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Relational message interpretations of touch, conversational distance, and posture

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Abstract

According to a social meaning model of nonverbal communication, many nonverbal behaviors have consensually recognized meanings. Two field experiments examined this presumption by investigating the relational message interpretations assigned to differing levels and types of touch, proximity, and posture. Also examined were the possible moderating effects of the communicator characteristics of gender and attractiveness and relationship characteristics of gender composition and status differentials. Results showed that touching typically conveyed more composure, immediacy, receptivity/trust, affection, similarity/depth/equality, dominance, and informality than its absence. The form of touch also mattered, with handholding and face touching expressing the most intimacy, composure, and informality; handholding and the handshake expressing the least dominance, and the handshake conveying the most formality but also receptivity/trust. Postural openness/relaxation paralleled touch in conveying greater intimacy, composure, informality, and similarity but was also less dominant than a closed/tense posture. Close proximity was also more immediate and similar but dominant. Proximity and postural openness together produced differential interpretations of composure, similarity, and affection. Gender initiator attractiveness was more influential than status in moderating interpretations.
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... In Dael and colleagues' (2012) cluster analysis of posed expressions of various emotions based on postural elements, the pride and elated joy poses emerged as a cluster defined primarily by rapid, expansive arm movements. Other research suggests that "postural openness" of the torso and arms can communicate intimacy, closeness, and positive engagement (e.g., Burgoon, 1991;Patterson, 1983), suggesting affective warmth rather than dominance. ...
... This is consistent with the proposal that high-arousal positive affect, rather than dominance, is communicated by the vertical dimension of expansiveness. Adding instability to this postural package appears to nudge inferences toward interpersonal warmth, the third aspect of affect linked to postural expansion in prior research (e.g., Burgoon, 1991;Patterson, 1983). ...
... Across the literature on nonverbal communication, there is a strong theme in which postural expansiveness signals dominance, pride, and power (e.g., Cuddy et al., 2018;Park et al., 2013;Shariff et al., 2012;Tracy & Robins, 2008). However, other research suggests that postural expansiveness can also communicate high-arousal positive affect (Dael et al., 2012;Witkower & Tracy, 2019a) and interpersonal warmth (e.g., Burgoon, 1991;Patterson, 1983). In the present research we aimed to differentiate the affective messages communicated through postural expansiveness by (a) examining distinct forms of expansiveness (i.e., horizontal, vertical, overall space, toe-to-toe, finger-to-finger) while considering their interactions with other postural elements (e.g., head position, arm position); and (b) expanding the range of inferred affect dimensions and affect-laden personality characteristics (e.g., extraversion, warmth) assessed within the same study. ...
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Full-text available
In addition to the face, bodily posture plays an important role in communicating affective states. Postural expansion-how much space the body takes up-has been much studied as expressing and signaling dominance and pride. The present research aimed to expand research on the range of affect dimensions and affect-laden personality characteristics that are expressed via expansiveness, investigating specific forms of expansiveness and their interactions with other postural elements (e.g., arm position). Using an innovative expression-production method, Study 1 (N = 146) characterized full-body expressions of dominance, joy, hope, and awe; results indicated joy is communicated most expansively and suggested a signature arm position for most feelings. Studies 2 and 3 (Ns = 352 and 183) revealed that other postural features interact with expansiveness to signal dominance (arms akimbo, head raised, stability), as distinct from high-arousal positive affect (arms high up, head raised) and warmth (arms high up, head raised, instability). Together, this research adds needed data on full-body expressions of positive affect states and provides systematic analysis of different affective messages and varieties of postural expansiveness. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
... Supportive tactile communication refers to the use of touch that communicates a message of trust, immediacy, receptivity, and affection (Burgoon, 1991) and is often associated with more positive emotional states. Supportive touch has been linked with promoting physical, relational, and psychological well-being (Jakubiak & Feeney, 2017). ...
Conference Paper
The present study examines how supportive tactile communication impacts evaluations of esteem support messages containing high emotion-focused (HEF) or high problem-focused (HPF) content. A 2 (verbal content; i.e., HEF or HPF) by 2 (nonverbal content; i.e., presence or absence of supportive tactile communication) quasi-experiment was conducted to test for main and interactional effects of messages on relational outcomes. Participants (N = 409) were randomly assigned to watch one of four videotaped esteem support interactions between friends in which verbal content and nonverbal behavior were manipulated. Then, participants rated perceived relational outcome items (i.e., relational satisfaction, closeness, liking). Results from the experiment revealed that HEF conditions were rated significantly higher on perceptions of satisfaction, closeness, and liking compared to the HPF conditions. Additionally, supportive tactile communication conditions were rated significantly higher on perceptions of satisfaction, closeness, and liking compared to conditions with no supportive tactile communication. The 2-way interactions also revealed that the inclusion of supportive tactile communication with HEF and HPF content, increased perceptions of satisfaction, closeness, and liking beyond verbal content alone. Theoretical and pragmatic implications, in addition to limitations and future avenues for research, are also discussed.
... In Burgoon et al. [19] it was found that touch convey more trust, affection and receptivity than its absence. Touch can communicate positive social messages such as support, appreciation and sexual attraction or negative ones like anger and frustra- [136] showed that romantic couples were able to communicate envy and pride at above-chance level. ...
Thesis
Touch is the earliest sense to develop and the first mean of contact with the external world. Touch also plays a key role in our socio-emotional communication: we use it to communicate our feelings, elicit strong emotions in others and modulates behavior (e.g. compliance). Although its relevance, touch is an understudied modality in Human-Machine Interaction (HMI) and Affective Computing (AC) compared to audition and vision. When interacting with machines, humans seek and expect tactile interaction thus designing systems able to interpret and respond appropriately to touch would enhance the quality of interaction between humans and machines. In this thesis we worked toward improving the machine touch recognition part of the interaction loop. Before designing these systems, we first introduced the mechanisms by which the sense of touch process physical stimuli (bottom-up) then discussed from a socio-psychological standpoint the factors that influence touch behavior and it's interpretation (top-down) in social interaction; then reviewed the literature on automatic Social Touch recognition. Building these systems requires mainly facing two challenges: (i) sensing and data collection; (ii) features extraction and automated touch recognition. Most of the social touch recognition systems require a feature engineering step making them difficult to compare and to generalize to other databases. In this thesis, we propose an end-to-end approach. We present an attention-based end-to-end model for touch gesture recognition evaluated on two public datasets (CoST and HAART) in the context of the ICMI 15 Social Touch Challenge. Our model gave a similar level of accuracy: 61% for CoST and 68% for HAART and uses self-attention as an alternative to feature engineering and Recurrent Neural Networks. Next, we introduce a novel way for collecting socio-affective touch data, a framework that we named stimuli-imitation (SI). Previous methods employed affective labels (e.g Love) or touch gesture labels (e.g Hug) to elicit socio-affective touch gestures. These stimuli are vague, divorced from social context and introduces high inter-subject variability. The purpose of our method is two fold: (i) provide a social context by transitioning from a label-based to a scenario-based stimuli; and reduce variability between subjects by constraining touch gesture elicitation using imitation. In our study we investigated to which extent imitation produce consistent touch gestures; and also the influence of social context introduced by scenarios on affect elicitation. Lastly, we developed a personalized affect recognition system that uses touch and individual traits data (empathy and personality scores) to recognize the emotional state of participants beyond chance levels, and a system that recognize individual traits from touch data.
Chapter
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