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The Power of Touch: Nonverbal Communication Within Married Dyads

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Researchers have suggested that one function of touch in mixed-sex interac-tions is to exert influence over another person. Yet theories offer different explanations as to when women and men will use touch as an influence strategy. The gender politics hypothesis proposes that men touch more as a way to maintain inequalities present in society. In turn, the dyadic power theory proposes that both women and men will touch more depending on their goals in a given situation. The person initiating a topic of disagreement is more likely to touch in order to try and influence the other person to agree with his or her position. However, researchers have rarely exam-ined the different assertions of these theories within intimate relationships. The present study, with 67 married heterosexual couples, was designed to provide an initial test of these theories. The authors focused on four types of touch across two problem-solving topics: one chosen by each spouse. Consistent with the dyadic power theory, results indicated that when couples discussed topics chosen by wives, wives exhibited more touches. However, no differences in these forms of touch emerged when couples discussed topics chosen by husbands. Implications for marital counseling and research are discussed. Regular Manuscript
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The Counseling Psychologist
39(5) 764 –787
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DOI: 10.1177/0011000010385849
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385849TCP39510.1177/00110000103858
49Smith et al.The Counseling Psychologist
© The Author(s) 2011
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1Central Iowa Psychological Services
2Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, USA
Corresponding Author:
David L. Vogel, W149 Lagomarcino Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011.
Email: dvogel@iastate.edu
The Power of
Touch: Nonverbal
Communication
Within Married Dyads
Joann C. Seeman Smith,1 David L. Vogel,2
Stephanie Madon,2 and
Sarah R. Edwards2
Abstract
Researchers have suggested that one function of touch in mixed-sex interac-
tions is to exert influence over another person. Yet theories offer different
explanations as to when women and men will use touch as an influence
strategy. The gender politics hypothesis proposes that men touch more as
a way to maintain inequalities present in society. In turn, the dyadic power
theory proposes that both women and men will touch more depending on
their goals in a given situation. The person initiating a topic of disagreement
is more likely to touch in order to try and influence the other person to
agree with his or her position. However, researchers have rarely exam-
ined the different assertions of these theories within intimate relationships.
The present study, with 67 married heterosexual couples, was designed to
provide an initial test of these theories. The authors focused on four types
of touch across two problem-solving topics: one chosen by each spouse.
Consistent with the dyadic power theory, results indicated that when couples
discussed topics chosen by wives, wives exhibited more touches. However,
no differences in these forms of touch emerged when couples discussed
topics chosen by husbands. Implications for marital counseling and research
are discussed.
Regular Manuscript
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Smith et al. 765
Keywords
touch, power, marital power, marriage, nonverbal communication
Researchers have found that most couples do not recognize clear inequalities
in decision making and accommodations that favor one spouse over the other
(Knudson-Martin & Mahoney, 1998, 2009). This discrepancy is important as
the distribution of power between spouses has been associated with marital
satisfaction (Aida & Falbo 1991; Amato, Johnson, Booth, & Rogers, 2003),
marital quality (Zvonkovic, Schmiege, & Hall, 1994), divorce (Gottman,
Coan, Carrere, & Swanson, 1998; Gray-Little, Baucom, & Hamby, 1996),
domestic violence (Kim & Emery, 2003; Straus, 2007), response to marital
therapy (Baucom, Atkins, Simpson, & Christensen, 2009), and even psycho-
pathology (Byrne & Carr, 2000). Not surprisingly, the American Psychologi-
cal Association (2007) has noted the need for gender-sensitive research and
practice that focuses on issues of social context and power. Furthermore,
researchers and clinicians have called for research-informed practice with
regard to gender and power (Lebow, 2006; Sprenkle & Piercy, 2005) and noted
the importance for psychologists to examine power differentials between women
and men and how these may be affecting their clients (Parker, 2009). Specifi-
cally, Sullivan (2006) stressed the need to examine how power in marriages
plays out via interpersonal interactions. Given these recommendations, one
would expect that counselors already attend to power dynamics in intimate
relationships. However, the evidence suggests that counselors are not adept
at detecting clear power abuses such as domestic violence (Avis, 1992), let
alone power imbalances or power dynamics associated with less severe behav-
iors (e.g., imbalances in decision making; Aldarondo, 2007; Knudson-Martin
& Mahoney, 2009; Parker, 2009). As a result, there is still a need for research-
ers to examine gender and power dynamics within couples to inform both
research and clinical practice.
Societal changes have raised the importance of understanding how tradi-
tional power roles may or may not play out in marriage (Sullivan, 2006).
Marital relationships are one of the places where traditional social roles and
gender differences in power are thought to exist (Tichenor, 2005). However,
there has been some debate about whether these roles are changing within
marital relationships and the extent to which these relationships are egali-
tarian in Western societies (Coontz, 2005; Sullivan, 2006). In order to
effectively work with issues of power within relationships, counseling psy-
chologists must have accurate information relevant to couples counseling
(Parker, 2003). Investigating the power dynamics within a couple should lead
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766 The Counseling Psychologist 39(5)
to a better understanding of interpersonal relationships and to the develop-
ment of more effective interventions in marital and couples therapy (Vogel,
Murphy, Werner-Wilson, Cutrona, & Seeman, 2007).
Power is defined as the (a) ability to act and (b) possession of influence
(Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2010). As such, marital power has been
defined as the ability to influence the behavior of one’s spouse (Huston,
1983). The goal of this article is to examine an often overlooked aspect of
marital power: touch. Touch has been identified as a key nonverbal behavior
used to exert power and influence in certain situations (Patterson, 1995). For
example, when touch is used to make a request, individuals are more likely to
comply with that request (see Gallace & Spence, 2010, for a review).
However, the majority of the research in this area has focused on nonintimate
relationships. Therefore, there is a need to examine how nonverbal behaviors
such as touch are used by married partners during problem-solving discus-
sions where they are trying to influence the behavior of their partner.
Power in Nonverbal Communication
Nonverbal behaviors are a basic foundation of communication (Hertenstein,
Verkamp, Kerestes, & Holmes, 2006) and can be even more important than
verbal communication, particularly when the two conflict (L’Abate &
Bagarozzi, 1993) or are incongruent (Hill, Siegelman, Gronsky, Sturniolo, &
Fretz, 2001). Take the example of a person saying, “I am not mad” while
crossing his or her arms. People are more likely to interpret the nonverbal
behavior as reflecting the person’s true feelings. As such, it has long been
recognized that nonverbal behaviors are associated with the expression of
feelings and attitudes and in clarifying verbal communication (Argyle,
1988). However, in the 1970s, Henley (1977) also suggested that nonverbal
communication could be related to the expression of power and dominance
in certain relational contexts. Henley proposed that the person with higher
power in a relationship could exert and maintain his or her power through the
use of nonverbal behaviors, whereas the person with less power in the rela-
tionship must express nonverbal behaviors that show acceptance of the
behavior exhibited by the more powerful person. Consistent with this,
Henley showed that in the workplace those with higher status were more
likely to take up physical space and touch subordinates, while those with
lower status were more likely to smile and be touched. More recently, it has
been shown that many types of nonverbal behaviors (e.g., gestures, touch,
and distance between people) are linked to power and dominance (Carney,
Hall, & Labeau, 2005).
