Scientists have listed 700,000 different combinations of
face and body movements that people use to convey
meaning. (L.M. Boyd, Checking Up)
BELIEVE IT OR NOT!!!! On the average, people speak words for only 10-11
minutes daily! The standard spoken sentence takes 2.5 seconds. And, in normal
two-person conversation, non-verbal components carry more than 65% of the
social meaning. (Ray Birdwhistle, noted authority on non-verbal communication)
There are many aspects of non-verbal communication. These notes touch upon
only several of the most important.
I. FACIAL EXPRESSION:
A. The leading researcher in the field of facial expression and how it
conveys human emotion is, Dr. Paul Ekman.
B. Researchers define ten classes of meaning in facial expressions:
1. happiness 6. disgust
2. surprise 7. contempt
3. fear 8. interest
4. anger 9. bewilderment
5. sadness 10. determination
C. According to Dale Leathers, in Non-Verbal Communication, the face:
1. Communicates evaluative judgments through pleasant and
2. Reveals the level of interest or lack of interest in others and in
3. Can exhibit level of intensity and thus show how involved we are
in a situation.
4. Communicates the amount of control we have over our own
5. Shows whether we understand something or not.
II. EYE CONTACT: Of all facial cues, eye contact may be the most
important. Eye contact has a major impact on both the quality and quantity
of interpersonal communication. (A. Kendon, Acta Psychologica, 26.)
A. Eye contact serves two primary functions in interpersonal
1. Regulatory – Tells whether you want to make additional eye
contact with that person.
2. Expressive – Reveals feelings toward another person. Research
in this area is inconsistent with regard to women, but suggests
that men make more eye contact with someone they like than
with someone they dislike.
B. Factors affecting the amount of eye contact:
1. Distance between the communicators.
2. Physical characteristics of the communicators.
3. Personal and personality characteristics of the communicators.
4. Topics and tasks of the involved parties.
5. The cultural background of the participants.
The pupils of our eyes communicate also. Researchers, E.H. Hess and
J.M. Polt (U. of Chicago) in Science performed an experiment in which
they measure the degree of pupil dilation in the eyes of men and women as
they were shown selected pictures. They discovered the following:
1. A person’s pupils grow or diminish in proportion to his/her
interest in the subject of the photo.
2. Men’s pupils grew 15% larger when they viewed pictures of
3. Women’s pupils grew 20% larger when they viewed pictures of
4. Women’s pupils grew even more when they looked at pictures
of mothers with infants.
So, why is this relevant???? Knowing this could make you more aware of
other’s feelings, and could possibly make you a better judge of what others
want. Researcher Edward Hall (mentioned below) was in a bazaar in the Middle
East, when an Arab merchant convinced a customer to buy an item the customer
had been ignoring. The merchant had watched the pupils of the customer’s eyes
and knew that item was what he really wanted.
III. SPACE: Edward T. Hall, cultural anthropologist, in The Silent Language,
uses the word, proxemics, to stand for the way people communicate by
their use of space in relation to other people.
A. Intimate (0-18 in.): comforting, loving, fighting
B. Personal (18 in. – 4ft.): less confidential, personal topics of mutual
interest, casual conversation during parties or between classmates.
C. Social (4-12ft.): the greater the distance the more formal the business or
social conversation is likely to be.
D. Public (12ft. +)
IV. Body Orientation: The degree to which one person is turned in the
direction of another during communication reveals, generally:
A. We use a more direct body orientation toward another if he is of higher
status than we are.
B. If we are male, our direction orientation reveals a liking for the other.
C. Women, in contrast, give a moderately direct orientation to those they
like and a very indirect orientation to those they intensely dislike.
(Wenberg & Wilmot, The Personal Communication Process)
V. Body Language: Body language can communicate:
1. Warmth – Shift posture toward other person, smile, maintain direct
eye contact, keep hands still, etc.
2. Coldness – Look around room, slump, drum fingers, and do not
3. Courtship behavior. Four stages:
a. Courtship readiness – high muscle tone, reduced eye bagginess
and jowl sag, lessening of slouch and shoulder hunching,
decreasing belly sag.
b. Preening behavior – stroke hair, rearrange make-up, glance in
mirror, rearrange clothes, leave buttons open, adjust suit coats,
tug at socks, etc.
c. Positional cues – sitting in such a way that third parties can’t
enter conversation, moving arms, legs or torso to inhibit others
d. Actions of appeal – flirtation, glancing, gazeholding, crossing
legs, exhibiting wrist or palm.
B. Status Differences: Mark Knapp, a researcher and writer on nonverbal
communication summarized findings on non-verbal indicators of status
and power. High status persons are associated with:
1. less eye gaze
2. postural relaxation
3. greater voice loudness
4. more frequent use of hands on hips
5. dress ornamentation with power symbols
6. greater territorial access
7. more expansive movements and postures
8. greater height and more distance
C. Deception. Research on lying indicates that liars will have:
1. Higher voice pitch
2. Less enthusiastic gestures
3. Slower speaking rate
4. Less closeness to others in body position
5. Less eye contact
6. More uncertainty in gestures
7. More speech errors
8. Less nodding
Other possible clues to deception:
1. Hands digging into cheeks
2. Tearing at fingernails
3. Aggressive foot kicks
4. Soothing leg squeezing
5. Abortive, restless movements
6. Tenseness in leg positions
7. Flirtatious leg displays
8. Frequent shift of leg position
9. Restless or repetitive leg and foot acts