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1. What is nonverbal communication?

First lecture in COMMRC 1109

Mark Paterson

on 7 August 2014

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Transcript of 1. What is nonverbal communication?

Nonverbal Communication

1. Introductions.
What is nonverbal communication?
is what...
task for next week
buy notebook!
Tone and intonation convey states and clarify meaning.

Paralinguistic cues accompanying verbal communication.

Modifications of voice include: pitch (‘fundamental frequency’ is usual pitch), inflection (variation in tone), volume, rate (pace or speed of speaking, varies with affective state), filler words (expletives, Japanese ‘ano’), pronunciation, articulation (enunciation), accent (what is a neutral or non accent?), silence.
Smell and communicative effects through the 'chemical senses'

Subtle but powerful ways to influence how one reacts to other people

Proust and olfactic association (connection with limbic system, memory and emotions)

Sexual attraction. Subconscious reactions to olfactory cues (not just pheromones). Research shows this indicates genetic suitability.

Highlights the difference between conscious and nonconscious channels of communication for receiving and transmitting codes
Touch and somatic sensations in the body.

Touch and the so-called 'haptic system' (Gibson 1968)

Classifications of touching:
Affectionate touch (hugging, kissing, hand-holding cf. different cultures)
Caregiving touch (more professional type touch – doctor or nurse) Power and control (esp with child or elderly, policing of behavior) Negative touching - aggression (violence, assault and battery)
Ritual (handshakes, double-kiss, contact sports)
Today we Introduce and provide an overview of NVC and the Course
First pitch: we know it when we observe it – seeing or hearing, sometimes touching or smelling. But most usually seeing.
Kory Floyd
“We can define nonverbal communication, then, as those behaviors and characteristics that convey meaning without the use of words” (p.209).

We are suggesting a spectrum of communication behaviors that run from verbal to nonverbal and includes everything inbetween:

“Nonverbal communication behaviors frequently accompany verbal messages to clarify or reinforce them”
5 characteristics of NVC
1. Nonverbal communication is present in most interpersonal communication
2. Nonverbal communication often conveys more information than verbal communication
3. Nonverbal communication is usually believed over verbal communication
4. Nonverbal communication is the primary means of communicating emotion
5. Nonverbal communication is meta-communicative
1. Nonverbal communication is present in most interpersonal communication

If nonverbal cues are present alongside verbal communications, we pay them more attention.

This is especially the case with sensory impairments, where compensatory mechanisms kick in. Blindness: heightened acuity of hearing and touch.
2. Nonverbal communication often conveys more information than verbal communication

Statistics about the prevalence of NVC, e.g. 93% of all communication is nonverbal.

Why are these statistical myths perpetuated, and in whose interests? What are “nonverbal channels”, p213, is it productive to think of a bandwidth analogy? What do you think is the role of touch in this, what kinds of behaviors include tactility (haptics)? And smell (Al Pacino)?
3. Nonverbal communication is usually believed over verbal communication

Conflicting information, saying and doing, for example in a sarcastic expression.

Why exactly do we believe our eyes and not our ears in such situations? Ability to detect deception, lies, falsehoods. Other examples?
4. Nonverbal communication is the primary means of communicating emotion

Large lexicon (vocabulary) for talking about emotion, but much easier, efficient and accurate to communicate this through other means.

Paralleled by heightened sensitivity in child development to nonverbal emotional cues [although: autism]. Requires high degree of socialization. Cross-cultural comparisons hold up (Paul Ekman and physiognomy as communicant of emotional state).
5. Nonverbal communication is meta-communicative

Meta-communication is often verbal, and helps clarify meanings further (‘Let me tell you what I think…’). Intonation directly affects the meaning, as does placement of emphasis in enunciation.

However, some of this metacommunication is nonverbal. Examples of NV MC? (raised eyebrows, cupped mouth, hand at ear…).
Why are some people better at reading NVC than others, what factors (developmental, gender, age…)?

How accurate do you think you are in interpreting other peoples’ NVC? Are there negative connotations to admitting poor comprehension of NVC?
1. Self-organize into groups of 4 people

2. Introduce yourselves in three sentences to the group

3. A fresh piece of paper per group: elect a temporary spokesperson and a temporary note-taker

4. Note areas of current study or employment that intersect with NVC.

5. Identify an example of NVC that you have seen personally or that has been mediated (e.g. TV or film scene, photo, speech)
Facial Displays
The principle of facial primacy: more information communicated than any other channel

Attractiveness: symmetry and proportionality
Emotion: coding and decoding
Eye behaviors: oculesics.

