people
even mentally process touch differently than do younger people.�� If human touch is so important as part of
feeling loved and included, and older people continue to desire touch but are less likely to receive that desired
touch, perhaps we need to initiate more healthy affectionate touch with those loved older people in our lives.

Touch can be a great way to express closeness, affection, or interest to a loved one or close friend. Importantly,
one should always be certain of the nature of the relationship that they have with the person being touched.
Unwanted touch is uncomfortable and unacceptable, and people need to make sure that their interaction partner
is comfortable with being touched, whether that person is a friend, family member, coworker, or romantic partner.
This issue is explored more in this chapter’s Examine feature, below.

Box �.� Examine

The Ethics of Sexual Consent��, ��, ��

Sex and sexuality is an uncomfortable conversation for many people in North America, as cultural taboos
often forbid talking about sexual behaviors across a variety of contexts. Even when people are engaging in
erotic activity with one another, it is not unusual for conversation to cease, and physical behaviors and
nonverbal communication to become the primary form of messaging. Although many movies may portray
coupling as a flawless symphony of sexual behaviors that “just happen” between interested adults, our
modern culture has emerged in such a manner that partners necessarily must discuss sexual activities
before engaging in them with one another. The concept of affirmative consent highlights the importance
of having an interaction—even a brief one—where both partners assent and say “yes” to engaging in
physical activity with one another.

Affirmative consent is a very simple concept, even though it may at first glance appear unwieldy or even
downright frightening to someone who is trying to navigate an erotic encounter. In practice, however,
obtaining and giving affirmative consent is really quite easy. “Can I kiss you?” followed by a response of
“I’d like to kiss” may be all that is needed to ensure that both parties are on board and comfortable with
engaging in that type of activity. Playing hard to get or teasing a partner is not wise while obtaining
consent, as a good partner should immediately stop any unwanted activity before it even starts if consent
is not spoken aloud. In addition, consent may be removed at any time, simply by saying something like “I
think we should stop kissing.” Getting caught up in the moment is no excuse to avoid pausing and
checking in with your partner.

It’s always a good idea to find out what your university’s rules and your state’s laws are regarding
affirmative consent, as the laws are constantly changing and getting increasingly specific about how we
obtain verbal agreement from a potential partner. If you want to talk to someone about issues like these,
visit your campus wellness center or contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at ���.���.HOPE.

EXAMINE: Make a plan in advance about how to obtain affirmative consent in your romantic or erotic
encounters. What might be the way that you phrase your consent-seeking questions? How do you think
your gender may influence the ways that you ask a partner for consent? What are the best verbal
strategies to use to make sure that your partner is on board with any variety of nonverbal activities? Can
you think of a recent example of a movie or tv show where they depicted affirmative consent?

Almost two decades ago, scholars worked to develop an explanation that helps us to better understand the human
drive for affectionate touch. In general, Affection Exchange Theory argues that individuals have developed

affectionate behaviors over the course of human history as a way of demonstrating (to a potential partner) that he
or she would be a good parent, thus activating the partner’s biological drive to procreate and produce children.��

Although still focusing on affection as simply a biological adaptation related to a fundamental drive, this
perspective helps to explain a variety of human motivations toward affection while also acknowledging that
affection need not always be for the purposes of procreation. A series of projects looked at the effect of
affectionate nonverbal behaviors on a variety of characteristics.��, ��, ��, ��, ��, ��, �� Scholar Kory Floyd’s
research has increasingly looked at the biological components of affection and the impact on human health ��, ��,
��, �� with general findings that individuals generally respond positively to affectionate touch in specific and
measurable ways. ignjatovic

Interestingly, some scholars have argued that our earliest experiences with touch may generally impact many of
our relationship behaviors throughout the rest of our life. Attachment Theory argues that the basic patterns of
interacting with others established during our infant years (e.g., those beliefs about whether other people treat us
well and whether we deserve to be treated well) impact our expectations for future interactions, and even what we
expect out of our adult relationships.�� While a full treatment of this topic is perhaps better suited for a course on
interpersonal communication, it is still important to note that social scientists believe that our early haptic
experiences with touch are said to significantly influence our lifelong understanding of who we are, contributing to
our sense of self and our understanding of how we fit into social structures. Essentially, this theory argues that our
earliest experiences with touch often influence our adult identities. In this chapter’s Engage feature, we explore
some different attitudes that may later form as a result of these early experiences.

Box �.� Engage
Diverse Attitudes Toward Public Displays

Cultural differences also influence how comfortable we are with using touch in public. Feng and Jen
decided to go on a double date to the local water park with their favorite couple, Marisol and Jaime.
Although much of the day was spent waiting in line for the waterslides or lounging by the side of the lazy
river, each couple had a fair amount of time to just hang out and chat with one another. At the end of the
day, Marisol and Jaime chatted in their car on the way home about how worried they were for the other
pair, as they just didn’t seem that affectionate with one another. At the exact same time, Feng and Jen
were discussing their embarrassment at their friends’ constant touching, cuddling, and hand-holding
throughout the water park. Jen decided to talk about it with Marisol the next time they grabbed coffee
together, not knowing that Marisol had just resolved to do the exact same thing.

Public displays of affection (or PDAs) vary across culture in terms of both their acceptability and likelihood
among couples. Although much of the cross-cultural research has been done on heterosexual couples,
there is reason to believe that cultural norms for these public displays likely impact a variety of relationship
structures. In general, cultures in Africa and Central and South America tend to be more comfortable with
touch in public spaces, while Asian, North American, and some European cultures tend to use relatively
little touch. In the case of Marisol and Jaime, their Central American heritage has historically been more
likely to value the public displays of affection that embarrassed Feng and Jen, who both were influenced

by their families’ decidedly low-contact Asian cultures.�� Although they may never agree on the specific set
of acceptable behaviors, both Marisol and Jen will probably have a better understanding of one another’s
cultural differences after their shared conversation over coffee.

ENGAGE: How does each couple’s use of touch (or lack thereof) impact one another? Do you think that
you come from a low-contact culture like Jen and Feng? How does your cultural understanding impact
your reading of the story about their trip to the water park? Consider a situation where you have observed
people with different attitudes toward touch than your own. How did you manage that situation?

Given that our earliest experiences with touch influence our adult experiences, it would be remiss not to cover one
of the seminal works on the impact of early childhood experiences like touch over the life span. Originally
developed by psychologists, Attachment Theory is one of the most studied concepts in the communication
discipline and in other relational research areas, and it makes claims about how our early experiences with touch
and attention as an infant might have influenced our later understanding of who we are and how we relate to
others around us.��, ��

Essentially, this theory argues that we receive early signals about our own self-worth and about the ability of
others to help us during our earliest experiences with touch as an infant. A hungry, crying infant that is instantly fed
and held and treated with great care likely develops a sense of self-worth and trust in others that leads them to
behave securely in their adult relationships. A child who does not receive the necessary care and attention to
thrive and feel loved may approach their adult relationships with hesitation or dismissiveness when confronted
with a stressful life experience.

Attachment Theory posits four main categories of adult attachment based upon early experiences with touch,
attention, and having one’s needs met:

1. Secure attachments are often characterized by confidence in one’s self and one’s attachment partner. A
securely attached individual is likely to believe “I’m okay and you’re okay.”

2. Dismissive attachments are characterized by confidence in one’s self but a belief that one’s attachment
partner may not be able to meet one’s needs. A dismissively attached individual is likely to believe “I’m okay
but you’re not okay.”

3. Preoccupied attachments are characterized by a lack of self-worth but a confidence in one’s relational
partner. A preoccupied individual is likely to believe “I’m not okay but you’re okay.”

4. Fearful-avoidant attachments are characterized by both a lack of self-worth and a lack of confidence in
one’s relational partner. A fearful-avoidant individual is likely to believe “I’m not okay and you’re not okay.”

Although it is tempting to believe that those early years may have “screwed you up for the rest of your life,” in fact,
attachment styles are just one’s natural default toward a relationship during times of stress or discomfort. One can
have a completely fulfilling long-term romantic partnership regardless of one’s attachment style. Zoe, for example,
is dismissively attached to her partner and knows it. Fortunately for them, Zoe has had a conversation with her
partner to let him know that she’s likely to push him away when she’s stressed or when things just don’t seem to
be going great. Because she has had that conversation with her partner Thad (who just happens to be securely
attached), he can be aware that her attempts to push him away during finals season is just her flexing her
independence and that he can offer comfort and support, rather than getting offended.

Additionally, it’s important to note that scholars have found that these attachment styles are actually influenced
much more than just by the touch that one receives as an infant; indeed, life experiences and relationship histories
may influence one’s current behavior far beyond the early influences of infant touch. That being said, even a
modern approach to Attachment Theory highlights the importance of touch throughout one’s developmental

Human touch is one of the earliest ways that we experience inclusion and affection and it lasts over the course of
our lifespan. While there are innumerable types of touch, each touch may serve some social or instrumental
function in our lives. There are a variety of responses to touch, and those may be influenced by culture and region
and sex and age. Regardless of those characteristics, one of the most important things to remember is that touch
is a powerful form of communication and should be handled with the utmost caution and respect for one’s
interaction partner. The successful use of touch can change lives, creating relationships and allowing people to
grow and thrive in relationship to one another.

What has your own culture taught you about the role of touch?

Knowing what we learned about our early experiences with touch, how do you think you might be predisposed to
use touch in your interpersonal relationships?

What characteristics of your own self have influenced the ways in which you engaged haptically with others across


Affection Exchange Theory ��

affirmative consent ��

Attachment Theory ��

control touch ��

dismissive attachment ��

fearful-avoidant attachment ��

functional approach ��

hybrid touch ��

playful touch ��

positive affect touch ��

preoccupied attachment ��

ritualistic touch ��

secure attachment ��

structural approach ��

tactile ��

task-related touch ��

Descriptions of Images and Figures
Back to Figure

The list of terms are as follows:



































kiss, and



Learning Objectives
After reading this, you will be able to do the following:

Compare the three types of eye behaviors

Describe the interrelationships between pupil dilation and attraction

List potential messages that can arise from sustained eye contact

Stan and Arline are an adorable older couple, and their relationship is envied by most of their neighbors. Stan has
a way of seeming to read Arline’s mind while he watches her, as she can look at him with a glance and he
immediately knows what she wants, needs, or feels. To be fair, Arline always tells her friends that she’s “trained”
Stan well, but in fact both of them seem to have the unique ability to communicate with one another with just a
look. Just last week, Stan was up in the attic trying to find some old boxes when he slipped and punched a hole in
the ceiling, dangling his feet with hilarious effect. After cleaning up the dust and putting a bag of ice over some
large bruises, Stan finally called someone to repair the sheetrock, rolling his eyes at the estimate of the price. Ever
since, one well-timed upward look from Arline can send both of them into a fit of giggles from which they must take
a long time to recover. All this adorableness is almost driving their adult children crazy, however, who try to silence
them with a glare—a glare that only produces even more giggles than before.

Guiding Questions
What are the different ways that we can send messages with our eyes?

Why are our eyes so prominent in sending and receiving messages with interaction partners?

From our earliest days on earth as humans, we learn to use our eyes to facilitate our interactions with others. In
the first days after birth, infants look toward the people in their lives and use their eyes to gain information and
develop social preferences.� The nonverbal code dealing with the use of one’s eyes to send and receive

messages is known as oculesics, and those eye behaviors are one of the most important ways to indicate
attention to a partner, or to convey affection or a threat. When Dominic wanted to let his teammate know that he
was really upset with them, he stared at him angrily during the team’s post-game meeting. Later that night, when
Dominic saw a former lover enter the post-game party at the local pub, he also used eye contact to send a
message of a very different sort. Even though oculesic behaviors are among the most significant ways of
perceiving the world around us, with around ��% of our social information received through sight,� there are only
three main forms of communication where people use their eyes to send a message. Let’s take a look at one of
those forms in action in this chapter’s Absorb feature exploring the concept of love at first sight.

Box �.� Absorb
“Just One Look” on Popular Media

People often debate back and forth whether love can really occur at first sight, but for one famous singer
his mind is already made up. During an interview on Access Live, internationally renowned crooner
Michael Bublé discusses the moment after a concert that he first saw the woman that would eventually
become his wife. Watch his discussion of that first brief glance of actress Luisana Lopilato in the clip below.

“Michael Bublé Admits It Was Love At First Sight With His Wife: ‘I Got Very, Very Lucky,’” from Access.
Running Time: �:��. Available on YouTube.

Michael Bublé’s story is interesting for many reasons, not the least of which is his vivid recounting of the
events that happened the first time he met his wife. Consider the interactions he described in the interview,
both the first gaze he experienced looking out the window at her as well as the encounters he had with
both conversational partners as he avoided giving her “too much” attention when he thought she was

ABSORB: Do you believe in love at first sight? Do you think that there is a difference in perception based
upon whether the “first sight” was one-sided or mutual? Imagine what Luisana’s emotions must have been
like when she thought that Michael had no interest in her. What types of eye contact do you think likely
occurred once Michael realized that his interest in her was reciprocated? Does this story change your mind
about how quickly people can fall in love?

Looking Toward

Most of the time that we are using our eyes, we are trying to gain information about the world around us. From
reading a restaurant’s menu to trying to figure out the next exit we need to take on the freeway, the vast majority
of individuals use their eyes to see and process what is going on in the world around them. Even more than
looking at the things in our environment, we typically use our eyes to gain social information about the people and
the messages that surround us. This social information can provide important cues about how to act and respond
to other social actors that we encounter in our daily lives. Looking toward one another is not just a simple matter of
pointing one’s eyes in another’s direction, but rather involves quite a bit of complicated social knowledge and a
variety of potential eye-related behaviors.


One of the earliest ways that we can gain social information in a novel context is by looking directly in another
person’s direction. When one person looks at another person, we call this looking behavior gaze. Gazing at
another person is an easy way for us to quickly obtain information that activates our cultural understandings of
that person as we swiftly sort and categorize the information that we receive, including information like age,
gender, race, and social class, among others.� This use of staring is often intended to serve as a means of gaining
information about one another, but like many other nonverbal behaviors, it can also have a communicative
function as well. Regardless of the sender’s intent, gaze can easily be interpreted as a message of attention or
interest, even if the person gazing did not mean to send any such social message. Rose and Guy were going
through a rough patch in their romantic relationship together after about � months of dating, and Guy wanted to
have a conversation with her to figure out where she was at. Selecting a busy outdoor coffee shop along the
town’s main strip may not have been the best idea, however, as Rose couldn’t help herself from checking out the
people that were walking past them on their way to the health and fitness club next door. After Guy noticed Rose’s
eyes wandering over the muscular arms of yet another gym rat headed to his upper body workout, Guy suddenly
realized that Rose no longer loved him in the way that he expected.

Rose’s behavior is pretty normal—after all, our eyes are drawn more toward those individuals that we find
attractive.� Interestingly, gaze directed at multiple social actors in the same context can influence our judgments of
an individual’s attractiveness, as we also make judgments about each individual based upon the people that
surround them; research has shown that we find a person more attractive if they are also surrounded by other
attractive people.�

At the same time, prolonged staring at an individual can easily bring about feelings of discomfort for the person
being viewed, particularly if such an expression of interest is not necessarily desired. In fact, many people across
a variety of disciplines have discussed the concept of male gaze, which is the sexual objectification of women’s
bodies (and/or specific body parts of women) by men through prolonged staring and evaluation.� While most
objectification in general is seen as undesirable, it’s particularly challenging when differences in power and social
position cause an individual to feel demeaned or powerless within any context. Whether wanted or unwanted,
however, not all gaze is one-sided, as often a party’s interaction partners often return their gaze, as discussed in
the next section.

Mutual Gaze and Eye Contact

The most commonly discussed type of gaze is mutual gaze, where both parties in an interaction look toward one
another. When two individuals discover that they both are looking toward one another and their eyes meet, this
type of mutual gaze is known as eye contact. Eye contact occurs when two people lock eyes with one another or
look one another in the face and both parties are aware that the eye contact is occurring.� Whether intentional or
unintentional, eye contact can cause a strong emotional response, particularly the longer that the eye contact is
held between the two parties. Just as significantly, gaze avoidance occurs when someone is actively avoiding the
gaze of another individual and can have a variety of devastating effects depending upon the person or the

situation. As such, we need to be careful to understand the variety of norms and expectations that guide eye-
contact displays, as discussed in this chapter’s Engage feature.

Eye Movement

In addition to sending a message by simply staring at someone, sometimes we use our eye movements
themselves almost as a form of gesture. By darting our widened eyes in the direction of something we want
someone to look at, for example, we can nonverbally communicate a request for attention or interest. When Jesse
and Clark were talking about Jesse’s new crush, Clark widened his eyes and kept moving his eyes in the direction
of the door, hoping that Jesse would figure out that she had just entered the room and was walking in their
direction. The interest that people have in monitoring their own behavior (like Clark hopes Jesse will soon do) is
explored for ourselves in this chapter’s Measure feature.

Box �.� Engage
Diverse Attitudes Toward Eye Contact and Respect

There are different attitudes toward the use of eye contact based upon one’s own cultural experience.
While some cultures feel that maintaining eye contact with a conversational partner is a way to show
respect, other cultures may feel the exact opposite—encouraging people to avoid eye contact with
respected others. When Aiko and Valerie were meeting to discuss a potential merger of their two
independent “doggy day care” locations, Valerie was careful to look her potential partner in the eyes. After
the meeting, she commented to her husband that she wasn’t sure whether Aiko was a great fit or not.
Valerie had always seen herself is a strong independent woman and Aiko seemed to be taking her for
granted and wouldn’t even look her in the eyes. For her part, Aiko was absolutely being respectful by
looking in the direction of Valerie’s face but with her gaze slightly averted from her eyes.

Valerie and Aiko fit some culture-based findings of research on gaze, with Valerie’s background from a
variety of Western cultures and Aiko’s Japanese heritage each influencing cultural norms about what is
considered “good manners” within each individual culture.� If Valerie and Aiko can gain one another’s trust,
they will eventually have a better understanding of one another’s intent. Currently, however, they will have
to grant each other some grace in navigating one another’s cultural differences.

ENGAGE: How does Valerie’s and Aiko’s different use of oculesic behaviors impact each interaction
partner? How do you show respect to someone when you talk to them? That is, are you used to looking
someone directly in the eyes when you speak, or to looking away, or somewhere in the middle? How might
you have felt if you were Aiko or Valerie in this situation? Have you ever encountered someone with a
decidedly different attitude toward eye-related behaviors than yourself? How did you manage that

Pupil Dilation

Although not often consciously perceived, the widening of the center of one’s eyes—known as pupil dilation—
actually sends unintentional messages of romantic interest. While intentional dilation of pupils is more commonly a
pharmacological endeavor, much research supports the notion that one’s pupils will widen when looking at
something that the viewer finds sexually appealing or attractive.��, �� As such, over time humans have evolved the
ability to subconsciously perceive dilated pupils as an indicator of interest and may unknowingly find themselves
more attracted to someone with larger pupils because it indicates a reciprocal interest. In this chapter’s Examine
feature, we further explore the impact of pupil dilation as an indicator of someone’s interest.


Box �.� Measure
Self-Assessments and Monitoring the Self

The oculesic code is unique because not only can our eyes communicate nonverbally, but also they allow
us to gain information about our surroundings and the people in them. One of the ways that we use our
eyes to gather information is by looking for nonverbal feedback from those around us, letting us know how
our own performance is being perceived. Researchers often refer to this process of interpreting feedback
as self-monitoring.

Scholars have figured out a way to measure whether someone is likely to pay attention to their own
behaviors and regulate their self-presentation with others.� The following is a subset of questions derived
from the original researchers’ �� items that measured a person’s ability to engage in self-monitoring.

Instructions: Think carefully about your attitude toward the following statements. Write the number (e.g., �
through �) that best corresponds with your attitudes toward each statement.

1 2 3 4 5

Never Rarely Sometimes Usually Always


Once I know what I need to do, it’s easy for me to regulate my actions.


I have found that I can adjust my behavior for any situation.


I can change my behavior to suit different people in different situations.


I can control the way I come across to people, depending on the impression I want to
give them.


When I feel that the image I am portraying isn’t working, I can easily change to
something that does work.


I find it easy to put up a good front.

Add up your score and see what you get. The lowest score you can receive on this assessment is �, while
the highest score is ��. The higher your score, the more likely you pay attention to what is going on around
you and how people are interpreting your behaviors.

MEASURE: Are you surprised by your score? Was it higher or lower than the score you expected? Think
about the things that may impact how much you pay attention to your successful performances. How do
you use your eyes to engage in self-monitoring?

Box �.� Examine
The Ethics of Pupil Dilation and Sexual Orientation

Many people believe that one cannot truly know specifics about another person’s sexual orientation unless
they have lived the life of that other person. At the same time, some scientists are looking for ways to be
able to measure degrees of sexual orientation, which may lead to individual fears that they can be “outed”
based upon some observable characteristic. In research on eyes and eye behaviors, a consistent finding
has been that people’s pupils dilate larger when viewing images of sexually aroused individuals that they
find attractive.��, �� Although most heterosexuals’ pupils dilate more in response to a naked aroused picture
of someone from the opposite sex, self-reported bisexuals may have pupil dilation for both sexes, and gay
or lesbian individuals are likely to show the largest pupil dilation in response to images of naked aroused
same-sex people.�� Because pupil dilation is associated with other physiological processes that include
sexual arousal, it has become a strong indicator of sexual interest (and even replaces measures of genital
arousal in some scenarios).�� What does this mean? If someone’s eyes have briefly dilated pupils, that
may be an indicator of sexual interest! As a result, some believe that they can figure out a person’s sexual
orientation regardless of having the consent of that person to learn or discuss that information.

However, there are many reasons for someone’s pupils to dilate that are not related to sexual interest,
including hunger, fear, or a variety of pharmacological substances both medicinal and recreational.�� And
even more so, the brief flicker of pupil dilation that indicates sexual arousal is barely noticeable, so it is
quite easy to mistake other causes of pupil dilation for sexual interest (e.g., changes in lighting). All this to
say, it is not considered acceptable or ethical to comment upon someone’s perceived sexual orientation or
sexual interest in either a private or public context. If you have reason to believe that you know someone’s

sexual interest—particularly if it doesn’t match their public presentation of the self—it is not your place to
comment on or “out” that person. One’s own sexual interest or sexual behaviors are nobody else’s
business as long as everyone involved is a consenting adult—even more so, it’s a violation of privacy.�� It’s
best practice to leave the meritless exposé to the supermarket tabloids.

EXAMINE: Think about the possibility that you might discover some surprising or unknown information
about a friend or family member by applying some of what you have learned about eye behavior. Now
imagine how you would feel were someone to reveal your personal or private points of information. How
might outing someone’s sexual interest—correctly or incorrectly—bring shame or harm to an individual?
What can help you remind yourself to mind your own business? How might you remind yourself to think
carefully before querying or discussing the impact of pupil dilation and other behaviors on our perceptions
of one another’s sexual interests?

In addition to being a way to perceive social messages about the emotional experiences of people around us, eye-
related behaviors can also be somewhat communicative of our own emotional experiences. The four main types
of emotional displays that can be sent using oculesics include attraction, affection, interest, or threat. Each eye
behavior is incredibly similar to one another—typically characterized by the use of eye contact alongside other
social cues—leading to a broad range of potential misunderstandings if people aren’t careful about monitoring
their other messaging at the same time that they are using prolonged eye contact in an interpersonal encounter.
Pam’s first time at an LGBT-friendly pub was fraught with emotion, as she was attending her best friend’s going-
away party before she moved to the other side of the country. Already a bit overwhelmed at the potential loss of
her bestie, Pam scanned the room regularly to see if her always tardy boyfriend had finally arrived. Not looking at
what she was doing, Pam turned quickly and bumped directly into another stunning young woman, spilling her
tonic water all over the other woman’s shoes. The splashed recipient locked eyes with her, raised her eyebrows,
and stared openly. For her part, Pam was confused. After all, she wasn’t sure whether this woman was
threatening her, hitting on her, or simply waiting for the apology that she suddenly realized she needed to
immediately say.


It’s no secret: Eye contact is a great way to let someone know that you are interested in them. All the greatest
romantic films address this cultural script in some way, with scenes of people meeting eyes across the room and
ending up married, dating, or at least fooling around with one another in later scenes throughout the movie.
Indeed, looking one another in the eyes is a powerful communication tool, and when accompanied by other
markers of positive feeling, can easily indicate feelings of attraction or sexual interest. Indeed, researchers have
found that couples are more likely to describe liking and romantic love for one another after locking eyes for a
couple minutes.�� When all the other nonverbal cues already say “yes,” eye contact is an easy way to let someone
know that you have romantic feelings for them.


Eye contact need not only be an indicator of romantic love, however. Eye contact along with other pleasant facial
features (like smiling) can also serve as an indicator of general affection for another person like a friend or family
member. It can also indicate a general interest in the other person, perhaps letting them know that one is paying
attention or available to talk or interact. Indeed, the best communicators often know intuitively to look directly at
someone when it is their turn to talk, and this is particularly obvious to the recipient of the gaze when there are
additional social indicators that it is one’s turn to talk.�� Many of the regulatory functions of nonverbal
communication discussed in Chapter � are accompanied by eye contact or by one-sided gaze toward the person
being prompted to speak.


The final emotional display that we will discuss is very dissimilar to the previous displays that we have addressed
up to this point. While eye contact is a great way to let others know that you love them, that you like them, or that
you are interested in them or their ideas, eye contact is also a useful way to convey a threat to another person.
Some nonhuman primates use eye contact regularly to send threatening messages to one another,�� and humans
have similarly become aware of the negative communication potential ascribed to this form of communication
common to a variety of creatures.�� Humans have a variety of terms to describe this experience, ranging from
“giving someone the evil eye” or “mad-dogging someone from across the room” to even the more obvious “not
liking how that guy was eyeing me.”

Interpreting one’s eye contact is not an exact science. Clearly the other verbal and nonverbal messages that
accompany messages of attraction, affection, interest, or threat are essential for helping a receiver to understand
a communicator’s intent. Narrowed eyes, a furrowed brow, and a shaking fist may help someone to immediately
guess that someone is warning them that they want to beat the heck out of them. Playing with one’s hair, licking
one’s lips, and smiling in someone’s direction may help someone to understand that the eye contact is related to
attraction and sexual interest. A broad, open smile may not clearly mark someone’s exact intent, but at least
serves more as an approach cue rather than a threatening cue to warn someone off of future interaction. We
further discuss the potential ambiguity of oculesics in this chapter’s Apply feature. Coutu

Box �.� Apply
Reducing Unintended Messaging

Shaye was mortified. While on a weekend home from college to attend her young cousin’s birthday party
at a popular pizza restaurant in her hometown, she accidentally walked into the men’s restroom. That
wasn’t the mortifying part—what happened once inside is what may haunt her forever. Her mind had been
on something else and once she walked in and saw the urinals along the wall, she paused confusedly, still
not realizing she was in the men’s room. At the exact second she realized her mistake, the young man at
one of the many urinals turned around and locked eyes with her, leading both of them to widen their eyes

in surprise. Shaye let out a shriek and ran from the bathroom; after all, the guy was Kyle, Shaye’s high
school crush whose interest was never reciprocated. Shaye immediately texted her best friend and they
ran through a debrief of the incident countless times.

For his part, Kyle’s experience was somewhat strange as well. He was about to zip up his fly and felt like
someone was in the room with him. As he turned around while tucking in his shirt he noticed a familiar face
was watching him relieve himself … like a creep. Wait, was that the girl from his chemistry class years
ago? Startled with recognition, Kyle mostly felt confused but wrote it off as yet another weird part of
working at the pizza joint his stepfather owned. Kyle rolled his eyes toward the ceiling and washed his
hands before focusing his complete attention on making another batch of dough for tomorrow’s batch of

APPLY: Imagine all the different ways that Shaye and Kyle might have used eye behavior to send
messages to one another. Clearly, a lot more was going on than was said and understood. How do you
think each should have handled the situation differently, if at all? What do you imagine Kyle thought about
Shaye’s eye contact? How do you think Shaye felt about her gaze and subsequent eye contact with Kyle?
What could each have done to reduce unintended messaging in that scenario?

Using our eyes to perceive information about our social world is one of the most important functions of our
oculesic behaviors. A close second, however, are the ways that we communicate messages to our interaction
partners using eye-related behaviors including eye movement, gaze, and eye contact. Although eye contact is
often accompanied by other verbal and nonverbal messages to clarify intent, it can be quite dexterous in indicating
feelings of attraction, affection, interest, or even threat. A skilled communicator must learn both the appropriate
and successful combinations of eye behaviors in order to best communicate an intended message nonverbally.

Knowing the different messages we can send with our eyes, what steps will you take to make sure that a receiver
can understand which message we are sending?

How do you plan to use your eyes more intentionally in sending and receiving clear messages from your friends
and family members?


eye contact ���

eye movements ���

gaze avoidance ���

male gaze ���

mutual gaze ���

one-sided gaze ���

pupil dilation ���

self-monitoring ���


Learning Objectives
After reading this chapter you will be able to do the following:

Identify different vocal qualities in audible speech

Describe the impact of voice on perceptions of identity

List and characterize factors that influence communication accommodation

Esmer wasn’t used to being picked last for anything, but as the new student at her high school she figured it was
par for the course. After all, she didn’t expect to be made a team captain for dodgeball during P.E. class anytime
soon. She knew it was going to be quite a process of making friends and trying to fit in, especially after
transferring to a small new school for her senior year. Esmer wondered if she’d ever have some close
relationships like she did back home. As a biracial woman of color, she wondered if perhaps her new classmates
didn’t know quite how to categorize her—after all, her facial features were often interpreted as Latina but her
bleached curly natural hair proudly displayed her black heritage. In addition to a thick Southern accent that was
unusual in her new neighborhood, Esmer had a soft quiet speaking voice that caused people to mistakenly
assume that she wasn’t a fierce competitor at most any sports. Without the supportive huddle and high fives that
she was used to at her old school, as the game began, Esmer squared up against literally half of the students her
age in the small northern town. She immediately selected the “popular girl” as her target for a ferocious roar and a
speedy dodgeball to the neck, immediately costing her team a foul despite the roar of approval from her new

Guiding Questions
In what ways might our voices be as unique as our personalities and backgrounds?

Also, how does the way in which we speak influence others’ attitudes and expectations?


The way we use our voices can dramatically impact individuals’ perceptions of us, and there are often many
different individual features of the voice that may lead people to think about someone in a variety of different ways.
Imagine that you were assigned to do a group project with someone who spoke abnormally fast—would that be
preferable to someone who spoke abnormally slow? Consider being set up on a blind date and arriving to dinner,
only to find that your partner had difficulty controlling the volume of their voice—would you prefer that person to
speak more loudly or more quietly than normal, if you had a choice? In each of these situations, we likely make
attributions about the other person, often imagining that their behaviors (in this case, vocal characteristics like
rate and loudness) are probably the cause of some underlying personality trait.� Whether those vocal behaviors
are intentionally manipulated (like putting on a thicker version of your accent to appear more unique) or
unintentionally manipulated (like talking more quickly when nervous about public speaking), other people are
constantly evaluating our speech and making assumptions not only about the things we say, but also about the
nonverbal characteristics of the ways in which we say those things.

Vocal Properties

The first category of vocal characteristics, vocal properties, include those characteristics of an individual’s voice
that can be intentionally manipulated or altered to influence understanding in another person.� There are many
different vocal properties that have been studied in depth, but the most significant ones are reviewed here.

