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Nonverbal behavior plays an important role for the communication of states such as emotions as well as in first impressions. The present article discusses models of nonverbal communication and then summarizes findings with regard to the nonverbal communication of emotions, via the face, voice, posture, touch, and gaze. A second section describes some newer research on dyadic synchronization and a final section discusses nonverbal cues in the context of first impressions. A point is made that nonverbal behavior is embedded in a social and cultural context, which forms both the behavior and its interpretation.
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Hess U., Nonverbal Communication. In: Howard S. Friedman (Editor in Chief), Encyclopedia of Mental Health, 2nd
edition, Vol 3, Waltham, MA: Academic Press, 2016, pp. 208-218.
Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Inc. unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.
Nonverbal Communication
U Hess, Humboldt-University, Berlin, Germany
r2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Afliation Afliation refers to the wish to seek out others,
to be close to others, and interact with them.
Dominance The desire for high status or leadership over
Emotional Contagion The sharing or catchingof others
Empathy The understanding of and adequate reaction to
the emotions of others.
Kinesics The study of body movement.
Mimicry The imitation of the nonverbal behavior of
Proxemics The study of peoples perception and use of
personal space.
What is Nonverbal Communication?
Nonverbal communication is generally dened as the aspect of
communication that is not expressed in words. Under the as-
sumptions that one cannot not communicate(Watzlawick
et al., 1967, p. 51) and that all movements are to some degree
expressive (Wiener et al., 1972), all nonverbal behaviors are
subsumed under this heading.
As this denition suggests, nonverbal communication en-
compasses a wide range of behaviors, some of which may not
even be considered as behaviors by all. Thus, next to such
more obvious nonverbal behaviors as facial, vocal and pos-
tural expressions, touch, proxemics and gaze, we can also list
physical attractiveness, facial morphology, as well as such be-
havioral choices as hair style, clothing, and adornment or
more generally appearance. Some researchers have even in-
cluded material objects, which serve communicative functions
within a society under this heading (e.g., a parlor organ, Ames,
The scientic study of nonverbal behavior is usually traced
to Darwins seminal work On the Expressions of the Emotions in
Man and Animal (1872/1965). Darwins basic message was
that emotion expressions are evolved and (at least at some
point in the past) adaptive and he described animal and
human emotionally expressive behaviors in order to support
this point. Other early important work in the eld came from
anthropology with work on kinesics, the study of body
movement (Birdwhistell, 1970), and proxemics (the study of
personal space, Hall, 1963). Important early overview articles
were written in the early second half of the twentieth century
(Duncan Jr, 1969;Miller et al., 1959;Wiener et al., 1972) and
in 1972 a classic edited book was published by Hinde (1972)
with chapters ranging from the communication in lower ver-
tebrates and invertebrates (Thorpe, 1972) to cultural inu-
ences on nonverbal communication in humans (Leach, 1972).
In fact, nonverbal communication is inherently multi-
disciplinary and has been of interest to a variety of elds in-
cluding, next to psychology and linguistics, also medicine,
sociology, anthropology, ethology, and law to name just a few.
As such, a wide range of studies have accumulated a rich body
of literature. Research on nonverbal communication has ad-
dressed both the communication of states in humans and
animals most often emotions and the communication of
states. The latter goes with regard to the expressive features that
characterize certain states for example, the loud voice of
extraversion(Scherer, 1978) and with regard to rst impres-
sions in humans. It is, however, the case that by and large,
especially with regard to humans, this literature is heavily
biased toward the study of facial expressions, and in particular
facial expressions of emotions. Other research is devoted to
paralinguistic aspects such as voice quality and gestures, and
more recently gaze has attracted attention again. The other
aspects of nonverbal communication, however, have been
relatively neglected.