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The use of different types of nonverbal behavior has been also linked to
individuals’ biological sex (Henley, 1995). During mixed-sex discussions,
for example, women smile more than men (LaFrance, Hecht, & Paluck,
2003), and men exhibit a more open and relaxed posture (Burgoon, 1991) and
use more hand touches than women (Hall & Veccia, 1990). The gender poli-
tics hypothesis (GPH) explains these sex differences in the use of nonverbal
behaviors as ways that society maintains the social hierarchy in which men
traditionally fill the more powerful positions (Henley, 1995). Specifically,
because women are socialized to form relationships and men are socialized to
exert control, women tend to employ greater nonverbal behavior that signals
lower power, such as smiling (Stewart, Stewart, Friedley, & Cooper, 1996),
whereas men tend to employ greater nonverbal behavior that signals higher
power, such as touching (Henley & Freeman, 1995). According to GPH, there-
fore, in order to meet gender-socialized expectations, men should exhibit more
nonverbal behaviors representative of power and women should exhibit
more nonverbal behaviors that foster relationship connection. In this way,
men and women are believed to engage in behaviors that maintain inequali-
ties present in society (Henley, 1995).
The idea that gender differences in nonverbal behavior are linked to dif-
ferences in societal power is often cited in textbooks on gender (e.g., Crawford
& Unger, 2000; Lips, 2003). However, while the empirical literature pro-
vides some support for the assertion that men and women exhibit different
nonverbal behaviors related to power in the context of nonintimate mixed-
sex relations, the pattern is inconsistently found within the context of intimate
relationships, such as marriage. Within intimate relationships, for example,
some studies have found that men engage in more hand touches than women
while dating but not during marriage (Willis & Briggs, 1992; Willis & Dodds,
1998), others have found no sex asymmetry in terms of touching (Hall, 1996;
Ostrov, 2007), and still others have shown that women initiate more touches
than men (Guerrero & Andersen, 1994).
One reason for these differences may be that nonverbal behaviors such as
touch have more varied meanings for couples. Couples may touch each other
for a number of reasons, such as closeness, emotional expression, support, or
to exert power (Willis & Briggs, 1992; Willis & Dodds, 1998). For example,
researchers have suggested some potential differences in the meaning of
touch depending on the type of touch. DiBiase and Gunnoe (2004) as well as
Hall and Veccia (1990) in describing their findings regarding the differences
in the use of hand and nonhand (i.e., touching with a leg or torso) touches in
naturalistic settings (e.g., dance club) stated that only hand touches expressed
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768 The Counseling Psychologist 39(5)
dominance, a direct form of power. As such, hand touches may be reflective
of direct attempts at influence. However, in married couples, the meaning
underlying the use of hand versus nonhand touches is still uncertain. Thus,
while Jones (1994) did show that romantic partners use touch as a strategy to
get the partner to comply with a request, studies of married couples have
generally not examined the type of touch and so we do not know how differ-
ent types of touch may be used by married couples. Therefore, one goal of
our research was to examine the touching behavior of married couples with
respect to their overall amount of touch, the extent to which their touching
behavior was expressive and supportive, as well as the type of touch they
used (hand or nonhand).
It is also possible that inconsistencies found in the literature regarding
touch may be due to differences in how power plays out in intimate relation-
ships. Societal-based discrepancies between the genders are only likely to be
present when there is potential for power discrepancies to occur, such as
when one partner needs the other’s cooperation (e.g., a wife’s attempts to
have her husband contribute more to childcare or housework). When one
partner needs the other’s cooperation, there is an inherent imbalance of power,
thereby enabling gender role expectations to have an influence on whether
the conflict is resolved. As such, gender-based power inequalities may most
likely be present during problem-solving discussions where there is an asym-
metrical dependence of one partner on the other for a successful outcome of
the discussion (Sagrestano, Christensen, & Heavey, 1998). Consistent with this,
researchers have shown that during problem-solving discussions women and
men do differ in the types of strategies they use (Vogel et al., 2007). Yet
studies examining touch behavior have largely been naturalistic and not taken
into account the type of discussion (i.e., who chose the topic being discussed).
This is an important omission as power differences may only be relevant
when the couple’s goals are in conflict. Indeed, it is at these points when latent
power differences in the relationship may arise through different attempts to
control the situation.
To attempt to account for these latent differences in power within marital
relationships, researchers have adapted previous theories of power. One theory
that has been proposed is dyadic power theory (DPT; Dunbar, 2004). This
theory assumes that power in a romantic relationship is often based on the
perception that one has the right to make a decision—referred to as legitimate
power. This idea suggests that power is not a static phenomenon but rather
changes from situation to situation as partners feel they have the right to exert
their needs. In other words, according to DPT both women and men could
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Smith et al. 769
exert their power (e.g., touching) in a romantic relationship as a way to
control the situation and achieve their objectives when they feel it is legitimate
for them to do so. For example, partners may feel they have the legitimate
authority to exert their needs when they feel an imbalance in the amount of
effort they are putting into the relationship compared to their partner.
Therefore, when a person brings up a topic he or she considers to be unre-
solved or unbalanced in the relationship, he or she should touch more in order
to try and influence his or her partner to agree with his or her position, as
touching another person increases compliance with a request (see Gallace &
Spence, 2010). This variation in the frequency of touches depending on whose
topic is discussed, however, has not been examined within marital rela-
tionships. A second goal of our research, therefore, was to examine touch as
a function of whose (husband’s or wife’s) unresolved topic is being discussed.
Current Study
Marital counseling interventions are often based on theories of marital
power. However, which theory (e.g., GPH or DPT) best applies to romantic
relationships and the ways that nonverbal behavior, such as touch, is related
to power is not currently well understood. Therefore, to better understand the
role of touch within romantic relationships, the present research examined
wives’ and husbands’ use of four different kinds of touching behaviors (i.e.,
total touches, expressive/supportive touches, hand touches, and nonhand
touches) during unresolved relationship problems identified by both the wife
and the husband. Because most previous studies examining touch have
focused exclusively on overall touches, our use of multiple measures of touch
represents an important advance. In particular, since touch may have multi-
ple meanings (e.g., power vs. expression and support), we for the first time
examined several different aspects of touch within marriage. The current
procedure also allowed for a direct test of the alternative hypotheses gener-
ated by GPH (Henley, 1995) and DPT (Dunbar, 2004). Knowledge of how
these theories fit marital relationships will provide key information for
marital therapists to be able to work with couples experiencing conflict.
Total touches. Both GPH and the DPT suggest that one function of touch is
to exert power. Yet the theories differ in regard to when women and men are
more likely to exert their power through touch. GPH proposes that men exert
power through touch across situations due to structural inequalities that are
present in society. Therefore, according to GPH, husbands should touch their
wives more than their wives touch their husbands during conflict topics. In
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770 The Counseling Psychologist 39(5)
contrast, according to DPT, the frequency with which one partner exerts
power through touch should vary according to whose topic is being dis-
cussed. Accordingly, if a spouse chooses a conflict topic he or she feels needs
to be changed in the relationship, he or she should perceive more legitimate
authority to exert power during a discussion of that topic. Therefore, (a) wives
should touch their husbands more than husbands touch their wives when
couples discuss topics chosen by wives, but (b) husbands should touch their
wives more than wives touch their husbands when couples discuss topics
chosen by husbands.