Accent is the distinct or atypical pronunciation of specific words as a function of region, national origin,
socioeconomic class, or other cultural influences. Craig, for example, has such a strong Southern accent
that his friends jokingly refer to him as an “old-timey prospector.” At the same time, those friends are the
ones that sound unusual to Craig’s neighbors when they travel to his region of the continent. We discuss
perceptions of speech patterns like Craig’s in this chapter’s Engage feature.

Articulation is the vocal property associated with words or sounds being spoken in a clear manner, where
each syllable is distinct and easily heard by the receiver of the message. Articulation may be perceived by
some individuals to be an indicator of a good education, but in fact some people simply have difficulty
articulating their speech as a result of being placed in high-stress situations.�

Emphasis is when a speaker stresses either syllables or whole words in order to make them stand out as
important or significant in context of the rest of that utterance.

Pause is the empty space between words, whether intentional or unintentional. (A long drawn-out pause
becomes silence, discussed later in this chapter.) People may pause for many different reasons, including
when wanting to intentionally emphasize a point or when accidentally indicating a hesitation about
discussing an otherwise-taboo or unwelcome topic. Briggite was unsure about telling her sister Helga about
her new tattoo, knowing Helga’s disapproval of the expense of body art. As she was about to disclose her
recent purchase, she briefly stopped midsentence, trying to determine whether it would negatively impact
their close relationship.

Pitch is the sound of a voice that gives it either a “high” or “low” quality, with the average woman’s voice
typically of a higher pitch than the average of those of men. This difference is pitch is typically caused by the
thickening of vocal chords during puberty, but plenty of women may have lower pitch voices than those of
many men, particularly as men’s voices may progressively gain a higher pitch in later years of life.�

Pronunciation is the way that a word or words are spoken out loud.

Rate is the speed at which people speak, with relatively slower speech rates causing audiences to make a
variety of negative attributions (e.g., untruthfulness).�

Volume is the degree of loudness of speech. Relative volume, on the other hand, describes the degree of
loudness of speech as compared to the other sounds in the environment or to the other speakers.� When
Blaine wanted to tell Alex a secret during class, she barely whispered. Later as they were grabbing coffee in
the loud and packed student union on campus, Blaine was able to speak somewhat louder while still offering
the same degree of privacy.

Box �.� Engage
Diverse Speech Patterns Among Dissimilar Others

Becky and Shondra had very different backgrounds, but were both friends throughout their college
experience together. Both having transferred to the same university at the same time, they became fast
friends despite a variety of demographic characteristics that may have otherwise kept them apart. Shondra
was from a wealthy black family with a long history in their Southern hometown, while Becky grew up
middle class in the urban core of a predominantly white city in the northern Midwest. Both Becky and
Shondra had strong accents that were decidedly different, and each of them had to deal with the
expectations that others had about them based upon their speech patterns. For her part, Becky didn’t like
people’s expectations that she had a typical suburban lifestyle just because she had a vowel shift that
made her talk a certain way, and Shondra disliked people’s immediate expectations that her family lived
and acted in a particular way just because she had a Southern accent. Even though they were both
irritated for different reasons, both Becky and Shondra enjoyed having one another to laugh with and
dissect yet another insensitive statement from an otherwise well-intentioned classmate.

Although each young woman was proud of her family and her heritage, each also didn’t like that people
automatically made assumptions about that family experience based upon just a couple words during an
initial interaction. Indeed, although their background was quite different, Becky and Shondra both had to
deal with people having different expectations than the ones that they had hoped for themselves.

ENGAGE: How do you think each young woman’s accent negatively impacted their own lived experience?
What expectations do you think each of them had to deal with in their daily lives? Did you initially guess
that there were some benefits to the stereotypes that people may have placed upon them? How have
others stereotyped you, and how did that make you feel about your own experience? What can you do to
avoid making unfounded judgments in your own initial interactions?

In this chapter’s Absorb feature, we explore the impact of vocal properties like accent on our perceptions of
interaction partners.

Box �.� Absorb
Accent Portrayals on Popular Media

Americans are well known for ascribing a variety of positive characteristics to individuals with British
accents, ranging the gamut of thinking that they are more intelligent or better mannered or even more
attractive. In this unaired sketch clip from the late-night television show Saturday Night Live, we see the
cast and special guest Emma Thompson playing off some British stereotypes in the clip “Twinings
Extreme” as seen below.

“Cut for Time: Twinings Extreme.” from Saturday Night Live. Running Time: �:��. Available on YouTube.

Playing off of the stereotypes of British culture and refinement, we see athletes pausing from their normal
sporting events to take time out to drink a spot of tea. The refinement is highlighted further by the use of
full china tableware as the heavily accented athletes enjoy their teatime.

ABSORB: How do the accents of the actors in the clip influence your own perceptions of the characters
that they play? Would the premise of the clip work as well if it was a bunch of Australian athletes (who
famously still like tea but are not known for having an elegant accent)? Imagine a similar scenario but with
various accents from across North America. How would those vocal properties have influenced our
reactions to the comedy sketch?

Vocal Qualities

The second category of vocal characteristics, vocal qualities, include those characteristics of the voice that are
relatively stable within an individual person, even though those same characteristics may vary widely from person
to person. These types of characteristics, for example, often include differences in the physical structure of the
speaker’s mouth or throat or vocal chords, producing sounds that change slightly (or significantly) across
individuals as we learn to communicate with words and sounds.

Breathiness is when a voice has an ethereal or airy quality to it, as though the speaker (or singer) is
breathing out while simultaneously speaking (or while singing).

Nasality is a hard-to-describe characteristic, despite being easy to identify. Produced by allowing the voice
to resonate through the airways into the nasal cavity, some people identify Kim Kardashian West from the
television show Keeping Up with the Kardashians as having an example of a slightly nasal voice, a
characteristic often played up for dramatic effect during comedy impersonations of her.

Pitch range is the degree to which an individual can or does reach a variety of high and low sounds, with
women’s pitch range typically located at a higher frequency than the range of men.

Raspiness is the vocal quality where someone’s voice sounds rough or slightly hoarse or can even be
described as “gravelly” in nature. The singer Ke$ha is often described as having this vocal quality.

Resonance is characterized by a deep and reverberating voice, common in television voiceovers.
Resonance is perhaps best exemplified by the vocal stylings of James Earl Jones.

Rhythm is the “beat” of one’s speaking, typically with a flow or musicality for the delivery of specific words.

Thinness is the weak or insubstantial quality of an individual’s voice, sometimes described as “reedy” in

Each of these vocal characteristics may contribute in some way to the differences we perceive in individual voices
across a variety of people.

Gettyimages/Jeff Kravitz/AMA����/Contributor

The Use of Silence

Contrary to popular thought, even the use of intentional silence can have great communicative value across a
variety of human interactions. Admittedly, in some areas of study, silence went unstudied for a long period of time,
seen only as the dead space that comes before and after an utterance� of “more importance”—with that
utterance being an expression of sound that is typically verbal in nature. Decades ago, scholars first highlighted
the need to better understand the function of silence across a variety of communication contexts,�, � and since
then research has been conducted to more than meet that need. Indeed, entire books exist which highlight the
impact and utility of not responding audibly across a variety of situations.��, �� In this chapter’s Apply section, we
further discuss the idea of being comfortable with silence in social settings.

Box �.� Apply
Becoming Comfortable With Silence

Erik was curious about his new partner’s family background, but every time he brought it up, he was met
with silence. Each time, he quickly changed the subject, nervous that his questions were insensitive or
inappropriate or perhaps even irrelevant. After all, Erik could only imagine his new boyfriend’s coming-of-
age experience with a family that was well known in the area for its conservative values. And, to be honest,
Erik wasn’t sure he really wanted to know the struggles that his boyfriend had experienced growing up in a
regional spotlight. Rather than rush him into disclosing before he was comfortable, Erik started talking
about something else completely and never gave him the opportunity to answer the not-so-subtle prompts
and prods for information.

As you have read, silence is sometimes just as important a part of communicating as the words we may
use. At the same time, silence can also be used to collect one’s thoughts or pause for reflection before
sharing something that may be deeply personal. For his part, Erik’s boyfriend was quite willing to share his
history with Erik, but hadn’t really thought about where to begin. After all, as a well-known local “celebrity”
of sorts, he was quite sure that Erik knew much more about his life than he was otherwise willing to let on.

APPLY: Why do you think that Erik wasn’t willing to let his boyfriend pause to collect his thoughts before
talking? Was he scared or was he afraid of what he was going to hear? Although we may never learn
Erik’s motivation for pressing on in conversation, if Erik never becomes more comfortable with those
normal moments of silence in relationships, then he may never learn important—and desired—information
about his relational partners.

Interestingly, much of the communication that does occur during silence is comprised of the nonverbal
communication from one of the many other nonverbal codes that we introduced in Chapter �. For example,
oculesics are commonly used when one person is too mad at another person to say anything, but still wants to
communicate the intensity of their feelings; in this case, a pointed glare with narrowed eyes can still let a
conversational partner know the extent of one’s anger. When Colter is goofing off in church, he can still be
stopped in his tracks by one terrifyingly long glance from his mother. The unsaid rebuke “knock it off” from his
mother is so clearly understood that it might as well have been said out loud. And Colter knows he is really in
trouble if his mom gives him that glare while also placing a hand on his arm, a warning that the situation has
escalated far beyond a simple reproach. Indeed, in this case the combination of both oculesics (eye behaviors)
and haptics (touch) send a particularly charged message to the recipient, Colter. In the Measure feature in this
chapter, we offer insight into our own interpersonal perceptions associated with being on the receiving end of

Box �.� Measure
Self-Assessments and Comfort With Silence

Silence is a natural part of interactions with other people, and yet many people have differing perspectives
on whether those occasional moments of silence are acceptable or comfortable. In part, one’s assessment
of a silent moment may depend upon their relationship with an interaction partner during that particular
communication encounter.

Scholars have figured out a way to measure whether someone is likely to have a positive or negative
attitude toward silence within their close interpersonal relationships.�� The following is a slightly modified
way to measure your own comfort with silence based upon some original research on the topic.

Instructions: Think carefully about a person that you interact with regularly, whether a close friend or a
romantic partner. With that person in mind, consider which number best describes your attitude when a
silent moment or silent period of time occurs when you are spending time with them.

Nervous 1 2 3 4 5 Relaxed

Uneasy 1 2 3 4 5 Calm

Uncomfortable 1 2 3 4 5 Comfortable

Worried 1 2 3 4 5 Carefree

Doubtful 1 2 3 4 5 Calm

Insecure 1 2 3 4 5 Secure

Dissatisfied 1 2 3 4 5 Satisfied

Distant 1 2 3 4 5 Close

Look over your scores and see what you answered. Are your scores at one end or the other? More toward
the middle? If your scores were on the higher end (to the right) you are more comfortable with silence in
this particular relationship. If your scores are in general more on the lower end (to the left) then you have a
negative attitude toward silence in this particular relationship.

MEASURE: Are you surprised by your score? Did you imagine that you would be more or less comfortable
with silence? Think about the interaction partner that you had in mind when you took this survey. Is there
something about them in particular that made you more or less comfortable with silence? How would your
answers have changed if you took the survey based on someone else?

One theory addressing similarity and nonverbal communication highlights the ways that we manage our
communication behaviors in social interactions. This management often comes in the form of accommodation,
the movement away from one another or toward one another, accomplished by adapting one’s communication
style. People often note how they find themselves picking up the expressions or mannerisms of people around
them, and scholar Howard Giles addressed this phenomenon in his Communication Accommodation Theory
(CAT).��, �� This theory considers the ways that we manage our nonverbal behaviors as we interact with both
known and unknown others, regardless of how we feel about that other person.

Principles of CAT

According to Giles, four principles drive our understanding of how people adapt their communication in
interactions with one another.��

1. First, communication is influenced by both the current and historical context. It is nearly impossible to
understand an individual’s nonverbal or verbal behaviors without understanding something about where they
are coming from.

2. Second, as people communicate they exchange both content and relational information. Not only do people
share details or instructions or a variety of other content when they interact with one another, but they also

hint at the way they feel about each other as they use a variety of nonverbal cues to send messages about
their interpersonal attitudes. Consider Patricia, who was running late for a meeting. She was able to drop
some documents on her best friend’s desk at work and simply say “I’m late! Copy this for me! Five copies!
You’re the best!” as she ran down the corridor of cubicles. What does this interaction say about both their
relationship and their hierarchical structure with one another at work?

3. Third, individuals have expectations about how others will accommodate communication with one another.
In general, people expect that one another will converge in their conversational styles if there is opportunity
to do so. A failure to converge is often interpreted as a message about the nature of the interpersonal

4. Finally, individuals may use specific communication strategies to manage their relationships with one
another. Depending upon personal and cultural experience, each individual can change the nature of their
communicative interactions in order to send messages about the features of their relationships.

These specific relational management strategies help people to send verbal and nonverbal messages that they
are open to interacting with one another (behaviors known as approach cues, e.g., direct eye contact or smiling)
or are uninterested in future interaction (behaviors known as avoidance cues, e.g., not looking at one another or
pretending to be busy on a mobile device).

Strategies of CAT

Communication Accommodation Theory highlights two main strategies for indicating the attitudes that individuals
have toward one another, as well as the subsequent approach or avoidance cues that are intended to be
interpreted in the social situation. Charles, for example, is thrilled to work with his new boss Keisha. Her high
workplace standards and mentoring skills are well known throughout the office, as is her penchant for not
tolerating nonsense—and a rumored propensity for speaking unbelievably fast. When Charles finally reports in
formally to Keisha for the first time, he makes sure that his speaking cadence is quick and clipped, indicating a
precision and an urgency that he hadn’t necessarily demonstrated with previous employers. Charles is actually
intentionally changing his communication patterns in an attempt to have better and more rewarding interactions
with his new boss, and in doing so, hopes that she feels right at home with him as a colleague.

Such a change in nonverbal interactional style (like the one above exhibited by Charles) is right in keeping with
the claims of Communication Accommodation Theory. Although many people may engage in maintenance of
their normal communication patterns when they see no reason to change an interpersonal relationship, many may
actually engage in strategies which enhance or highlight the similarities or differences between one another,
depending upon their desire to approach or avoid the other in an interaction. Indeed, as one person may prefer to
become closer to another in a certain situation, they may want to increase the social distance from a third
individual in a different social interaction. In this chapter’s Examine feature, we explore how to use communication
accommodation in an ethical manner.


When an individual has a positive attitude toward the other, they may be interested in deepening the relationship
with one another or indicating that they are open for a closer relationship. Although people often assume romantic

relationships for this type of relational situation, we are constantly considering the nature of our relationships with
family, friends, coworkers, faculty, coaches, and the many random people that we meet on the street. Should such
a desire for a closer relationship exist—or alternately, even just the willingness to have a closer relationship with
that person, should it happen—an individual will often engage in communication convergence, adapting their
interaction style in such a manner that they display the self as more similar to another person with whom they are
interacting. Grigor is happy to have found a new roommate for his apartment through an online matching service
and expects that they will get along very well. They each have a conservative background and come from an
urban area, and Grigor is particularly excited that his new roommate has a medium-size dog that is moving in, too.
After a long first weekend hanging out at the house and getting to know one another, Grigor finds himself doing a
couple of the regional gestures that his roommate often uses, and even wonders if he might have picked up a
small bit of his roommate’s Southern drawl.

Box �.� Examine
The Ethics of Accommodation

When we are aware of our accommodation behaviors, we have the almost magical ability to read others
and to determine how they feel about us. Are they showing that they like us by mimicking our behaviors?
Are they displaying hesitancies or dislike by not moving toward our tone of voice or rate of speech or other
vocal characteristics? Knowing about communication accommodation can give us insight into our
interaction partners that others may not be able to access quite as readily.

At the same time, by knowing about accommodation behaviors, it is often tempting to engage in behaviors
that may not be faithful to our actual feelings, but to do them because we know that those behaviors will
get us what we want. Is there someone that you don’t particularly like, but you want them to do something
for you? Does a client need a little persuading to purchase a particularly larger order, so you decide to turn
on the charm and the accommodation at the same time? Do you want someone to like you but you play
hard to get by avoiding any appearance of similarity? With the knowledge of accommodation behaviors
comes the responsibility of using them ethically.

EXAMINE: Considering our own goals in a variety of interactions can help us to engage other people in a
more ethical manner. Sure, it is easy to foster a sense of closeness in a relatively unknown other, but it is
important to consider whether that sense of closeness is ethical and beneficial to both parties. If you truly
like someone, it’s not problematic to let them know. But if you are simply engaging in accommodation
behaviors in order to manipulate and control another person, you may be using effective communication
strategies in an unethical manner. Consider whether you are being authentic to yourself in how you
approach others.


On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes individuals have negative attitudes toward an interaction partner, or
want to indicate the lack of opportunity for a relationship despite being in a situation where they still have to
continue to interact with one another. In this case, individuals often display a type of nonverbal divergence, a
strategy of accentuating the differences in communication style between both individuals. Newly engaged Olivia,

for example, loves most of the parts of her job as a barista in the downtown area: decent pay, good benefits, and
unlimited free coffee while working. The customers can sometimes get a little pushy, however, particularly when
they are hoping for Olivia’s attention in a more romantic way. Olivia has learned to subtly highlight the differences
between herself and her more obnoxious customers, talking really quickly when they talk slower, as well as
leaning way back when they lean forward. In addition, she sometimes plays around with her accent, pretending to
be very dissimilar from those individuals whom she wants to keep at an arm’s length from herself.

Communication Accommodation Theory, in essence, is a theory about how humans manage their nonverbal
expressions of similarity in an attempt to manage their social relationships. By behaving more similarly to one
another and indicating a willingness to be approached, individuals may increase the perceptions of closeness in a
relationship. By instead behaving very dissimilarly to one another and highlighting difference, one can increase the
social distance that individuals perceive among one another. Not all relationships necessarily actively engage with
convergence or divergence, however. Some relationships are instead in an unchanging pattern of maintenance
because both parties feel that they are fine exactly as they currently are.

Vocal characteristics are more complex than most anyone considers, and both the qualities and properties of the
voice-related sounds that we make can have great communicative power. In addition, vocalics can foster a variety
of perceptions about a person’s identity and abilities, causing people to draw conclusions about one another
before knowing significant or relevant information about an interaction partner. People often use these vocal
characteristics in managing their interactions with one another, converging with respected or liked others and
diverging from interaction partners who offer little to no meaningful relationship satisfaction. Communication
Accommodation Theory helps us to better understand how to recognize and/or manipulate our shared
communication patterns to better understand or influence our interpersonal encounters.

Knowing now just how diverse our own vocal patterns may be from one another, how might you best describe
your own voice?

How do you think that others might form an opinion of you without even taking the time to get to know you beyond
the ways that you talk?


accent ���

accommodation ���

approach cues ���

articulation ���

attributions ���

avoidance cues ���

breathiness ���

Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT) ���

convergence ���

divergence ���

emphasis ���

maintenance ���

nasality ���

pause ���

pitch ���

pitch range ���

pronunciation ���

raspiness ���

rate ���

relative volume ���

resonance ���

rhythm ���

thinness ���

utterance ���

vocal properties ���

vocal qualities ���

volume ���


Learning Objectives
After reading this chapter you will be able to do the following:

Describe theories of identity and how identities are performed

Explain connections between identity and appearance-based identity displays

Understand features of in-groups and out-groups

Compare natural features and adornments and artifacts

Identify distinguishing characteristics of physical appearance features

Boone was looking forward to transferring to a �-year college for a lot of reasons. In part, he was hoping to finally
figure out “who he was.” It’s not that Boone didn’t know what he liked and who he liked and what he wanted to do
after college. After all, Boone was a good-looking guy who spent enough time in the gym. He had a relatively
active social life with both friends and romantic partners during his first couple years of community college, and he
was pretty confident about his desire to eventually go back and run his grandfather’s organic vegetable farm. At
the same time, he wasn’t totally sure how to describe himself. Coming from a small town, he had always hung out
with the same guys that made up his high school senior class, and they had spent all their spare time doing the
things that he considered “normal” like playing soccer on the school field, driving to the river on weekends, and
playing video games when he probably should have been doing homework. Still, Boone had seen many movies
about the college experience, and he couldn’t wait to go to that “activities fair thing” that featured so prominently in
that first week on campus. Boone planned to go booth by booth until he found “his people”—the kind of people
who feel like old friends and do the kind of things that he wants to do. While he can’t put his finger on exactly what
those people will be like, he is pretty sure that he’ll know them when he sees them.

Guiding Questions
What makes us have a particular identity?

How do we identify the people that we will get along with and the people that we prefer not to spend time

How does the nonverbal characteristic of physical appearance figure into perceptions of similarity?

Much of the time, we can quickly identify how nonverbal features help us form impressions of the people we
encounter in our everyday lives. At the same time, we may be quite unaware of how nonverbal features influence
our own understandings of our own self. To complicate matters even further, the very nonverbal characteristics
that each of us display to the world around us can also influence how we perceive ourselves as individuals.
Indeed, the connection between nonverbal characteristics and perceived self-identity is a complicated

People often throw around words like identity, self-concept, and self-esteem without really knowing what they
mean. Although we briefly introduced the word identity in Chapter �, as a reminder both identity and self-concept
are words that describe the relatively unchanging or stable set of perceptions or ideas that we hold about
ourselves.� For example, as long as he can remember, Thad has thought of himself as a “good athlete” who likes
to “help other people.” Self-esteem, on the other hand, describes the way that we feel about our own identity or
self-concept. That is, do we think that the identity that we have is a good or bad thing? Does Thad think it is good
to be an altruistic athlete?

Jasmine and Ken have both become quite a bit more religious during their decades of marriage, learning to rely
not only on their shared bond with each other but also on their shared faith tradition. In addition, both Jasmine and
Ken are very personally satisfied to be seen as committed to their faith by their families and friends. In fact, during
their last wedding anniversary, they each separately bought each other jewelry which highlighted their religious
background. Recently, it has become such a significant part of Jasmine’s self-concept that she has decided to see
if there is some sort of structured training or education that she can pursue in order to become formally recognized
within her faith tradition. Jasmine’s positive view of herself as a “woman of faith” has given her a sense of high
self-esteem, and her behaviors and physical appearance can help support her performance of that role to other

Personality theory is a fascinating topic, one which often takes an entire university course to even begin to do
justice. Looking at the theories and hypotheses behind why an individual might behave in certain ways or think
specific things about the self, it is easy to imagine just how much thought has been given to this topic across the
disciplines of psychology and social psychology, communication studies, sociology, anthropology, political science
—really, across any social science discipline that is filled with scholars who have spent some portion of their
careers thinking and writing about the characteristics that make each person unique.

Some theories of identity focus on the idea that people are always performing their identity, much as an actor
takes on a role on stage.� This is one reason that nonverbal scholars are interested in identity, as people can
easily use nonverbal behaviors to “perform” the role that they want to present. Still other perspectives see an

individual’s identity as a reaction to people’s evaluation of the roles that we play� (e.g., Martha acts like she is a
really big deal on her campus, and as her popularity grows she begins to actually see herself as a big deal once
she realizes that everyone has bought into that portrayal). Indeed, while some scholars may see identity as
something core to someone’s being, still many more scholars are likely to believe that identity is a result of a
variety of external influences.

Social Identity Theory is a perspective on identity that considers the influence of internal and external factors in
coming to an understanding of the self. In short, this theory suggests that our identity is composed of the various
group memberships of which we claim to be a part.�, � For example, when Michelle thinks of herself, she
acknowledges the fact that she is a member of the club volleyball team at her college and an officer of the
communication honor society. She also considers the fact that she is one of the few Native American students at
her school who is involved culturally and also remembers that she is quite active volunteering in her church’s
daycare when she is home each summer. If someone asked Michelle to tell us who she is, she’d likely list off a
bunch of group affiliations related to the way she looks and the things that she thinks or feels. According to this
theory of identity, Michelle is unlikely to think of herself apart from her associations with various groups of people,
groups both large and small. In this chapter’s Measure feature, you can explore your own connection to groups on
your campus.

Box �.� Measure
Self-Assessments and Social Identity

As a social species, we often think of ourselves in relation to the groups to which we belong. At the same
time, we are careful to note whether those groups make us feel good or bad about ourselves. We also pay
close attention to the groups that we don’t belong to and what that implies about us as individuals.

Scholars have figured out some questions that allow us to think about our own group memberships and to
assess our own attitudes and opinions about the ways we feel we fit in to the larger social systems in our
culture.� The following is a shortened and modified list of questions inspired by some research on social
identification with groups.

Instructions: Think carefully about your own identification with the college or university you currently
attend. Then, write the number (e.g., � through �) that best corresponds with your attitudes toward each

1 2 3 4 5 6 7



Disagree Somewhat


Undecided Somewhat


Agree Strongly


__________ 1. I admire students at this school.

__________ 2. At the moment, I have a good feeling about being a student here.

__________ 3. I often think about what it means to be enrolled at this school.

__________ 4. I am pleased to attend this college or university.

__________ 5. In general, I feel strong ties to other students in my classes.

Add up your score and see what you get. The lowest score you can receive on this assessment is �, while
the highest score is ��. The lower your score, the less likely your attendance at your school is currently an
important part of either your identity or your feelings about yourself.

MEASURE: Are you surprised by your score? Was it higher or lower than the score you expected? Think
about the things that may impact your attitude toward your college or university. If your score is low, what
other group memberships are more significant? If your score is high, at what point did you begin to tie your
student experience to your identity?

The importance of groups in individual identity is not that surprising. There is a high likelihood that people (like
Michelle, above) are motivated to see themselves as a member of various different groups of people. In general,
humans are motivated to join groups for a few different reasons. Group membership provides us with a sense of
social inclusion, giving us a perception that we each have people who know us and or who are similar to us in a
variety of ways. Because of that, our self-esteem is often tied to our successful group memberships and is directly
dependent upon our sense of inclusion in relationships with other people.�

In addition, some people may be motivated to join groups because it helps them to learn more about themselves
as they interact with others that they believe share things in common with themselves. By interacting with and
observing other members of their group, a person can reduce their own uncertainty about their place in the world,
easily engaging with multiple group identities and simultaneously discovering their own social standing within
these groups.� Erik always thought of himself as the kind of guy that likes to help other people, and he was thrilled
to find that his college residence hall offered a community service group for interested students. By joining the
small affinity group, he met the friends that would become his closest over his next � years of college. When
officer positions became available during his second year, he thought about running for president or treasurer of
the loosely organized student group. At the same time, he also learned that he wasn’t the most organized one in
the group and that he also didn’t like to be in the spotlight. But, Erik was the strongest member of the group at
making other people feel accepted and included. As a result, Erik was often tapped to mentor new incoming

students who wanted to participate in community service, eventually carving out a unique skill set of
responsibilities in which he eventually decided to pursue a career.

Finally, at the most basic level, humans join groups because we have always needed to do so. From the earliest
days of human history, the community connections that form through group membership also help make it easier
for each individual to survive and thrive. Early humans were not adapted to be able to survive as lone individuals
or even to flourish in very small family units, whereas larger group membership provides the opportunity for the
social interaction, protection from danger, division of labor, and genetic variation that allow us to successfully
navigate a dangerous world.� Life is more easily lived in community, and people who spend more time in groups
are also more likely to reap the benefits of communal life. It is within these very groups that nonverbal
communication likely emerged in primitive man�� as humans learned to manage their communication within their
own culture (intracultural communication) and to other cultures (intercultural communication). The addition of
online communities and virtual group memberships has further complicated this issue, explored in this chapter’s
Apply feature.

Box �.� Apply
Making Connections With Online Identities

Janice was super active in an online community. Because she considered herself very likable but relatively
shy, she pushed herself to engage more in an online context than she would in her normal daily life. It was
her great pleasure when she started making new friends, and she even developed a bit of a romance with
one of the people she met online. When talking with her mom about her increasing use of screen time in
order to chat with unseen others, Janice was able to easily describe many of the people that she engaged.
In the format of the online community that she used regularly, each person was allowed to post five photos
of the things they loved, and the only rule was that no people (individuals or groups) were allowed to be in
any of the pictures. She quickly pulled up the photos that her crush had selected, highlighting to her
mother that her “special someone” must love dogs, was probably of Mexican background, played online
video games, cared about their shared state of Texas, and probably either liked sunsets or soccer (based
upon a somewhat ambiguous photograph of an early evening match).

Janice’s mom wasn’t sure how she felt about her daughter’s online activity; after all, Janice was only ��
and had never had experience with face-to-face romantic relationships. But since Janice agreed never to
share personal contact information online, she was allowed to continue using the chat function in order to
keep the budding romance alive. Janice, for her part, was really excited to continue to get to know her new
virtual friend.

APPLY: Why do you think that Janice felt such a strong connection to a person that she only knew in a
virtual context? How was she able to use simple photographs to glean so much information about her
conversational partner? Do you think that Janice was making the right call in her assessment of her
conversational partner? To which social groupings do you think that both Janice and her new friend likely
belong, based on Janice’s description?

Identity Badges

One of the most prolific scholars of nonverbal communication, Dr. Judee Burgoon identified the impact of these
perceptions of nonverbal cues across a variety of intercultural (and intracultural) encounters.�� Her idea of identity
badges include the full range of nonverbal cues that trigger an observer to decide whether someone is more
similar or dissimilar to the self. In so doing, the ways that we represent ourselves to other people serve as a
shorthand that other people can use to stereotype and categorize us, while simultaneously serving as a way of
expressing ourselves for the purpose of others to draw conclusions about us. Kirk is proud of his African heritage
and sometimes wears clothing that he designed himself that highlights some of the traditional patterns and artwork
from his home tribe. Each time he wants to accentuate his ethnic origin in a social setting, he is sure to wear one
of his handmade garments, often to great social acclaim. At the same time, the very items that most proclaim
Kirk’s identity also may unintentionally serve to nonverbally communicate information that others may use to
categorize him, with either positive or negative results depending upon what other social information the people
around him may correctly or incorrectly hold. Whether he intentionally selected the outfit or grabbed the first
clothing items that he could find on the top of the laundry hamper, people are always making guesses about the
groups to which Kirk belongs based upon his African-inspired identity badges.

Our nonverbal behaviors may let people know the social groups with whom we identify. At the same time,
nonverbal characteristics may also serve as an indicator of our (formal and informal) status among or within our
groups of peers. Such discussions of social status may make some people uncomfortable, as it is often much
more pleasant to assume that social hierarchies don’t exist. That being said, there are often a variety of social
factors influencing the hierarchical structures among those with whom we interact. Consider, for example, the
family structure: The caregivers (usually a mother, or father, or other older adult) typically holds a position of power
or status over the younger children, one which may extend throughout the remainder of the family relationship.
Alternately, in the workplace these hierarchical structures typically exist in a much more formal manner, with
coworkers falling into the category of workplace superior, peer colleague, or subordinate.

Interestingly, nonverbal communication behaviors in social contexts can serve as key indicators of both ingroup or
outgroup membership.�� From the most obvious indicators of group membership (e.g., wearing the Greek letters
of a professional organization) to more subtle clues (e.g., having a special ritualized handshake with a group of
friends, or displaying prison tattoos known only to other inmates��), nonverbal communication can serve as a way
to easily indicate to another person whether you are to be considered a known or unknown other, regardless of
past interaction and association. William was excited to finally make the lacrosse club team at his university. He
had tried out for years and was happy to start his upper division semesters as an official lacrosse team member.
His biggest moment of personal satisfaction, however, came when he finally received his official uniform and
warm-up sweats after a long week of double-day preseason practices. Even though there were no words or logos
on the sweatpants, it was well-known on his college campus that any of the guys wearing the grey sweat pants
with the characteristic stripe down one leg were members of a certain social circle on campus, something that
William had long hoped to be part of.