In the present context, I will, therefore, emphasize research
on facial expressions of emotions in humans. In what follows I
will rst briey describe how facial expressions are measured,
before turning to models of nonverbal behavior and then re-
search on the meaning of facial expressions. In this context, I
will allude to newer research on the importance of gaze as well
as briey mention research on the dyadic synchronization of
nonverbal behavior. The nal section will be devoted to the
role of nonverbal behavior in rst impressions.
Measurement of Facial Expressions
There are three primary means of measuring facial expressions.
First, facial expressions can be shown to naïve judges who are
asked to identify the mental state of the person. If the ex-
pressions were spontaneously shown by individuals in a social
interaction, the interrater reliability for this task is usually only
low to moderate and hence requires a relatively large number
of judges to achieve acceptable levels of agreement. Also,
judges tend to fatigue rapidly and can, therefore, only rate a
limited number of expressions (probably not more than 100).
This implies that the logistic requirements for this method can
be prohibitive (Rosenthal, 2005). Second, facial expressions
can be measured by trained coders who use a descriptive
coding system such as Ekman and Friesens Facial Action
Coding System (FACS, Ekman and Friesen, 1978). This has the
advantage of high reliability and precise information on the
actual facial movements shown. More difcult is the task of
assigning a specic meaning to the facial patterning. This
procedure is also fairly time consuming (1 min of expressive
behavior requires approximately 1 h of coding time).
Encyclopedia of Mental Health, Volume 3 doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-397045-9.00218-4208
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However, recent advances in computer coding of facial ex-
pressions are slowly overcoming this particular limitation (see
Sandbach et al., 2012). Finally, instead of measuring overt
facial behavior, it is possible to use electromyography to
measure the relevant facial muscle activity (Hess, 2009). This
approach has the advantage of providing excellent time and
space resolution, thus allowing for the measurement of very
subtle expressions which are not or only barely visible (such as
facial mimicry reactions, see below). The disadvantage is that
only a limited number of muscles can be assessed at any one
time. Also, it is not always easy to assign specic meaning to a
specic muscle reaction. For example, activity of the Corru-
gator Supercilii (the muscle that draws the eyebrows down and
together) occurs in sadness, in anger, and when concentrating.
However, by looking at patterns and constraining the experi-
mental situation appropriately, this problem can be solved.
Models of Nonverbal Communication
The classic model of nonverbal communication is a straight
adaptation of the communication model by Shannon and
Weaver (1949), according to which a message is transmitted
from a sender to a receiver. There is feedback from the receiver
to the sender and the message may be distorted by noise. This
model makes a number of assumptions, but the most prob-
lematic for human nonverbal communication is the notion
that the message sent actually matches the intended message
and conversely that the understood message matches the re-
ceived message. In fact, it is often the case that individuals
believe to have sent a clear message when this was not the case.
Humans overestimate both the intensity of their expressions
(Barr and Kleck, 1995) and the clarity, that is, the ease of
interpretability, of their expressions (Senécal et al., 2003)as
well as the extent to which they are in fact observed by others
(the spot light effect).
Conversely, stereotypes and cultural and social encoding
rules, that is, the application of social knowledge to what is
perceived, can bias the perception of the message, such that the
same nonverbal behavior when shown by a different person
will be interpreted differently (Hess et al., 2009).
In fact, in the context of the person perception information
provided by nonverbal vocal cues, Scherer (1978) proposed an
adaption of the Brunswick lens model (Brunswik, 1956), in
which he distinguished between an underlying state (e.g.,
happiness) and the distal indicator cues that express such a
state (e.g., a smile) on one hand and proximal indicator cues
(what the receiver sees) and the receivers attribution (the
other is happy) on the other. Importantly, this model allows
also for the possibility that a signal is sent but not received,
maybe due to inattention or because it was too eeting, and
conversely the notion that a signal was not sent but was per-
ceived, as is the case when, for example, the stable wrinkles in
a face are perceived as a dynamic expression (Hess et al.,
This model is much more satisfactory; however, it still
suffers from the fact that it basically describes a one-way
process from the expresser to the perceiver. Yet, in reality most
communicative acts happen in a specic social context be-
tween two or more persons who have a specic relationship
and are set within a given culture with its norms and rules. In
addition, the model would have to include interpersonal and
intrapersonal feedback processes. Interpersonal feedback pro-
cesses are the basis for behavioral synchronization between
interaction partners and include emotional contagion (the
catchingof the emotions of others, Hateld et al., 1994) and
mimicry (the imitation of the nonverbal behavior of others,
Hess et al., 1999). Intrapersonal feedback processes include,
for example, facial feedback (the retroaction of facial ex-
pressions to emotional states, Ekman et al., 1980). Hess et al.