Eye ‘contact’, (cf. Asia and Middle East), dilation of pupil (Voigt-Kampff) according to emotion/affect
Movement and gestures: kinesics.

Gait, styles of movement (culturally codetermined), gesticulation as hand and arm movements, even amongst blind.
Emblem as direct verbal sign (some end up as sign language). Illustrator enhances and clarifies the verbal e.g. size.
Affect displays (a ‘tell’) e.g. indicates when nervous or lying. Regulators alter flow of conversation through finger/hand/arm movement
Adaptors/self adaptors. Satisfies personal need (itch, nose picking) or that of others, but communicates something along the way.
Space behaviors: The study of spatial use.

Kory Floyd: “We have a preferred amount of personal space that we carry like an invisible bubble around us.” (p.231)

Edward T. Hall, The Hidden Dimension (1966)
High contact and low contact cultures
Four spatial zones, from ‘intimate distance’ to ‘personal distance’ to ‘social distance’ to ‘public distance’.
Role of space and environment in social dynamics and group interactions.
Time behaviors: chronemics.

Messages of value (spending time with a visitor, or not even coming downstairs)
Messages of power (keeping an inferior waiting, but not a superior)
The use of objects, shaping the environment around you to better reflect your tastes and personality.

“Artifacts are the objects and visual features within an environment that reflect who we are and what we like” (Floyd p.234)

Photos of friends, relatives, children on the wall. Open door or closed door to your room/office? Use of color in interior decorations, ‘warm’ or ‘cold’ colors?
What olfactory associations do you have? Are these universal or particular to you?

What artifacts do you use to communicate messages in your new dorm rooms or houses?
we communicate with each other without using words?
The Course
At key points in our lives such as job interviews or first dates we are told that nonverbal behavior communicates a huge amount of information about us to others in a way that our words and speech cannot. What is nonverbal communication? The myriad gestures, expressions and behaviors including facial expressions, the gaze, maintaining a space around a person, the use of touch (or lack of it), the way we dress or adorn ourselves to look certain ways to certain people. We tend to think most nonverbal communication is silent and based on movement, yet there are paralinguistic elements, things we vocalize that lie outside of language, utterances that convey more information alongside our comprehensible spoken sentences. Thus, if so-called nonverbal communication actually encompasses the gestural, the performative but also the uttered and vocalized, we can say that rather than speak strictly of the ‘verbal’ and the ‘non-verbal’ it may be more meaningful to posit a continuum of communication where non-verbal techniques and elements take place at times separate from, and at other times alongside, the verbal.
Nonverbal communication is central to human interaction because nonverbal cues are the primary ways that we express and interpret relationships, emotion, intention and character. Every socialized human, including yourselves, already have some expertise in this area. But by taking this course the phenomena of nonverbal communication will be brought into sharper focus and you will be able to approach any communicative action with greater analytic skills. You will think differently not only about your own nonverbal behaviors, but also that of other people in everyday contexts. In other words, ‘people watching’ can become grand theater.
Through active participation in this course you will be able to:-identify the major dimensions of nonverbal communication and their uses-find and analyze examples of nonverbal communication in action-present your ideas and analyses in nonverbally compelling ways-gain insight into your own use and interpretation of nonverbal cues
Knapp, Mark L., & Hall, Judith A. (2009) Nonverbal Communication in Human Interaction. Wadsworth: Thomas Learning. 7th Edition.

Other texts that will be referred to in the course:

Guerrero, K., Hecht, M.L. (2007) The Nonverbal Communication Reader: Classic and Contemporary Readings. Third Edition. Waveland Press.

Egolf, D. (2007) The Nonverbal Factor: Exploring the Other Side of Communication. 2nd Edition. iUniverse.