Regardless of intent or motivation, people use both nonverbal and verbal messages to understand the groups and
other social structures that surround them. Whether taking advantage of visible indicators of group membership or
perceptions of similarity as a shortcut to get to know someone, individuals rely upon a variety of messages to

determine who they want to interact with. Because this is such a common phenomenon, people are actually quite
skilled at using this social information not only to sort through potential interaction partners, but also to present
themselves positively in order to ensure successful outcomes of interactions (e.g., making a friend or scoring a
first date). One such way that we manage our relationships is through actively working to present ourselves as
more similar to desirable others.

One distinct way that we can present ourselves as similar to desirable others is by using markers of identity that
we believe serve to indicate shared group membership. From obvious cues like wearing the apparel of a specific
sports team (an indicator of fan group membership) to more subtle cues like a specific physical feature indicative
of one’s racial heritage (e.g., skin tone or eye shape), we are constantly evaluating one another to determine
whether we belong. Julia and Rudy seem like they would have nothing in common at first glance, with Julia’s
retro-chic stylish outfits and makeup always in perfect order, a style contrasting with Rudy’s reliance on mesh
shorts and comfortable long T-shirts to get her through her long day at school. However, one student recognized
the other’s distinctive malau tattoo and immediately brought up their shared Samoan heritage.�� For the rest of
their time together in college, both Julia and Rudy thought of each other as part of the same in-group, along with
other Pacific Islanders that they later met on campus.

A large part of identity in North American culture that has to do with the ways that we perceive ourselves based
upon our looks. Indeed, we are also constantly making judgments and assessments of others based upon their
physical appearance. The nonverbal code of physical appearance deals with our faces and bodies, our clothing,
and the artifacts that we carry with ourselves.�� There are two main categories of physical appearance: features
that are biologically based (natural features) and features that are selected from one’s environment (adornments
and artifacts). Each of these is an important part of communicating information about ourselves to the world
around us. For example, when Jorge first got to college as a new transfer student, he met some students during
transfer orientation but also found that many continuing students had already made friends with one another in the
previous years. That being said, Jorge noticed a group of men and women hanging out while wearing T-shirts
related to videogame culture. A huge gamer himself, Jorge also paid attention to the fact that a bunch of those
people looked genuine and relaxed, so Jorge felt comfortable approaching that group in order to try to make new
friends as he asked about where to best get his videogame “fix.”

A discussion of physical appearance necessarily involves both the biologically based natural features and the
easily changeable adornments that make up the ways that we look. Whether we are intentionally altering our
physical appearance by dressing in a particular style, or even changing our shape (perhaps, for example, by lifting
weights)—or whether we are unintentionally altering our physical appearance (perhaps by forgetting to put on
protective sunscreen during a long weekend of yardwork, or by gaining pregnancy-related weight)—people may
ascribe a variety of motivations or characteristics to the ways that we appear to others. Indeed, our nonverbal
appearance may cue people to perceive us in both intended and unintended ways.

Natural Features

The first category of the physical appearance code has to do with biologically based features. These natural
features are nonverbal characteristics of physical appearance that are relatively difficult to change. As a result, we
aren’t necessarily attempting to send a message with those features, but rather people have learned to receive a
message based upon characteristics that are inherently biologically driven.�� Lisa, for example, has a proud

Nigerian ancestry and the facial features to match. Although she typically wears her hair in a wrap while attending
her college classes, her natural hair is dark and features tight helix curls. Her lab partner Rick is biracial, and one
can see the freckles from his Scottish heritage dusting the cheeks just below the almond-shaped eyes he inherited
from his mother, Tamako. Their pear-shaped laboratory instructor, Dr. Palau, fills out her lab coat in a jovial
manner, sharply contrasting with her tall and lean laboratory assistant, who seems more interested in car
magazines than in organic chemistry.

Body Shape

One natural feature that has received much attention in popular culture—because of complicated media portrayals
—is one’s body shape or somatotype. Much scholarship details the impact of different body types being shown
across popular media,�� with a great deal of emphasis on the negative impact on men’s, women’s, and children’s
self-esteem that can be had from seeing an overabundance of beautiful people with perfect bodies.�� Individuals
often see people with “perfect” bodies on television or in magazines and compare their own shape to the ones
they observe; to be sure, the majority of people don’t have bodies that match those found in the media and often
feel like they don’t measure up to the bodies represented on film or in photographs.�� Interestingly, while we can
add musculature to our bodies, or add or remove fat deposits, or even wear heels that elongate our look, the body
shapes of most all people fall into three major categories discussed across the interdisciplinary nonverbal

Endomorphs are individuals whose body is characterized by more fatty tissue and a shorter height,
resulting in a rounder, plumper, or curvier shape.

Ectomorphs are individuals whose body is characterized by little muscle or fat and a tall height, resulting in
a longer, leaner build.

Mesomorphs are individuals whose body is characterized by more muscle and a medium height, resulting
in an athletic-looking v-shaped torso.

Many famous celebrities can be characterized with any of the three typical body shapes, and it is easy to find
many desirable examples of men and women that fall into each of the three categories. To which famous athletes
or celebrities are you most attracted? With which people in the public eye do you most identify? How would you
categorize your own body type? Has this categorization ever caused you to feel concern or discontent? Research
has demonstrated that people are often very bad at evaluating their own bodies, typically identifying an incorrect
shape as their own likely body type.��

Complicating matters further, media representations often encourage people to pursue a physical standard that
may not be attainable for the vast majority of people. This can cause great dissatisfaction among both men and
women who want to reach an “ideal” that is unlikely to be achieved. In fact, many people experience body-image
dysphoria (obsessively believing oneself to have more body fat than one actually does, and working to correct
this perceived imbalance) or muscle dysmorphia (obsessively believing one has less muscle mass than one

actually does, and working to correct this perceived imbalance).��, �� These two conditions may cause individuals
to diet or exercise to excessive and unhealthy degrees while still remaining unable to correctly evaluate their own
physical stature.

Consider the severity of the situation in the previous paragraph. What might happen if someone is obsessed with
being thin yet constantly believes themselves to be at a higher body weight than they actually are? Alternately,
consider the man who incorrectly believes that he is too skinny or weak to be considered ideal? In each of these
situations, an individual’s identity is both defined by a standard of physical appearance that they consider
important while at the same time that identity is challenged because of their perception of not measuring up to the
selected standard. It is unlikely that either individual will ever reach the goals that they have set for themselves.
Check out a humorous treatment of this issue in this chapter’s Absorb feature.

Ricky has always worked out quite a bit. During high school, he was careful to always be on the top of the
handwritten leaderboard for his football team’s weightlifting stats and took great pride in his relatively muscular
size as compared to his teammates. Now that he is in college, Ricky has instead become more obsessed about
his thinness, attempting to get his body fat percentage down as low as possible. Ricky’s boyfriend is concerned,
because Ricky has begun avoiding mealtime events and doesn’t seem to be living on much more than coffee and
diet pills. Ricky has bought into an unobtainable standard of attractiveness.

Facial Attractiveness

What features of the face do you find most attractive? Think of the men or women that you have been attracted to
in the past, or the celebrities that you think are the most handsome or beautiful. What characteristics of each face
do you find appealing? Perhaps you might list a prominent nose or an angled jawline, or maybe you describe
plump lips or almond-shaped eyes. Interestingly, the specific features that you identify as attractive may be very
different from the features that someone else finds to be attractive, yet at the same time you probably have
general agreement on the specific individuals that are generally attractive. Some researchers have argued that
perhaps the thing that many of these most facially attractive faces have in common is their bilateral symmetry, or
degree of similarity between the left and right side of the face as shown in Figure �.�.��, �� These scholars argue
that if you took a picture of an attractive person’s face and analyzed the size and location of each individual facial
feature (e.g., eyes, nostrils, dimples), they would likely be in much the same location as compared to a less
attractive individual. One line of thinking is that facial symmetry is often a marker of both genetic and
environmental health, so humans may have developed an understanding of symmetry as attractive throughout our
evolutionary history.��

Box �.� Absorb
Body Image on Popular Media

Amy Schumer is famous for her irreverent treatment of the social conditions that plague women living their
best lives. Her humorous (and occasionally off-color) style of comedy in the eponymous Inside Amy
Schumer has been credited with helping to start important conversations that people may otherwise
consider taboo. She tackles body image and diet culture during a sketch in the clip below.

“Inside Amy Schumer—New Body.” Running Time: �:��. Available on YouTube.

Clearly, this is a satirical treatment of the responses both men and women may have to an unattainable
body shape or fitness level. By highlighting the delusional nature of one particular young woman, this
comedy sketch highlights problems with a current culture of immediate gratification. While such a store like
the one depicted here does not actually exist, many individuals may report having similar feelings as the
character that Amy portrays.

ABSORB: How does the clip illustrate some unhealthy expectations and inappropriate standards of
physical appearance in our culture? Which of the two main characters in the sketch most resonate with
you? Have you ever found yourself in a similar state of mind as the one portrayed by Amy Schumer in this
sketch? While issues of health and self-image are quite serious, this comedy-driven show manages to
strike an incisive tone in confronting unhealthy standards of appearance.

At the same time, symmetry alone cannot account for judgements of attractiveness, as individuals can still
determine that someone is considered attractive even if they see only half of the face.�� Some research has found
that people typically prefer a face with sexual dimorphism, in which a man’s face appears more masculine and a
woman’s face appears more feminine.�� Still other scholars highlight that attractive faces have the most “average”
features across a variety of people, again serving as a marker of genetic health.��, �� Clearly, facial attractiveness
is far more complicated than meets the eye. In general, however, one of the easiest ways to increase one’s overall
facial attractiveness is through exhibiting pleasantness—both men and women are more attracted to individuals
who display happy and positive emotional expressions on their faces.��, ��

Regardless of what characteristics make some faces more attractive than others, there is no arguing that a variety
of facial characteristics exist that allow for individuals to look significantly different from one another. It is these
features of physiognomy that allow us to more easily distinguish people.�� These features may include the shape
of the face (e.g., round, square, heart-shaped, oval), the shape and color of the eyes, the size of the mouth and
the fullness of the lips, whether someone has dimples or freckles, and a variety of other features that are often
influenced by genetic characteristics like general racial heritage and the specific features of each person’s

Artifacts and Adornments

Unlike natural features, some elements of our physical appearance are relatively easy to change and are often
selected with the intention to send a specific message. From the clothing that we wear to the objects we carry with
us, each adornment can easily be swapped with another to change the look and the resulting perception that our
interaction partners may have.�� Recent divorcees Rita and Jim had each recently reentered the dating scene,
and they were meeting up to go out to dinner for their fourth date. As Rita waved out the upstairs window to Jim
walking up the front walk, she noticed he was wearing slacks and a sport coat instead of the shorts and polo that
she had been expecting. As she ran through her closet, she quickly swapped out her cutoff jeans and T-shirt for a
summery dress that would pass for slightly more formal attire than she had originally planned. Grabbing a
necklace as she switched handbags and footwear, Rita muttered to herself about the perils of men and the
modern dating scene. By the time Rita reached the front door, she had dramatically changed her physical
appearance to match the stylings of her date.


The stuff that we carry with us can dramatically impact how other people see us, whether we intend to
communicate something with those nonverbal choices or not. As mentioned in Chapter �, artifacts are the things
that we keep with us throughout our daily lives. In this context, we may carry items that we aren’t necessarily
wearing, per se, but that are still impacting people’s observations and understandings of us. From our backpacks
and briefcases that send messages about the likely contents and our stage of life, to the keychains or skateboards
that indicate our modes of transportation, people are constantly understanding things about us regardless of
whether we intend to send that particular nonverbal message. Many individuals spend much effort and attention to
manipulate or change the things that they carry with them in order to intentionally send a specific message for the
nearby audience. For example, a politician wanting to appeal to a constituency that sees themselves as “down-
home” or “folksy” may show up to an event carrying a certain regional brand of cheap black coffee in an attempt to
fit in, despite his expensive and complicated coffee brand preferences in the comfort of his own home or office.��


Even more obvious than artifacts, the adornments that we wear send clear messages about the person
displaying the clothing, jewelry, hats, sunglasses, and other forms of apparel. We make judgements about other
people based upon their style of clothing, the specific logos or messaging featured on those adornments, and the
appropriateness of the outfit for the event or context in question. A swimsuit might be a perfectly appropriate
choice of clothing for a day at the pool or an afternoon sunbathing on the patio, but that same outfit would be both
inappropriate and offensive during a funeral service in a gothic cathedral. On the other hand, wearing your best
formal outfit to a funeral service might be the right choice, but continuing to wear such stylish or expensive clothes
could be a horrible misstep if later worn to serve food in a local soup kitchen for homeless youth. While these
examples might seem ridiculous, people often find themselves inappropriately dressed for the situation. In the
news in ����, First Lady Melania Trump was widely criticized for visiting a shelter that housed immigrant children
near the Mexico–United States border while wearing a jacket that said “I really don’t care. Do U?” on the back.��

Regardless of her intent in the specific selection of her jacket during that trip, many critics viewed the statement
not as fashion, but rather as an indication of her attitude toward the detained children specifically or immigration in

GettyImages/MANDEL NGAN / Contributor

As mentioned earlier in the chapter, we can intentionally display identity badges that help people to identify our
cultural membership, from our ethnic origins to the schools we attend to our favorite professional sports teams.
Each time we put on a sweatshirt with a college name or a baseball hat with a recognizable team logo, we are
giving people the opportunity to learn more about us and to more easily categorize us. In recent years, much
attention has been given to the inappropriate use of cultural artifacts and adornments that have historically served
as an identity badge for a specific group but are now being used in jest for humor or profit. This type of behavior is
known as cultural appropriation and includes using elements of another person’s culture (e.g., Japanese
kimonos or Native American headdresses) but removing them from the original context, simplifying both the
elements and also the larger culture for the sake of, in this case, making a fashion statement.�� Attending a
college in the American Southwest, Henry was thrilled with the opportunities to eat the delicious pan-Mexican
cuisine that he found in his neighborhood and in the kitchens of his new friends. He quickly became known as
Taco Boy to many of his friends because of his late-night insistence upon grabbing orders of food from his local
taqueria. He was embarrassed on Halloween of his sophomore year, however, when he googled some clip art and
made a costume based on some outdated Mexican stereotypes like a giant sombrero, a brightly woven poncho, a
huge fake mustache, and two large jugs marked “tequila.” While his largely Latinx friends may have understood
that Henry wasn’t intentionally trying to cause them pain by invoking a caricature of their culture, they responded
quickly and decisively and made sure that Henry changed into last year’s costume based upon their college
mascot. By taking some elements of a culture relevant to a particular place and time and using them for comic
intent, Henry had reduced an entire people group to a (negative) image. In this chapter’s Engage feature, we look
at the process of assimilating into a variety of other contexts.

Box �.� Engage
Nonverbal Assimilation in Diverse Contexts

International travel is a mind-expanding experience, helping individuals to learn and grow as they
experience the wider world of human interaction. At the same time, many travelers often struggle with how
much they should try to assimilate into the local culture. Jeremy traveled through the Middle East, noticing
the utility of the regional headwear (called the keffiyeh) that the local population used to keep the sun out
of their eyes and off of their necks. Walking through an open-air market, he noticed a vendor selling a
variety of these keffiyeh in many patterns and colors. Picking the one that most appealed to him, Jeremy
thought he was blending in but noticed the strange and often offended looks that he was given as he
toured for the remainder of the week. Upon stopping at a former colleague’s house toward the end of his
travels, Jeremy was shocked to discover that the pattern on the keffiyeh was offensive and insensitive to a
large portion of the local population, much like if someone in the United States wore a bandanna depicting
the Confederate flag to a church picnic.

Although Jeremy will never know what each person was thinking as they saw an obviously Anglo man
wearing an offensively patterned keffiyeh, there are many things that may have helped him avoid such a
situation in the first place. Indeed, cultural sensitivity is of the utmost importance when one immerses
oneself in a diverse context, whether domestic or international in nature.

Engage: What might Jeremy have done differently to avoid his negative experience purchasing headwear
in an unfamiliar context? Do you think it is acceptable for Jeremy to have wanted to participate in a local
custom in the first place? If not, why not? If so, what should he have done differently? What is Jeremy’s
obligation to the local peoples as he travels and attempts to participate in elements of their local culture?

Body Modifications

One noteworthy area of interest for many students that is neither a natural feature nor an adornment is that of
body modifications, which include a wide variety of nonnatural features (such as tattoos, piercings, scarification,
brandings, and certain forms of plastic surgery, among others, as seen in the pictures on this page) that are still
significantly more permanent than clothing or the things that we carry with us. These body modifications may be
as common within a particular culture as an ear piercing to as unusual as tongue-splitting, with a variety of tattoos
and body piercings and other surgical enhancements falling along the spectrum in between to the point of being
relatively widespread.�� The degree of “normality” of these body modifications are often dependent upon a variety
of factors, including culture and region and national origin and even social factors like religiosity.�� For example,
even across North America there is wide variety in one’s likelihood of encountering someone with a visible tattoo,
with clear variations based upon the location and the ages of the people with whom you typically interact.
Interestingly, some clinicians argue that the prevalence of tattoos (and other permanent body modifications) are
increasing, not necessarily because of the dramatically high numbers of people getting them, but rather because
of the low numbers of people spending time and resources in having them removed.�� This even further drives
home the importance of making sure that people really do want such modifications, an issue explored in this
chapter’s Examine feature.


The vast majority of body modification occurs as part of a consensual process, with individuals wanting to
enhance the look of their bodies or—for some—even wanting to reclaim power over one’s body (e.g., in the wake
of a traumatic experience or medical diagnosis).�� The reasons for engaging in body modification are perhaps as
numerous as the different types of modification that exist. Regardless, when someone has a body modification
that is visible to others, they may intentionally or unintentionally send a message about themselves, about the
groups that they belong to, or the region from which they came. When Phil was in the war, he and some fellow
troops designed a tattoo based upon a military insignia that they placed just above their bicep. Decades later, Phil
often forgets about his tattoo at the beach or at a swimming pool and is taken aback when someone thanks him
for his military service. Although his diminishing eyesight makes it harder for him to read his tattoos as the years

go by, younger members of his military branch immediately pick up on the visual reminder of a group of close
friends from an earlier time.

Box �.� Examine
The Ethics of Positive Consent

Over the course of human history, people have had a variety of body modifications that have been
consensual, nonconsensual, or some unique combination of the two. While many body modifications may
express an individual characteristic or personality trait that is important to the bearer, sometimes body
modifications represent one’s culture or group membership.

Regardless of the specific body modification type, there is general agreement that such procedures should
be the result of positive consent. The practice of forcing people to receive unwanted body modifications
(like foot binding or genital mutilation) are generally deemed unacceptable in modern society, with societal
views even more strongly united against forced body modifications for underage minors including
children.��, ��, �� Despite this general sentiment, many subgroups still may include socially taboo ritualized
body modification during things like fraternity hazing,��, �� gang initiation,�� or even prison onboarding.��

EXAMINE: Even though it may seem like someone may want to get a body modification but needs your
encouragement to do so, it may be useful to rethink giving an opinion on the matter. While the majority of
unwanted body modifications may be described as a situation where someone is “forced” to engage in the
behavior, it is essential not to discount the impact of something as seemingly simple as peer pressure. If
someone wants social inclusion a great deal, they may feel that succumbing to social pressure is the only
way. Has anyone ever pressured you to get a body modification that you otherwise were unsure of, or
didn’t want? If so, how did that make you feel? Have you ever been inclined to convince someone to get a
matching tattoo or to finally get that piercing that they’ve wanted? How might you better approach
interacting with that friend or acquaintance during conversations about possible changes to their own self?����

While our physical appearance can be a reflection of our community connections, and individuality, sometimes our
appearance can also serve as a direct indicator of those connections. Tie-signs are visual representations of the
connections between two people, and are often seen in close friendships or romantic relationships.�� Just as a
young couple might wear each other’s class rings or share the same letterman jacket, families may also have
displays of connectedness that are easily apparent to those outside the family system. When Jonathan took his
family to Disneyland for his birthday, he made each family member wear a specially purchased T-shirt that made
the wearer look like a character from the animated classic ��� Dalmatians. Even though Jonathan’s father was not
thrilled to be at an amusement park in costume, he was happy to display his membership within his own particular
small group family culture. Scott and Coralee made their sons wear matching polos each Sunday at church when
they were small, color-coordinated to their own skirts and ties each week. Rose got a small shamrock tattooed on

the inside of her wrist. Each member of Rose’s family had a matching tattoo that identified them with their proud
Irish heritage.

At the same time, throughout the course of the life span individuals are also likely to want to establish a separate
identity from that of their romantic partner or family, highlighting features of the self that can be expressed in a
healthy way and can indicate to unknown others some unique features of their personality.�� Such was the logic
behind Troy’s eyebrow piercing and ear gauge. Even though he dressed incredibly preppy and never broke the
unspoken dress code of his extended family, Troy’s use of jewelry was a small social signal that let other people
know that he was somehow just a little bit different than the rest of the Hansen family.

Much of our nonverbal communication behaviors in social situations are rooted in our understanding of our own
selves. An individual’s identity or self-concept is significant for a variety of reasons, not the least of which include
the impact that identity management can have on one’s attitudes toward the self. While there are many different
ways to think about identity, all humans have social groupings that help an individual to consider elements of their
identity. By looking at the similarities shared with members of the in-group and comparing the self with members
of the out-group, individuals can come to a better understanding of who they are. Nonverbal characteristics of
physical appearance are often quite helpful in providing a quick shortcut to understanding whether someone is
more similar or more different to the self, and at the same time those physical appearance displays allow us to
send messages to others that include important information about who we think we are and how we want to be

Knowing more about the origins of our individual senses of identity, what do you think contributes to your
understanding of who you are?

Thinking about the friends that you spend time with now, what did you see in them that made you want to get to
know them better?

What ways do you think that you and your friends or romantic partners are similar to yourself?


adornments ���

artifacts ���

bilateral symmetry ���

body modifications ���

body-image dysphoria ���

cultural appropriation ���

ectomorphs ���

endomorphs ���

identity badges ���

mesomorphs ���

muscle dysmorphia ���

natural features ���

physiognomy ���

positive consent ���

self-concept ���

self-esteem ���

sexual dimorphism ���

Social Identity Theory ���

somatotype ���

tie-signs ���


Learning Objectives
After reading this chapter you will be able to do the following:

Explain the impact of environmental features on messaging

List fixed feature environmental elements that are difficult to change

Describe the differences between semi-fixed feature environmental elements

Callum had long looked forward to finally taking Kulani on a date. After their years knowing one another as friends,
Callum had finally gotten the courage to ask Kulani how she felt about exploring a possible romantic connection.
But now, the actual date itself didn’t seem to be going that well. Callum had used his connections with some old
friends to get into the area’s most exclusive club, and the bright colored lighting and loud music created a frenetic
atmosphere that he hoped would impress her. Kulani hadn’t been told where they were going because he wanted
it to be a surprise, so she had dressed in her classiest sweater set and wool slacks—a problematic outfit in a hot
sweaty club where the social currency appeared to be semi-exposed flesh. And the music was great, but boy
there was a lot of it. Callum and Kulani couldn’t hear one another because of all the ambient sounds, and the
constant flashing of lights made it near impossible to read one another’s lips. After at least an hour of watching
attractive people from afar, Callum finally called an audible and led Kulani through the dance floor, out the front
door, and to a cozy bookstore down the block. Curling up next to one another on the plush sofa, the warm dim
lighting and the steaming mugs of cocoa in their hands helped to reduce some of the tension of the previous
couple hours. Callum wondered if perhaps he could salvage the evening with Kulani after all.

Guiding Questions
How do features of the environment influence the ways that we communicate within certain locations?

What steps can we take to guide or encourage a certain kind of messaging to occur within a specific
communication context?


The nonverbal code of environmental features is a unique one when compared to many other forms of nonverbal
messaging. In fact, environmental features are often not communicative in themselves (although they can be, but
are instead likely to impact the communication that occurs within that particular space or environment). Consider
the different ways that you might send a message to your best friend sitting next to you if you were eating at a
restaurant, attending a funeral, or riding on a roller coaster. You would probably engage one another in casual
conversation in the restaurant, whisper or jot a note to one another at the funeral, and either scream and laugh
together or perhaps not even message one another at all during the roller coaster ride. It would make sense that
there were specific features and characteristics in each of those three contexts that would provide some hint or
clue about how you were expected to behave, and you would likely respond accordingly.

Indeed, certain environments seem to better facilitate interactions, while others seem to discourage
communication from occurring.� A study carrel in a library, as seen in the above photo typically causes people to
be unable or unwilling to interact with one another, in part by completely removing all distractions around a person
studying and making difficult those normal human approach cues like eye contact or smiling at one another. An
environment like a study carrel that makes interaction more difficult is known as a sociofugal space, one which
minimizes the opportunity for people in that environment to engage one another.

Alternately, some environments are built or arranged in such a manner as to cause people to be more likely to
engage one another, providing opportunity for casual interactions and encouraging people to engage one
another.� This type of interaction-encouraging environment is known as a sociopetal space, and many people
think of a casual café or a lively cocktail party as perfect examples of sociopetal spaces where one’s eyes
constantly move throughout the environment and people acknowledge one another from across the room or find a
cozy corner to have a chat.

Consider the space in which you find yourself right now as you read this chapter. Would you characterize the
space as sociofugal or sociopetal? While you likely are able to point toward whether the space encourages
communication and promotes intimacy—or discourages such social behaviors—it may be more difficult to decide
which specific things about the environment lead you to feel that way. Is it the comfort of the seating, the colors on
the walls, or the general arrangement of space? Perhaps some combination of the above? In the next few
sections of this book, we will talk about the individual elements in an interaction space that impact the manner in
which we choose to engage or avoid potential communication partners.

Those types of elements in a communication environment that are relatively difficult to change (requiring major
renovation or construction) are known as fixed-feature elements.� There are many different characteristics of a
space that are categorized as fixed-feature elements, and the combination of all of these fixed-feature elements
are often referred to as architectural style. We will discuss many of the aspects of architectural style that
influence our communication patterns in the following sections. First, however, we consider the differences in each
culture’s use of architectural style and the meanings that people associate with their shared environment in this
chapter’s Engage feature.

Box ��.� Engage
Diverse Attitudes Toward Spatial Organization

Each culture places its own value on a variety of domestic behaviors, and the worth given to those
behaviors place them either front and center within that culture or are unlikely to be displayed to outsiders.
As such, the spaces in which those behaviors occur may be similarly regarded as exalted important
spaces or as humble ancillary spaces. In some patriarchal cultures that don’t see men and women as
equals, such a distinction is often related to the cultural perceptions of the gender of the individuals
performing those tasks, such that men’s “important” work may be given the use of a grand office or library
while women’s work may be relegated to a perfunctory kitchen or cellar area where “menial” tasks are
accomplished.� The house that Linda grew up in was built in the ��th century, and had a small kitchen off
the main dining room with an external entrance for the servants to use. She was shocked when she visited
Asdza’s home where the whole living space surrounded what appeared to be a large demonstration
kitchen. Linda was used to the kitchen being a space for some quick work to be done before returning to
spend time with the family, but this space reminded her of the time she visited a taping of a cooking show
for a cable food channel. Linda was stunned by both the centrality and the luxury of the kitchen, and asked
Asdza whether someone in the family was perhaps a professional chef. For her part, Asdza thought this
type of layout was normal. After all, she and her dad spent much of their weekend free time baking for the
family, and each evening the focus was on family time together both cooking and eating in the kitchen.

Asdza and Linda’s different perspectives on space are likely based upon a variety of individual and cultural
experiences. As a young woman with Navajo roots who lives in a modern purpose-built home, Asdza is
used to shared spaces being nongendered, with her family’s interest in cooking likely reflected in the way
that their home highlights the kitchen. Linda, however, grew up in a traditional home from the ����s which
likely reflected the view that lower class women would come into the home to do their domestic duties and
would likely be unseen by the residents, something which is reflected in the location and style with which
the kitchen was constructed. Each person’s culture influenced their understanding of how space should
function, while at the same time their individual experience of their own homes influenced their attitudes
toward what is normal.

ENGAGE: How do Asdza’s and Linda’s different home experiences influence their perceptions of each
other? What are the likely relational outcomes for the different ways that their families use those spaces?
Consider your own spaces that you inhabit. How do they reflect your family’s values? Alternately, how do
you think that they may have even shaped your family’s values?

One of the more striking features of each particular location involves some very basic characteristics. First, it is
important to consider the use of space in an environment—what is being accomplished in a particular location—
as that directly impacts the communication that may occur and the manner in which it happens. When one enters
a room, one often quickly figures out the purpose of that space. For example, it is noticeable whether the space is
a large factory floor noisily producing the newest cars or whether it is a small nursery containing a child’s crib and
changing table; even the most unobservant person likely notices the differences between a factory floor and an

infant’s nursery. The things that are being accomplished in each particular space can dramatically influence how
everyone else is likely to behave while spending time in that space—whether or not those people are associated
with the original intent of the room or area. Nohea suspected that his girlfriend Blythe was cheating and he wanted
to have an important-but-difficult conversation about it. When Nohea finally broached the subject in an empty
subway car late one evening, the conversation got pretty intense just before they suddenly pulled into the station
for the local sports stadium. The somber, tear-stained couple was suddenly interrupted in their conversation by a
wave of inebriated hometown fans, influencing their communication pattern.

The volume or three-dimensional size of a particular space also has a dramatic influence on the communication
patterns that emerge within that space. Consider your own response when you enter a movie theater or even a
large lecture hall on your campus. What about your behavior when you walk into a snug local coffee shop or a
professor’s office? There are environmental cues that tell us how we can or should behave in each location.
Although the volume of a space may feel like something straight out of a Goldilocks’ story—“too small”, “too big”,
or “just right”—this relative size likely changes depending on the intent or use of the space and also a variety of
other things or persons that occupy that space. A wedding of �� people may feel festive and cheery in a backyard
but may have an entirely different connotation in a large, otherwise empty cathedral building.

Although each are impactful on their own, the combined influence of an environment’s use and volume of space
can combine to impact both verbal and nonverbal communication patterns greatly.� A large open nightclub may
influence communication patterns of the audience in very different ways than would an intimate concert venue,
even though the decibel levels may be similar. Blake’s practiced subtle head tilt and good-natured eye contact is
far more likely to gain notice from his intended recipient at a trendy blues club than at a riotous spring break dance
club, one where his own friends have to practically grab his face to get his undivided attention.


The size of the room is not the only characteristic of a space influencing communication patterns in an
environment. Although not intuitive, even the very building materials themselves that were used to construct a
space can create perceptions and influence communication. To begin with, the building materials can help to
identify a space as typical or normal of the area, or as unique or different. A Midwestern home that is built with
brick and stone may evoke a very different feeling than a New England wood-sided beach home or a stucco
house in the American Southwest. Indeed, eclectic architectural styles in neighborhoods can result in some homes
looking a bit out of place, often simply because of the materials used in the construction. For example, a new
gleaming glass and steel hotel complex currently under construction on the shores of Hawaii’s Oahu Island came
under criticism not for its size but for its gleamingly sleek modern design, noteworthy in an area more often
characterized by earth tones and artisanal-looking construction materials; the hotel is sure to stand out among its
peers (for better or for worse).� So what is the impact of a building or a room looking out of place? People may
begin to form a variety of expectations about a space based upon the building materials. As a result, people also
have quite a few perceptions about the people who live or work in that space and the type of communication that
can or should take place in that space, particularly if that communication environment is constructed to be
exceptional in some way (for good or bad).