(1999) have proposed a model for dyadic communication,
which includes the above elements (see Figure 1). However,
what even this very complex model does not include other
than as a cloud above everything, is the social context of
interaction. Yet, the social context: who interacts with whom
and where, can exert strong inuences on what is sent as well
as on what is perceived. In fact, it can be argued that social
context becomes a determining factor in many everyday
Emotion Perception and Social Context
There are two principal strategies for decoding emotion displays
(Kirouac and Hess, 1999). First, in the absence of any con-
textual information, the sendersexpressionscanbeusedto
draw inferences regarding his or her presumed emotional state
using a pattern-matching approach (Buck, 1984). However, a
second strategy depends upon the knowledge that the perceiver
possesses regarding both the sender and the social situation in
which the interaction is taking place. This information permits
the perceiver to take the perspective of the encoder and helps
him or her to correctly infer the emotional state that the sender
is most likely experiencing. In everyday life, emotion ex-
pressions are often weak, elusive or blended, resulting in a
signal that often is ambiguous (Motley and Camden, 1988).
This ambiguity itself suggests that signicant interpretive work is
needed. One source of relevant knowledge is prior experiences
with an interaction partner, which tell us about their likes and
dislikes and hence their likely reactions to a given event. But
even if no rsthand knowledge about an interaction partner is
available, knowledge about the social context of the inter-
actions, the cultural rules and norms that guide the interaction,
and stereotype knowledge about the interaction partner can all
be sources of relevant information. Such a view of emotion
communication transforms the receiver from a passive recep-
tacle of information into an active constructorof information.
Emotion Expressions
As mentioned above, the focus of nonverbal communication
research has been the nonverbal expression of emotions. In the
mental health context this includes questions regarding both
the expression and recognition of emotions in general or some
classes of emotions specic to individuals suffering from a
variety of psychological problems. This may include the rec-
ognition of emotions by individuals suffering from autism-
spectrum disorder (see Uljarevic and Hamilton, 2013, for a
review), or Parkinsons disease (Gray and Tickle-Degnen,
Nonverbal Communication 209
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2010) or impairments in emotional expressivity in schizo-
phrenia (Mandal et al., 1998). However, what all of these
studies have in common is the notion that emotion ex-
pressions reect an internal state, and more precisely they re-
ect an emotional state, which may or may not be expressed
and which may or may not be correctly recognized. However,
this notion is not as undisputed as it may seem.
What Do Emotion Expressions Express?
Darwin (1872/1965) considered emotion expressions to be
just that an expression of an underlying emotional state
which in turn readies the organism for dealing with an emo-
tional event. Whereas some processes (e.g., increased heart
rate) tend to not be visible to perceivers, others (e.g., postural
changes and facial expressions) are. To him there was an
evolutionary advantage in the honest signaling of internal
emotional states to the social environment.
Yet, Darwins view of emotion expressions as the visible
part of an underlying emotional state was disputed and re-
jected by those who considered facial expressions as social or
cultural signals only. Also, a number of studies in the early
years of the twentieth century came to the conclusion that
emotions can only be recognized at chance levels, whereas
other studies found good recognition rates. This disparity in
ndings led by Bruner and Tagiuri (1954) (in Handbook of
Social Psychology article) state that the evidence for the
recognizability of emotional expressions is unclear(p. 634).