Floyd, K. (2009) Interpersonal Communication: The Whole Story. 1st Edition. McGraw-Hill.
Readings and Required Texts
There will be readings assigned for each week that relate to the lectures. In some cases the material will be a launching point for discussions of related examples, and other readings can be incorporated into these discussions. In other words, the readings assigned each week are the bare minimum, and other relevant readings will be indicated in lectures and through supplementary reading lists provided either in handouts or through the Wiki as the course progresses. It is expected that all students at least complete the minimum reading for each week. This will aid discussion and also comprehension of the lecture material. For assignments, including the presentation, you will have to find further relevant material.
To aid your participation in this class, to circulate readings and facilitate discussions between classes, and also to provide a series of resources that can be added to by you, there is a Wiki for this course. CourseWeb will only be used for grading and official purposes, so please bear in mind that all class material, notifications, readings and updates for this course will be posted directly to the Wiki:


Please get into the habit of visiting this site on a regular basis. Additionally, the lecture slides and materials will be uploaded here on a regular basis, along with any multimedia resources.
The Wiki Space
The assessments for this class will be what you make of them, and much depends on what you bring into them, i.e. your own enthusiasm for learning, observing, and reading elsewhere. You could treat the assessments merely as hurdles to jump through to gain credit. But this course allows a cumulative pathway, that is, start from an initial interest and idea in an aspect of nonverbal communication that may develop, through a series of assignments, into a final written project. From a series of examples of nonverbal behavior that you initially share with your group, you can then proceed to ‘adopt’ one of them, read around the topic, and then produce a class presentation and answer questions as a group on this topic. From feedback in class, by myself and your peers, you could continue this work by writing a longer project essay based on this topic or a related one. You are welcome to approach me in class or in office hours with potential ideas, and ask for advice on writing strategies.

Based on my feedback for both the contribution to the database (200 words), the group presentation (20 mins), and reading report (1000 words), the culmination is a final project essay (2,000 words).
Assignments and Evaluation
One way to operationalize the knowledge and analytic techniques of various behaviors within class time is to flesh out the material with video, photographic, audio and/or enacted examples. You need to contribute to an online course database within the first four weeks of the course. A separate handout will provide more detailed guidelines for this assignment. Basically, your contributions will be judged on the basis of their originality, variety, creativity, significance, topicality and completeness. They should involve rich descriptions by yourself and be supported by documentation, images or film wherever possible. To gauge their significance for the field of nonverbal communication you will look into the literature and use citations in support of them. Along with a link or embedded photo/video you therefore need to provide a description of its significance for the study of nonverbal communication.
Assignment 1. Contribution to class database (200 words, 10%). Deadline Sept 12.
Groups of 4. Will take place over 7 weeks, starting from week 4. This should allow you time enough after your individual contributions to the database to gather in your groups and settle on one particular NVC phenomenon to study in more depth. A timetable for each group’s presentation will be circulated beforehand.
You will be kickstarting class discussion so come armed with questions and ideas for this.
Assignment 2. Group-based audio-visual presentation (20 minutes + 20 mins discussion, 20%). Deadline Oct 31.

Based on one of the topics you have selected so far, find a suitable reading that offers research in that area of NVC. Don’t use the textbook itself! The article should be robust and shed new light on these phenomena, and must be approved by me beforehand.
Assignment 3. Reading Report (1000 words, 20%). Deadline Nov 14.
The final project essay is a major course paper on an approved topic. The topic may be any one of the issues discussed in class and/or assigned in our readings (see Course Overview in Syllabus). You are also welcome to explore something original that the class hasn’t touched upon, although please talk to me about this before embarking on it. The quality of the final paper is important since it constitutes the final exam. For this reason, be selective in choosing a topic that will sustain your interest, and avoid changing your topic partway through. One way of avoiding such a change is to conduct initial basic research on your topic before committing to it:

1. Is it about an issue that you are interested in?
2. Is there sufficient information accessible to you, not just online but in the library, on the topic?

More information concerning each assignment will be provided through handouts in lectures and also on the Wiki. The class schedule will also allow time for working up examples and ideas from yourselves and, in the later part of the course, time for ‘workshopping’ strategies for writing and researching your individual final project.
Assignment 4. Final Project Essay of 2000 words (40%). Deadline Dec 12th.
93% of all communication is nonverbal*
*Statistics may not be actually true.
Or, how do we engineer nonhumans to display nonverbal characteristics? To become more 'lifelike' and 'human'?
Class Participation. Including attendance and active discussion, 10%.
Research by Norcia and Farzin in the Journal of Vision in 2012 showed that new-born babies recognize faces before they recognize objects, and this happens hours after birth
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