As discussed previously, however, touch can be used to express warmth,
affection, and support as well as to exert power. As such, the results of an
examination of overall touch could be affected by the presence of other types
of touch. For example, since women’s socialization is more relationship
focused (Cross & Madson, 1997), they may exhibit more overall touch due to
exhibiting higher levels of expressive and supportive touch. Therefore, while
warmth and expression may be less common during conflict situations than
other situations, it is important to remove these type of touches from the
analysis (i.e., removing touches that are clearly an expression of positive
expression and support) in order to better understand if any differences in
touch during a conflict discussion are likely being used as attempts to exert
power. To accomplish this in the current research, we examined (a) the over-
all frequency of touch and then (b) the frequency of touch with expressive
and supportive touch removed from the analyses.
Hand and nonhand touch. Although touch has often been considered a
behavioral way to exert power, researchers have noted that different types of
touch can have different meanings. For example, hand touches are believed
to be a direct form of exerting power. Consistent with GPH’s proposal that
men are more likely to use direct forms of power, husbands should use more
hand touches than their wives. However, according to DPT, the frequency
with which one partner uses hand touches should depend on who initiated the
topic being discussed. The person bringing up the topic should feel more
legitimate authority and, therefore, should use more hand touches in order to
try and influence his or her partner to agree with his or her position. Accord-
ingly, wives should touch with their hands more than husbands when couples
discus topics chosen by wives, and husbands should touch with their hands
more than wives when couples discuss topics chosen by husbands. We also
examined the frequency of nonhand touches between husbands and wives.
Since the meaning underlying nonhand touches is less clear, the theories do
not suggest a specific directional hypothesis.
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Smith et al. 771
Methods
Participants
Married couples were solicited from an email advertisement placed in a uni-
versity weekly newsletter. Couples were paid $60 for their participation. The
first 70 couples that responded to the email and expressed interest in the
study were scheduled for the study. One couple did not show up for their
scheduled appointment, and two couples declined to participate in the video-
taped discussions after completion of their questionnaires. Of the remaining
67 couples, husbands averaged 38 years old (SD ! 11; range ! 22 to 67) and
wives averaged 37 years old (SD ! 11; range ! 20 to 63). Eighty percent of
husbands were employed, 19% were students, and 1% was retired. Sixty-four
percent of wives were employed, 24% were students, and 12% were home-
makers. Eighty-five percent of husbands and 96% of wives were European
American (3% Asian American husbands and 4% Asian American wives,
9% reported other cultural backgrounds for husbands, and 3% were missing
for husbands).
Procedures
After the couple arrived for the initial visit, each spouse was escorted to a
separate room where informed consent was obtained. While separated, each
participant was asked independently to complete a questionnaire. Included in
the questionnaire were items that assessed demographic information and
problem areas within the couple’s relationship. With respect to this latter
item, participants each identified an issue that he or she desired the most
change and that could not be resolved without the partner’s cooperation. See
Table 1 for a summary of the topics chosen by husbands and wives for their
discussions. Following completion of the questionnaire, spouses were
brought back together and instructed to discuss the first topic for 10 minutes.
A coin flip determined whether the wife’s or husband’s selected topic was
discussed first. At the end of the 10 minutes, the experimenter knocked on
the door and asked the couple to begin discussing the second topic. For all
couples, the room was arranged with a regular-size futon with pillows, two
lamps, and a small table. The couples were allowed to sit anywhere on the
futon. Each discussion was videotaped and audiotaped. At the end of the
discussions, couples were separated again. While separated, each spouse was
debriefed. During the debriefing, each spouse’s feelings and reactions to the
study were discussed. Referrals to local mental health and family clinics were
given to all participants.
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772 The Counseling Psychologist 39(5)
Table 1. Topics Chosen by Husbands and Wives for Discussion
Husband Topic Wife Topic
Topic n Percent n Percent
Finances/money 14 21 8 12
Problems with family and friends 10 15 9 13
Other 7 10 10 15
Time spent together or apart 7 10 7 10
Making decisions 5 8 2 3
Sexual issues/problems 3 5 3 5
Problems with intimacy 3 5 1 2
Feelings/emotions don’t express 3 5 8 12
Needs in the relationship not being met 3 5 2 3
Specific area you want change 0 0 5 8
N ! 67.
Measures
Touching. Trained research assistants watched the videotaped interactions
and identified touches using procedures employed in previous research (DiBiase
& Gunnoe, 2004; Guerrero & Andersen, 1994). The identified touches included
frequency of touch and type of touch (hand or nonhand). Frequency of touch
equaled the total number of times that one spouse touched the other with any
part of his or her body. Type of touch was classified as either a hand touch or
nonhand touch. Hand touching was defined as a touch that was initiated by
one spouse’s hand to any part of the other spouse’s body. Examples of hand
touching are touch from hand to hand, touch from hand to body, touch from
hand to face, touch from hand to leg, and touch from hand to arm (DiBiase &
Gunnoe, 2004). Nonhand touching was defined as contact of any body part of
one spouse’s body, except the hand, to any part of the spouse’s body. Exam-
ples of nonhand touching include touching from shoulder to shoulder, hug-
ging, and kissing (DiBiase & Gunnoe, 2004). Studies using these definitions
of hand and nonhand touch have reported a 95% agreement between raters
(DiBiase & Gunnoe, 2004). Validity evidence for the link between touch
and power has been shown through studies consistently showing that those
who touch others are seen as more dominant than those who are touched
(e.g., Carney et al., 2005; Chapell et al., 1998; Chapell et al., 1999) and that
touch influences compliance with requests (see Gallace & Spence, 2010, for
a review).
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Smith et al. 773
The research assistants (N ! 4) were trained on practice tapes to indepen-
dently identify the occurrences of touch described above. For each interaction,
two of the four research assistants were randomly assigned to independently
code the tape. All of the research assistants were trained in the coding proce-
dures until they reached a minimum Kappa reliability of 80% with each
other. Kappa is the preferred method to assess inter-rater agreement for cat-
egorical items as it is considered a conservative estimate of agreement
(Hartman, 1977). Reliability of the coders on the tapes used in the analyses
equaled 99% for frequency of touch, 96% for type of touch, and 94% for
behavior while touching.
Expressive and supportive touches. After the occurrences of touch were
coded, two new research assistants were trained for 4 hours on practice tapes
to code whether each touch was an expression of kindness and support.
Expressive and supportive touches were defined as showing interest in the
partner and to express kindness and love. After the coders reached a Kappa
reliability of 80% on the practice tapes, they started on the study tapes to code
for expressive and supportive touch. Each research assistant independently
coded each tape for expressive and supportive touch and then met to discuss
any disagreement and decide on a final code in these cases. The two coders
were 85% reliable with each other throughout the final coding.
Results
We first examined the frequencies and distributions of touch across the inter-
actions (see Table 2 for means, SD, skewness, and Kurtosis scores). Because
the distributions were not normally distributed, we normalized the data by
taking the square root of the frequencies of the each type of touch but report
raw score means in the tables and figures for ease of interpretation.