They concluded that, if anything, emotional facial expressions
are culturally learned. This view remained basically unchanged
until 1972 when Ekman, Friesen, and Ellsworth wrote a
book to explicitly vindicate Darwins idea that emotional
expressions are universal and directly associated with an
underlying emotional state. This book and related research by
Ekman and colleagues as well as Izard (Izard, 1971a,b) were
successful in making Darwins view predominant in the eld.
However, this view continued to be challenged over the
years. Thus, according to Fridlunds behavioral ecology theory
(Fridlund, 1994), for emotion expressions to be truly useful as
a communicative signal they should be linked to the organ-
isms social motives rather than to quasi-reexive emotions.
He concludes that emotion expressions are to be considered as
unrelated to an underlying emotional state and that emotional
facial expressions should be viewed as communicative signals
only not as a symptom of an underlying state.
This assertion, however, is also problematic. Parkinson
(2005), for example, has questioned why a specic display
should be linked to a specic motive, or why communicating
motives should be more adaptive than communicating emo-
tions since when such motives are feigned they can also be
used to cheat. His extensive review concludes that facial ex-
pressions may well serve as both symptoms of an underlying
state and communicative signals. This notion was rst em-
pirically tested by Hess et al. (1995) who showed in a partial
replication of Fridlund (1991) that smiles vary both as a
function of social context (and thus social motives) and of the
emotional content of the stimulus. These ndings were ex-
tended by Jakobs and colleagues to different contexts and
emotions (Jakobs et al., 1999a,b,2001).
An appraisal View of Emotion Expression
The view that emotional facial expressions function as both a
communicative signal, which in turn is subject to social norms
Individual B
Affect infusion
Individual A
Affect infusion
Figure 1 A model of nonverbal communication. Adapted from Hess, U., Philippot, P., Blairy, S., 1999. Mimicry: Facts and ction. In: Philippot,
P., Feldman, R.S. (Eds.), The Social Context of Nonverbal Behavior. Studies in Emotion and Social Interaction. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, pp. 213241.
210 Nonverbal Communication
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and rules (see below) and as a (honest) symptom of an
emotional state has to face the conceptual challenge originally
posed by Fridlund (1994) how can an emotion program that
started in response to an emotion elicitor somehow be inter-
cepted by a social norm, which replaces the emotion ex-
pression output of the program with a socially demanded
However, the question of how such an interruptive process
can work is the wrong question to ask (Hess and Thibault,
2009). Specically, appraisal theories of emotion (e.g., Frijda,
1986;Scherer, 1984) predict that social norms and rules to
the degree that they are endorsed by the individual are an
integral part of the appraisal process. Such a view implies that
the emotion-eliciting situation is already appraised in the light
of the situation relevant social norms. Thus, when learning
simultaneously that one has received an A þand ones best
friend a C in a course, the resulting joy is tempered by the
appraisal of this second piece of information and no cum-
bersome lter has to be applied to keep from jumping up and
down in front of the disappointed friend (However, if a rule is
not endorsed e.g., the rule to show happiness when receiving
a disappointing gift then a more cumbersome lter process
may indeed be an adequate conceptualization.). In short, be-
cause appraisal theories consider emotions as inherently de-
termined by the organisms motivational state and hence their
intentions, emotion expression by its very nature should ex-
press intentions as these are part of emotions in a funda-
mental way (cf. Kappas, 2003).
Moderating Factors for Emotion Expression and
A number of inuences on nonverbal communication have
been studied over the years. Of foremost interest as alluded
to above was the question of whether there are cultural
differences in the nonverbal communication of emotions.
Another often raised issue regarding gender differences in
nonverbal communication, a question that overlaps with the
question regarding status differences. These two issues will be
briey outlined next.