People may also form expectations about others based upon the even more intentional messaging that a person
might use in selecting the building materials for their space.� An old-fashioned formal lawyer who wants to

immediately impress their clients may decide to spend the extra money to have the offices paneled in a deep rich
mahogany, with marble flooring and polished brass accents inside a building made of heavy quarried blocks of
stone. The permanence that such materials convey may help to lend credence to the practice and impress or
even calm an otherwise-agitated client. The specific materials in a location may look a certain way that fosters an
attitude toward what happens in that space.

It’s not only the perceptions that people form based upon the building materials that they see, however, but
perceptions may also be influenced by the feelings evoked throughout the actual surfaces that humans touch or
feel as created by those building materials. A carpeted sunken living room around a natural stone fireplace—using
stones that retain and then radiate heat—is going to allow for much more lounging around and many more casual
conversations at a ski lodge than is, say, a polished concrete floor in front of a television set with some nearby
steel walls. While the shape of the space obviously determines some of the interaction patterns that can occur, the
building materials also help to serve as a prompt to visitors about the intended feelings and moods that can
emerge in these spaces.

Lines and Curves

In addition to the specific materials used in a space, the shapes created by those materials may easily influence
people’s communication patterns, albeit perhaps in an unexpected way. People’s eyes are naturally drawn to lines
(straight or curved) in an environment, and typically one’s eyes subconsciously follow those leading lines
throughout a room or building or park—really, any lines in any space that people find themselves—in much the
same way that they follow lines found in well-composed photographs.� In a normal square classroom (or even a
well-designed stadium-style lecture hall), the sight lines along the edges of the room naturally draw one’s eyes
toward the front of the room, hopefully to the location where the speaker or lecturer is situated. Those very same
lines may help to discourage interaction among students in that environment, however, as they naturally focus
students’ attentions toward the front rather than toward one another. A café that has bold sweeping patterns on
the walls and curves around the seated or standing patrons may find that the sociability of the space has been
heightened by these additions, with people more likely to look at one another—and therefore approach one
another—because the undulation of the curves causes people to be more likely to look around and potentially
overlap their gaze with one another.

If you were designing a place where you wanted people to stay focused and get their work done without
socializing, you may be likely to incorporate a lot of straight angular lines above the height of one’s seated or
standing heads. In such a place, people looking up from their work would be unlikely to naturally rest their eyes on
one another. However, if you wanted to encourage socialization and collaboration among the people that inhabit a
particular environment, you may actually have an interior design that utilizes broad sweeping curves that move
throughout the room at the eye level of both seated and standing people who find themselves in that space.
Regular accidental eye contact because of this linear perspective can cause people to be more likely to notice and
engage one another in what could otherwise be a sterile space.

Interestingly, those same design-related lines can also be used to create feelings of power or authority, especially
if the linear perspective of a space forces people to look at one individual in particular. For example, all the
design lines of a room may culminate together behind the head or at the desk of the “most important” person in
the room like the drawing in Figure ��.�, causing people to naturally look in their direction. In addition, architectural

lines can be employed in such a manner as to appear to artificially enlarge someone, making them look taller or
raised up or even larger—all positions of power and authority in our culture. A canny person in a position of power
can use this linear perspective to even more so reinforce the perceptions of strength that others form when
interacting with them in a particular environment. Take a look at a recent popular media example of the use of
shapes and lines in this chapter’s Absorb feature, next.

Figure ��.� Environmental Features Like Linear Perspective Can Focus an Audience’s Attention

Box ��.� Absorb
Surfaces, Shapes, and Linear Perspective on Popular Media

Courtrooms are known as locations of power and authority, and television courtrooms often look as
intimidating as the judges up on the bench. A long-running television courtroom show, Divorce Court,
decided to buck that trend in their recent set remodel. Take a close look at the new “courtroom” in the clip

“Passion and Pain.” from Divorce Court. Running Time: �:��. Available on YouTube.

Rather than having a traditional wood-paneled courtroom with bench seating for the audience, Divorce
Court decided to go with a softer look, with the audience seated on stylish chairs around the edge of a
circular stage. Even the podiums for the divorcing couple have changed, with the old boxy podiums
switched for something curvy and sleek. The judge has also given up the use of the authoritative robe,
instead wearing women’s professional clothing and visible jewelry (that can be purchased online after the
show).� It’s very clear to see that Divorce Court has changed the way that courtroom programming is
typically depicted.

ABSORB: Consider all the new things that have changed in the recent redesign of the Divorce Court set.
How has the new look softened the space and made it seem more approachable? In what ways did the
designers play with our expectations about a courtroom television show? Although the set has changed
quite dramatically from any other courtroom depicted on television, there are still some important markers
of the judge’s power and authority. What things about the set still help to make it clear who is in charge and
who has the power? What would you change to make her power even more visible in the courtroom

Not all elements in a communication environment are necessarily relatively difficult to change (requiring major
renovation or construction). In fact, many elements in an environment can be swapped out at a whim, or with just
a couple hours’ worth of work. These types of environmental features are known as semi-fixed-feature elements.

Gina loves the adaptability of semi-fixed-feature elements, for example, dramatically altering the overall feel of her
house each winter by changing the general décor and color schemes in almost every room to celebrate the
holiday season. Her kids regularly joke that “it looks like the Christmas aisle at Target threw up in their living room”
each year.


We have already discussed artifacts in Chapter �, talking about the items that we carry with us throughout our
daily lives and how people can interpret meaning about another person based upon the artifacts that they carry. In
each person’s physical environment, they can also have artifacts placed around them that similarly send
messages about themselves; the difference is that these artifacts are often left in place and are not carried around
or moved with regularity. Some of these artifacts can be selected with the intent to send meaning, such as when
Mikey has memorabilia from the Oakland Athletics baseball team strewn all over his office at work to let people
know his favorite team. Much of the time, however, artifacts may convey meaning without necessarily having been
selected for a specific meaning-making purpose, such as when Sherri has a hook in the hallway filled with a
variety of aprons—from the purely practical to the fantastically ruffled and detailed—that she uses for her hobbies
of baking and gardening. Even though Sherri placed the aprons on that hook for the sake of convenience so that
she can easily grab one when her current project begins to get a little messier than expected, people often look at
the rack of aprons and think of it is a display or a collection—or as some intentional decoration—trying to make
meaning as a result.

Much of the time, the artifacts in an environment are selected for either their form or their function, or occasionally
for both reasons if one is lucky. You can read any decorating magazine and find hundreds of “rules” for the
artifacts that people place in their living spaces, ranging from proscriptions about the size and scale and number
of items in a particular grouping to the correct brand selection for an up-to-date look. Interestingly, though, the
selection and arrangement of artifacts in these spaces is often perceived to be intentionally communicative even if
the person managing that particular environment does not intend those artifacts to be a message. Esteban, for
example, loves bicycles. He loves them so much that he has a special room in his house that serves as his bicycle
studio, and Esteban has mounted hooks on the walls to arrange the bicycles and a variety of bicycle parts with the
most ease and utility of space. When Esteban recently hosted a work function at his house, however, he
overheard Kristin joking about his “shrine to bicycles” and how fitting it is that he has used bicycles as a
“decoration” for his own room since he loves them so much. Esteban pretends not to have noticed the
conversation, but walks away wondering to himself what Kristin meant. After all, wasn’t he just hanging stuff on the
wall to increase his usable floor space? But with a quick glance down the hall, Esteban could quickly see how
Kristin might interpret his functional workspace as some kind of a hipster monument to his favorite form of travel.
Esteban immediately became nervous that others might have thought he was showing off, bragging about the
number and quality of these two-wheeled conveyances. Take a look at this chapter’s Examine feature to think a
little bit about the ethics of intentionally showing off one’s personal possessions for the sole purpose of influencing
people’s attitudes toward you.

Box ��.� Examine
The Ethics of Wealth Displays

Research on the role of luxury goods as a form of social signaling has found that there are social benefits
for displaying one’s wealth.�� A wealth display occurs when someone shows off or uses expensive
material goods in order to signal their success to those around them. Another term associated with this
behavior is known as conspicuous consumption, which is when someone purchases luxury goods or
spends extra money in a visible way in order to be seen by others and to gain prestige, rather than simply
because of the actual utility of the thing that they are purchasing. While we can come up with obvious
exceptions to the rule, it seems like there is some social appeal and status gained that comes from
indicating to others that you have money. Although the explanation for this phenomenon is purely
evolutionary in origin, it’s pretty easy to explain: People gain status in others’ eyes when they engage in a
wealth display (large home, expensive furnishings, flashy building materials, etc.) and are often treated
better as a result.

However, such consumption of material goods may cost money that a person doesn’t really have (leading
to credit card bills or other personal debts) or may lead people to pinch pennies on other important things
that they should be devoting resources toward (e.g., medications, education). Many people also point out
broader social issues that a little money can fix, pointing out the role of philanthropy and donations to
charities. At the same time, in a capitalistic society there is a clear and present need for people to
participate in the economy. The issue is not as simple as many people make it out to be, and while
conspicuous consumption is easy to condemn there is often a strong temptation for most people to spend
more money than they otherwise have. After all, the value of credit card debt in the United States alone is
estimated to be over $��� billion.��

EXAMINE: Consider the expenses you display in your own environment. What messages do you intend to
send about yourself based upon the physical spaces and the things that fill those spaces? Would you say
that you intend to impress the people in your life? If so, are there any nonessential artifacts or features of
your environment that you could have better repurposed your finances (or even increased your savings)?
What would you want to say to someone who regularly spends significantly more than you do? What would
you want to say to someone who regularly spends significantly less than you do? (Even more importantly,
should you even say anything to someone about their spending?) What is the social impact or prestige
associated with your current level of spending and is that evaluation by others important to you?

Visual Continua

Once we have the space built and filled with artifacts and furnishings, we often want to flesh out that space with
additional elements that bring important mood features to the space. One way to impact the mood (and the
communication that may reflect the general mood) is to intentionally utilize or even vary the light and color that is
used within that particular space. Interestingly, both light and color have an almost infinite range along a specified
continuum, allowing for a virtually limitless number of possible combinations within a space.


The impact of light is significant and at times even dramatic. Consider, for example, just how difficult it is to read a
map on a poorly lit street at night, or how simple it is to temporarily blind oneself after throwing back the curtains
on a bright morning after a night out. The mood or emotion created by the lighting in a particular space is often
relative to the natural lighting that may occur were there not to be a structure in place. For example, think of the

bright lighting needed in a cheerful neighborhood coffee house as compared to a cozy romantic café in the same
neighborhood many hours later—the relative lighting to the natural daylight (or nightlight) found in one’s
environment may influence the amount of artificial light needed in a space to perform the tasks or communicative
functions at hand.

In a daytime workplace, for example, people want average daylight amounts. Even though there is often a building
and a roof in the way, people want the space illuminated to approximately the same level that it would have been
had there not been those building features in the way blocking the sun in the first place. What happens in that
workplace if more or less relative light is turned on than there would be naturally? Workers typically assume that
the space feels cheerful when the natural lighting amount is exceeded by around �%. If the space is illuminated to
about �% less than daylight (or more), those same workers will likely try to turn on additional lighting to get their
job done.��


Light is not the only semi-fixed-feature environmental element that can contribute to the mood of an individual or
group of people in a particular space. Consider, for example, the role of color when you walk into a cool blue air-
conditioned room on a sweltering summer day; even though you are probably responding more to the lower
temperature created by the air conditioning, something about the calming “cool” color of the environment just feels
right. Whether the surfaces in a room are painted or tinted warm colors (e.g., tones red, orange, or yellow) or cool
colors (e.g., tones of green, blue or some purple) or even if the sources of illumination themselves illuminate a
variety of surfaces in lower frequency warm light (e.g., higher wavelength lighting described as incandescent, “soft
white,” or “warm white” bulbs) or higher frequency cool light (e.g., lower wavelength lighting described as
“daylight,” “cool white,” or some fluorescent bulbs), they can contribute greatly to the perceptions that people form
about the physical environment and the relationships that emerge among people in that environment.�� Vivica and
Kenneth found themselves on a date in a sleek and shiny trendy café, surrounded by metallic finishes, hard
surfaces, and icy blue lighting that seemed out of place in the wintry ski village where they both worked. As a
result, their conversations seemed a little more functional and a lot less intimate than they would have hoped
based upon their previous text messages, a tepid feeling that took a lot longer to dissipate over the course of the
evening because of the sleek and sterile environment in which they found themselves.

The colors used in a particular environment can be significant not only because of the warmth or coolness they
imply but also because of the cultural meaning attached to those colors. As a result, people may match their mood
to the color of a room or at least be influenced by the specific color used as well as the intensity of that color.
Here, we explore the different associations that nonverbal scholars have highlighted as typical for the most
common colors.�� Remember, these associations can vary according to culture and individual experience, but in
general each color has a typical culturally agreed-upon set of descriptors or moods associated in the following

Red is typically thought of with passionate emotions and strong feelings, including lust or anger or even
defiance. People often associate red with blood or rage (e.g., “seeing red”) or sex.

Orange is usually associated with the harvest times of fall, and can invoke feelings of change or excitement
depending upon the particular hue.

Yellow is generally a cheerful color, often catching one’s attention. As such, it has been used as a color for
both caution or for gaining someone’s notice in a needed situation.

Green is usually seen as a cool and relaxing color, often associated with nature and the environment.
Occasionally, people associate green with jealous or envious thoughts (e.g., “green with envy”). In the
United States, this color is also often associated with money.

Blue is typically seen as another cool and relaxing color, with a focus on calmness and serenity.
Occasionally people will associate the color blue with intelligence or logic, likely the reason that both
Pokemon’s Team Mystic and Harry Potter’s Ravenclaw House are rendered with blue to represent the regal
bookishness of their respective memberships.��

Purple is most often seen as the color of royalty and wealth, although people can associate sadness or end-
of-life concepts with the color purple. In recent years, purple has been reclaimed by women of a certain age,
associating it instead with playfulness and irreverence.��

Brown is associated with a general calm disquiet or melancholy mood, and the fact that it is the color of dirt
often reminds people of both decay and change. Despite these associations, brown is an incredibly common
neutral color in the environment.

Black is an intense color, often associated with strong emotions like fear or anxiousness or even a variety of
“evil” characteristics because of things that can occur under the cover of darkness.

White is just as intense of a color as black, but it often represents purity or innocence and can render one
with a feeling of cleanliness or sterility. The color white also reflects more light than any other color, and can
be used to brighten a room significantly and even save money on lighting costs.

Consider the places that you see color used intentionally. Would you agree with the characterizations above about
general moods and meanings of colors? Check out this chapter’s Measure feature to think about your own
attitudes toward a few common colors that you encounter in your own environment.

Box ��.� Measure
Self-Assessments and Attitudes Toward Color

As discussed in the section above, research has shown fairly common emotional responses to a variety of
colors. Interestingly, there are also general trends for what colors people find most pleasant as compared
to other colors, as well as what colors people find most arousing or stimulating.�� While each person may
have a variety of responses to different colors based on their own background, in general people like and
notice colors in much the same ways.

Scholars have discovered a general trend in which colors are most arousing and which colors bring people
the most pleasure. The following is a subset of questions derived from the original researchers’ method of
looking at people’s emotional responses to a variety of different colors.

Instructions: Take out your phone and google each of the following underlined colors. Then, select an
answer on each of the four questions for each color, based upon how each color you view makes you feel.
Just think about your first impression, knowing that there is no correct answer. Circle the number (e.g., �
through �) that best corresponds with your attitudes toward each color.

For each color, add up your score separately for the top two scales and then again for the bottom two
scales. Look at each score and see what you get. A high score on the top two means that you find that
color pleasurable. A high score on the lower two means that you find that color exciting or arousing. Which
colors are the most pleasurable for you? Typically, from among those colors listed here people most prefer
the colors blue-green, green, and purple-blue. Which colors are the most exciting? Typically, from among
those colors people most prefer the colors green-yellow, blue-green, and green.

Measure: Are you surprised by the colors you found most pleasing? What about the colors that you found
most arousing? Consider your own scores as compared to the favorite and most exciting colors of the
general public. How do your own scores match up?


9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Happy Cruel Affectionate Nasty

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Troubled Dull Frustrated Sad


9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Happy Cruel Affectionate Nasty

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Troubled Dull Frustrated Sad


9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Happy Cruel Affectionate Nasty

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Troubled Dull Frustrated Sad


9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Happy Cruel Affectionate Nasty

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Troubled Dull Frustrated Sad


9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Happy Cruel Affectionate Nasty

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Troubled Dull Frustrated Sad

Environmental Noise

Sometimes things inhibit communication because they make people pay too much attention to their discomfort
and not enough attention to the social interactions that are occurring around them. These kinds of things are often
described as environmental noise and are typically not noticeable to people at the appropriate level, but are

oppressive to thought and interaction when encountered at too high or too low a level. Consider, for example, the
heat in a room on a tepid summer day; it’s perfect when it is managed at a moderate level, but if the room gets too
cold or too hot it becomes difficult to think about anything else. Similarly, the noise in a room can be distracting
when it gets too loud, much like the clinking of forks on glasses at a wedding reception, a tradition that often
forces the newlyweds to kiss rather than having to endure a few more moments of the irritating cacophony.


Although we have addressed sound in earlier chapters, particularly those sounds produced by one’s own voice,
an important environmental feature that shapes or constrains communication is the environmental sound that
one encounters in a particular space. To be sure, you likely notice the dramatic change in environmental noise as
your classes are about to begin—a subtle buzz or murmur of chatter among students is likely not that noticeable
before class begins, but once the professor clears her throat or makes it clear that he is about to speak, a stillness
(hopefully) descends upon the class that makes it clear just how loud it was before that moment. Should that noise
arise later during a noninteractive part of that class, that same sound might be too loud for the lecture to continue.

Environmental noise can be pleasant or unpleasant, and it can either impede or even facilitate interactions.
Imagine, for example, a situation where the background noise is too loud for people to hear one another: a nearby
leaf-blower, a loud concert, or a screeching train hurtling past. At the same time, some people are impacted by too
much quiet, and a little ambient noise (barely noticeable background noise that adds energy or slightly
perceptible sound to an environment) can help bring a quiet person out of their shell. Maddy, for example, didn’t
want to be the first one to break the ice in her newly assigned work group for the orientation at her new marketing
internship. As it was, she didn’t feel like she really had the qualifications to be there. Once the internship
coordinator put on some light music, however, people began to chatter among one another and Maddy took the
initiative to turn to her group and ask everyone their names.

Sound is just one feature of environmental noise that can either facilitate communication in an intended way or
else distract from the messaging that is intended to occur. Think about how all of the different environmental
features come together to shape and constrain the communication context in this chapter’s Apply feature, below.

Box ��.� Apply
Using Ambiance to Craft a Mood

Dalisay wanted to get the room just right. After all, she had been trying to work up the courage to invite
Asha over for about three months, and she finally had planned to cook Asha a gourmet dinner based upon
Asha’s vegan interests. After having burnt the lentils within the first �� minutes of cooking, Dalisay finally
ordered some vegan delivery from the local natural foods co-op. Since it was obvious that she hadn’t
actually done the cooking—after all, dinner looked nothing like the ingredients they had purchased earlier
that day at the farmer’s market—Dalisay at least wanted Asha to be entranced by the romantic setting she
created. Dimming the lights and lighting candles seemed to take care of the lighting while also providing a
pleasant smell. She quickly tossed some extra pillows on the couch and set the table in the living room,

preferring to use a small bistro table rather than the large formal dining room in her shared apartment.
Dalisay put on some light world music and turned down the air conditioning, hoping to create both a feeling
and a temperature that would perhaps induce some potential snuggling later on.

For her part, Asha hadn’t really considered that the evening was a “date” per se. She and Dalisay had just
accidentally run into one another at the farmer’s market that morning, and decided to do dinner together at
the spur of the moment. Remembering that Dalisay had bought a ton of ingredients earlier, Asha invited
her roommate to come with her, certain that the food would be plentiful. Tossing on a sweatshirt and
sandals, Asha and her roommate immediately felt that their perception of the situation was “off” from the
moment they walked into Dalisay’s house.

APPLY: While this situation is likely to be uncomfortable, it is not as uncommon as one might imagine.
Consider the elements of the environment that send a signal about Dalisay’s expectations for the evening.
What do you think might have tipped off Asha that she had the wrong idea about their evening together?
What do you imagine Dalisay might have done differently to make her house inviting but not necessarily
seeming like there was romantic intent?


People barely notice the temperature (hotness or coldness in a location) of a room when it is correctly
maintained, and each culture has a general range in which that temperature is considered to be optimal (e.g.,
room temperature). The heat or the chill in a room can have devastating effects on social interaction if it is not
maintained at the correct level, however. Consider the lethargy and sleepiness that may emerge in a hot and
humid room, where people feel that it is almost too hot to speak, much less touch or show affection. It’s a different
general feeling as compared to the chilled alertness that may plague people in a room that is too cold for their
general liking, forcing people to find refuge beneath blankets, hoodies, and scarves. In either extreme (too hot or
too cold), people are often distracted from successful communication messaging and the needed nonverbal
feedback, instead focusing on addressing or attending to their temperature-related needs instead.

Although environmental features aren’t necessarily always communicative in and of themselves, they can serve to
shape the ways that people engage one another through both verbal and nonverbal messaging. Relatively stable
fixed-feature environmental elements like the use and volume of shape may help people to infer what is intended
to occur in a room. In addition, the fixed-feature building materials, lines, and curves in a room may cause people
to engage in or to avoid particular styles of messaging as well. Some elements are also easy to change, and
these semi-fixed-feature environmental elements include the artifacts that we place in a room as well as the light
and color that we use to flesh out the space. In addition, environmental noise can disrupt our communication if not
well managed, as we easily attend to things like sound or temperature should either become unwieldy. Although
not quite as communicative in and of themselves, the environmental features that we encounter shape the
communication that occurs in a particular environment in both general and specific ways.


Knowing the ways that environmental features influence our messaging, what ways do the spaces you inhabit
create or constrain interaction?

What small changes could you make to your living areas or your classroom space in order to better facilitate the
messaging you want to occur?


ambient noise ���

architectural style ���

arousing ���

building materials ���

conspicuous consumption ���

environmental noise ���

environmental sound ���

fixed-feature elements ���

leading lines ���

linear perspective ���

patriarchal ���

room temperature ���

semi-fixed-feature elements ���

sociofugal ���

sociopetal ���

temperature ���

use of space ���

volume ���

wealth display ���


Learning Objectives
After reading this chapter you will be able to do the following:

Compare the communicative impact of different time orientations

Explain the evaluative continuum for olfactory scents in human experience

Describe the meaningful ways that culture influences the chronemic and olfactic codes

Conor and Brandon spent all day together growing up and often claimed that they were “two brothers from
different mothers.” Throughout elementary school and even extending into part of high school, they were virtually
inseparable from one another and were often jokingly referred to as “the twins” even though one of them was
clearly of African descent and the other had fair skin, fair hair, and incredibly light-colored eyes. Despite their
different racial heritage, the majority of their early life experiences were shared and their perspectives were quite
similar on a multitude of preferences and attitudes. As a result, they also shared similar attitudes toward the
contexts in which they found themselves during their college study abroad trip. Privileged to be able to afford such
an immersive learning experience, they were both drawn to the same experiences while abroad: It was not
unusual to find Conor and Brandon seated at the same table having found out that they each had sought out the
same exact carton of kimchee or having ordered the takeaway “stinky tofu” despite it’s being a difficult entrée for
most American sensibilities. They were always the first to arrive for class and the last to leave, each separately
deciding to fully soak in the experiences that they were encountering both in and out of the classroom.

Guiding Questions
How might individuals’ similar background influence their attitudes toward the smells that they encounter in
an environment?

How might our cultural experiences directly shape and influence our use of time?

Why is culture such a strong influencer of the chronemic and olfactic nonverbal codes?

As we have discussed throughout this book, each person is different in their encoding and decoding of nonverbal
codes across a variety of interactions. These differences are often notable, but can also be subtle to the untrained
eye. Indeed, a culture might vary slightly in the distance that people stand from one another or in the loudness of
one’s voice when having an argument. Many of the codes include slight to moderate variation in how people
express themselves based upon the experiences that people have had as members of a large group of people
who share a common culture. Not only does our nonverbal communication reflect the culture from which we come,
but also our nonverbal communication helps to create and change the culture(s) in which we participate.

In this chapter, we explore a couple different nonverbal codes that are much more integrally dependent upon
cultural norms and cultural expectations, to the extent that people may behave so completely differently from one
another in their expression of these nonverbal codes that one almost wonders if those nonverbal behaviors are
even remotely related to one another. For example, the ways that people deal with issues of time—including time
management and also the appreciation of time and time constraints—and the ways that people dea˚l with scent or
smell are two nonverbal codes that reflect a significant influence from one’s culture of origin. You can tell a lot
about a person based upon their attitudes toward time and scent, but you can tell even more about the culture
from which that person is likely to come.

Created by Culture

Both the nonverbal code dealing with smells and the nonverbal code dealing with time are the result of cultural
differences, where different cultures prize certain behaviors or human abilities or even physical objects, such that
meaning or value gets attached to those things. In Tamil’s hometown, one of the major exports is cinnamon. As a
result, the abstract smell of cinnamon conjures up images of prosperity and wealth while the day-to-day smell of
cinnamon covering the hands and hair of a day laborer on a cinnamon plantation is more likely to cause people to
think of poorly paid day laborers or even the poverty that is associated with such work.� Check out this chapter’s
Engage feature to consider how you might react when confronted with difference around your own cultural

Box ��.� Engage
Diverse Patterns and Predilections

Different cultures place different emphasis on the importance of nonverbal codes, and the two codes
discussed in this chapter are among the most noteworthy public examples of these distinctions. Attitudes
toward time, for example, vary greatly across both region and ethnicity, something you might notice in your
own university classes. Do you have a professor who shows up early to class and starts the moment that
class has officially begun, censuring the students that arrive a couple moments late with a stern glare or
even a few choice words about responsibility? This might be in great contrast to a different professor, one
that plays music at the beginning of class and chats with students once he has arrived by bicycle, an
arrival which is admittedly later and later each week that passes throughout the semester. This was the
case for Gillian, who was struggling with the differences in expectations from Dr. K, the first professor who

valued timeliness in her rhetoric courses, and from the second professor of cultural studies who simply
went by his first name, Stev. Given that Stev’s class often started late and ran a few minutes over, Gillian
found herself unable to make it to Dr. K’s rhetoric class on time. After having conversations with both
faculty members, she still did not reach a resolution. Unfortunately, Stev believed that he ended class in a
timely enough manner—and by his perspective, he did indeed finish class before the next scheduled
faculty member needed to use the room. However, since Gillian’s classes were spread all over campus
she would arrive to Dr. K’s class moments after the campus clock struck the start of the next hour of

What is Gillian to do in this situation? By their own cultural experiences, both Stev and Dr. K have
defensible positions. Even more so, they are solidly within the range of “normal” for a variety of university
policies, even though they are causing difficulties for their students which may eventually disadvantage
them as compared to other students in the same classes. Eventually, Gillian talks with the dean of students
who happens to be visiting her residence hall to make a presentation about the resources offered by the
university. In so doing, she learns about a transportation option that will pick her up not too far from Stev’s
classroom and drop her off right in front of her rhetoric course, saving her at least � minutes of transit time.
In trying to discover the best way to manage her two bookended courses between faculty with different
attitudes toward timeliness, Gillian learns of a third option for success that requires her to question her own
assumptions about how to engage in the college experience.

ENGAGE: How do the cultural backgrounds of both faculty members differ from one another? Does one
seem more correct than the other in terms of your own attitude toward class time and tardiness? What
aspects of your own life may have led you to perceive time in this way? How might you have handled the
situation if you were Gillian and were caught between two faculty members?

Creating Culture

Of course, nonverbal behaviors and those nonverbal codes that occur alongside language don’t just reflect a
culture, they also serve to shape and create a culture. The culture of time in Spain, for example, prioritizes an
attitude toward time that has led to the famous midday siestas (midday breaks in activity for calm or rest) and the
tapas meal culture (small plates and snacks that can cause meals to start late and last for hours). It is the very
nonverbal treatment of time that influences both self- and other-perceptions of the Spanish culture. Similarly, the
attitude toward strong but also “unique” smells in French cuisine (e.g., “stinky” fromage or the particularly
malodorous andouillettes) may also influence cultural attitudes toward other scents or even a general tolerance of
—perhaps even an appreciation for—public odors that may be otherwise taboo or at least unlikely candidates for
praise. Such attitudes toward smell may give different cultural meaning for jobs, tastes, or even sexual intimacy
that may influence the culture writ large.

Nonverbal behaviors, therefore, result from a culture, serving as a mirror through which people can see oneself
and one’s cultural companions behaving similarly; at the same time, they also they serve to reify and create
shared experiences, giving meaning to a culture, where nonverbal behaviors and norms are repeated to such an
extent that they influence the overall culture of a large group of people. Whether the nonverbal expressions are
related to cultural gestures, the use of personal space, facial expressions (or the lack thereof), or, as covered in
this chapter, one’s attitudes toward time and scent, one’s culture defines and is defined by the nonverbal
communication that signifies membership in a particular cultural group.���

A discussion of the role of nonverbal communication in cultural expression must necessarily include a brief
reminder of the importance of group membership, as introduced in Chapter �. Again, the nonverbal behaviors that
define individuals as belonging to a specific grouping—or exclude other individuals from that specific group—are
clear indicators of in-group and out-group status. Just as one’s cultural experience can influence their nonverbal
expression of group membership, serving as an identity badge of sorts, those same nonverbal expressions can
serve as a private reminder and a public display of one’s adherence to a particular group.� In this chapter, we
discuss two nonverbal codes that result from a culture of group membership and also influence the future
development of that group culture. Look at this chapter’s Absorb box feature to see how group membership is
represented in popular culture.

Box ��.� Absorb
Cliques on Popular Media

As discussed in Chapter �, in-groups and out-groups are important determinants of culture, prioritizing and
highlighting some groups as compared to others. In the movie Mean Girls, the culture of cliques and group
membership was regularly satirized for comic effect. Take a look at a character confronting a new clique in
the clip below.

“Meeting the Plastics.” from Mean Girls. ����. Running Time: �:��. Available on YouTube.

In this clip, the main character Cady is encountering the “popular” group of young women who run their
high school, at the social center of much of what happens on their campus. The clip does a good job of
highlighting the ways that Cady is seen as a member of the out-group, particularly as the character
Gretchen highlights the ways in which she differs but also allowing for the ways in which she is similar to
the group members. As the movie continues after the clip has ended, we are able to see the subtle ways in
which Cady is enculturated with the goals and desires of the dominant culture, becoming yet another
adherent to the social rules and regulations of her high school.

ABSORB: Consider the ways that you have been enculturated about nonverbal behaviors. How have you
resisted the dominant culture’s attitudes toward how you should behave? In what ways have you
succumbed to the patterns and norms of your culture? It is likely difficult to list all the ways in which you
reflect the dominant culture, in part because such behaviors become second nature for group members.
How do you think that your nonverbal behaviors associated with your use of time or your use of scent
match the dominant culture? Are there any areas of scent or time in which you buck the trends that
surround you?