Frequency of Overall Touch
We first examined the frequency with which husbands and wives used
touches during the two topics. Researchers (Kashy & Kenny, 2000) have
noted that standard methods of data analysis cannot be used when examining
dyads because the independence assumption is violated as the individuals
within a dyad may influence one another. Instead, the analysis must account
for the nonindependence of the data, and one must analyze the data at the
level of the dyad rather than at the individual level. As such, consistent with
most studies examining marital interactions (e.g., Vogel et al., 2007), we
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774 The Counseling Psychologist 39(5)
Table 2. Means, Standard Deviations, Skewness, and Kurtosis of Touch Frequencies
Before
Transforming
After
Transforming
M SD Skewness Kurtosis Skewness Kurtosis
Wife topic wife total
touch
1.72 3.35 2.25 4.45 1.35 0.66
Wife topic husband total
touch
0.37 1.27 5.45 34.16 2.84 9.03
Husband topic wife total
touch
1.08 2.01 2.49 6.37 1.22 0.49
Husband topic husband
total touch
0.76 2.26 4.12 17.91 2.46 5.99
Wife topic wife hand
touch
1.24 2.65 2.45 5.38 1.58 1.35
Wife topic husband hand
touch
0.36 1.16 5.08 29.75 2.71 7.91
Husband topic wife hand
touch
0.79 1.50 2.27 5.01 1.28 0.35
Husband topic husband
hand touch
0.46 1.63 5.04 28.72 3.03 9.63
Wife topic wife nonhand
touch
0.49 1.49 4.35 20.77 2.51 6.32
Wife topic husband
nonhand touch
0.02 0.12 8.19 67.00 8.19 67.00
Husband topic wife
nonhand touch
0.27 0.88 3.97 16.83 2.88 7.54
Husband topic husband
nonhand touch
0.28 1.52 7.31 56.29 4.85 27.00
N ! 67.
treated the couple as the unit of analysis by conducting a mixed model
ANOVA with sex (wife and husband) and problem discussion (her identified
problem-solving discussion or his identified problem-solving discussion)
serving as the within-subject factors. Topic order (her problem discussion
first vs. his problem discussion first) was controlled for in the ANOVA by
entering it as a between-subjects factor. The dependent variable was the
frequency of touches that occurred during the taped interaction. Results
yielded a significant main effect for sex, F(1, 65) ! 15.43, p " .001, ηp
2 ! .19.
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Smith et al. 775
Figure 1. Interaction Between Sex and Topic for Total Touch.
Inconsistent with predictions of GPH, examination of the means indicated
that wives engaged in more overall touches than husbands (see Table 2). The
results showed no main effect of discussion topic, F(1, 65) ! .16, p ! .69, ηp
2 !
.002, but did yield a significant interaction between sex and discussion,
F(1, 65) ! 4.56, p ! .03, ηp
2 ! .07. Figure 1 shows the interaction between sex
and topic. Husbands and wives showed the largest differences during wives’
topics. Therefore, partially supporting the DPT, women engaged in the most
touches compared to their husbands during topics of their choosing. Yet, not
supporting DPT, husbands did not engage in significantly more touches than
their wives during their topic.
It is also possible that the reason wives engaged in more touching than
husbands is that the touching they exhibited was reflective of positive expres-
sion and support. While this possibility is less likely given that the increase in
touching largely occurred only during topics chosen by wives, we nonethe-
less directly addressed this possibility with an additional analysis. Specifically,
we performed the same analysis described above with the exception that
expressive and supportive types of touches were removed. Consistent with
the previous findings, results showed a significant main effect for sex,
F(1, 65) ! 16.15, p " .001, ηp
2 ! .20, no main effect for discussion topic,
F(1, 65) ! .54, p ! .46, ηp
2 ! .008, and a significant interaction between sex
and discussion, F(1, 65) ! 3.79, p ! .05, ηp
2 ! .06. Even after removing
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776 The Counseling Psychologist 39(5)
Figure 2. Interaction Between Sex and Topic for Nonhand Touch
expressive and supportive touches, therefore, wives and husbands still
showed the largest differences among wives’ topics.
Hand and nonhand touch. Next, we examined the use of hand and nonhand
touches. These analyses were the same as those described above except that
hand and nonhand touches served as separate dependent variables. A signifi-
cant main effect of sex was found for hand touches, F(1, 65) ! 12.68, p !
.001, ηp
2 ! .16. Inconsistent with GPH (see Table 2), wives engaged in more
hand touches than husbands. In turn, neither the main effect of discussion,
F(1, 65) ! .52, p ! .47, ηp
2 ! .01, nor the interaction between sex and discus-
sion were significant, F(1, 65) ! .88, p ! .35, ηp
2 ! .01. Looking at Table 2,
wives did engage in more hand touches during their topics than husbands, but
in this case, these differences were not statistically significant. As such, the
results did not support DPT, as neither wives nor husbands engaged in more
hand touches on their selected topics.
For nonhand touches, the main effect of sex was significant, F(1, 65) !
5.85, p ! .02, ηp
2 ! .08. Wives made more nonhand touches than husbands (see
Table 2). In turn, discussion topic was nonsignificant, F(1, 65) ! .03, p !
.86, ηp
2 ! .00, but the interaction between sex and discussion topic was sig-
nificant, F(1, 65) ! 7.63, p ! .007, ηp
2 ! .11. Figure 2 shows the interaction
between sex and topic. As with overall touch, husbands and wives showed
the largest differences during wives’ topics.
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Smith et al. 777
Discussion
To develop effective couples counseling interventions, psychologists need to
have an accurate understanding of how power is enacted in intimate relation-
ships (Knudson-Martin & Mahoney, 2009). Accordingly, the power strate-
gies that a couple exhibits during conflict situations need to be a central focus
of researchers and counselors if they are to develop effective interventions to
alleviate or prevent couples’ distress (Sullivan, 2006). However, the extant
literature has not clearly identified which theory best applies to marital rela-
tionships and how nonverbal behaviors, such as touch, are used in problem-
solving discussions. The present research examined two alternative
hypotheses generated by GPH (Henley, 1977, 1995) and DPT (Dunbar, 2004)
with respect to the use of wives’ and husbands’ touching behaviors during
conflict discussions. The current results provide important information for
researchers and counselors whose work addresses couples experiencing
conflict.
While touch has a number of functions in communication (e.g., expression
of emotions, creation of intimacy), theories of power suggest that one of the
functions of touch in mixed-sex interactions is to exert influence or power
over the other person. Consistent with this, romantic partners have been
shown to use touch as a strategy to get the partner to comply with a request
(Jones, 1994). Yet theories offer different explanations as to when women
and men will use touch as an influence strategy. The GPH (Henley, 1977,
1995) proposes that men touch more as a way to maintain inequalities present
in society. Although Henley’s theory has received empirical support in mixed-
sex, nonintimate relationships, our data showed that for married couples, wives
touched more than husbands. This held true even when we removed expres-
sive and supportive touches and when we examined hand and nonhand touches.
These results, while not consistent with most of the findings in nonintimate
relationships, are consistent with one study that has found that women initiate
more touch than men in married couples (Guerrero & Andersen, 1994) and
with recent research showing that during conflict discussions wives exhibit
more domineering and dominant behaviors than husbands (Vogel et al.,
2007). In all, these findings provide little support for GHP as overall women
and not men exhibited more touch during a conflict discussion in marriage.
This pattern suggests that different dynamics may be at play in intimate than
nonintimate relationships.
DPT (Dunbar, 2004) tries to explain these potential differences in power
dynamics between intimate and nonintimate relationships by proposing that
power in a romantic relationship is based on the perception of legitimate
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778 The Counseling Psychologist 39(5)
authority—the perception that one has the right to make the decisions. This
idea suggests that power is not a static phenomenon but rather changes from
situation to situation as partners feel they have the right to exert their needs.