Culture: Are Emotional Facial Expressions Universally
As mentioned above, Darwin (1872/1965) and later Ekman
and colleagues (Ekman, 1972;Ekman et al., 1987) and Izard
(1971a,b) made strong claims that at least some, basic, emo-
tions are universally recognized, based on the notion that the
expressions have developed due to evolutionary constraints
and hence are in a continuity across mammalian species and
universal across human cultures. Ekman and colleagues de-
ned in fact basic emotions as those for which prototypical
cross-cultural expressions have been identied (happiness,
sadness, fear, anger, disgust, surprise, and more recently con-
tempt). Yet, a number of discussions in leading journals
took issue with the methodology employed in the studies
that found support for universality (e.g., Ekman, 1994;Izard,
1997;Russell, 1991,1994,1995) and social constructivist
approaches to emotion emphasized differences in emotion
vocabularies and disputed universality on these grounds.
Cultural dialects
More recently, strong meta-analytical evidence for an inter-
mediate view has emerged and led to the formulation of
Elfenbein and Ambadys Dialect Theory (2002). They argue
that the universal language of emotion expression has local
dialects that differ subtly from each other. A study by Elfen-
bein et al. (2007) comparing expressions from Quebec and
Gabon found evidence for the posited dialects for serenity,
shame, contempt, anger, sadness, surprise, and happiness, but
not for fear, disgust, or embarrassment. A decoding study also
reported by these investigators showed that individuals were
better at decoding expressions from their own group but also
showed that they were considerably better than chance ac-
curacy for expressions from the other group. Consistent with
an appraisal approach to emotional expressions, dialects could
be explained by postulating subtle differences in appraisal
patterns due to differences in cultural constraints, values and
norms that reect themselves as differences in facial expression
(Hess et al., 2013).
In sum, the evidence to date suggests that emotion ex-
pressions are by and large universally recognized at least
with regard to emotions that have been categorized as basic.
However, the evidence is also clear that many emotions are
not universally expressed in exactly the same manner albeit
with enough overlap that they can be recognized well across
cultures and subgroups.
Cultural rules and norms
A more important impact on emotion expression and recog-
nition is presented by social rules and norms. Norms may have
an indirect effect because they guide attention to specic as-
pects of a situation. In fact, any given situation tends to con-
tain a variety of potential emotion relevant signals. Thus, in
the same situation, different people may focus on different
cues, which they also may appraise differently. Appraisal the-
ories of emotion (e.g., Frijda, 1986;Scherer, 1987) posit that
an emotional state results from the appraisal of the situation
according to the motivations, values, and resources of the in-
dividual. As different cultures have different value systems, it
should not be a surprise that the same situation may elicit
different emotions in different cultural contexts.
In this sense, members of collectivist cultures tend to react
more to external, socially sharable elements of a situation,
whereas members of individualist cultures tend to react more
to internal cues (Suh et al., 1998). This notion explains why in
North America positive feelings tend to be associated with
personal achievement, whereas in Asian countries they are
linked to interpersonal events (Uchida et al., 2004). Another
example of the indirect inuence of norms can be found in
those African countries where a strong belief in witchcraft
persists. There, events such as sickness and death are often
perceived as immoral, unfair, and as caused by human agency
and not by fate and hence elicit anger instead of sadness
(Scherer, 1997).
The most direct impact of norms is posed by those social
norms that directly pre- and proscribe certain emotion ex-
pressions in certain contexts. Ekman and Friesen (1971) called
Nonverbal Communication 211
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these norms display rules. Related notions have been ex-
pressed in the organizational literature under the heading
emotional labor (Hochschild, 1983) or emotion work (Morris
and Feldman, 1996) which describes the aspect of an em-
ployees work which focuses on showing prescribed emotions
(e.g., service with a smile). These norms are generally per-
ceived as obligatory and their transgression is usually socially
punished. They are typically learned early in the socialization
process (Saarni, 1999). Importantly, these norms vary with
culture. For example, in North America it is more socially
acceptable to show anger to close ones (friends and family)
than to strangers, whereas in Japan the converse is the case
(Matsumoto, 1990).