The first nonverbal code that we will discuss in this chapter has to do with one’s attitude toward time, a code
known as chronemics. This time-based nonverbal code has to do with the biological determinants of our sense of
time, influencing both the content and the nature of our communication behaviors. In addition, chronemics deals
with our culturally derived conceptualization of time, noting that different people across different cultures have
different attitudes toward and appreciations for their own unique experience of the passage of time. Patrice had
great expectations for this evening’s potential romance, taking extra care in grooming and in choosing her outfit
and making sure to arrive early to the restaurant where she was to meet her blind date, Angelique. However, after
the expected meeting time had come and gone with no sign of Angelique, she began to wonder if she had been
stood up or—even worse—if Angelique had showed up but left after seeing her potential partner from across the
room. Patrice was near tears when Angelique arrived, oblivious to the pain she had caused by her late arrival.
Clearly, both potential partners had some cultural norms to overcome in their attitudes toward each other’s use of

Biological Chronemics

When we are discussing the biology of time and time-related patterns, the old jokes come to mind where a woman
(typically) exclaims “… but my biological clock is ticking!” in reference to the need to quickly have a baby. While
such jokes may not enjoy the same appeal in a more modern progressive culture, most people assume that such
a thing does not exist. In fact, humans have many such biological rhythms that are based on time. One’s
biological clock governs, for example, the mating success for both women and men� such that older mothers
and fathers are less likely to produce a genetically successful child than are younger parents. As such, the idea of
a biological clock advancing toward old age highlights the general idea of a “fertility countdown” for both men and
women as they move toward older age. This lifelong fertility-driven perception of a biological clock is not the only
biological time cycle, however, as other such biological clocks also exist for other functions.

One such biological clock that exists in all humans is known as the circadian rhythm, which is the body’s
regulation of hormones and other natural functions necessary to survive. This rhythm follows a ��-hour pattern,
typically regulated by cycles of light and darkness, and is thought to be responsible for as much as ��% of our
genetic patterns of gene expression.� Indeed, the circadian rhythm is incredibly important to the body’s daily
functioning. Why is this pattern important? If the body regulates certain behaviors to daytime or nighttime in order
to conserve energy or operate more efficiently or better serve the overall biological drive, what then happens to
those people who are working the late shift and thus have an inverted pattern of activity and rest? Or, for that
matter, is there even some impact upon the teenager who sleeps in each summer day until around noon in a
darkened, air-conditioned cocoon? While research continues in these areas, it is noteworthy that the body
continues on as usual. In fact, there is even a lifelong “clock” present in the body known as the epigenetic clock
that is a way that can actually be used to accurately measure one’s physical age based upon the decline of one’s
DNA chemistry� so that in some ways even our body contains a record of the days and years that we have added
to our biological calendar.

Thelma and Irene both worked as nurses in the region’s cardiothoracic transplant ward, widely considered to be
the best in the country if not the world. Because of her childcare duties with her young sons and daughter, Thelma
worked the morning shift at the hospital because it so neatly aligned with her kids’ school schedule. This summer,
however, her kids were spending a month with their father and his parents in rural Montana, so Thelma’s schedule
was a little more lax. Since Irene had asked to switch a few shifts with Thelma and her kids were out of town,
Thelma took on the midnight-to-�-a.m. third shift a few times, and felt like she truly understood why it was called
the “graveyard shift” as she dragged her body into the hospital each night.� Even though she was working the
same amount of time—� hours—Thelma felt much more exhausted and found it difficult to cope with the change.
Not enough time had passed for her body to adjust to the new rhythm of the day, and her biological clocks
continued to tell her that it was time to go to bed even though her shift had just begun.

Conceptualizations of Time

Up to now, we have focused on biological markers and indicators of time. In fact, much of the ways that time
impacts our communication is related to our own psychological perceptions and ideas about time, both the
passage of everyday time and the long-term years and decades associated with one’s lifespan. To begin, the
terms standard time or technical time refer to the scientifically based measurement and precise understanding
of how time passes,� and the ways that we mark that time within a culture is referred to as formal time. There is a
huge difference between this technical or formal time and the way that it is measured or written, and our feelings
about the passage of time. In fact, researchers have chronicled the distinctions between our own relative
subjective time and the more discrete chronological time� that measures the passage of moments along a
continuum. Regardless of our cultural attitude toward time, we cannot get away from the steady march of time.
Humans have had an understanding of the precious nature of time, and we are not alone in acknowledging time;
researchers have found that even animals have a concept of time.�

What might be our major ways of thinking about time? How do the ways that we think about time influence our
communication behavior? To begin, people often have a bias toward attending to either the past, present, or
future. This trait-like time perspective�� is often characterized by whether someone focuses on the past, present,
or future�� and can influence the things that we care about as we navigate our daily lives. Jake is very diligent in
his studies, looking forward to getting into medical school and eventually becoming a missionary doctor like his
aunt. Even though he doesn’t necessarily have conservative attitudes toward going out dancing with friends or
even having an occasional drink in moderation, his commitment to his studies is such that he rarely accepts social
invitations, preferring to study for the next midterm or even for the MCAT examination. Given just how much Jake
is focusing on working toward his goals, can you guess which orientation listed in the next section best describes
Jake’s time perspective?

Someone with a past orientation, for example, may spend a lot of time focusing on remembrances of the
experiences and relationships that they have had, spending time with loved ones reviewing albums and talking
about the exciting lives that they have shared together. Someone with a present orientation, however, may be so
focused on the experience of “now” that they don’t plan for or even seem to care much about the future. Research
on risky driving habits, for example, has found that having a present time orientation is a predictor of one’s risky
driving habits, since the concerns of the moment (e.g., getting somewhere quickly or even just having more
excitement driving fast) far outweigh the possibilities of negative outcomes associated with the potential legal
issues, injury, or death that may occur to oneself or to others.�� Finally, someone with a future orientation may be
less likely to procrastinate or put something off�� as they are focused more on the potential outcomes associated

with future experience and are willing to experience delayed gratification wherein they can wait for a later reward
by accomplishing some task or by conserving the use of resources in the present.

This time perspective approach isn’t the only way to think about how we approach time, however, as some people
argue that we divide our time not according to past, present, and future, but rather according to work time related
to our job or career, committed non-work time (e.g., when we have stuff we are planning to do but it isn’t work
related), and non-committed time (e.g., free time);�� this perspective focuses more on what we do with our time
rather than when that time occurs in our experience.

Humans have a clear cultural attitude toward the past, present, and future. Somewhat expectedly, the more we
focus on the limitations and concerns of the present, the less likely we expect a long future or are oriented toward
it.�� At the same time, humans at least typically have an expectation of eventually experiencing their own future,
although that does not necessarily mean that we have a “Pollyanna” attitude toward it; all humans become aware
of the expectation that there will eventually be a moment in time at which we will no longer exist (at least exist in
our present manner or form), with that point in time of our non-existence called a time horizon.�� In the meantime
of life, however, people often want something out of their remaining days, weeks, months/years, and decades of
life based upon their own goals and values (i.e., health, wealth, justice, family, happiness), and their attainment of
that goal can influence their experience around that passage of time. For example, people may feel younger or
older based upon their perceptions of wellness, influencing their own perceptions of their psychological age.��

How, then, do we make use of that life that we have? This, too, is often cultural. For many, as people learn how to
navigate a context over the lifespan, people begin to develop more competence in creating elements of their own
circumstances and controlling their experience of their own situation—until adulthood, that is, when people begin
to recognize larger social and cultural constraints.�� Indeed, the ways that we approach our use of time in our life
is almost exclusively cultural in nature, whether we focus on accomplishing many things at once, known as
polychronism, or on focusing our attention essentially on one thing at a time, whether a conversation with a
person or an artistic endeavor or a job at one’s place of employment, a cultural perspective known as
monochronism.�� Focusing on a couple tasks at once (e.g., dual-tasking) or even more than two tasks at once
(e.g., multitasking) does not necessarily mean that more things are accomplished well in a limited time frame,
however. Many scholars have found that dual-tasking (or multitasking) generally results in poorer performance on
both tasks (whether communicative or instrumental tasks). Indeed, these tasks are typically being done with lesser
ease and dexterity—and therefore, lesser success—than situations where one’s attention is focused solely on the
main task at hand.�� Take a look at this chapter’s Measure feature to gain insight into your own attitudes toward

Box ��.� Measure
Self-Assessments and Cultural Time

As we discussed earlier, research has shown that people may vary on the degree to which they think about
the future. Indeed, some people are more likely to dwell upon or communicate about the past, while others
are more interested in the present and in current events. While people likely vary as a combination of
culture, personal experience, family history, and other individual factors, one’s cultural time orientation
influences individual choices more than we are inclined to think.

Scholars have discovered a set of questions that help us to understand just how much of a certain type of
future orientation someone has, specifically using a series of statements that help us better measure how
much we think about the possible future outcomes of our current actions. The following is a shortened and
modified subset of questions derived from the researchers’ ways of assessing an individual’s perspective
on these future consequences.��, ��

Instructions: Think carefully about your responses to the following statements. To what extent do you
agree that these statements are characteristic of your own behaviors or attitudes? Then, write the number
(e.g., � through �) that best corresponds with your attitudes toward each statement.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7



Disagree Somewhat


Undecided Somewhat


Agree Strongly



I typically try to worry about today; tomorrow will take care of itself later.


I think it is more important to work on a long-term goal than a short-term one.


My convenience in the moment really influences the choices I make.


I try to plan for the future, and that impacts my day-to-day life.


I don’t need to make sacrifices now because I can work harder later.


I take warnings about negative consequences seriously because it is important to think
about the future.

Add up your scores for the three even numbered questions above, and then subtract the scores from the
three odd numbered questions above. The lowest score you can receive on this assessment is -��, while
the highest score is ��. If your final score is above �, then you are more likely to care about the future and
about the consequences that could result from your future behavior. The higher the number over �, the
more you care. If your final score is below �, then you are less likely to care about planning for future

consequences. A negative score close to � means you don’t really care that much, while a very large
negative score means you are much more focused on the present than on the future you might

MEASURE: Are you surprised by your finding? Did you expect to be more focused on the future or more
focused on the present? Think about the things that you do in your daily life. Are they more about planning
or are they more about living in the moment?

From the smell of fresh ground coffee that reminds you of the cozy bagel shop down the street to the whiff of
gasoline that immediately takes you back to the first time you got to fill up your parent’s car on your own, scents
and smells in our environment can almost immediately activate a memory of a place or a situation where you have
smelled that scent before. As discussed in Chapter �, the nonverbal code that deals with scent or smell is known
as olfactics, and this code is relative to each person’s lived experiences or cultural heritage, sometimes in ways
that share a lot of commonality with people who may have had similar experiences or backgrounds. For example,
almost every person that grew up going to a Disney park on either coast is immediately taken back to their
childhood when they smell bromine, the water-purifying chemical used on water rides like Splash Mountain or—
even more noticeable because of the lack of breeze removing the smell—the crowd favorite Pirates of the
Caribbean. Fortunately for many people, this scent of bromine, or other strong scents like the smell of coffee or
gasoline, might be tied with a positive or neutral memory, but not all memories are positive and therefore not all
scents associated with that memory are positive, either. Interestingly, it is our own personal experience that often
determines whether we have a positive memory associated with a particular smell.

It is for this reason—the fact that certain memories are often associated with particular scents or scent families—
that nonverbal scholars typically describe the nonverbal code of olfactics as unique because it is composed of an
evaluative continuum. That is, people often describe smells almost exclusively as “good” smells or “bad” smells
or somewhere in between, with the positive or negative description of that smell often based almost entirely upon
the meaning that one has ascribed to it. In Figure ��.�, we see an example of an evaluative continuum, as well as
some particular scents that may be common to a variety of people in North America.


Figure ��.� An Example of One Person’s Olfactic Evaluative Continuum

Interestingly, when compared with other creatures we humans aren’t actually that great at picking up on smells, a
concept that applies to most primates like humans as well (which in veterinary circles is known as microsmatic or
having a poor sense of smell��). This is fascinating, given the range of smells that we can in fact smell! Consider
the smell of your food, your bath products, the dirt on your hands after pulling weeds, and the scent of a freshly
washed dog; each of these smells seems strong and noteworthy to us as humans, yet it pales in comparison to
the smells that the vast majority of other creatures can detect. Scholars don’t yet know how many different
discrete smells we can actually detect as humans (they estimate between ��,��� different smells to an essentially
infinite number of scents��) but even with our limited capacity the ability to smell is an important sense, and can

allow us to receive a range of important messages about the people and objects we encounter in our everyday

Active Scents

The presence of scent in a communication environment is not always accidental or situationally caused. Indeed,
particularly in North America, we actively engage in using smell to communicate information or to set a mood. Visit
any mall and you can see the application of scholarship on using smell in marketing and shopping.�� I imagine
that it would be very easy to think of at least a couple stores that you pass by that are known by an almost-
overpowering signature scent.

How does your local Hollister store or Cinnabon always smell the same? The stores are often pumping scent
throughout the shared space. This use of smell in creating a sense of place and experience is often originally
attributed to the early applications found in Disney parks. Although quaintly named, this savvy marketing ploy
created an entire industry, and much research highlights the early versions of the “smellitzer” which would pump
smells of delicious sweet treats to drive business in the early days of Disneyland.��, ��, ��, �� Nowadays, these
smellitzers are even more actively deployed throughout the resorts, fragrancing hotel lobbies and ride queues and
eating establishments to set a mood and drive behavior and experience.

Other active scents are also such a part of our daily experience in North America that they often go unnoticed,
such as the colognes and perfumes, deodorants, body washes, shampoos, laundry detergents, lotions, and hair
products that fragrance us as we go about our lives. Interestingly, the more that people are immersed in a scent
(either a good scent or a bad scent), the more they get used to that scent, often experiencing what is known as a
smell adaptation��, �� wherein people get desensitized to a smell after repeated exposure. You may notice this
yourself if you switch to a new body wash or deodorant for the day and keep smelling yourself and being surprised
by your new scent; while your old body wash or deodorant likely smelled just as strongly, you had become used to
that particular smell or set of smells because of your repeated use of that product. This can happen for scents on
our bodies, scents that we encounter regularly outside, or even the smells that we use regularly in our homes.
Brock lives in California’s central coast, in a town known for producing a particular agricultural crop. Although he
and his family don’t notice the smell, when his new girlfriend Maybelle visited his town she commented that all she
could smell is a pervasive odor of fresh garlic. Because Brock and all of his neighbors were used to smelling the
ambient garlic scent during the summer months, they didn’t even notice it anymore; Maybelle, however,
immediately sprayed her own perfume all over her hotel room so that it smelled more familiar and more pleasant
to her sensitive sensibilities. A few days later into the visit, however, and Maybelle noticed neither the garlic odor
nor the excessive perfume she had doused throughout her room in order to create a mood. Look at this chapter’s
Apply feature to see an example of people using active scents in their home environment to influence a particular

Box ��.� Apply
Using Scents to Communicate Mood

Kenzie and Guillaume were finally selling the house that had been theirs for the past �� years. Purchased
as a fixer-upper a few months before their wedding, both Kenzie and Guillaume had put hours of
backbreaking work and do-it-yourself panache into the remodeling and redecorating of their two-bedroom
midcentury ranch home. From refinishing the hardwood floors to retiling the entire kitchen and bathrooms,
both had spent much of their time and their finances on the shared project. Now that they were putting the
space on the market, they were interested in getting the highest possible price point. They thought the
décor was great for an upwardly mobile young family, and wanted to make sure the space conveyed that
the house was fresh and modern while also being cozy and a place that could become a real home. Their
realtor neighbor had encouraged them to pay special attention to the scents and smells of the house,
something they had not together considered before hearing the suggestion.�� Kenzie made cinnamon rolls
on the morning of the open house, allowing the smell of the fresh-baked treat to waft throughout the
kitchen area. In the open foyer area that featured an Eichler-style sunroom, Kenzie had planted new basil
and rosemary plants, certain to smell fresh and distinctive while still remaining familiar. For his part,
Guillaume fired up the band saw in the garage, allowing the scent of freshly cut pine boards to help mask
some of the pet odors that had built up after a few years of litter boxes had been allowed to change the
smell of the garage. Even their young daughter Rose got in on the action, spraying linen-scented air
fresheners in the bathrooms and lighting strong vanilla-scented candles in each of the bedrooms. With a
last quick pass through the rooms and a brief step outside to make sure that the new cedar bark next to
the driveway was in place and smelling fresh, both Kenzie and Guillaume took a moment to reflect on the
years spent together in the place before welcoming the realtors inside who were currently leaning on their
waist-high fence while wheeling and dealing on their phones and waiting for the official beginning of the
Spring Open House season.

For their part, both Guillaume and Kenzie worked quite hard to make sure that the whole house—including
the garage and the walkway up to the front door—were not only presentable but also memorably scented.
Indeed, many of the realtors were seen taking a deep breath during their tour and nodding with approval.
Rose noted the impact that the whole family’s efforts seemed to have on people, and marveled at the small
cost that the olfactic messages required. Suddenly remembering her gym locker at school, Rose decided
that maybe other areas of her life needed a little more scent-based attention in order to help life be a little

APPLY: While you may be many years off from selling your own house, there are likely many places that
you could better attend to the olfactory experiences of people who enter your space. Consider the places
in your own life that immediately make you think of good smells and an attention to scent-related detail.
What do all these places have in common? What is one easy, low-cost step that you can take to make
your own life smell just a little more enjoyably?

Passive Scents

Interestingly, some scholars have discussed the more primal nature of scents, particularly emphasizing those that
are not intentionally applied or selected, but rather those for which we have acquired a reaction, often of a
subconscious nature. These olfactory forms of communication we will label as passive scents, highlighting that
these smells are often unintentional and are rarely at the forefront of our awareness, even if they influence our
behavior in significant ways.

Consider, for example, the unpleasant smell of days-old sweat and the locker room-style odors associated with
hard work or working out. These bodily smells (typically referred to as body odor) are not intentionally selected
for by the person who is smelly; indeed, one typically gains such a smell as the result of some other activity like
physical exertion or a decided lack of frequent bathing. How are these smells communicative? Well, humans have
evolutionary reasons for interpreting body odors�� on a known or unknown other, as such information can
subconsciously indicate the health and activity level of the other person. We can learn a lot about someone based
upon the way that they smell, and many people believe that the majority of that learned information is not
consciously perceived by the receiver.

Smells can also serve as an indication of one’s overall health, and some research has even found that we can
unintentionally let others know about our basic genetic makeup through barely perceptible pheromones that we
give off, influencing the sexual interest that someone might have toward us.�� Hilariously, much of the research on
these concepts have literally involved people smelling unwashed body parts or soiled clothing, a quite
uncomfortable mental image for readers of this text. Despite the awkward methodology, the research has been
fruitful. In fact, some researchers have suggested that a person’s physical attractiveness can even be identified
just by smelling the dirty laundry of a potential sexual partner, although not all of these studies have been
conclusive.�� Regardless of whether that smell indicates attraction, almost all mammals have a scent signature
that is not only unique to each species, but also unique to each individual mammal within that species.��, ��, ��

That’s right! Just like your fingerprints, your smell is uniquely yours alone. Look at this chapter’s Examine box to
see the responsibility we have in evaluating our own and others’ smells.

Box ��.� Examine
The Ethics of Evaluation

Each culture has different norms for what is considered acceptable behaviors, as we have discussed
regularly throughout the text. In addition, cultures also have different norms for facial expressions, physical
appearance, and—relevant particularly to this chapter—hygiene or smell. Across the course of human
history, the smell of one’s humanity (e.g., a living, breathing mammal that sweats and poops and has
distinctive body and sexual odors) has been gradually and systematically deodorized,�� such that modern
humans rarely smell, well, human. While many may say this is a particularly North American behavior (and
admittedly, we do give great importance to hygiene and smell) many Western cultures have lessened the
smells that would have pervaded both the inside and outside of one’s home. Students traveling abroad
often comment on the smells they encounter—both good and bad—as they travel through the bakeries
and public transportation systems and restaurants and restrooms of regional areas both Western and non-
Western. American and Canadian people often use soaps to strip smells, and they apply a variety of
lotions and deodorants and colognes or perfumes and products with scents in order to change the very
essence of our olfactory contribution to our surroundings.

Knowing, however, that many of us reading this text are part of the international minority of people
obsessed with smell, what are we to do when we encounter those who are differently inclined toward
deodorizing their bodies, homes, or public spaces? Even more importantly, we must consider how we treat

people within our own region who do not have a cultural background that encourages such behavior. In
addition, it is important to also consider how we treat people within our own region who do not have the
financial means or the opportunity to maintain this deodorized-and-then-perfumed vanity that is so highly
prized throughout much of North America. Just because someone is “smelly” doesn’t mean they have no
worth, although one would be hard-pressed to find people who act accordingly.

EXAMINE: Consider your own attitude toward people whose homes or bodies don’t smell according to the
typical American norms. Does this naturally mean that these people are unhygienic or the places are
unclean? What attitudes do you find yourself inclined toward in these situations? Consider your immediate
reactions in such an encounter. How might you better take into account someone’s cultural background or
someone’s financial ability to meet the standard that you find normal? Or to the contrary, if you don’t
recognize the standard North American attitude toward deodorization, what does that say about your own
experiences in navigating the social landscape? How can we all (regardless of background) make more
ethical choices about affirming the worth of people and places regardless of our easily offended

Interestingly, in addition to perceiving the passive smells associated with individual identity, we are also perceiving
smells that relate to reproduction and other biosexual behaviors. In fact, some scholars talk about how
reproductive synchrony (also known as menstrual synchrony)—the hotly debated empirically weak
phenomenon that is still taught in most introductory psychology classes—is likely due to olfactic scents
subconsciously perceived.��, ��, �� The main idea behind this concept is that women who are living together often
regulate their menstrual cycles with one another, and this is evolutionarily adapted so that one man could (in
theory) enter the household and impregnate all fertile women at the same time, thereby giving all the women in
that household equal chance at successfully having children. While the explanation for these behaviors are clearly
outdated for how people live their lives nowadays, it is clear that the scents and smells that we consciously and
subconsciously perceive can influence not only our emotions but also our basic biological functions. Pretty

Nonverbal communication can both reflect and also create a culture, and a couple codes highlight this cultural
significance more than most any other codes. The time-based code of chronemics highlights not only our attitudes
toward biological and psychological time, but also influences the things we think about and the ways we talk about
those things. The scent-based code of olfactics allows us many ways to react to the smells in our experience as
based upon our own cultural assumptions about those smells. In addition, we also actively apply smells and even
passively create scents that are both communicative and reactionary to the experiences that we are having in our
daily lives. By serving as a mirror that allows us to see and better examine our own assumptions about the roles of
both olfactics and chronemics, we can better navigate those situations where diverse others have someone
different approaches to daily life.


Knowing the role of one’s background in influencing reactions toward smells, what experiences can you point
toward that have influenced your preferences for specific scents?

Having considered your own cultural experiences, how might you characterize your own cultural time orientation?

Knowing the relationship between culture and both the chronemic and olfactic nonverbal codes, what might you
do to influence the next generation of your family in order to better navigate their daily life?


biological clock ���

body odor ���

chronological time ���

circadian rhythm ���

committed non-work time ���

delayed gratification ���

dual-tasking ���

epigenetic clock ���

evaluative continuum ���

formal time ���

future orientation ���

menstrual synchrony ���

microsmatic ���

monochronism ���

multitasking ���

non-committed time ���

passive scents ���

past orientation ���

polychronism ���

present orientation ���

procrastinate ���

reproductive synchrony ���

scent signature ���

smell adaptation ���

standard time ���

subjective time ���

technical time ���

time horizon ���

time perspective ���

work time ���

Descriptions of Images and Figures
Back to Figure

In this scale, the pleasantness is rated as extremely pleasant, neutral, or extremely unpleasant. The different
items are as follows:

Fresh baked bread: extremely pleasant

Vanilla: extremely pleasant

Lavender: neutral

Gasoline: neutral

Chlorine: extremely unpleasant

Dog poop: extremely unpleasant

Vomit: extremely unpleasant.


Learning Objectives
After reading this chapter, you will be able to do the following:

Revisit models of communication

Review nonverbal codes

Consider strategies for nonverbal success moving forward

Best friends since kindergarten, Bayani and Louie have learned a great deal in their respective majors over time,
and graduation is nearing. While Bayani is graduating with his associate’s degree and plans to head off to the
state university just one city away, Louie feels like he is “finally” receiving his bachelor of arts degree almost �
years after having started. Louie’s recent medical scare worried both Bayani’s and Louie’s families, but they were
privileged to still be able to get great medical care through Louie’s family’s medical insurance. Although Bayani
and Louie rarely talked about it, Bayani used nonverbal communication to regularly communicate his support,
love, and affection. Louie’s parents were thrilled that Bayani was still in town at the community college and able to
offer so much of his time during Louie’s hospitalization. For his part, Bayani felt like the praise was a bit much;
after all, he did what any good friend would do: sitting together and playing video games for hours on end,
sneaking in fast food when Louie couldn’t keep the hospital food down, and giving Louie his full undivided
attention whenever he needed to vent. Bayani didn’t realize that those simple nonverbal messages of love,
interest, openness, and support were exactly what Louie needed, while also at the same time freeing up his
parents to spend a little more time away from the hospital. After all, that good medical insurance only covered care
that occurred while Louie’s dad was still working full time …

Guiding Questions
In what ways can nonverbal communication substitute for verbal communication?

How has an understanding of the nonverbal communication codes increased our communication

What strategies for communicating should we consider moving forward?

In this book, we define nonverbal communication as “any communicative characteristic or behavior that
intentionally or unintentionally conveys a message without the use of verbal language.”� Just like all other forms of
messaging, nonverbal messages follow the same communication patterns as verbal messaging, and that very
same transactional model of communication that we talked about in Chapter � clearly applies to both verbal and
nonverbal messaging alike. Indeed, one of the major differences isn’t necessarily process based, but rather that
nonverbal communication is often more likely to be believed or trusted, in part because of the primacy that
nonverbal messages have in each of our own lives and also in our shared human history.

Grant and Nadine had become close friends during their study abroad trip in France, treating one another more
like siblings than like the romantic partners that many of their mutual friends had hoped they might become. In
fact, romance is the furthest thing from each of their minds at the moment, not because they find each other
unattractive but because neither have even hinted at the possibility of that sort of relationship. Although they each
have had other potential romantic partners who claimed only to be “friends,” both Grant and Nadine had never
once looked longingly at one another, nor allowed a touch to linger, nor even behaved anything but chastely
toward each other. While they have many memories together and clearly know a lot about each other’s personal
lives from their history as close friends, neither Grant nor Nadine have used nonverbal behaviors that hinted at
anything more than the platonic relationship status that each claims they are looking for.

Communication Potential of the Codes

As we know, we typically simultaneously use multiple nonverbal codes in an individual interaction. Depending
upon the context in which your interaction with another person is occurring, it is possible that some of the different
nonverbal codes that you are using may have greater potential for successfully sending a message than other
codes. For example, when Geneva wants to let her classmate know that she has a crush on her, relying on the
scent-based code of olfactics is probably an ineffective strategy for sending that particular message. Does this
mean that Geneva should not consider the role of scent in attraction at all? Certainly not. Geneva could perhaps
attract her crush’s attention by wearing a particularly lovely signature scent, but she may have more success in
letting her know that she likes her by using a combination of facial expressions and touch. It’s amazing how clear
a message can be, when it is sent by a smile and a lingering handshake or even a high five that lasts just a little
longer than one would otherwise expect. In what ways do you guess certain codes to have more communication
potential in certain contexts?

In her seminal work on nonverbal communication, scholar Judee Burgoon and her colleagues described some
important things to note about the communication potential of nonverbal codes, summarized as follows:�

Kinesics—This code is the largest in terms of possible cues, and a communicator can simultaneously use
multiple kinesic behaviors at the same time to clarify or nuance their intended message. In addition, humans
have been enculturated to pay attention to the kinesic behaviors they see exhibited by other people, so from
an early age, people acquire an understanding of how to use and interpret these motion-based behaviors.

Proxemics—Changes in interpersonal distance are likely to be very physiologically arousing to an individual,
resulting in a fight-or-flight type of response should the intention of the sender prove to be negative. Like the
communication potential of the other contact code, haptics, the use of close interpersonal distance will
typically imply that one’s partner feels either of two polar ends of the spectrum: those ends being threat or
affection. In order to determine whether one’s interaction partner is more likely to be angry or happy, one
must look at the multitude of other nonverbal and verbal behaviors that indicate their emotional state.

Haptics—Like proxemics, the use of touch is physiologically arousing and therefore incredibly noticeable to
the recipient, who immediately looks at other verbal and nonverbal messages to determine the intent of the
sender, an intention which may otherwise go undiscovered had the behavior been not quite so arousing.

Oculesics—In terms of the potential for understanding someone else’s nonverbal behaviors, the use of one’s
eyes is among the most important senses for the observation of both proximal and distal nonverbal
messages that are visual in nature. In terms of sending messages, however, eye contact is somewhat
ambiguous to receivers in terms of whether an interaction partner is communicating threat or affection. As
such, an individual often has to rely on additional nonverbal and verbal cues to make the distinction
regarding one’s emotional state.

Vocalics—The range of variation across the myriad potential features of vocalic behaviors is quite large, and
people typically learn at an early age how to carefully and intentionally craft their own vocal sounds in order
to reflect their relational meaning, informational content, and emotional tone. When occurring alongside
verbal language, vocalics may be the nonverbal code with the greatest discretion in creating and sharing
meaning within interpersonal encounters.

Physical Appearance—Many features of this nonverbal code have a great ability to be varied or changed
based upon the desired goals of the message sender, but at the same time certain aspects of physical
appearance are unable to be easily changed in order to influence the message that people receive. In
addition, if a sender wishes to alter their message partway through an interaction, they are often limited in
the ability to do so. Even more difficulty is confronted as someone interprets an aspect of another’s physical
appearance when that feature is not intended to be communicative; people are often judged on appearance
cues over which they have little or no knowledge or control.

Environment—As mentioned in Chapter ��, the environmental code is much more about acquiring culturally
relevant reactions to a space rather than about shaping the communicative content of the space itself. One
exception would likely be the selection of artifacts or other recognizable elements within a space, as some
environmental features may have culturally agreed-upon meanings that can offer individuals guidance about
what actions should be accomplished or in what manner people should communicate.

Olfactics—Because scents are often characterized on a continuum from “good” to “bad,” many scents may
be ambiguous in their communication potential. That being said, in North American culture it is typically quite
important to remove or limit many of the scents that remind us of our biology (e.g., body odor, bad breath,
flatulence) in order to present oneself as hygienic, a prized state in our culture. Other more communicative
scents that might be hormonal in nature are typically processed subconsciously, and are therefore more
difficult to intentionally manage from situation to situation.

Chronemics—Finally, the communication potential of the chronemic code is minimal, with chronemic
characteristics likely more influenced by one’s individual interaction with a culture’s attitude toward time than
by specific chronemic nonverbal behaviors.

Even though each nonverbal code is useful, the context in which that nonverbal code is employed can
dramatically change the overall utility of that code. Using which code do you imagine is your “easiest” way to send
a message to the people that you care about? How does the content of that message influence your choice of

Now that you have seen many examples of nonverbal communication codes in action in each of the chapters, it
becomes useful to consider how your newfound understanding of nonverbal messaging will impact your own
personal consumption of popular media across movies, television, and social media. While you may occasionally
find yourself more sensitive to the overall nonverbal messages that are being conveyed by a content creator, you
may also be able to more easily pick up on subtle clues from those actors and characters that you encounter
across your media consumption. This is important, as research has shown that people are less likely to think
deeply about persuasive messages when they are focusing on many of these nonverbal messages (e.g.,
attractiveness, charisma) which may hurt our later judgments.�, � At the same time, the availability of multiple
channels of information (e.g., verbal and nonverbal) can simultaneously add to our overall understanding of a
situation� while also causing us to focus more on one message channel than another.� Clearly, we will have to
become more critical consumers of content as we approach popular media moving forward. Productions

With a better understanding of nonverbal communication comes an increased responsibility to use that knowledge
responsibly. In fact, some people become concerned that courses in practical communication skills might give
people the ability to more easily manipulate the other persons in their lives. At this point, ethical choices become
quite important, perhaps even more important than in many other disciplines. Knowing how to influence others
and gain their compliance makes a communicator in some ways responsible for any subsequent outcomes that
may result from their communication—whether that communication influences the decision-making process for a
corporation deciding which medical drug to market, a recent college graduate deciding which person to marry, or a
newly elected politician deciding whether to take the campaign donation offered by a bigoted constituent.