A particular strength of the current study was our ability to examine this
assertion by focusing on touch during one conflict topic selected by the wife
and one conflict topic selected by the husband. Because the conflict topics
were judged as those needing the most change in the relationship, they were
likely perceived as a place where the spouse felt he or she had the legitimate
authority to ask for a change. Consistent with this, we found that wives and
husbands differed in their use of touch the most during topics wives chose to
discuss. While we did not directly assess perceived legitimacy (i.e., only indi-
rectly through topic selection), previous research supports the assertion that
wives may have engaged in more touching behavior while discussing their
topics because of the perceived legitimacy to assert influence during these
discussions. Specifically, the finding that touch differences were strongest
during wives’ topics is consistent with research on the differential use of
influence strategies by spouses during conflict discussions. Wives have been
found to exhibit more verbal domineering behaviors and more dominance
than their husbands during wives’ identified problem-solving discussions
(Vogel et al., 2007). In turn, no differences have been found in spouses’ influ-
ence behavior during husbands’ identified problem-solving discussions
(Vogel et al., 2007). The similarity between this past research and the current
findings supports the view that wives perceive legitimacy to use more influ-
ence strategies during topics important to them.
Interestingly, though, not fully consistent with either theory was a lack of
differences in touch behavior during husbands’ topics. Husbands and wives
did not significantly differ on any of the touching behaviors when the couples
discussed topics chosen by husbands. Thus, differences in behavior were
largest during topics chosen by wives. This finding in differences during
wives’ conflict discussion and not husbands, while not initially hypothesized
by either theory, is as noted above, a consistent finding in the larger literature
on communication behavior of couples’ conflict behavior (Vogel et al., 2007).
One reason for this finding, which may fit aspects of both theories, is that in
the context of marital relationships nonverbal behaviors may be more likely
to be used by women than men because of societal imbalances in power that
make it more likely the wife will need her husband’s cooperation for resolu-
tion of the conflict. As a result, wives may be most likely to try and influence
their partner during their topics because gender-based inequalities in mar-
riage (e.g., husbands’ control over household income, wives’ responsibility
for housework or childcare) lead to an increased likelihood of wives being
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Smith et al. 779
dependent on their husbands for a successful outcome of marital problem-solving
discussions (Sagrestano, Christensen, & Heavey, 1998). Thus, societal ineq-
uities in relationships may still exist, but instead of men using touch to keep
these roles in place, it may be more common among relatively happy hetero-
sexual couples for women to be able to touch more if they wish. However,
this use of touch may be situational. Women may be more able to touch
when they feel it is appropriate to do so, such as in an intimate relationship
when the topic is about the relationship. Men may be less likely to touch during
problem-solving discussions either because they do not need to or because
they do not perceive the legitimacy to do so.
It is also important to note the findings regarding hand and nonhand
touches, neither of which has received much attention in the context of marital
relationships. Results indicated that wives engaged in more hand touches than
husbands regardless of the topic and used nonhand touches more during top-
ics that they chose to discuss. These differences provide new evidence that
touch in intimate relationships may mean something different than touch in
nonintimate relationships. In intimate relationships nonhand touches may be
more common than in nonintimate relationships and, therefore, may have
multiple or more complex meanings. For example, married couples often use
both direct and indirect forms of power (Aida & Falbo, 1991), and the results
of the current study are consistent with the notion that nonhand touches may
be a way to exert indirect influence. In a study by Weigel, Bennett, and
Ballard-Reisch (2006), wives were found to use both direct and indirect strat-
egies to influence their husbands and to increase their use of different strate-
gies depending on their perception of the relationship equality. As such, wives
may vary their use of direct or indirect touch based on their perceptions of the
most effective strategy. Clearly, more research is needed to tease apart the
impact that different types of touch have during conflict. One possibility
might be to assess the couple’s perceptions of the different types of touch
(e.g., a recall task while watching the interaction they just had).
Implications
The current findings point to the need for counselors to be cognizant of non-
verbal communication among couples. Previously, researchers have noted
the importance of paying attention to the intrapersonal messages being con-
veyed by the nonverbal communications of clients (Herring, 1990) such as
the congruence of verbal and nonverbal emotional expressions (Hill et al.,
2001). However, little clinical attention has focused on the interpersonal
function of nonverbal behaviors or the potential to use this information to
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780 The Counseling Psychologist 39(5)
assist couples who come in for treatment. As such, counselors may be less
aware of the potential usefulness of focusing on nonverbal behaviors within
intimate relationships with their clients. This is an important oversight as
focusing on nonverbal behaviors may be a way to help couples having dif-
ficulties recognize and deal with problematic issues in their relationship. In
particular, the focus on nonverbal interactions such as touch may be one way
to assist clients in discussing power dynamics within their relationships.
Thus, an important implication of the current study is that counselors may
need to be trained to be aware of couples’ nonverbal behavior so that they
can elicit discussion of these behaviors to assist clients in working through
conflict issues. One way to discuss with couples how they resolve conflict
might be to work with couples’ moment-to-moment displays or exhibitions
of nonverbal behaviors. Talking about their immediate use of nonverbal
behaviors such as touch may increase understanding of how these behaviors
play a role in their relationship dynamics and ability to resolve topics,
thereby increasing their ability to make positive changes in their relation-
ship. For example, if counselors see that often the person being touched
gives in or changes his or her position and seems somewhat uncomfortable
with the decision, this could lead to a discussion about how spouses influ-
ence their partners in the relationship. Discussing issues such as this can
give the couple the ability to learn to both identify inequalities and ulti-
mately help couples negotiate issues in the relationship (Knudson-Martin &
Mahoney, 2009).
With the changes in society, it is also important for counseling psycholo-
gists to accurately understand how societal gender roles may or may not be
playing out in marriage (Sullivan, 2006) in order to effectively work with
clients (Parker, 2003) and to develop the most effective interventions in mari-
tal and couples therapy (Vogel et al., 2007). One important way that the cur-
rent results help to address this is through the knowledge that spouses may
differently use touch to express themselves during certain topics. In this
study, wives touched more than husbands, particularly during wives’ chosen
topics. As such, when working with couples, it may be important for counsel-
ors to understand what is occurring during problems identified by the wife
and, specifically, to assess the role of touch in couple’s decision making dur-
ing discussions of these issues. While we do not know that touch, in this
study, was only used as an attempt to influence one’s partner, the fact that
(a) differences in this study were strongest during wives’ problem-solving
topics, (b) differences in the use of influence strategies are consistently found
during wives’ and not husbands’ problem-solving topics, and (c) touch has
been consistently linked with greater compliance with requests all suggest
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Smith et al. 781
that there are societal inequities in areas important to wives (e.g., childcare
and housework) that couples may need to be able to address.
The finding that wives and husbands showed the largest differences in
touch while discussing wives’ topics is also consistent with DPT’s assertion
of legitimate authority. Based on this, another implication is that if counsel-
ors want to help couples learn how to resolve conflicts they may need to
assess aspects of the relationship, such as spouse’s level of perceived legiti-
macy to behave in certain ways. While we did not directly measure legiti-
macy, DPT offers a clear theoretical explanation for why wives may have
touched more during their topic but not their husbands. They perceived
their topic to be a legitimate place to touch. Perceived legitimacy may play
a role in the overall amount of certain behaviors (e.g., touch) spouses feel
they can use during problem-solving discussions, and directly working with
couples to identify these areas of legitimacy may be helpful. Furthermore,
perceived legitimacy is often based on expectations (e.g., gender role norms)
learned from past experiences in our families. As such, counselors might
use activities such as cultural genograms (McGoldrick & Hardy, 2008;
Parker, 2009) to assist couples in understanding intergenerational transmis-
sion of perceptions of legitimacy and corresponding cultural and social norms
and expectations.