In addition to making choices about when to use our learned knowledge about how best to communicate
messages—something of great import in sensitive contexts like health care or political decision-making as well as
our daily interactions with others�—we may also be influenced (unjustly) by our cultural assumptions about race,
gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, ability, or a variety of other sociodemographic characteristics of another
person.� Our natural inclination toward similarity may make life easier, but that ease of mental processing when
we feel we and another person are alike may also cause us to ignore or even discredit the attitudes, values,
beliefs, opinions, and actions of people we encounter who are dissimilar to ourselves.

Hopefully your newfound knowledge of nonverbal behavior has influenced your understanding of the diverse ways
in which we may be inclined to think or behave, given that we are all motivated by similar desires or hopes—even
if our apparent manner of approaching those goals seem significantly different from one another. The fundamental
driving forces for human behavior are relatively similar in origin regardless of one’s background or belief,� a claim
which may seem surprisingly controversial in current Western political thought.

One of the best ways to address the diversity that we engage in our daily life is to recognize and acknowledge
those moments when someone appears to be—or expresses oneself as—different from our self, and then to
examine our own assumptions about what specific nonverbal codes might have contributed to our sense of
difference. Nan and Claudia, for example, immediately were wary of one another when they first met one another
waiting in line for the mail at their residence hall on campus. Claudia, for her part, was studying abroad in North
America and had a different approach to queueing or lining up at the mail center. In her Central European home
country, she typically stood much closer to people in line than felt comfortable to Nan (or honestly, most anyone
studying at her North American university). Inadvertently, Nan felt like Claudia was trying to rush her, and
immediately expressed her discomfort by responding with an angry stare, an experience which surprised Claudia
who knew not what she had done to irritate the other student. Registering the look of surprise, Nan thought of her
nonverbal communication course last semester and immediately questioned her assumptions. After a few
moments, Nan turned back to Claudia and commented on her flag pin on her backpack, asking her if she was
studying abroad from her home country. What began as a confrontational encounter led to a learning experience
for each young woman.

In this text, we have had plenty of opportunities to assess our own thoughts and behaviors. Each of the surveys,
quizzes, and self-assessments in these chapters has highlighted an opportunity to better understand the self by
using measures based upon social science research. This research-driven characteristic of these assessments is
an important point, as much of our popular media encourages us to make life decisions based upon what may
prove to be untested or even unfounded assessment formats. The relationship quizzes that one finds in a beauty
magazine, for example, may be an interesting way to prompt our own thinking about a topic but may offer
relatively underdeveloped insights into our own life experiences. Many of the online quizzes that we see in popular
websites and apps are not based on much more than an author’s whim; while fun, it is unlikely that one can truly
discover which Harry Potter character is his or her soulmate based solely upon a handful of photo-based

Each self-assessment that one encounters throughout life—yes, even those based entirely upon extant (i.e.,
preexisting) published research—must be taken with a grain of salt, however, as a variety of factors may influence
one’s responses that the researchers have not considered. Indeed, think about the variety of life experiences and
personality traits that may have uniquely influence your own nonverbal behaviors or your subsequent reactions to
the nonverbal behaviors of others. It is not difficult to think of at least one factor that has not been fully vetted by
researchers in most every research project. This is how social science is intended to work, in fact! Scholars test
an idea and make an assertion under a variety of conditions, and then further additional research serves to test

that same idea under slightly different conditions or in unique contexts, broadening our understanding of that
concept. It’s best to hold our newfound understandings of ourselves with an open hand, using our own knowledge
and founded intuition to help us continue to test and explore a truer understanding of the self.

One of the most basic motivations that people have as they pursue an education is to immediately apply those
concepts that they have learned to their daily life. In high school geometry classes, unfortunately, many people
may find it relatively difficult to quickly attach relevant meaning to the concepts that they are learning. In a course
on nonverbal communication, however, people can almost immediately begin to explain and describe the things
that they are observing and feeling using the ideas that they have learned in that very same week. Subsequently,
the application of those principles that they have learned is also relatively easy to do, as we can quickly change
some aspects of our nonverbal behavior almost immediately upon having discovered a new set of behaviors
which we can now consciously engage.

Phil was surprised to learn from trusted friends that he was guilty of seeming too self-important in his leadership
role in his fraternal Greek-letter organization. As the newly elected president, he had made sure to regularly
position himself in a roomful of peers in the most visible and most esteemed locations, even when no formal
proceedings needed to occur. After having learned in his communication courses about the trappings of power
and authority, he suddenly realized that he needed to present himself more as an egalitarian leader and less of an
authoritarian leader. In applying nonverbal concepts about positions of power, he soon found himself engaging in
simple roundtable discussions at the same level of his peers, leading to more fruitful dialogue and more eager
participation among younger initiates into his organization. Had he not taken advantage of the application of his
newfound knowledge, it is entirely possible that he would have had a presidency most characterized by his former
aloof or even disconnected leadership style.

Our study of nonverbal communication has given us greater insight into the breadth and diversity of human
messaging, in addition to the breadth and diversity of not only individual experience but also broader cultural
experiences. By looking at each nonverbal code individually and then remembering the importance of processing
all available nonverbal messages as a gestalt, one can better avail oneself of the wide range of possible options
that can further a receiver’s understanding of a nonverbal message. For someone who has learned much about
nonverbal communication, it is important to communicate in an ethical manner and in a way that can be
understood by diverse groups of people. As we together apply the information that we have learned about
nonverbal communication, we can continue to refine our understanding of the variety of communicative
characteristics or behaviors that, intentionally or unintentionally, convey a message without the use of verbal

Having learned so much about nonverbal communication, in what ways have you chosen to replace words with
nonverbal messages in your own life?

Which code(s) do you find yourself regularly engaging, and why do you notice those codes more than other ones?

People often say that knowing is half the battle, but where have you applied your newfound knowledge about
nonverbal communication?

accent –

The distinct or atypical pronunciation of specific words as a function of region, national origin, socioeconomic
class, or other cultural influences.

accommodation –
The movement away from or toward one another, accomplished by adapting one’s communication style.

adaptors –
The category of kinesic behaviors that allow an individual to relieve extra energy, that indicate arousal, or
that indicate heightened awareness.

adornments –
The regular objects or items of clothing that we wear (e.g., clothing, jewelry, hats, sunglasses).

affect display –
A facial expression that depicts the sender’s expressed emotional state.

Affection Exchange Theory –
A theory arguing that individuals have developed affection behaviors over the course of human history as a
way of demonstrating that they would be a good parent, thus activating the partner’s drive to procreate and
produce children.

affirmative consent –
A situation where each (or all) partners assent and say “yes” to engaging in each type of physical or sexual
activity with one another before beginning that activity.

ambient noise –
Barely noticeable background noise that adds energy or slightly perceptible sound to an environment.

analog representation –
Communication where components of a message have a direct relationship to the thing that is being

analytic comprehension –
Analyzing or critiquing the messages and implications of an interaction in order to determine the truth or
veracity associated with that messaging.

androgynous –
A culturally defined set of social behaviors that are generally believed to represent both masculinity and

approach cues –
Those nonverbal cues that indicate that an individual is open to interacting with another person.

architectural style –

The combination of all fixed feature elements in a specific space.

arousing –
Stimulating or causing awareness.

articulation –
The vocal property associated with words or sounds being spoken in a clear manner, where each syllable is
distinct and easily heard by the receiver of the message.

artifacts –
The regular objects we use or keep with us throughout our daily lives.

Attachment Theory –
A theory arguing that a person’s early experiences with touch and attention as an infant might influence that
person’s later self-identity and means of relating to others around them.

attention stage –
The first step of message processing, this stage involves attending to an interaction partner.

attribution –
The outcome of assigning cause for specific behaviors to another individual.

avoidance cues –
Those nonverbal cues that indicate that an individual is unwilling to or uninterested in interacting with
another person.

bilateral symmetry –
The degree of similarity between the left and right side of the face.

biological clock –
The physiological sense of time that governs a variety of biological functions.

body modifications –
Nonnatural features of one’s body that become permanent or semipermanent, including but not limited to
tattoos, piercings, scarifications, brandings, and certain forms of plastic surgery.

body odor –
Often falling at the “bad” end of the evaluative continuum, these scents are the by-product of normal human
bodily functions.

body orientation –
The degree to which someone is facing their torso in the direction of a potential interaction partner.

body-image dysphoria –
The condition of obsessively believing oneself to have more body fat than one actually does, and working to
correct this perceived imbalance.

breathiness –
The sound of a voice that has an ethereal or airy quality to it, as though the speaker (or singer) is breathing
out while simultaneously speaking (or while singing).

building materials –
The specific composition and type of elements used in the construction of a particular space.

channel –
The means of transmitting a message (e.g., auditory, visual).

channel reliance –
The tendency to pay more attention to specific channel types when perceiving specific types of messages.

chronemics –
The nonverbal code dealing with communication through the ways that we use time.

chronological time –
The discrete measurement of the passage of moments along a continuum.

circadian rhythm –
The biological clock that follows a ��-hour cycle in order to regulate hormones and other natural functions
necessary to survive.

closed body orientation –
The state of facing one’s torso and belly away from a potential interaction partner.

committed non-work time –
Time that is planned or spoken for already, but where that commitment is not related to one’s job or career.

Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT) –
A theory that considers the ways we manage our nonverbal behaviors to become more or less similar to an
interaction partner in our communication style or manner.

complementarity –
The characteristic of beneficial difference, or observing positively valenced unique characteristics from

comprehension stage –
The second step of messaging processing, this stage involves attempting to understand (rather than just
hear or see) an interaction partner’s verbal or nonverbal messages.

conspicuous consumption –
The purchase of luxury goods or the spending of extra money in a visible way in order to be seen by others
and gain prestige.

context –
The setting in which communication occurs.

control touch –
The direction or influence of attitudes, emotions, attention, or behaviors of an interaction partner through the
use of interpersonal touch.

convergence –

Adapting one’s interaction style in such a manner that one displays oneself as more similar to an interaction

cultural appropriation –
The using of elements of another person’s culture (e.g., Japanese kimonos or Native American
headdresses) but removing them from the original context, thereby simplifying both the elements themselves
as well as the culture as a whole.

cultural relativist position –
The perspective that producing and recognizing facial expressions is a product of one’s culture-specific
learned behaviors.

decoding –
The process of converting a message into thoughts or ideas.

delayed gratification –
The ability to wait for a later reward by accomplishing some task now or by conserving the use of resources
in the present.

deviation –
Amount of difference from what is expected.

dialogic comprehension –
Seeking to co-construct shared meaning and understanding through conversation and dialogue.

digital representation –
Communication where components of a message have an arbitrary relationship to the thing that is being

dismissive attachment –
This attachment style is characterized by confidence in one’s self but a belief that one’s attachment partner
may not be able to meet one’s needs. A dismissively attached individual is likely to believe “I’m okay but
you’re not okay.”

display rules –
Learned cultural norms that dictate how one is supposed to display (or not display) emotion within one’s

divergence –
Adapting one’s interaction style in such a manner that one displays oneself as more different as compared to
an interaction partner.

dual-tasking –
Working on doing two tasks at the same time.

ectomorphs –
The somatotype characterized by little muscle or fat and a tall height, resulting in a longer, leaner build.

emojis –
Graphics that may, in part, replicate facial expressions or other visual cues.

emoticons –
Text-based images that may, in part, replicate facial expressions or other visual cues.

empathic comprehension –
Developing an understanding of a conversation partner to adopt their perspective and interpret the world
through that perspective.

emphasis –
The stress placed upon either syllables or whole words in order to make them stand out as important or
significant in context of the rest of that utterance.

encoding –
The process of converting thoughts or ideas into a message.

endomorphs –
The somatotype characterized by more fatty tissue and a shorter height, resulting in a rounder, plumper, or
curvier shape.

environment –
The nonverbal code dealing with communication through features of the context.

environmental noise –
Those environmental features that inhibit communication by making people pay too much attention to their
discomfort and not enough to the social interactions that occur nearby.

environmental sound –
Those environmental features that are audio in nature and help to shape or constrain the communication
that occurs in that particular space.

epigenetic clock –
The biological clock that helps to accurately measure one’s physical age based upon the decline of one’s
DNA chemistry.

evaluative continuum –
A continuum that includes an individual’s evaluation of a concept or object, ranging from “good” at one end
to “bad” at the other end of the continuum.

extrovert –
An individual who gets their energy from social interaction with a variety of others.

eye contact –
A type of gaze where both parties in an interaction look toward one another and their eyes meet.

eye movements –
Any motion-based changes in our direction of gaze, including motions like the rolling of one’s eyes or
“pointing” with the eyes in a specific direction.

fearful-avoidant attachment –
This attachment style is characterized by both a lack of self-worth and a lack of confidence in one’s relational
partner. A fearful-avoidant individual is likely to believe “I’m not okay and you’re not okay.”

feedback –
The verbal and nonverbal responses that someone gives in reaction to a message that they are receiving.

fixed-feature elements –
Those types of elements in a communication environment that are relatively difficult to change.

flat affect –
The facial state in which one displays no emotion at all.

formal time –
The ways that we mark the passage of time within a culture.

functional approach –
An approach to categorizing nonverbal behaviors that puts them in categories related to the function or
intended outcome of the specific act performed (e.g., expressing affection) rather than the structure of that

future orientation –
The time perspective that focuses one’s attention upon the future.

gaze –
An intentional look at a specific person or thing.

gaze avoidance –
The action of actively avoiding the gaze of another individual.

gender –
A culturally defined understanding of what social behaviors are generally believed to be representations of
masculinity, femininity, both, or neither.

haptics –
The nonverbal code dealing with communication through touch and physical contact.

homophily –
The characteristic of liking other people who have perceived similarity to ourselves.

hybrid touch –
The use of multiple forms of interpersonal touch, including combinations of ritualistic touch, control touch,
playful touch, or task-related touch.

identity –
The relatively unchanging or stable set of perceptions or ideas that we hold about ourselves.

identity badges –
The range of nonverbal cues that may trigger an observer to decide whether someone is more similar or
dissimilar to the self, providing a shorthand that people can use to simultaneous express the self and also be
categorized or even stereotyped.

illustrators –

The category of diverse kinesic behaviors that involve using hand motions in order to communicate a
message or to aid in the communication of a message.

interactional primacy –
The characteristic of having come first over the course of an interaction with a specific person or persons.

intermodal matching –
The process of learning what facial expressions are culturally normative for what emotional situations.

intimate zone –
Ranging from � inches to �� inches, this is the closest of Hall’s interpersonal distances and is reserved for
one’s closest few interpersonal relationships.

introvert –
An individual who gets their energy from time spent alone or with a small number of others.

kinesics –
The nonverbal code dealing with communication through movements and motion-based behaviors.

kinesthetic awareness –
The knowledge and salience that comes from another person being in close interpersonal proximity, usually
characterized by perceptions of smell, sight, touch, sound, and even sometimes taste.

leading lines –
Lines (straight or curved) in an environment, created either by the architecture of a space or as an
intentional design element.

linear model of communication –
An early model of communication that focuses on the transmission of a verbal or nonverbal message to
another person or persons, focusing specifically on the sender, message, channel, and receiver.

linear perspective –
The way that the lines in a room or space converge or diverge to create a particular sense of height or size
or importance for a variety of elements in that room or space.

maintenance –
Keeping one’s interaction style consistent such that one doesn’t intentionally display oneself as more similar
to or more different from an interaction partner.

male gaze –
The sexual objectification of women’s bodies (or specific body parts of women) by men through prolonged
staring and evaluation.

memory stage –
The third and final step of message processing, this stage involves one’s ability to recall information about
an interaction with a partner.

menstrual synchrony –
Also known as reproductive synchrony, this term describes the possible phenomenon of women’s biological
cycles occurring at the same time after long times living in close proximity to one another.

mere exposure effect –
The situation that emerges when an individual is more likely to be attracted to things or people that they see
frequently, relatively to those things that are rarely or never seen.

mesomorphs –
The somatotype characterized by more muscle and a medium height, resulting in an athletic-looking v-
shaped torso.

message –
A unit of communication that has meaning.

message processing –
A term used to describe the combination of encoding and decoding messages in human interaction.

microexpression –
The innate, incredibly brief flash of emotion on an individual’s face before cultural norms begin to shape a
culturally appropriate facial display.

microsmatic –
Having a poor sense of smell.

monochronism –
The cultural perspective with a focus on accomplishing one thing at a time.

multitasking –
Working on doing multiple tasks at the same time.

muscle dysmorphia –
The condition of obsessively believing one has less muscle mass than one actually does, and working to
correct this perceived imbalance.

mutual gaze –
A type of gaze where both parties in an interaction look toward one another.

nasality –
The sound of a voice that is allowed to resonate through the airways into the nasal cavity.

natural features –
Those nonverbal physical appearance characteristics that are relatively difficult to change.

Neurocultural Theory –
The perspective that producing and recognizing facial expressions is a product of both one’s biologically
based inherited behaviors and also our culture-specific learned behaviors.

noise –
Any barrier to successfully perceiving a message.

non-committed time –
Time that is not planned or spoken for (e.g., free time.)

nonverbal code –
A category of communicative behaviors that have been grouped by nonverbal characteristics that they

nonverbal communication –
Any communicative characteristic or behavior that intentionally or unintentionally conveys a message
without the use of verbal language.

object-adaptor –
The category of kinesic adaptors that involve one relieving extra energy using a physical object, like clicking
the end of a pen or jingling coins in one’s pocket.

oculesics –
The nonverbal code dealing with communication through a variety of eye behaviors.

olfactics –
The nonverbal code dealing with communication through scent.

one-sided gaze –
An unreciprocated type of gaze where one party in an interaction looks toward the other party.

ontogenetic primacy –
The characteristic of having come first across the course of the life span.

open body orientation –
The state of facing one’s torso and belly toward a potential interaction partner.

other-adaptor –
The category of kinesic adaptors that involve one relieving extra energy using parts of another person, like
braiding someone’s hair or mindlessly massaging their hands.

passive scents –
Smells that are unintentional and are not at the forefront of our awareness, even if they influence our

past orientation –
The time perspective that focuses one’s attention upon the past.

patriarchal –
A cultural perspective that don’t see men and women as equals, but rather prioritizes the lived experiences
of male members of society.

pause –
The empty space between words, whether intentional or unintentional.

personal/casual zone –
Ranging from �� inches to around � feet, this is the second closest of Hall’s interpersonal distances and is
reserved for interpersonal relationships like close friends and family members.

phylogenetic primacy –

The characteristic of having come first across any member of a species’ evolutionary history.

physical appearance –
The nonverbal code dealing with communication through the way that we look.

physical noise –
Contextual features like noise or poor lighting that stop a receiver from perceiving a message.

physiognomy –
A variety of facial characteristics that allow for individuals to look significantly different from one another,
often influenced by genetic characteristics like general racial heritage and the specific features of each
person’s parentage.

physiological noise –
A receiver’s physical state like hunger or sleepiness that distracts them from correctly perceiving a message.

pitch –
The sound of a voice that gives it either a “high” or “low” quality.

pitch range –
The degree to which an individual can or does reach a variety of high and low sounds, with women’s pitch
range typically located at a higher frequency than the range of men.

playful touch –
The expression of humor or bringing fun into a situation with an interaction partner through the use of
interpersonal touch.

polychronism –
The cultural perspective with a focus on accomplishing many things at the same time.

positive affect touch –
The expression of positive emotions for an interaction partner through the use of interpersonal touch.

positive consent –
Informed, consensual agreements to engage in a variety of behaviors including, for example, receiving a

preoccupied attachment –
This attachment style is characterized by a lack of self-worth but a confidence in one’s relational partner. A
preoccupied individual is likely to believe “I’m not okay but you’re okay.”

present orientation –
The time perspective that focuses one’s attention upon the present.

primacy –
The characteristic of having come first or before some other referent.

procrastinate –
To put off until a later moment a task or goal that could otherwise be completed at present.

pronunciation –
The way that a word or words are spoken out loud.

proxemic violations –
The situation of an individual getting in closer proximity than one believes is warranted, based upon the
relationship type.

proxemics –
The nonverbal code dealing with communication through personal space and interpersonal distance.

proximity –
The characteristic of physical closeness in geography, or of having closer interpersonal distance.

psychological noise –
A mental state that distracts a receiver from correctly perceiving a message.

public zone –
Ranging anywhere beyond about � feet, this is the most distal of Hall’s interpersonal distances and is an
allowed distance for almost anyone, regardless of relationship.

pupil dilation –
The widening of the dark centers (pupils) of one’s eyes, typically in response to changes in light,
consumption of pharmacological products, or as a display of attraction.

raspiness –
The vocal quality where someone’s voice sounds rough or slightly hoarse or can even be described as
“gravelly” in nature.

rate –
The speed at which a person speaks.

receiver –
Any person perceiving a message.

regulators –
The category of kinesic behaviors that allow interaction partners to more smoothly know when it is their turn
to talk or whether others wish to have a chance to speak or to retain the floor.

relative volume –
The degree of loudness of speech as compared to the other sounds in the environment or to the other

reproductive synchrony –
The possible phenomenon of women’s biological cycles occurring at the same time after long times living in
close proximity.

resonance –
The vocal quality characterized by a deep and reverberating voice, common in television voiceovers.

response latency –

The amount of time it takes to respond to an interaction partner.

rhythm –
The “beat” of one’s speaking voice, typically with a flow or musicality for the delivery of specific words.

ritualistic touch –
Touch that occurs as part of a routine behavior or social script, usually related to greetings and leave-taking

room temperature –
The optimal range of hotness or coldness in a location.

scent signature –
A unique smell that points toward a particular individual within a species, unshared by other members of that

schemata –
A classification or categorization of how we see ourselves.

secure attachment –
This attachment style is characterized by confidence in one’s self and one’s attachment partner. A securely
attached individual is likely to believe “I’m okay and you’re okay.”

self-adaptor –
The category of kinesic adaptors that involve one relieving extra energy using parts of one’s own self, like
biting one’s fingernails or tapping one’s leg repetitively.

self-concept –
The relatively unchanging or stable set of perceptions or ideas that we hold about ourselves.

self-disclosure –
Revealing personal information about the self through verbal conversation.

self-esteem –
The way that we feel (positively or negatively) about our own identity or self-concept.

self-monitoring –
Interpreting feedback about how one’s own performance is being perceived by an audience or an interaction

semantic noise –
Specific unknown words or difficult accents that cause a receiver to incorrectly perceive a message.

semi-fixed-feature elements –
Those types of elements in a communication environment that are relatively easy to change.

sender –
The originator of a message.

sex –

Genital, chromosomal, and hormonal displays of maleness and femaleness.

sexual dimorphism
A state of being wherein a man’s face appears more masculine and a woman’s face appears more feminine.

similarity –
The characteristic of sameness or having things in common with another person.

smell adaptation –
The desensitization to a particular smell after repeated exposure.

social competence –
One’s ability to navigate social settings with grace and aplomb.

Social Identity Theory –
A perspective on identity that suggests that our identity is composed of the various group memberships of
which we claim to be a part.

social intelligence –
One’s understanding about how to navigate social settings with grace and aplomb.

social/consultative zone –
Ranging from around � feet to around � feet, this is one of Hall’s interpersonal distances that allows us to
interact with a variety of others and is an allowable distance for almost any interpersonal relationships or
even transactional interactions with unknown others (e.g., purchasing coffee from a barista).

sociofugal –
A space which minimizes the opportunity for people in that environment to engage one another.

sociopetal –
A space which maximizes the opportunity for people in that environment to engage one another.

somatotype –
One’s body shape.

standard time –
The scientifically based measurement and precise understanding of how time passes.

structural approach –
An approach to categorizing nonverbal behaviors that puts them in categories related to the structure of the
specific act performed (e.g., grabbing someone’s hand) regardless of the function or intended outcome of
that act.

subjective time –
The relative measurement of the passage of moments along a continuum.

tactile –
Related to touch.

task-related touch –

The accomplishment of some other instrumental task possible only through contact with an interaction
partner through the use of interpersonal touch.

technical time –
Also known as “standard time,” this term refers to the scientifically based measurement and precise
understanding of how time passes.

temperature –
The hotness or coldness in a location.

thinness –
The vocal quality characterized by a weak or insubstantial sound of an individual’s voice, sometimes
described as “reedy” in nature.

threat threshold –
One’s tolerance to proxemics violations, with a low threat threshold indicating that a person is uncomfortable
with even the slightest violation of their perceived personal space.

tie-signs –
A visual representation of the connections between two people.

time horizon –
The point in the future where we will no longer exist.

time perspective –
The trait-like bias that people exhibit toward focusing attention on either the past, present, or future.

transactional messaging –
Simultaneous messaging in which people serve as both sender and receiver at the same time.

transactional model of communication –
A relatively recent model of communication that focuses on the simultaneous transmission of verbal or
nonverbal messages from one person to another, highlighting the real-time impact of feedback in message

Type-A –
An identity built upon a compelling drive for order and the accomplishment of tasks or successes.

undifferentiated –
A culturally defined set of social behaviors that are generally believed to represent neither masculinity nor

unidirectional messaging –
One-way messaging in which people take turns alternating between sender or receiver.

universalist position –
The perspective that producing and recognizing facial expressions is a product of one’s biologically based
inherited behaviors.

use of space –

What is being accomplished in an environment by the use of fixed-feature and semi-fixed-feature elements.

utterance –
A small unit of vocalized sound, including but not limited to a word or words.

valence –
The interpersonal evaluation (ranging from negative to positive) of another person.

verbal communication –
Language-based messaging.

vocal properties –
Those characteristics of an individual’s voice that can be intentionally manipulated or altered to influence
understanding in another person.

vocal qualities –
The characteristics of the voice that are relatively stable within an individual person, even though those
same characteristics may vary widely from person to person.

vocal/auditory messages –
Messaging conveyed through the use of sound.

vocalics –
The nonverbal code dealing with communication through both words and voice qualities.

volume –
The degree of loudness of speech.

volume –
The three-dimensional size of a particular space.

wealth display –
The showing off or use of expensive material goods in order to signal one’s success to those around them.

work time –
Time that is planned or spoken for, relating to one’s job or career.


�. For an overview, see Ploog, D. W. (����). The evolution of vocal communication. In H. Papousek, U. Jürgens, &
M. Papoušek’s (Eds.), Nonverbal vocal communication: Comparative and developmental approaches. Cambridge,
England: Cambridge University Press.

�. For an overview, see Tomasello, M. (����). Origins of human communication. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

�. Shannon, C. E., & Weaver, W. (����). The mathematical theory of communication. Urbana: University of Illinois

�. For an overview, see Bowman, J. M. (����). Interconnections: Foundations and contexts in interpersonal
communication, p. ���. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning

�. For an overview, see Barnlund, D. C. (����). A transactional model of communication. In C. D. Mortensen (Ed.),
Communication theory (�nd ed.; pp. ��–��). Boston, MA: Routledge.

�. Bowman, J. M. (����). Interconnections: Foundations and contexts in interpersonal communication (p. ���).
Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

�. Watzlawick, P., Bavelas, J. B., & Jackson, D. D. (����). Pragmatics of human communication: A study of
interactional patterns, pathologies and paradoxes. New York, NY: Norton.

�. See, for example, Buck, R., & VanLear, C. A. (����). Verbal and nonverbal communication: Distinguishing
symbolic, spontaneous, and pseudo-spontaneous nonverbal behavior. Journal of Communication, ��(�), ���–���.

�. See, for example, Hale, J. L., & Stiff, J. B. (����). Nonverbal primacy in veracity judgments. Communication
Reports, �(�), ��–��.

��. Burling, R., Armstrong, D. F., Blount, B. G., Callaghan, C. A., Foster, M. L., King, B. J., … & Wallman, J. (����).
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��. D’Anastasio, R., Wroe, S., Tuniz, C., Mancini, L., Cesana, D. T., Dreossi, D., … & Capasso, L. (����). Micro-
biomechanics of the Kebara � hyoid and its implications for speech in Neanderthals. PLoS One, �(��), e�����.

��. Burgoon, J. K., Buller, D. B., & Woodall, W. G. (����). Nonverbal communication: The unspoken dialogue (�nd
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��. See, for example, Grimshaw, G. M., Adelstein, A., Bryden, M. P., & MacKinnon, G. E. (����). First-language
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��. Ambady, N., & Rosenthal, R. (����). Half a minute: Predicting teacher evaluations from thin slices of nonverbal
behavior and physical attractiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, ��(�), ���.

��. Morris, T. L., Gorham, J., Cohen, S. H., & Huffman, D. (����). Fashion in the classroom: Effects of attire on
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��. Kelley, H. H. (����). The warm-cold variable in first impressions of persons. Journal of Personality, ��(�), ���–

��. Cramer, J. M., Greene, C. P., & Walters, L. M. (Eds.). (����). Food as communication: Communication as food.
New York, NY: Peter Lang.

��. Johansen, R., & O’Hara-Devereaux, M. (����). Globalwork: Bridging distance, culture, & time. San Francisco,
CA: Jossey-Bass.

��. Burgoon, J. K., Bonito, J. A., Ramirez, A., Dunbar, N. E., Kam, K., & Fischer, J. (����). Testing the interactivity
principle: Effects of mediation, propinquity, and verbal and nonverbal modalities in interpersonal interaction.
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��. Bugental, D. E., Kaswan, J. W., & Love, L. R. (����). Perception of contradictory meanings conveyed by verbal
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��. Burgoon, J. K., Bonito, J. A., Ramirez, A., Dunbar, N. E., Kam, K., & Fischer, J. (����). Testing the interactivity
principle: Effects of mediation, propinquity, and verbal and nonverbal modalities in interpersonal interaction.
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�. Burgoon, J. K., & Saine, T. P. (����). The unspoken dialogue: An introduction to nonverbal communication.
Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin School.

�. Watzlawick, P., Beavin, J. H., & Jackson, D. D. (����). Pragmatics of human communication: A study of
interactional patterns, pathologies, and paradoxes. New York, NY: Norton.

�. Matsumoto, D. (����). Culture and nonverbal behavior. In V. Manusov & M. L. Patterson (Eds.), The SAGE
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�. Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. V. (����). Constants across cultures in the face and emotion. Journal of Personality
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�. See, for example, Carney, D. R., Colvin, C. R., & Hall, J. A. (����). A thin slice perspective on the accuracy of
first impressions. Journal of Research in Personality, ��(�), ����–����.

�. Hale, J. L., & Stiff, J. B. (����). Nonverbal primacy in veracity judgments. Communication Reports �(�), ��–��.

�. Afifi, W. (����). Nonverbal communication. In B. B. Whaley & W. Samter (Eds.), Explaining communication:
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�. Afifi, W. (����). Nonverbal communication. In B. B. Whaley & W. Samter (Eds.), Explaining communication:
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�. Lewis, D. (����). Analog and digital. Nous, ���–���.

��. For a review, see Maley, C. J. (����). Analog and digital, continuous and discrete. Philosophical Studies, ���(�),

��. Maley, C. J. (����). Analog and digital, continuous and discrete. Philosophical Studies, ���(�), ���–���.

��. Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (����). Message elaboration versus peripheral cues. In C. I. Hovland, I. L. Janis,
& H. H. Kelly (Eds.), Communication and persuasion (pp. ���–���). New York, NY: Springer.

��. For a model, see Lang, A. (����). The limited capacity model of mediated message processing. Journal of
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��. Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (����). Message elaboration versus peripheral cues. In C. I. Hovland, I. L. Janis,
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��. Burgoon, J. K., Buller, D. B., & Woodall, W. G. (����). Nonverbal communication: The unspoken dialogue (�nd
ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

��. For an overview, see Bowman, J. M. (����). Interconnections: Foundations and contexts in interpersonal
communication (p. ���). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

��. Briton, N. J., & Hall, J. A. (����). Beliefs about female and male nonverbal communication. Sex Roles, ��(�-�),

��. Sundaram, D. S., & Webster, C. (����). The role of nonverbal communication in service encounters. Journal of
Services Marketing, ��(�), ���–���.

��. See, for example, Saarni, C. (����). Social and affective functions of nonverbal behavior: Developmental
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��. For an example of an application, see Chesebro, J. L. (����). Effects of teacher clarity and nonverbal
immediacy on student learning, receiver apprehension, and affect. Communication Education, ��(�), ���–���.

��. Stewart, J., & Logan, C. E. (����). Together: Communicating interpersonally. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.

��. Definitions for each of these three types of active listening are adapted from Bowman, J. M. (����).
Interconnections: Foundations and contexts in interpersonal communication. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

��. Long, E. C. (����). Measuring dyadic perspective-taking: Two scales for assessing perspective-taking in
marriage and similar dyads. Educational and Psychological Measurement, ��(�), ��–���.

��. Levesque, C., Lafontaine, M. F., Caron, A., Flesch, J. L., & Bjornson, S. (����). Dyadic empathy, dyadic
coping, and relationship satisfaction: A dyadic model. Europe’s Journal of Psychology, ��(�), ���–���.

��. Tomasello, M. (����). Origins of human communication. Boston, MA: MIT Press.

��. Rourke, B. P. (Ed.). (����). Syndrome of nonverbal learning disabilities: Neurodevelopmental manifestations.
New York, NY: Guilford Press.

��. Johnson, D. J. (����). Nonverbal learning disabilities. Pediatric Annals, ��(�), ���–���.

��. Little, L. (����). Middle-class mothers’ perceptions of peer and sibling victimization among children with
Asperger’s syndrome and nonverbal learning disorders. Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing, ��(�), ��–��.

��. For an overview, see Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. D. (����). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, Cognition and
Personality, �(�), ���–���.

��. Sternberg, R. J., & Smith, C. (����). Social intelligence and decoding skills in nonverbal communication.
Social Cognition, �(�), ���.

��. Barnes, M. L., & Sternberg, R. J. (����). Social intelligence and decoding of nonverbal cues. Intelligence, ��(�),

��. Alaei, R., & Rule, N. O. (����). Accuracy of perceiving social attributes. In J. A. Hall, M. S. Mast, & T. V. West
(Eds.), The social psychology of perceiving others accurately (pp. ���–���). Cambridge, England: Cambridge
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��. Riggio, R. E. (����). The Social Skills Inventory (SSI): Measuring nonverbal and social skills. In V. Manusov
(Ed.), The sourcebook of nonverbal measures: Going beyond words (pp. ��–��). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

�. Bowman, J. M. (����). Interconnections: Foundations and contexts in interpersonal communication. Boston,
MA: Cengage Learning.

�. Bowman, J. M. (����). Interconnections: Foundations and contexts in interpersonal communication. Boston,
MA: Cengage Learning.

�. For an interesting discussion topic, see Devarajan, K. (����, March ��). White skin, black emojis? Code switch:
Race and identity, remixed. National Public Radio. Retrieved from����/��/��/���������/white-skin-black-emojis

�. McIntosh, P. (����). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. Retrieved from��/����/��/white-privilege-essay-mcintosh.pdf

�. For an overview, see Friedman, M. (����). Type A behavior: Its diagnosis and treatment. New York, NY:
Springer Science & Business Media.

�. Bowman, J. M. (����). Interconnections: Foundations and contexts in interpersonal communication (p. ���).
Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

�. Guerrero, L. K., DeVito, J. A., & Hecht, M. L. (Eds.). (����). The nonverbal communication reader. Lone Grove,
IL: Waveland Press.

�. For an example and overview, see Evans, G. W., Lepore, S. J., & Allen, K. M. (����). Cross-cultural differences
in tolerance for crowding: Fact or fiction? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, ��(�), ���.

�. Hall, E. T. (����). The hidden dimension. New York, NY: Doubleday.

��. For a review, see Guerrero, L. K., & Floyd, K. (����). Nonverbal communication in close relationships.
Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

��. See, for example, Andersen, P. A., Hecht, M. L., Hoobler, G. D., & Smallwood, M. (����). Nonverbal
communication across cultures. In W. B. Gudyhunst (Ed.), Cross-cultural and intercultural communication (pp. ��–
��). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

��. Morris, D. (����). Bodywatching. New York, NY: Random House.

��. Burgoon, J. K., Buller, D. B., & Woodall, W. G. (����). Nonverbal communication: The unspoken dialogue (�nd
ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

��. For an application, see Edwards-Johnston, C. (����). Message in a bottle: An analysis of modern perfume
usage as a nonverbal communicator. (Master’s thesis). Retrieved from����/�����

�. For example, see Nwokah, E. E., Hsu, H. C., Dobrowolska, O., & Fogel, A. (����). The development of laughter
in mother-infant communication: Timing parameters and temporal sequences. Infant Behavior and Development,
��(�), ��–��.

�. Bronfenbrenner, U. (����). Ecology of the family as a context for human development: Research perspectives.
Developmental Psychology, ��(�), ���.

�. For example, McElwain, N. L., & Booth-LaForce, C. (����). Maternal sensitivity to infant distress and
nondistress as predictors of infant-mother attachment security. Journal of Family Psychology, ��(�), ���.

�. For an application, see Ishii, R., Nakano, Y. I., & Nishida, T. (����). Gaze awareness in conversational agents:
Estimating a user’s conversational engagement from eye gaze. ACM Transactions on Interactive Intelligent
Systems (TiiS), �(�), ��.

�. Sato, W., Okada, T., & Toichi, M. (����). Attentional shift by gaze is triggered without awareness. Experimental
Brain Research, ���(�), ��–��.

�. For an overview, see Batty, M., & Taylor, M. J. (����). Early processing of the six basic facial emotional
expressions. Cognitive Brain Research, ��(�), ���–���.

�. For example, Matsumoto, D. (����). Cultural similarities and differences in display rules. Motivation and
Emotion, ��(�), ���–���.

�. Burgoon, J. K., Buller, D. B., & Woodall W. G. (����). Nonverbal communication: The unspoken dialogue (�nd
ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

�. Wiggers, M. (����). Judgements of facial expressions of emotion predicted from facial behavior. Journal of
Nonverbal Behavior, �, ���–���.

��. For an example of the long-raging debate on the Universalist side, see Ekman, P. (����). Strong evidence for
universals in facial expressions: A reply to Russell’s mistaken critique. Psychological Bulletin, ���(�), ���–���.��.����/����-����.���.�.���

��. For an example of the long-raging debate on the Cultural Relativist side, see Russell, J. A. (����). Is there
universal recognition of emotion from facial expression? A review of the cross-cultural studies. Psychological

Bulletin, ���(�), ���–���.��.����/����-����.���.�.���

��. Elfenbein, H. A., & Ambady, N. (����). Universals and cultural differences in recognizing emotions. Current
Directions in Psychological Science, ��(�), ���–���.

��. For a critique, see Matsumoto, D. (����). Cultural influences on facial expressions of emotion. Southern
Journal of Communication, ��(�), ���–���.

��. Ekman, P., Friesen, W. V., O’Sullivan, M., Chan, A., Diacoyanni-Tarlatzis, I., Heider, K., Krause, … & Tzavaras,
M. (����). Universals and cultural differences in the judgments of facial expressions of emotion. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, ��(�), ���.

��. For a discussion of emotion regulation, see Cassidy, J. (����). Emotion regulation: Influences of attachment
relationships. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, ��(�–�), ���–���.

��. Yan, W. J., Wu, Q., Liang, J., Chen, Y. H., & Fu, X. (����). How fast are the leaked facial expressions: The
duration of micro-expressions. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, ��(�), ���–���.

��. For the scale that inspired these items, see Gross, J. J., & John, O. P. (����). Facets of emotional expressivity:
Three self-report factors and their correlates. Personality and Individual Differences, ��(�), ���–���.

��. For an overview see Riggio, R. E., & Riggio, H. R. (����). Self-report measures of emotional and nonverbal
expressiveness. In V. Manusov (Ed.), The sourcebook of nonverbal measures: Going beyond words (pp. ���–���).
Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

��. Fridlund, A. J. (����). The new ethology of human facial expressions. In J. A. Russell & J. M. Fernández-Dols
(Eds.), The psychology of facial expression (pp. ���–���). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

��. Byrne, A. (����). Transparency and self-knowledge. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

��. Park, L. E., Streamer, L., Huang, L., & Galinsky, A. D. (����). Stand tall, but don’t put your feet up: Universal
and culturally-specific effects of expansive postures on power. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, ��(�),

��. For an example of the discussion about such behaviors, see Jane, E. A. (����). ‘Dude… stop the spread’:
Antagonism, agonism, and# manspreading on social media. International Journal of Cultural Studies, ��(�), ���–

��. For an example, see Kellerman, S. (����). ‘I see what you mean’: The role of kinesic behaviour in listening and
implications for foreign and second language learning. Applied linguistics, ��(�), ���–���.

��. For an application, see Hansford, B. C., Wilson, K. M., & Diehl, B. J. (����). Can communication apprehension
be observed? Communication Research Reports, �(�), ��–��.

�. For an example and overview, see Evans, G. W., Lepore, S. J., & Allen, K. M. (����). Cross-cultural differences
in tolerance for crowding: Fact or fiction? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, ��(�), ���.

�. Hall, E. T. (����). The hidden dimension. New York, NY: Doubleday.

�. For a discussion and application, see Danesi, M. (����). Of cigarettes, high heels, and other interesting things:
An introduction to semiotics. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

�. For an overview, see Andersen, P., Gannon, J., & Kalchik, J. (����). Proxemic and haptic interaction: The
closeness continuum. In J. A. Hall & M. L. Knapp’s (Eds.), Nonverbal communication (pp. ���–���). Berlin,
Germany: Walter de Gruyter.

�. Burgoon, J. K. (����). A communication model of personal space violations: Explication and an initial test.
Human Communication Research, �, ���–���.

�. For some early research on this topic, see Craig, K. D. (����). Physiological arousal as a function of imagined,
vicarious, and direct stress experiences. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, ��(�), ���.

�. Spielberger, C. D. (����). State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. In I. B. Weiner & W. E. Craighead (Eds.), The Corsini
encyclopedia of psychology (vol. �). (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, ����).

�. Brooks, A. W. (����). Get excited: Reappraising pre-performance anxiety as excitement. Journal of
Experimental Psychology: General, ���(�), ����.

�. For the scale that inspired these items, see Marteau, T. M., & Bekker, H. (����). The development of a six-item
short-form of the state scale of the Spielberger State—Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). British Journal of Clinical
Psychology, ��(�), ���–���.

��. Burgoon, J. K., & Jones, S. B. (����). Toward a theory of personal space expectations and their violations.
Human Communication Research, �(�), ���–���.

��. Burgoon, J. K., & Hale, J. L. (����). Nonverbal expectancy violations: Model elaboration and application to
immediacy behaviors. Communications Monographs, ��(�), ��–��.

��. For a recent overview, see Burgoon, J. K. (����). Expectancy Violations Theory. In W. Donsbach (Ed.), The
international encyclopedia of interpersonal communication, �–�.

��. Burgoon, J. K., & Jones, S. B. (����). Toward a theory of personal space expectations and their violations.
Human Communication Research, �(�), ���–���.

��. A similar concept to valence is described in Garrison, J. P., & Pate, L. E. (����). Toward development and
measurement of the interpersonal power construct. The Journal of Psychology, ��(�), ��–���.

��. Burgoon, J. K., & Jones, S. B. (����). Toward a theory of personal space expectations and their violations.
Human Communication Research, �(�), ���–���.

��. For an overview of the debate, see Ah Yun, K. (����). Similarity and attraction. In M. Allen, R. W. Preiss, B. M.
Gayle, & N. Burrell’s (Eds.), Interpersonal communication research: Advances through meta-analysis (pp. ���–
���). New York, NY: Routledge.

��. McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L., & Cook, J. M. (����). Birds of a feather: Homophily in social networks. Annual
Review of Sociology, ��(�), ���–���.

��. Berger, C. R., & Calabrese, R. J. (����). Some explorations in initial interaction and beyond: Toward a
developmental theory of interpersonal communication. Human Communication Research, �, ��–���.

��. For an overview, see Knobloch, L. K. (����). Uncertainty Reduction Theory. In S. W. Littlejohn & K. A. Foss
(Eds.), Encyclopedia of communication theory (pp. ���–���). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

��. Wittenbaum, G. M., & Bowman, J. M. (����). A social validation explanation for mutual enhancement. Journal
of Experimental Social Psychology, ��(�), ���–���.

��. For a discussion of the interdisciplinary research on similarity and difference, see Speight, S. L., & Vera, E. M.
(����). Similarity and difference in multicultural counseling: Considering the attraction and repulsion hypotheses.
The Counseling Psychologist, ��(�), ���–���.

��. For an overview, see Klohnen, E. C., & Luo, S. (����). Interpersonal attraction and personality: What is
attractive—self similarity, ideal similarity, complementarity or attachment security? Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology, ��(�), ���.

��. To review perceptions of similarity, see Montoya, R. M., Horton, R. S., & Kirchner, J. (����). Is actual similarity
necessary for attraction? A meta-analysis of actual and perceived similarity. Journal of Social and Personal
Relationships, ��(�), ���–���.

��. See, for example, Paek, S. L. (����). Effect of garment style on the perception of personal traits. Clothing and
Textiles Research Journal, �(�), ��–��.

��. A seminal project is found at Festinger, L., Schachter, S., & Back, K. (����). Social pressures in informal
groups: A study of human factors in housing. Oxford, England: Harper.

��. Zajonc, R. B. (����). Mere exposure: A gateway to the subliminal. Current Directions in Psychological Science,
��(�), ���–���.

��. Berger, C. R., & Calabrese, R. J. (����). Some explorations in initial interaction and beyond: Toward a
developmental theory of interpersonal communication. Human Communication Research, �, ��–���.

��. Berger, C. R., & Calabrese, R. J. (����). Some explorations in initial interaction and beyond: Toward a
developmental theory of interpersonal communication. Human Communication Research, �, ��–���.

�. Burgoon, J.K., Buller, D. B., & Woodall, W. Gill. (����). Nonverbal communication: The unspoken dialogue (�nd
ed.) . New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

�. Montagu, A., & Montague, A. (����). Touching: The human significance of the skin. New York, NY: Columbia
University Press.

�. Andersen, P. A. (����). The touch avoidance measure. In V. Manusov (Ed.), The sourcebook of nonverbal
measures: Going beyond words (pp. ��–��). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

�. This behavior isn’t exclusive to children, but also the young at heart. It’s not uncommon for the author’s friend
Craig to be seen reaching toward the screen during the �-D musical Philharmagic at Walt Disney World.

�. Gallace, A., & Spence, C. (����). In touch with the future: The sense of touch from cognitive neuroscience to
virtual reality. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

�. Gallace, A., & Spence, C. (����). The science of interpersonal touch: An overview. Neuroscience &
Biobehavioral Reviews, ��(�), ���–���.

�. Hornik, J. (����). Tactile stimulation and consumer response. Journal of Consumer Research, ��(�), ���–���.

�. Burgoon, J. K., Buller, D. B., Hale, J. L., & de Turck, M. A. (����). Relational messages associated with
nonverbal behaviors. Human Communication Research, ��(�), ���–���.

�. Hornik, J. (����). Tactile stimulation and consumer response. Journal of Consumer Research, ��(�), ���–���.

��. Suvilehto, J. T., Glerean, E., Dunbar, R. I., Hari, R., & Nummenmaa, L. (����). Topography of social touching
depends on emotional bonds between humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, ���(��), �����–

��. Takeuchi, M. S., Miyaoka, H., Tomoda, A., Suzuki, M., Liu, Q., & Kitamura, T. (����). The effect of interpersonal
touch during childhood on adult attachment and depression: A neglected area of family and developmental
psychology? Journal of Child and Family Studies, ��(�), ���–���.

��. Jakubiak, B. K., & Feeney, B. C. (����). Affectionate touch to promote relational, psychological, and physical
well-being in adulthood: A theoretical model and review of the research. Personality and Social Psychology
Review, ��(�), ���–���.

��. For a history, see Bretherton, I. (����). The origins of Attachment Theory: John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth.
Developmental Psychology, ��(�), ���.

��. For an overview, see Cassidy, J., & Shaver, P. R. (Eds.). (����). Handbook of attachment: Theory, research,
and clinical applications. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

��. For both an overview and specifics, see Brauer, J., Xiao, Y., Poulain, T., Friederici, A. D., & Schirmer, A. (����).
Frequency of maternal touch predicts resting activity and connectivity of the developing social brain. Cerebral
Cortex ��(�), ����–����.

��. Harlow, H. F. (����). Love in infant monkeys. Scientific American ���(�), ��–��.

��. Floyd, K. (����). Relational and health correlates of affection deprivation. Western Journal of Communication
��(�), ���–���.

��. Burgoon, J. K., Buller, D. B., & Woodall, W. G. (����). Nonverbal communication: The unspoken dialogue (�nd
ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

��. Argyle, M. (����). Bodily communication. London, England: Methuen.

��. Morris, D. (����). Manwatching: A field guide to human behavior. New York, NY: Abrams.

��. Heslin, R. & Alper, T. (����). Touch: A bonding gesture. In J. M. Wiemann & R. P. Harrison (Eds.), Nonverbal
interaction (pp. ��–��). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

��. Jones, S. E., & Yarbrough, A. E. (����). A naturalistic study of the meanings of touch. Communication
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��. For a discussion of research on trends, see Andersen, P. A., Lustig, M. W., & Andersen, J. F. (����). Changes
in latitude, changes in attitude: The relationship between climate and interpersonal communication
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��. Andersen, P. A. (����). Tactile traditions: Cultural differences and similarities in haptic communication. In M. J.
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��. McDaniel, E., & Andersen, P. A. (����). International patterns of interpersonal tactile communication: A field
study. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, ��(�), ��–��.

��. Andersen, J. F., Andersen, P. A., & Lustig, M. W. (����). Opposite sex touch avoidance: A national replication
and extension. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, ��(�), ��–���.

��. Jones, S. E. (����). Sex differences in touch communication. Western Journal of Communication (includes
Communication Reports), ��(�), ���–���.

��. Hewitt, J., & Feltham, D. (����). Differential reaction to touch by men and women. Perceptual and Motor Skills,
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��. Heslin, R., Nguyen, T. D., & Nguyen, M. L. (����). Meaning of touch: The case of touch from a stranger or
same sex person. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, �(�), ���–���.

��. For a review, see Bowman, J. M., & Compton, B. L. (����). Self-presentation, individual differences, and
gendered evaluations of nonverbal greeting behaviors among close male friends. Journal of Men’s Studies, ��(�),

��. See also Derlega, V. J., Catanzaro, D., & Lewis, R. J. (����). Perceptions about tactile intimacy in same-sex
and opposite-sex pairs based on research participants’ sexual orientation. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, �(�),

��. Hall, J. A., & Veccia, E. M. (����). More” touching” observations: New insights on men, women, and
interpersonal touch. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, ��(�), ����.

��. Willis Jr, F. N., & Dodds, R. A. (����). Age, relationship, and touch initiation. The Journal of Social Psychology,
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��. May, A. C., Stewart, J. L., Paulus, M. P., & Tapert, S. F. (����). The effect of age on neural processing of
pleasant soft touch stimuli. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, �, ��.

��. Halley, J. (����). The move to affirmative consent. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, ��(�), ���–

��. Schaber, P., & Müller, A. (Eds.). (����). The Routledge handbook of the ethics of consent. New York, NY:

��. For an overview of sexual consent, see Archard, D. (����). Sexual consent. New York, NY: Routledge.

��. Floyd’s initial conceptualization is widely believed to have first been presented as follows: Floyd, K. (����,
February). Elements of an Affection Exchange Theory: Socioevolutionary paradigm for understanding affectionate

communication. Paper presented to Western States Communication Association, Coeur d’Alene, ID.

��. Floyd, K. (����). Human affection exchange: I. Reproductive probability as a predictor of men’s affection with
their sons. The Journal of Men’s Studies, ��(�), ��–��.

��. Floyd, K., & Morman, M. T. (����). Human affection exchange: II. Affectionate communication in father–son
relationships. The Journal of Social Psychology, ���(�), ���–���.

��. Floyd, K., & Morman, M. T. (����). Human affection exchange: III. Discriminative parental solicitude in men’s
affectionate communication with their biological and nonbiological sons. Communication Quarterly, ��(�), ���–���.

��. Floyd, K., & Ray, G. B. (����). Human affection exchange: IV. Vocalic predictors of perceived affection in initial
interactions. Western Journal of Communication (includes Communication Reports), ��(�), ��–��.

��. Floyd, K. (����). Human affection exchange: V. Attributes of the highly affectionate. Communication Quarterly,
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��. Floyd, K., Sargent, J. E., & Di Corcia, M. (����). Human affection exchange: VI. Further tests of reproductive
probability as a predictor of men’s affection with their adult sons. The Journal of Social Psychology, ���(�), ���–

��. Floyd, K., & Morr, M. C. (����). Human affection exchange: VII. Affectionate communication in the
sibling/spouse/sibling-in-law triad. Communication Quarterly, ��(�), ���–���.

��. Floyd, K., Hess, J. A., Miczo, L. A., Halone, K. K., Mikkelson, A. C., & Tusing, K. J. (����). Human affection
exchange: VIII. Further evidence of the benefits of expressed affection. Communication Quarterly, ��(�), ���–���.

��. Floyd, K. (����). Human affection exchange: XII. Affectionate communication is associated with diurnal
variation in salivary free cortisol. Western Journal of Communication, ��(�), ��–��.

��. Floyd, K., Mikkelson, A. C., Tafoya, M. A., Farinelli, L., La Valley, A. G., Judd, J., … & Wilson, J. (����). Human
affection exchange: XIII. affectionate communication accelerates neuroendocrine stress recovery. Health
Communication, ��(�), ���–���.

��. Floyd, K., Mikkelson, A. C., Tafoya, M. A., Farinelli, L., La Valley, A. G., Judd, J., … & Wilson, J. (����). Human
affection exchange: XIV. Relational affection predicts resting heart rate and free cortisol secretion during acute
stress. Behavioral Medicine, ��, ���–���.

��. For an overview, see Cassidy, J., & Shaver, P. R. (Eds.). (����). Handbook of attachment: Theory, research,
and clinical applications. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

��. Regan, P. C., Jerry, D., Narvaez, M., & Johnson, D. (����). Public displays of affection among Asian and Latino
heterosexual couples. Psychological Reports, ��(�_suppl), ����–����.

��. Bowlby, J. (����). The Bowlby-Ainsworth Attachment Theory. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, �(�), ���–���.

��. Ainsworth, M. S. (����). Infant–mother attachment. American Psychologist, ��(��), ���.


�. Roedell, W. C., & Slaby, R. G. (����). The role of distal and proximal interaction in infant social preference
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�. Morris, D. (����). Bodywatching. New York, NY: Random House.

�. For an application, see Haake, M., & Gulz, A. (����). Visual stereotypes and virtual pedagogical agents.
Journal of Educational Technology & Society, ��(�), �–��.

�. Shimojo, S., Simion, C., Shimojo, E., & Scheier, C. (����). Gaze bias both reflects and influences preference.
Nature Neuroscience, �(��), ����.

�. Yorzinski, J. L., & Platt, M. L. (����). Same-sex gaze attraction influences mate-choice copying in humans.
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�. Compton, B. L. (����). Characteristics of the male gazer: Application of ambivalent sexism theory and
sociosexuality on male gazing behavior (Master’s thesis). Retrieved from����/�����/Compton_ku_����M_�����_DATA_�.pdf?sequence=�

�. For an overview, see Argyle, M., & Cook, M. (����). Gaze and mutual gaze. Oxford, England: Cambridge
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�. For an overview, see Uono, S., & Hietanen, J. K. (����). Eye contact perception in the West and East: A cross-
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�. Lennox, R. D., & Wolfe, R. N. (����). Revision of the Self-Monitoring Scale. Journal of Personality and Social
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��. Rieger, G., & Savin-Williams, R. C. (����). The eyes have it: Sex and sexual orientation differences in pupil
dilation patterns. PloS One, �(�), e�����.

��. Tombs, S., & Silverman, I. (����). Pupillometry: A sexual selection approach. Evolution and Human Behavior,
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��. Rieger, G., & Savin-Williams, R. C. (����). The eyes have it: Sex and sexual orientation differences in pupil
dilation patterns. PLoS One, �, e�����. doi: ��.����/journal.pone.�������

��. Watts, T. M., Holmes, L., Savin-Williams, R. C., & Rieger, G. (����). Pupil dilation to explicit and non-explicit
sexual stimuli Archives of Sexual Behavior, ��(�), ���–���.

��. Savin-Williams, R. C., Rieger, G., & Rosenthal, A. M. (����). Physiological evidence for a mostly heterosexual
orientation among men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, ��(�), ���–���.

��. Rieger, G., & Savin-Williams, R. C. (����). The eyes have it: Sex and sexual orientation differences in pupil
dilation patterns. PLoS One, �, e�����. doi: ��.����/journal.pone.�������

��. Hess, E. H. (����). The role of pupil size in communication. Scientific American, ���(�), ���–���.

��. Mayo, D. J., & Gunderson, M. (����). Privacy and the ethics of outing. Journal of Homosexuality, ��(�-�), ��–

��. Kellerman, J., Lewis, J., & Laird, J. D. (����). Looking and loving: The effects of mutual gaze on feelings of
romantic love. Journal of Research in Personality, ��(�), ���–���.

��. Jokinen, K., Nishida, M., & Yamamoto, S. (����, February). On eye-gaze and turn-taking. In Proceedings of
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��. Gómez, J. C. (����). Ostensive behavior in great apes: The role of eye contact. In A. E. Russon, K. A. Bard, &
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Cambridge University Press.

��. Vas, J., Topál, J., Gácsi, M., Miklósi, A., & Csányi, V. (����). A friend or an enemy? Dogs’ reaction to an
unfamiliar person showing behavioural cues of threat and friendliness at different times. Applied Animal Behaviour
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�. For an exemplar application, see Lin, E. K., Bugental, D. B., Turek, V., Martorell, G. A., & Olster, D. H. (����).
Children’s vocal properties as mobilizers of stress-related physiological responses in adults. Personality and
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�. For a slightly different definition, see Ivy, D. K., & Wahl, S. T. (����). Nonverbal communication for a lifetime
(�nd ed.). Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt.

�. Tolkmitt, F. J., & Scherer, K. R. (����). Effect of experimentally induced stress on vocal parameters. Journal of
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�. Kuzma, C. (����, March ��). � voice changes that can occur well after you’ve hit puberty. Men’s Health.
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�. Apple, W., Streeter, L. A., & Krauss, R. M. (����). Effects of pitch and speech rate on personal attributions.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, ��(�), ���.

�. For an example of an application of relative volume, see Barraclough, K., Cripps, P. R., & Gay, A. (����). U.S.
Patent No. �,���,���. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

�. For an overview, see Kenny, C. (����). The power of silence: Silent communication in daily life. London,
England: Routledge.

�. Johannesen, R. L. (����). The functions of silence: A plea for communication research. Western Journal of
Communication (includes Communication Reports), ��(�), ��–��.

�. Hall, E. T. (����). The silent language. New York, NY: Doubleday.

��. For example, Kenny, C. (����). The power of silence: Silent communication in daily life. London, England:

��. For example, Tannen, D., & Saville-Troike, M. (Eds.). (����). Perspectives on silence. Santa Barbara, CA:

��. Damron, J. C. H. (����). Attitudes towards interpersonal silence within dyadic relationships. (Master’s thesis).
Retrieved from����/����/Jane_Damron_masters.pdf?

��. Giles, H., & Ogay, T. (����). Communication Accommodation Theory. In B. B. Whaley & W. Samter (Eds.),
Explaining communication: Contemporary theories and exemplars (pp. ���–���). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum .

��. Giles, H., Taylor, D. M., & Bourhis, R. Y. (����). Towards a theory of interpersonal accommodation through
speech: Some Canadian data. Language in Society, �, ���–���.

��. Giles, H., & Ogay, T. (����). Communication Accommodation Theory. In B. B. Whaley & W. Samter (Eds.),
Explaining communication: Contemporary theories and exemplars (pp. ���–���). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

�. Bowman, J. M. (����). Interconnections: Foundations and contexts in interpersonal communication. Boston,
MA: Cengage Learning.

�. Goffman, E. (����). The presentation of self in everyday life. New York, NY: Random House.

�. Cooley, C. H. (����). Human nature and the social order. New York, NY: Scribner’s.

�. Tajfel, H. (����). Social identity and intergroup behaviour. Information (International Social Science Council),
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�. Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (����). An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. The Social Psychology of Intergroup
Relations, ��(��), ��.

�. Obst, P., White, K., Mavor, K., & Baker, R. (����). Social identification dimensions as mediators of the effect of
prototypicality on intergroup behaviours. Psychology, �(�), ���–���.

�. Hogg, M. A., Hohman, Z. P., & Rivera, J. E. (����). Why do people join groups? Three motivational accounts
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�. Hogg, M. A., Hohman, Z. P., & Rivera, J. E. (����). Why do people join groups? Three motivational accounts
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�. Brewer, M. B., & Caporael, L. R. (����). An evolutionary perspective on social identity: Revisiting groups. In M.
Schaller, J. A. Simpson, & D. T. Kenrick’s (Eds.), Evolution and social psychology (pp. ���–���). New York, NY:
Psychology Press.

��. For an overview of language acquisition, see Aitchison, J. (����). The seeds of speech: Language origin and
evolution. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

��. For a concise overview of this perspective, see Ting-Toomey, S. (����). Communicating across cultures. New
York, NY: Guilford Press.

��. van der Schalk, J., Fischer, A., Doosje, B., Wigboldus, D., Hawk, S., Rotteveel, M., & Hess, U. (����).
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��. DeMello, M. (����). The convict body: Tattooing among male American prisoners. Anthropology Today, �(�),

��. Losch, K. (����, May). Skin Stories: The Art and Culture of Polynesian Tattoo: Role of Tattoo Public
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��. Burgoon, J. K., Buller, D. B., & Woodall, W. G. (����). Nonverbal communication: The unspoken dialogue (�nd
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��. Manusov, V., & Patterson, M. L. (����). The SAGE handbook of nonverbal communication. Thousand Oaks,
CA: Sage.

��. Grogan, S. (����). Body image: Understanding body dissatisfaction in men, women and children. New York,
NY: Routledge.

��. For an overview of extant research on women and emerging research on men, see Agliata, D., & Tantleff-
Dunn, S. (����). The impact of media exposure on males’ body image. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology,
��(�), �–��.