A final implication is that the current findings support previous research-
ers who have demonstrated differences in women’s and men’s use of com-
munication strategies during conflict discussions even among relatively
satisfied couples. As a result, studying nonclinical samples can inform what
behaviors may be problematic for more distressed couples (Gottman, 1999).
In our nonclinical community sample, differences in wives’ and husbands’
use of touch were present with moderate to large effects.
Future Research and Limitations
Researchers in the field have called for studies of marriages that include
external observations (Gottman & Notarius, 2000). Therefore, one of the
strengths of this study is that it includes observed assessments of several
types of touch (overall, expressive and supportive, and hand/nonhand) across
sex and topic. However, despite this strength, the conclusions that can be
drawn from these results may be limited in several ways. First, given this was
the first study to examine touch within martial problem-solving discussions,
generalizations to other populations should be made with caution until future
research replicates these findings. Future research could replicate these find-
ings and extend them by linking the type of touch used during different types
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782 The Counseling Psychologist 39(5)
of conflict discussion and subsequent outcomes of the discussion. This may
help clarify how touch is being used as well as how the actual topic content
influences touching behavior. This may also better explain whether touching
more often reflects more generalized power differentials within a couple or
more specific attempts to exert influence (whether or not they are success-
ful). Increasing our understanding of these issues will have major implica-
tions for how counselors work with couples and families.
It should also be noted that the recorded conversations took place in a
laboratory. While this is the most common setting for research examining
marital communication, the dynamics that occur in this type of situation may
be different from discussions that take place at home. Furthermore, given the
cross-sectional nature of these data, any causal statements must be made with
caution. In particular, the balance of power in a relationship has been sug-
gested to change (Blumberg & Coleman, 1989), particularly during times
when the relationship is undergoing change (i.e., birth, job change; Ferree,
1990). An examination of the use of touch over the course of a relationship
may increase understanding of this issue. Finally, whereas the size of the cur-
rent sample compares favorably to other samples used to examine these
issues, it is possible that a larger sample would have had more statistical
power to detect sex or topic differences in the use of touch.
A limitation of the current study was that the sample came almost exclu-
sively from university-associated individuals in the Midwest and was mostly
Caucasian. Future research should try to diversify the sample. For example,
DiBiase and Gunnoe (2004) found that men engaged in more hand touches
than women, but when they examined this difference across nationality, they
found this difference was not the same across cultural samples. Therefore,
examining more diversified samples may allow researchers to fully under-
stand possible differences based on demographics. It should also be included
in future studies focusing on different types of relationships (i.e., homosexual
relationships, dating relationships, cohabitating relationships) to examine
whether any differences in touching behaviors emerge based on the different
types of relationships.
Despite these limitations, the current findings provide important initial
information about the ways in which touch plays out in marital problem-
solving discussions. The current study found that wives engaged in more
touches than their husbands and, specifically, more hand touches and nonhand
touches than their husbands while talking about topics of their choosing. In
turn, husbands did not engage in more touches than their wives when couples
discussed topics of the husbands’ choosing. In all, these findings highlight
the need for counselors and researchers to pay closer attention to the complex
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Smith et al. 783
relationship of touch and its potential relationship to how couples discuss
marital problems.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The authors declared that they had no conflicts of interests with respect to their
authorship or the publication of this article.
Financial Disclosure/Funding
The authors declared that they received no financial support for their research and/or
authorship of this article.
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Smith et al. 787
Bios
Joann C. Seeman Smith is in private clinical practice at Central Iowa Psychological
Services. She received her PhD in counseling psychology from the Iowa State
University in 2008. Her professional interests focus on therapy with children, adoles-
cents, and families. She has specific interests in play therapy and the power of touch
in therapy.
David L. Vogel is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Iowa
State University. He received his PhD in counseling psychology from the University
of Florida in 2000. His professional interests focus on issues of diversity with specific
attention to the role of stigma and gender stereotypes on our interpersonal and rela-
tional health, counselor training, and the decision to seek counseling services.
Stephanie Madon received a PhD in social psychology from Rutgers - The State
University of New Jersey and a MEd in counseling psychology from the University
of Utah. She is an Associate Professor of psychology at Iowa State University. Her
research interests address processes of social influence within applied contexts.
Sarah R. Edwards is a pre-doctoral intern at the University of Iowa. She received
her MS in clinical psychology from North Dakota State university, and expects to
graduate from the doctoral counseling psychology program at Iowa State University
in the fall of 2011. Her research interests include interpersonal violence, gender and
relationships.
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... 235) in a special issue of Journal of Family Communication, and since then, Dunbar and her colleagues have conducted several empirical tests of the theory using married and dating couples (e.g., Dunbar, Bippus, Allums, & King, 2012;Dunbar, Bippus, & Young, 2008;Dunbar & Burgoon, 2005) and also strangers in experimental settings (Dunbar & Abra, 2010;Dunbar et al., in press). We were pleased to see Smith, Vogel, Madon, and Edwards's (2011) recent article in The Counseling Psychologist testing DPT. They examined the use of touch as a compliancegaining tactic in the conflicts of married couples demonstrating the heuristic value of DPT and its applicability outside our own disciplines of communication and sociology. ...
... We should begin by saying that we support Smith et al.'s (2011) call for more study of "gender and power dynamics within couples to inform both research and clinical practice" (p. 765) and their recognition of touch as an essential nonverbal cue for the expression of not only power but also a host of other relational messages including emotional connection and social support. ...
... In the Smith et al. (2011) study, the authors coded for expressive and supportive touches (and in some cases removed those touches from their analyses) and assumed that any other form of touch must be expressing power or control. The list of functions touch can serve is long. ...
Article
Smith, Vogel, Madon, and Edwards’ (2011) recent article tested dyadic power theory (DPT) by examining the use of touch as a compliance-gaining tactic in the conflicts of married couples. In this response, we raise a methodological issue about the touch behaviors examined by Smith et al. and also pose a theoretical critique that their test of DPT violates an important scope condition of the theory. They did not examine differences between power-equal and power-unequal dyads, but instead they state that topic selection provides an actor with legitimate authority (and thus greater perceived power) and therefore the actor would touch their partner more to influence the partner. In contrast, DPT predicts that actors will use control attempts such as touch more when they are equal in power than when they are unequal. We believe DPT is relevant to touch in marital conflicts and provide a preliminary statement of that idea.
... Although not a behavior directly related to sex 'open mouth display' (lip-smacking or tongue-flicking) is included among the sexual behaviors. In both males and females, this behavior is considered as an invitation to sexual activity (Epple, 1967;Kendrick & Dixson, 1984;Stevenson & Rylands, 1988;Smith et al., 2011b). For example, it has been reported that ovariectomized marmosets showed few open mouth displays in response to a male, and treatment with estradiol caused a drastic increase. ...
... Likewise, the mother-infant bond could be explained in terms of reward processes. As mentioned, grooming has been given a prime role in the establishment and maintenance of all kinds of bonds in non-human primates (Lazaro-Perea et al., 2004;Henzi & Barrettt, 2007) and touch has been given a similar importance in human relationships (Hertenstein et al., 2006;Dunbar, 2010;Smith et al., 2011b). Different forms of tactile stimulation also appears to be involved the reciprocal bonds between mothers and infants (Alberts & Brunjes, 1978;Kojima & Alberts, 2011). ...
Article
Full-text available
The present study describes how the development of a pair bond modifies social, sexual and aggressive behavior. Five heterosexual pairs of marmosets, previously unknown to each other, were formed at the beginning of the study. At the onset of pairing, social, sexual, exploratory and aggressive behaviors were recorded for 40 min. The animals were then observed for 20 min, both in the morning and afternoon for 21 days. The frequency and/or duration of behaviors recorded on Day 1 were compared to those recorded at later observations. The behavior displayed shortly after pairing should be completely unaffected by the pair bond, while such a bond should be present at later observations. Thus, it was possible to determine how the behavior between the pair was modified by the development of a pair bond. Social behaviors increased from Day 1 to Days 2-6 and all subsequent days observed. Conversely, other behaviors, such as open mouth displays (usually considered to be an invitation to sexual activity), had a high frequency during the early part of cohabitation but declined towards the end. Consequently, pair bonding manifests itself in an increased intensity of social behaviors. It is suggested that the intrinsically rewarding properties of grooming and perhaps other social behaviors turn the pair mate into a positive incentive, activating approach and further interactions when possible. Thus, the pair bond may be a motivational state activated by the conditioned incentive properties of the partner. This notion can explain all forms of pair bonds, including those occurring between individuals of the same sex and in promiscuous species.
... Males appear to initiate touch more than females when the relationship is a nonintimate one and the setting is public. Among married couples in contrast, wives touch husbands more than the other way around (Smith, Vogel, Madon, & Edwards, 2011). Consistent with this, unmarried men are more comfortable with touch than unmarried women, whereas the reverse is true for married men and women (Hanzal, Segrin, & Dorros, 2008). ...
... Also, men touch women with the hand more than women touch men with the hand, but for nonhand touches, women touch more than men (DiBiase & Gunnoe, 2004; J. A. Hall & Veccia, 1990). Interestingly, type of touch seems to interact with relationship status, such that effects emerge for men and women who are not in a relationship; but for married couples, women touch men more than the other way around, regardless of the type of touch examined (i.e., expressive and supportive touches; hand and nonhand touches; Smith et al., 2011). ...
Chapter
Full-text available
It is widely believed that women and men are fundamentally different from each other. Indeed, the belief that males and females possess different traits, abilities, and inclinations pervades all age groups, all time periods, and all cultures (Kite, Deaux, & Haines, 2008). Such beliefs, better described as stereotypes, have also been found to be highly resistant to change (Dodge, Gilroy, & Fenzel, 1995; Heilman, 2001). Two dimensions, communality and agency, capture a multitude of perceived differences (Bakan, 1966; Kite et al., 2008). Women are consistently characterized as having a consistent predisposition to be communal—to care for and attend to the wellbeing of others. The typical woman is thought to be kind, caring, sensitive, empathic, and emotional. However, men are believed to be primarily agentic and instrumental. The characteristic male is felt to be independent, confident, decisive, aggressive, and strong (Kite et al., 2008). It is not surprising then that people believe that women and men show distinctive patterns of nonverbal behavior. For example, Briton and Hall (1995) found that people think that women are more nonverbally expressive and responsive than are men. Women are also thought to be better at sending and deciphering nonverbal messages. In contrast, males are believed to be louder and more interruptive and to show more restless body movements and dysfluent vocal behaviors, such as inserting filled and unfilled pauses while speaking. The issue here, as is the case with stereotypes more generally, has to do with the validity or accuracy of such beliefs. This chapter addresses just that question and two related ones—namely, what gender dimension best describes differences that are examined, and if sex differences are found, to what are they to be attributed? There is more to gender beliefs than simple assumptions such as the idea that women express more positive emotion than men (Shields, 1987). Not only are men and women believed to have different repertoires of nonverbal behavior, some nonverbal behaviors are understood a priori to be feminine or masculine. Therefore, crying—which is believed to be something that women do more than men (Vingerhoets & Scheirs, 2000)—denotes femininity in the crier (sometimes called effeminacy if the crier happens to be male). This pregendering of nonverbal behavior reinforces ideas about who (men or women) should exhibit which behaviors, and it impinges on what behaviors men and women choose to display when motivated to avoid being perceived as gender deviant. In fact, engaging in the appropriate nonverbal gender repertoire (and avoiding cross-gender behavior) is part of what some scholars refer to as “doing gender” well (West & Zimmerman, 1987). (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved)
... Although not a behavior directly related to sex 'open mouth display' (lip-smacking or tongue-flicking) is included among the sexual behaviors. In both males and females, this behavior is considered as an invitation to sexual activity (Epple, 1967;Kendrick & Dixson, 1984;Stevenson & Rylands, 1988;Smith et al., 2011b). For example, it has been reported that ovariectomized marmosets showed few open mouth displays in response to a male, and treatment with estradiol caused a drastic increase. ...
... Likewise, the mother-infant bond could be explained in terms of reward processes. As mentioned, grooming has been given a prime role in the establishment and maintenance of all kinds of bonds in non-human primates (Lazaro-Perea et al., 2004;Henzi & Barrettt, 2007) and touch has been given a similar importance in human relationships (Hertenstein et al., 2006;Dunbar, 2010;Smith et al., 2011b). Different forms of tactile stimulation also appears to be involved the reciprocal bonds between mothers and infants (Alberts & Brunjes, 1978;Kojima & Alberts, 2011). ...
Article
The present study describes how the development of a pair bond modifies social, sexual and aggressive behavior. Five heterosexual pairs of marmosets, previously unknown to each other, were formed at the beginning of the study. At the onset of pairing, social, sexual, exploratory and aggressive behaviors were recorded for 40 min. The animals were then observed for 20 min, both in the morning and afternoon for 21 days. The frequency and/or duration of behaviors recorded on Day 1 were compared to those recorded at later observations. The behavior displayed shortly after pairing should be completely unaffected by the pair bond, while such a bond should be present at later observations. Thus, it was possible to determine how the behavior between the pair was modified by the development of a pair bond. Social behaviors increased from Day 1 to Days 2–6 and all subsequent days observed. Conversely, other behaviors, such as open mouth displays (usually considered to be an invitation to sexual activity), had a high frequency during the early part of cohabitation but declined towards the end. Consequently, pair bonding manifests itself in an increased intensity of social behaviors. It is suggested that the intrinsically rewarding properties of grooming and perhaps other social behaviors turn the pair mate into a positive incentive, activating approach and further interactions when possible. Thus, the pair bond may be a motivational state activated by the conditioned incentive properties of the partner. This notion can explain all forms of pair bonds, including those occurring between individuals of the same sex and in promiscuous species.
... In past tests of DPT, control attempts were operationalized through observing gestures, facial expressions, and touch (Dunbar & Burgoon, 2005;Smith et al., 2011), through dominance ratings made by participants and observers (Dunbar & Abra, 2010;Dunbar et al., 2008), through verbal counts of arguments and linguistic analyses of text (Dunbar & Burgoon, 2005;Dunbar, Jensen, et al., 2012), through coding of argumentative strategies such as aggressive humor (Dunbar, Bippus, et al., 2012) and through self-reports of typical conflict strategies (Dunbar & Johnson, 2015). Using these varied dominance measures, Dunbar and colleagues have repeatedly found an asymmetrical "hook" relationship between dominance and power (see Figure 1). ...