��. Eating disorders are common among men and women, often with negative impact on bodies and on emotional
health. What may seem like harmless behaviors can still be harmful over time. The author of the text has
personally struggled with this issue, and wants everyone to know that help is out there. If you or someone you
love are struggling with your own views of your body, please check out or call the
helpline at �-���-���-����.

��. For a primer, see Jacobi, L., & Cash, T. F. (����). In pursuit of the perfect appearance: Discrepancies among
self-ideal percepts of multiple physical attributes. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, ��(�), ���–���.

��. For an introductory overview of body-image dysphoria, see Kulbartz-Klatt, Y. J., Florin, I., & Pook, M. (����).
Bulimia nervosa: Mood changes do have an impact on body width estimation. British Journal of Clinical
Psychology, ��(�), ���–���.

��. For a review on muscle dysmorphia, see Leit, R. A., Gray, J. J., & Pope Jr, H. G. (����). The media’s
representation of the ideal male body: A cause for muscle dysmorphia? International Journal of Eating Disorders,
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��. Grammer, K., & Thornhill, R. (����). Human (homo sapiens) facial attractiveness and sexual selection: The
role of symmetry and averageness. Journal of Comparative Psychology, ���(�), ���.

��. Fink, B., Neave, N., Manning, J. T., & Grammer, K. (����). Facial symmetry and judgements of attractiveness,
health and personality. Personality and Individual Differences, ��(�), ���–���.

��. Jones, B. C., Little, A. C., Penton-Voak, I. S., Tiddeman, B. P., Burt, D. M., & Perrett, D. I. (����). Facial
symmetry and judgements of apparent health: Support for a “good genes” explanation of the attractiveness–
symmetry relationship. Evolution and Human Behavior, ��(�), ���–���.

��. Scheib, J. E., Gangestad, S. W., & Thornhill, R. (����). Facial attractiveness, symmetry and cues of good
genes. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, ���(����), ����–����.

��. Rhodes, G., Yoshikawa, S., Palermo, R., Simmons, L. W., Peters, M., Lee, K., … & Crawford, J. R. (����).
Perceived health contributes to the attractiveness of facial symmetry, averageness, and sexual dimorphism.
Perception, ��(�), ����–����.

��. For an (unsupported) overview of the “averageness” argument, see Grammer, K., & Thornhill, R. (����).
Human (homo sapiens) facial attractiveness and sexual selection: The role of symmetry and averageness. Journal
of Comparative Psychology, ���(�), ���.

��. Rhodes, G., Yoshikawa, S., Palermo, R., Simmons, L. W., Peters, M., Lee, K., … & Crawford, J. R. (����).
Perceived health contributes to the attractiveness of facial symmetry, averageness, and sexual dimorphism.
Perception, ��(�), ����–����.

��. For a grounded popular overview, see Nicholson, J. (����, November �). Being beautiful or handsome is easier
than you think: How to be attractive and improve your appearance. Psychology Today. Retrieved from������/being-beautiful-or-handsome-is-easier-you-

��. Mehrabian, A., & Blum, J. S. (����). Physical appearance, attractiveness, and the mediating role of emotions.
Current Psychology, ��, ��–��.

��. For the history of the term physiognomy, see Hassin, R., & Trope, Y. (����). Facing faces: Studies on the
cognitive aspects of physiognomy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, ��(�), ���.

��. For an overview, see Barnard, M. (����). Fashion as communication. Boston, MA: Routledge.

��. For real-world context on perceptions of coffee brands as an artifact, see Horsley, S. (����, March ��). Dunkin
Donuts vs. Starbucks democrats. All Things Considered. Retrieved from��������

��. Klein, B. (����, June ��). Melania dons jacket saying “I really don’t care. do U?” Ahead of her border visit—and
afterwards. CNN Politics. Retrieved from����/��/��/politics/melania-trump-jacket/index.html

��. Walters, D. (����, May �). Costumes, props, and appropriation (blog). Japan Sociology. Retrieved from����/��/��/costumes-props-and-appropriation/

��. Mayers, L. B., Judelson, D. A., Moriarty, B. W., & Rundell, K. W. (����, January). Prevalence of body art (Body
piercing and tattooing) in university undergraduates and incidence of medical complications Mayo Clinic
Proceedings ��(�), ��–��.

��. Laumann, A. E., & Derick, A. J. (����). Tattoos and body piercings in the United States: A national data set.
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, ��(�), ���–���.

��. Anderson, R. R. (����). Commentary: Tattoos and body piercing. Journal of the American Academy of
Dermatology, ��(�), ���.

��. Cummings, S. R., Ling, X., & Stone, K. (����). Consequences of foot binding among older women in Beijing,
China. American Journal of Public Health, ��(��), ����–����.

��. Fahmy, A., El-Mouelhy, M. T., & Ragab, A. R. (����). Female genital mutilation/cutting and issues of sexuality
in Egypt. Reproductive Health Matters, ��(��), ���–���.

��. For a perspective on male genital mutilation oft-unrepresented, see DeLaet, D. L. (����). Framing male
circumcision as a human rights issue? Contributions to the debate over the universality of human rights. Journal of
Human Rights, �(�), ���–���.

��. Ruffins, P. (����). The persistent madness of Greek hazing. Diverse Issues in Higher Education, ��(�), ��.

��. It should be noted that some consensual fraternity branding has a rich cultural history: Posey, S. M. (����).
Burning messages: Interpreting African American fraternity brands and their bearers. Voices, ��(�/�), ��.

��. Schmid, S. (����). Tattoos–an historical essay. Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease, ��(�), ���–���.

��. Shoham, E. (����). Tattoos and gender. In E. Shoham, Prison tattoos (pp. ��–��). New York, NY: Springer

��. Pitts, V. (����). In the flesh: The cultural politics of body modification. New York, NY: Springer.

��. Afifi, W. A., & Johnson, M. L. (����). The use and interpretation of tie signs in a public setting: Relationship and
sex differences. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, ��(�), �–��.

��. Klepp, I. G., & Storm-Mathisen, A. (����). Reading fashion as age: Teenage girls’ and grown women’s
accounts of clothing as body and social status. Fashion Theory, �(�), ���–���.

�. For an overview, see Jackson, N. (����). The architectural view: Perspectives on communication. Visual
Communication Quarterly, ��(�), ��–��.

�. See, for example, Rapoport, A. (����). The meaning of the built environment: A nonverbal communication
approach. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

�. Hall, E. T. (����). The hidden dimension. New York, NY: Doubleday.

�. Kent, S. (����). Partitioning space: Cross-cultural factors influencing domestic spatial segmentation.
Environment and Behavior, ��(�), ���–���.

�. For a classroom study, see Neill, S. (����). Classroom nonverbal communication. London, England: Routledge.

�. Honolulu Star Advertiser. (����, April �). Will Hawaii Atlantis Hotel at Ko Olina sink? (Editorial). Retrieved from����/��/��/editorial/our-view/editorial-will-hawaii-atlantis-hotel-at-ko-olina-sink/

�. Sadalla, E. K., & Sheets, V. L. (����). Symbolism in building materials: Self-presentational and cognitive
components. Environment and Behavior, ��(�), ���–���.

�. Schwartz, D. (����). To tell the truth: Codes of objectivity in photojournalism. Communication, ��(�), ��–���.

�. Divorce Court. (����, September). Retrieved from���������������

��. Nelissen, R. M., & Meijers, M. H. (����). Social benefits of luxury brands as costly signals of wealth and status.
Evolution and Human Behavior, ��(�), ���–���.

��. Keys, B. J., & Wang, J. (����). Minimum payments and debt paydown in consumer credit cards. Journal of
Financial Economics, ���(�), ���–���.

��. Thomas, R. (Ed.). (����). Environmental design: An introduction for architects and engineers. Abingdon,
England: Taylor & Francis.

��. For an overview, see Boray, P. F., Gifford, R., & Rosenblood, L. (����). Effects of warm white, cool white and
full-spectrum fluorescent lighting on simple cognitive performance, mood and ratings of others. Journal of
Environmental Psychology, �(�), ���–���.

��. Burgoon, J. K., Buller, D. B., & Woodall, W. G. (����). Nonverbal communication: The unspoken dialogue (�nd
ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

��. Go Team Mystic!

��. The poem that is often seen as inspiring the movement of the Red Hat Club can be found at Joseph, J. (����).
Warning: When I am an old woman I shall wear purple. London, England: Souvenir Press.

��. Valdez, P., & Mehrabian, A. (����). Effects of color on emotions. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,
���(�), ���.

�. A great poem that serves as a treatment of such rich smell potentially standing in culturally for poverty can be
found in Ondaatje, M. (����). The cinnamon peeler. New York, NY: Vintage.

�. For a concise overview of this perspective, see Ting-Toomey, S. (����). Communicating across cultures. New
York, NY: Guilford Press.

�. Ramasamy, R., Chiba, K., Butler, P., & Lamb, D. J. (����). Male biological clock: A critical analysis of advanced
paternal age. Fertility and Sterility, ���(�), ����–����.

�. Bracci, M., Ciarapica, V., Copertaro, A., Barbaresi, M., Manzella, N., Tomasetti, M., Gaetani, … & Santarelli, L.
(����). Peripheral skin temperature and circadian biological clock in shift nurses after a day off. International
Journal of Molecular Sciences, ��(�), ���.

�. Belsky, D. W., Moffitt, T. E., Cohen, A. A., Corcoran, D. L., Levine, M. E., Prinz, J. A., … & Caspi, A. (����).
Eleven telomere, epigenetic clock, and biomarker-composite quantifications of biological aging: Do they measure
the same thing? American Journal of Epidemiology, ���(�), ����–����.

�. The origin of the term graveyard shift is not well known (although many speculate it may have had to do with
working in a cemetery) but it certainly had nothing to do with dragging one’s body across the entrance to a
hospital shift as depicted here.

�. Mayall, R. N. (����). The inventor of standard time. Popular Astronomy, ��, ���.

�. Canestri, J. (����). The experience of time: Psychoanalytic perspectives. London, England: Routledge.

�. Church, R. M. (����). The internal clock. In S. H. Hulse, H. Fowler & W. K. Honig (Eds.), Cognitive processes in
animal behavior (pp. ���–���). London, England: Routledge.

��. Zimbardo, P. G., & Boyd, J. N. (����). Putting time in perspective: A valid, reliable individual-differences metric.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, ��(�), ����–����.

��. The original citation is not as significant as the book in which that concept was used as a foundational part of
nonverbal communication’s chronemic code, influencing decades of scholars in the classroom. The original
citation is Reinert, J. (����). What your sense of time tells you. Science Digest, ��, �–��. The more seminal book
that reified the notion of the four psychological time orientations is Burgoon’s text. The particular edition favored by
the author of this textbook is Burgoon, J. K., Buller, D. B., & Woodall, W. G. (����). Nonverbal communication: The
unspoken dialogue (�nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

��. Zimbardo, P. G., Keough, K. A., & Boyd, J. N. (����). Present time perspective as a predictor of risky driving.
Personality and Individual Differences, ��(�), ����–����.

��. For an overview, see Svartdal, F., Granmo, S., & Færevaag, F. S. (����). On the behavioral side of
procrastination: Exploring behavioral delay in real-life settings. Frontiers in Psychology, �, ���.

��. Lane, P. M., & Lindquist, J. D. (����). Definitions for the fourth dimension: A proposed time classification
system. In Kenneth D. Bahn (Ed.), Proceedings of the ���� Academy of Marketing Science (AMS) Annual
Conference (pp. ��–��). New York, NY: Springer Cham.

��. Weiss, D., Job, V., Mathias, M., Grah, S., & Freund, A. M. (����). The end is (not) near: Aging, essentialism,
and future time perspective. Developmental Psychology, ��(�), ���.

��. Lang, F. R., & Damm, F. (����). Perceiving future time across adulthood. In G. Oettingen, A. T. Sevincer, & P.
M. Gollwitzer (Eds.), The psychology of thinking about the future (pp. ���–���). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

��. Lang, F. R., & Damm, F. (����). Perceiving future time across adulthood. In G. Oettingen, A. T. Sevincer, & P.
M. Gollwitzer (Eds.), The psychology of thinking about the future (pp. ���–���). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

��. Skinner, E. A. (����). Seven guideposts to the study of perceived control across the lifespan. In J. W. Reich &
F. J. Infurna (Eds.), Perceived control: Theory, research, and practice in the first �� years (pp. ���–���). New
York, NY: Oxford University Press.

��. For an overview, see Ballard, D. I., & Seibold, D. R. (����). Time orientation and temporal variation across
work groups: Implications for group and organizational communication. Western Journal of Communication
(includes Communication Reports), ��(�), ���–���.

��. For a review, see Bowman, J. M., & Pace, R. C. (����). Dual-Tasking effects on outcomes of mobile
communication technologies. Communication Research Reports, ��(�), ���–���.

��. Crockett, R. A., Weinman, J., Hankins, M., & Marteau, T. (����). Time orientation and health-related behaviour:
Measurement in general population samples. Psychology and Health, ��(�), ���–���.

��. Strathman, A., Gleicher, F., Boninger, D. S., & Edwards, C. S. (����). The consideration of future
consequences: Weighing immediate and distant outcomes of behavior. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, ��(�), ���.

��. microsmatic. (����). Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary (�rd ed.) Retrieved from https://medical-

��. Jenner, M. S. (����). Follow your nose? Smell, smelling, and their histories. The American Historical Review,
���(�), ���–���.

��. Caplan, J. (����). Scents and sensibility. Time, ���(��), ��–��.

��. For example, Dann, G. M., & Steen, J. K. (����). Leading the tourist by the nose. In G. M. S. Dann (Ed.), The
tourist as a metaphor of the social world (p. ���). Wallingford, England: CABI.

��. For example, Yanagida, Y., Kawato, S., Noma, H., Tomono, A., & Tesutani, N. (����, March). Projection based
olfactory display with nose tracking. In IEEE Virtual Reality ���� (pp. ��–��). Piscataway, NJ: Institute of Electrical
and Electronics Engineers.

��. For example, Yanagida, Y. (����). Olfactory interfaces. In P. Kortum (Ed.), HCI beyond the GUI (pp. ���–���).
Burlington, MA: Morgan Kaufman.

��. For example, Nakaizumi, F., Noma, H., Hosaka, K., & Yanagida, Y. (����, March). SpotScents: A novel
method of natural scent delivery using multiple scent projectors. In The Proceedings of the IEEE Conference on
Virtual Reality ���� (pp. ���–���). Piscataway, NJ: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

��. For an example of an experiment actively limiting smell adaptation, see Barczak, R., & Kulig, A. (����). Odour
monitoring of a municipal wastewater treatment plant in Poland by field olfactometry. Chemical Engineering
Transactions, ��, ���–���.

��. For an applied treatment of general sensory adaptation, see Mon, C. S., Yap, K. M., & Ahmad, A. (����, April).
A preliminary study on requirements of olfactory, haptic and audio enabled application for visually impaired in
edutainment. In ���� IEEE �th Symposium on Computer Applications & Industrial Electronics (pp. ���–���).
Piscataway, NJ: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

��. For similar advice, see Blake, T. (����). Sale of the sensory: Increase sales by adding a silent salesperson to
your leasing team. Journal of Property Management, ��(�), ��–��.

��. For an overview, see Pause, B. M. (����). Processing of body odor signals by the human brain.
Chemosensory Perception, �(�), ��–��.

��. For some historical overview of the study of smell as an academic enterprise, see Jenner, M. S. (����). Follow
your nose? Smell, smelling, and their histories. The American Historical Review, ���(�), ���–���.

��. Rantala, M. J., Eriksson, C. P., Vainikka, A., & Kortet, R. (����). Male steroid hormones and female preference
for male body odor. Evolution and Human Behavior, ��(�), ���–���.

��. For an example in mice, see Hurst, J. L., & Beynon, R. J. (����). Scent wars: The chemobiology of
competitive signalling in mice. BioEssays, ��(��), ����–����.

��. For an example in otters, see Kean, E. F., Chadwick, E. A., & Müller, C. T. (����). Scent signals individual
identity and country of origin in otters. Mammalian Biology, ��(�), ��–���.

��. For an amazing example that also includes reference to a particular scent for each family in hyenas, see
Burgener, N., East, M. L., Hofer, H., & Dehnhard, M. (����). Do spotted hyena scent marks code for clan
membership? In J. L. Hurst, R. J. Beynon, S. C. Roberts, & T. D. Wyatt (Eds.), Chemical signals in vertebrates ��
(pp. ���–���). New York, NY: Springer.

��. For a great historical treatment, see Jenner, M. S. (����). Follow your nose? Smell, smelling, and their
histories. The American Historical Review, ���(�), ���–���.

��. For a brief overview, see Trevathan, W. (����). Menstrual synchrony. In P. Whelehan & A. Bolin (Eds.), The
international encyclopedia of human sexuality (���–���). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

��. For an overview of the debate, see Fahs, B. (����). Demystifying menstrual synchrony: Women’s subjective
beliefs about bleeding in tandem with other women. Women’s Reproductive Health, �(�), �–��.

��. For a feminist perspective on the persistent claim of menstrual synchrony, see Pettit, M., & Vigor, J. (����).
Pheromones, feminism and the many lives of menstrual synchrony. BioSocieties, ��(�), ���–���.

�. Bowman, J. M. (����). Interconnections: Foundations and contexts in interpersonal communication (p. ���).
Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

�. The communication potential of all nonverbal codes except oculesics and olfactics are discussed in Burgoon, J.
K., Buller, D. B., & Woodall, W. G. (����). Nonverbal communication: The unspoken dialogue (�nd ed.). New York,
NY: McGraw Hill.

�. Reinhard, M. A., & Sporer, S. L. (����). Verbal and nonverbal behaviour as a basis for credibility attribution: The
impact of task involvement and cognitive capacity. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, ��(�), ���–���.

�. Ottati, V., Terkildsen, N., & Hubbard, C. (����). Happy faces elicit heuristic processing in a televised impression
formation task: A cognitive tuning account. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, ��(��), ����–����.

�. For a brief overview see Andersen, J. F., Andersen, P. A., & Jensen, A. D. (����). The measurement of
nonverbal immediacy. Journal of Applied Communication Research, �(�), ���–���.

�. Burgoon, J. K., Blair, J. P., & Strom, R. E. (����). Cognitive biases and nonverbal cue availability in detecting
deception. Human Communication Research, ��(�), ���–���.

�. For an example of the ethics of nonverbal in a specific context, see Timmermann, C., Uhrenfeldt, L., &
Birkelund, R. (����). Ethics in the communicative encounter: Seriously ill patients’ experiences of health
professionals’ nonverbal communication. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, ��(�), ��–��.

�. For an example in a business context, see Schminke, M., & Ambrose, M. L. (����). Asymmetric perceptions of
ethical frameworks of men and women in business and nonbusiness settings. Journal of Business Ethics, ��(�),

�. See, for example, this classic treatise: Maslow, A. H. (����). A theory of human motivation. Psychological
Review, ��(�), ���–���.��.����/h�������

��. Unbelievably, this was a made-up example and was immediately found to exist across multiple online formats,
including but not limited to the following online website offerings:��/which-male-harry-potter-character-should-you-be-wi-�day��/which-male-harry-potter-character-should-you-be-wi-�day��/which-harry-potter-character-is-your-soulmate

Which Male Character From ‘Harry Potter’ Would YOU Date?��/quiz/����������/Which-Harry-Potter-man-is-your-soulmate�UBo/Which-Harry-Potter-character-is-your-soul-mate


Accents, ���, ���

Acceptance, nonverbal messages, ��

Accommodation, ���, ���

Active scents, ���–���

Adaptors, ��–��

Affect displays, ��–��

microexpressions, ��

neurocultural theory, ��–��

social signaling, ��, ��

Affection Exchange Theory, ��–��

Affection/interest, ���–���

Affirmative consent, ��–��

Ambient noise, ���

American Sign Language (ASL), ��

Analog representations, ��

Analytic comprehension, ��

Androgynous, ��

Anger, ��

Anxiety, ��

Appearance and identity, ���

adornments, ���, ���

artifacts, ���–���

body modifications, ���–���, ���

natural features, ���–���

Approach cues, ���

Architectural style, ���

Articulation, ���

Artifacts, ���–���

ASL. See American Sign Language (ASL)

Attachment Theory, ��–��

Attention stage, ��–��

Attitudes, touch, ��–��

Attraction/interest, ���

Attributions, ���

Avoidance cues, ���

Bilateral symmetry, ���

Biological clock, ���

Body image, ���

Body-image dysphoria, ���

Body odor, ���

Body orientation, ��

Breathiness, ���

Building materials, ���

Burgoon, Judee, ��, ��, ���, ���

CAT. See Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT)

Channel reliance, ��

Channels, �

Chronemics, ��–��, ���–���, ���

biological, ���–���

time, conceptualizations of, ���–���

Circadian rhythm, ���

Classifying touch, ��–��

functions of, ��–��

types of, ��, �� (figure)

Closed body orientation, ��

Codes and culture, ���–���

Colors, ���–���

self-assessments and, ���–���

Committed non-work time, ���

Communication, �–�

active scents, ���–���

facial expressions, ��–��

hands and body movement, ��–��

human, �

linear model of, �–�

models of, �

nonverbal codes, ���–���

passive scents, ���–���

receiver-based, ��

transactional model of, �–�, � (figure)

Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT), ���

principles of, ���–���

strategies of, ���–���

Complementarity, ��

Comprehension stage, ��

Conspicuous consumption, ���

Context, �

Control touch, ��

Convergence, ���, ���

Creating culture, ���–���

Cultural appropriation, ���

Cultural codes, ���–���

Cultural differences, ��

Cultural identity, ��

Cultural relativist position, ��

Cultural time, ���

Decoding, �, ��–��

Delayed gratification, ���

Deviation, ��

Dialogic comprehension, ��

Digital representation, ��–��

vs. analog, ��

Disgust, ��

Dismissive attachments, ��

Display rules, ��

Divergence, ���–���

Diversity, ���

eye contact and, ���

nonverbal behaviors, ��

personal distance, ��, ��

public displays, ��

regular interactions, ��–��, ��

spatial organization, ���

speech patterns, ���

Dual-tasking, ���

Ectomorphs, ���

Education, ���–���

Egg-shaped personal space, ��, �� (figure)

Ekman, P., ��

Emojis, ��

Emoticons, ��

Emotional displays, oculesics, ���–���

affection/interest, ���–���

attraction/interest, ���

facial expression, ��

threat, ���

Empathic comprehension, ��

Emphasis, ���

Encoding, �, ��–��

Endomorphs, ���

Environment, ��, ���

Environmental elements, ���

fixed-feature, ���

Environmental noise, ���–���, ���

sounds, ���

temperature, ���

Environmental sound, ���

Epigenetic clock, ���

Ethical behavior, ���

Evaluative continuum, ���, ���

Expressions of uniqueness, ���–���

Extrovert, ��

Eye behaviors. See Oculesics

Eye contact, ���

Eye movement, ���, ���

pupil dilation, ���, ���

Facial attractiveness, ���–���

Facial expressions, ��–��

affect displays, ��–��

anger, ��

disgust, ��

fear, ��

happiness, ��

sadness, ��

self-assessments and, ��

surprise, ��

Fear, ��

Fearful-avoidant attachments, ��

Feedback, �

First impressions and attitude formation, ��–��

Fixed-feature elements, ���

Flat affect, ��

Formal time, ���

Friesen, W. V., ��

Functional approach, ��–��

control touch, ��

hybrid touch, ��

playful touch, ��

positive affect touch, ��

ritualistic touch, ��

task-related touch, ��–��

Future orientation, ���

Gaze, ��, ���

avoidance, ���

Gender, ��

Gestures and body posture, ��

Giles, Howard, ���

Group membership identity, ���–���, ���, ���

identity badges, ���

Hall, Edward T., ��, ��

Hands and body movement communication, ��

adaptor, ��–��

body orientation, ��

illustrators, ��, ��

regulators, ��, ��

Happiness, ��

Haptics, ��, ���

Affection Exchange Theory, ��–��

Attachment Theory, ��–��

attitudes toward touch, ��–��

classifying touch, ��–��

and human development, ��–��

Harlow, Harry, ��

Harlow Monkey Experiment, ��–��

Homophily, ��

Hybrid touch, ��

Identity, ��

appearance and, ���–���

culture, ��

group membership, ���–���, ���

in-groups, ���–���

managing, ��–��

out-groups, ���–���

personality, ��–��

racial, ��–��

relationships, and nonverbal codes, ��–��

and self-esteem, ���

sex and gender, ��

spatial reflection, ��

theories of, ���–���

Identity badges, ���

Illustrators, ��, ��

Inappropriate touch, ��

Individual primacy, ��–��

In-groups identity, ���–���

Inspire feature, �

Intentional nonverbal communication, �

Interactional motivations

difference, ��–��

proximity, ��–��

similarity, ��–��

Interactional primacy, ��

Interaction distances, ��, ��

Intermodal matching, ��

Interpersonal distance, ��

intimate zone, ��

personal/casual zone, ��, �� (figure)

public zone, ��

social/consultative zone, ��

zones of, �� (figure)

Intimate zone, ��

Introvert, ��

Kinesics, ��, ��, ���

gestures and body posture, ��

Kinesthetic awareness, ��

intimacy of, ��

Leading lines, ���

Light, ���

Linear model of communication, �–�, � (figure)

Linear perspective, ���

Lines and curves in space, ���–���, ��� (figure)

Looking toward, gaze, ���–���

Maintenance, ���

Male gaze, ���

Male privilege, ��

Meaning-making, nonverbal messaging, ��

Media, ���–���

accents, ���

attention, paying, ��

body image, ���

diversemere exposure effect, ��

group membership, ���

inappropriate touch, ��

interactions, ���

voice, tone, �

Memory stage, ��

Menstrual synchrony, ���

Mere exposure effect, ��

Mesomorphs, ���

Message, �

Message processing, ��–��

attention stage, ��–��

comprehension stage, ��

memory stage, ��

Microexpressions, ��

Microsmatic, ���

Monitoring nonverbals, ��

Monochronism, ���

Motion-based messaging, ��

Multitasking, ���

Muscle dysmorphia, ���

Mutual gaze, ���

Nasality, ���

Natural features, ���

body shape, ���–���

facial attractiveness, ���–��

Near-universal skill, ��

Neurocultural Theory, ��

Noise, �

types, �

Non-committed time, ���

Nonverbal codes, ��–��

chronemics, ��–��

environment, ��

haptics, ��

kinesics, ��

oculesics, ��

olfactics, ��

physical appearance, ��–��

proxemics, ��

vocalics, ��

Nonverbal communication

channels, ��–��

codes, ���–���

definition, �–�, ���

monitoring, ��

near-universal skill, ��

primacy, ��

Nonverbal messaging

acceptance, ��

ambiguous, ��–��

functions of, ��

meaning-making, ��

primacy, ��

principles of, ��–��

uasges, ��–��

ubiquitous, ��

Object-adaptor, ��

Oculesics, ���, ���

and emotional displays, ���–���

eye movement, ���–���

gaze, ���

looking toward, ���–���

Olfactics, ��, ���–���, ���

active scents, ���, ���

passive scents, ���–���

One-sided gaze, ���

One-way messaging, �

Online identities, ���

Ontogenetic primacy, ��

Open body orientation, ��

Other-adaptor, ��

Out-groups identity, ���–���

Paine, Thomas, ��

Passive scents, ���–���

Past orientation, ���

Patriarchal cultures, ���

Pause, ���, ���

Personality, ��–��

Personality theory, ���

Personal pronouns, ��

Personal space, ��

egg-shaped, ��, �� (figure)

ethics of, ��

Phylogenetic primacy, ��

Physical appearance, ��–��, ���–���

body shape, ���–���

facial attractiveness, ���–���

See also Appearance and identity

Physical noise, �

Physiognomy, ���

Physiological arousal, ��

Physiological noise, �

Pitch, ���

Pitch range, ���

Playful touch, ��

Polychronism, ���

Positive affect touch, ��

Positive consent., ���

Preoccupied attachments, ��

Present orientation, ���

Primacy, ��

of individual, ��–��

of interaction, ��

nonverbal messaging, ��

of species, ��

Procrastinate, ���

Pronunciation, ���

Proxemics, ��, ��, ���

Proxemic violations, ��

perceptions and expectations, ��–��

physiological arousal, ��

Proximity, ��–��

Psychological noise, �

Public displays, ��

Pupil dilation, ���, ���

and sexual orientation, ���

Racial identity, ��–��

Raspiness, ���

Rate, ���

Receiver, �

Regular interactions

diversity, ��–��, ��

empathy and perspective-taking, ��

Regulators, ��, ��


reevaluating, ��

touch to facilitate, ��–��

Relative volume, ���

Reproductive synchrony, ���

Resonance, ���

Response latency, ��

Rhythm, ���

Ritualistic touch, ��

Room temperature, ���

Sadness, ��

Scents, ��, ���–���

Scent signature, ���–���

Schemata, ��

Secure attachments, ��

Self-adaptor, ��

Self-assessments, ��–��, ���–���

and anxiety, ��

comfort with silence, ���

and cultural time, ���

and facial expression, ��

and first impressions, ��–��

and perspective-taking, ��

“scents,” ��

and self-monitoring, ���

and social identity, ���–���

and touch avoidance, ��

Self-concept, ���

Self-disclosure, ��

Self-esteem, ���

Self-monitoring, ���

Semantic noise, �

Semi-fixed-feature elements, ���

artifacts, ���–���

environmental noise, ���–���, ���

visual continua, ���–���

Sender, �

Sexual dimorphism, ���

Sexual identity, ��

affirmative consent, ��

Shannon, C. E., �, �

Sign languages, ��

Silence, ���–���

Similarity, ��–��

Smell adaptation, ���

Smellitzers, ���

Social anxieties, ��

Social competence, ��

Social identity, ���–���

Social Identity Theory, ���

Social information, gaze, ���–���

Social intelligence, ��

Social signaling, ��, ��

Sociofugal space, ���

Sociopetal space, ���

Somatotype, ���

Sounds, ���


egg-shaped, ��, �� (figure)

sociofugal, ���

sociopetal, ���

volume of, ���–���

See also Use of space

Spatial organization, ���

Standard time, ���

Structural approach, ��

Subjective time, ���

Surprise, ��

Tactile, ��

Task-related touch, ��–��

Technical time, ���

Temperature, ���

Theories of identity, ���–���

Thinness, ���

Threat, ���

Threat threshold, ��

Three-dimensional space, ���–���

Tie-signs, ���–���

Time, conceptualizations of, ���–���

Time horizon, ���


attitudes, ��, ��–��

classifying, ��–��

facilitate relationships, ��

hybrid, ��

playful, ��

positive affect, ��

ritualistic, ��

task-related, ��–��

Transactional messaging, �

Transactional model of communication, �–�, � (figure)

Trusted expressions, ��

ethical analysis, ��

Type A personality, ��

Undifferentiated, ��

Unidirectional messaging, �

Unintentional nonverbal communication, �, �, ���

Universalist position, ��

Use of space, ���–���

lines and curves, ���–���, ��� (figure)

materials, ���–���

Utterance, ���

Valence, ��

Verbal communication, �

Violations theory, proxemic, ��–��

deviation, ��

threat threshold, ��

valence, ��

Visual continua, ���–���

color, ���–���

light, ���

Vocal/auditory messages, ��

Vocal characteristics, ���

properties, ���–���

qualities, ���

silence, ���–���

Vocalics, ��, ���

See also Vocal characteristics

Vocal qualities, ���

Voice, tone, �

Volume, ���

Volume of space, ���–���

Wealth displays, ���

Weaver, W., �, �

White privilege, ��

Work time, ���

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