Article
This study explores how dyadic power theory (DPT) can explain the demand/withdraw interaction pattern (in which one partner raises an issue and the other partner avoids discussion) in a wide range of relationship types (e.g. friends, romantic partners, family, work relationships). Two surveys were conducted (N = 155 and 91 of student and non‐student samples, respectively) where participants reported on either an unequal‐power or an equal‐power relationship in a scenario. The results were more complex than anticipated. DPT's predictions for both demand/withdraw (H1b) and relationship satisfaction (H2) were supported but found that a related pattern, criticize/defend (H1a; in which one partner critiques and the other partner defends themselves), was affected not only by the power dynamic (in the opposite direction that DPT would predict) but also by the type of relationship participants reported. In addition, equal‐power partners were more likely to use a positive interaction (RQ1) style than unequal‐power partners.
... It is also important to understand intimacy interactions in verbal or nonverbal expression (Andersen, Guerrero, & Jones, 2006;Buehlman, Gottman, & Katz, 1992;Smith, Vogel, Madon, & Edwards, 2011;Wilson et al., 2013). It has become clearer that even the smallest things happening in daily life can be opportunities to build connection between partners (Driver & Gottman, 2004;Gottman, & Silver, 2012). ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This study assessed the mutual understanding within couples through forms of communication which help facilitate the stability of the relationship. This research adopted a qualitative, semi-structured, in-depth interview research design. A thematic analysis approach was used, analyzing transcriptions and interpreting them through the identification of underlying themes. Four Christian, heterosexual couples were interviewed in eight individual interviews. The major finding was the identification of three key themes of understanding within couples: understanding one's partner, self-understanding, and realistic couple interaction. The first theme, 'understanding partners', consisted of four subthemes: (1) understanding the influence from personal background, (2) understanding different expectations within marriage, (3) understanding spouse's capabilities, and (4) understanding partner's distress from their own past. The second theme, 'self-understanding', had three subthemes: (1) emotion expressions, (2) past experience and (3) current self-status awareness. The third theme, 'realistic couple interaction', comprised five subthemes: (1) independent satisfaction, (2) mutual acceptance resulting from understanding self and partner's limitation, (3) developing appropriate methods in relationships, (4) awareness assumptions, and (5) taking relationships up a notch. By studying these themes, this research showed that if an individual has a better understanding of their spouse's life experiences, emotions, expectations and abilities, stronger understanding will evolve within their relationship. Furthermore, it reveals that understanding includes awareness of limitations and acceptance of the other individual's capabilities which leads to positive cycles in relationships. Thirdly, self-understanding plays an important role within marital communication which assists the individual and the couple's further understanding of each other. Finally, religious beliefs in a Christian context play a significant role in improving understanding within couples and taking relationships to a better level. Based on this research, a metric of the development of a couple's understanding was considered.
Chapter
Researchers focus on non-verbal communication to better understand how relationships of various types are initiated, maintained, deepened, and sometimes terminated. Non-verbal communication is typically less filtered than verbal communication, thus non-verbal cues often reveal the “truth” of what is happening inside a relationship. However, we know less about non-verbal cues in relationships in trouble—ones that experience turmoil. Turmoil emerges in relationships going through turbulence, defined as periods of uncertainty and flux in partner interdependence during significant relationship transitions. Non-verbal communication central to romantic relationships experiencing turmoil and turbulence is the focus of this chapter, with specific attention paid to touch/affection, proxemics, eye behaviour, vocalics, and dyadic synchrony.
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Female sexual dysfunctions are a heterogeneous group of symptoms with unknown but probably varying etiology. Social factors may contribute both to the prevalence and to the origin of these dysfunctions. The present review focuses on female hypoactive sexual desire disorder, sexual arousal disorder and orgasmic disorder. These disorders are generally the most common, according to epidemiological studies, and they can all be considered as disorders of motivation. An incentive motivational model of sexual behavior, applicable to humans as well as to non-human animals, is described and the dysfunctions placed into the context of this model. It is shown that endocrine alterations as well as observable alterations in neurotransmitter activity are unlikely causes of the disorders. A potential role of learning is stressed. Nevertheless, the role of some transmitters in female rodent sexual behavior is analyzed, and compared to data from women, whenever such data are available. The conclusion is that there is no direct coincidence between effects on rodent copulatory behavior and sexual behavior in women. Based on these and other considerations, it is suggested that sexual approach behaviors rather than copulatory reflexes in rodents might be of some relevance for human sexual behavior, and perhaps even for predicting the effects of interventions, perhaps even the effects of drugs. Female copulatory behaviors, including the proceptive behaviors, are less appropriate. The common sexual dysfunctions in women are not problems with the performance of copulatory acts, but with the desire for such acts, by feeling aroused by such acts and experiencing the pleasure expected to be caused by such acts. Finally, it is questioned whether female sexual dysfunctions are appropriate targets for pharmacological treatment.
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For nearly two decades the wage gap between men and women has remained virtually unchanged. Women continue to earn, on average, 80 cents for every dollar that men earn. Yet despite persistent discrimination in wages, studies are also beginning to show that a growing number of women are out-earning their husbands. Nationwide, nearly one-third of working women are the chief breadwinners in their families. The trend is particularly pronounced among the demographic of highly educated women. Does this increase in earnings, however, equate to a shift in power dynamics between husbands and wives? In Earning More and Getting Less, sociologist Veronica Jaris Tichenor shows how, historically, men have derived a great deal of power over financial and household decisions by bringing home all (or most) of the family's income. Yet, financial superiority has not been a similar source of power for women. Tichenor demonstrates how wives, instead of using their substantial incomes to negotiate more egalitarian relationships, enable their husbands to perpetuate male dominance within the family. Weaving personal accounts, in-depth interviews, and compelling narrative, this important study reveals disturbing evidence that the conventional power relations defined by gender are powerful enough to undermine hierarchies defined by money. Earning More and Getting Less is essential reading in sociology, psychology, and family and gender studies.
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During recent decades, women and girls of diverse ethnicities, social classes, sexual orientations, and life experiences have encountered dramatic and complex changes in education, health, work, reproductive and caregiving roles, and personal relationships. Although many of these changes have resulted in increased equality, opportunity, and quality of life, girls and women are also at risk for a variety of health concerns and life stresses. The aim of this document is to articulate guidelines that will enhance gender- and culture-sensitive psychological practice with women and girls from all social classes, ethnic and racial groups, sexual orientations, and ability/disability statuses in the United States. These guidelines provide general recommendations for psychologists who seek to increase their awareness, knowledge, and skills in psychological practice with women and girls. The beneficiaries include all consumers of psychological practice, including clients, students, supervisees, research participants, consultees, and other health professionals. Although the guidelines and supporting literature place substantial emphasis on psychotherapy practice, the general guidelines are applicable to psychological practice in its broadest sense. Rather than offering a comprehensive review of content relevant to all areas of practice, this document provides examples of empirical and conceptual literature that support the need for practice guidelines. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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This study investigated how marital partners influenced each other concerning work and family decisions and connected influence strategies to marital satisfaction. Sixty-one married couples who had faced work-family decisions in the past 6 months participated. Results indicated that gender role ideology and indirect influence strategies were related to marital satisfaction. The variables that were related to marital satisfaction differed for men and women. One partner's ideology and influence strategies were associated with the other partner's satisfaction. Implications for practitioners are discussed.