Finally, social norms do not only regulate who shows
which emotion when, but also the specic form the emotion
expression takes. For example, it is acceptable for women but
not for men to cry when angry (Crawford et al., 1992). In this
sense Warner and Shields (2007) have coined the notion of
manlyemotions to describe a type of highly controlled
emotion expressions that has a desirable expressive norm in
North America.
Gender and Status
Differences in the expression and recognition of emotion ex-
pressions can also be found with regard to status and gender of
both expresser and decoder. Generally speaking, women are
more emotionally expressive than men (Fischer, 1993). This is
best established for smiling: women smile more and they
smile more in situations where they experience negative affect.
This difference emerges in childhood and gets stronger by the
time they reach adulthood (see also, Hess et al., 2002). By
contrast, men are perceived, and perceive themselves as more
likely to express anger. Interestingly, in experimental situations
where anger is induced, this difference disappears (Fischer,
The reason for these well-established gender differences can
be traced to two nonexclusive sources: differences in status
and differences in social roles. Thus, Henley (1977,1995) as
well as LaFrance and Hecht (Hecht and LaFrance, 1998;
LaFrance and Hecht, 1995) emphasize the inherent difference
in status between men and women, which maintains to this
day even in egalitarian cultures (e.g., Ridgeway, 2011). Henley
in particular, bases her argument on the assumption that the
human smile is a homolog of the primate silent-bared-teeth
display,which typically is used as a sign of submission. From
Henleys perspective, smiles also signal submission and hence
women as the lower status gender tend to smile more. This
model may be a bit too simplistic though. On one hand
people who smile tend to be rated as more dominant (Knut-
son, 1996) and there is only limited evidence linking smiling
as such to status and power. In fact, there are many different
forms of smiles which serve different social functions, with the
submissive smile being just one (Niedenthal et al., 2010). In
this vein, Brody and Hall (2000) proposed a more complex
model, which includes social norms regarding gender ad-
equate behavior, social expectations, and also a stronger trend
toward positive affect experience in women.
As regards anger expressions in men, status seems to be
more clearly relevant. Thus, Averill (1997) considers power
and entrance requirementfor anger. The notion being that
the anger display of a person who does not have power to back
up the threat is less effective and in fact less legitimate. As an
example one may think of the angry temper tantrum of a child
versus an angry expression of a member of a biker gang. This
view concords with the position of appraisal theories of
emotion which consider coping potential the power to re-
dress a situation as the key appraisal for anger (Ellsworth and
Scherer, 2003).
Emotion Expression in Other Channels
As mentioned above, even though facial expressions of emo-
tions are the most frequently studied channel for emotion
expression, emotions can also be expressed through other
channels. In what follows, I will give a short overview of re-
search on emotion expression through voice, posture, touch,
and gaze.
Research on emotion expression in the voice has been ongoing
since it has become technically feasible to record voices.
However, until about 10 years ago, the rate of studies per year
in this domain remained low. In fact, just like research on
posture and touch, research on voice gained impact with the
advent of affective computing and the accompanying interest
in affective sensing, the automatic recognition of emotions
(Schuller et al., 2011).
There are two main approaches to classifying emotional
speech. On one hand, human perceivers can be asked to listen
to voice excerpts and decode the emotions expressed. On the
other hand, acoustic features of the emotional voice such as
pitch, duration and intensity or voice quality features can be
measured and related to the intended emotion (Juslin and
Scherer, 2005). Research employing the judgment study
paradigm was able to ascertain that basic emotions at least are
well recognized in speech, but early attempts at acoustic an-
alysis were not always as successful (Banse and Scherer, 1996).
However, newer approaches in affective computing using
more sophisticated analysis algorithms have started to make
inroads in that regard (Schuller et al., 2011).
Darwins (1872/1965) descriptions of emotion expressions
contained many descriptions of emotional postures in both
humans and animals. However, in later years emotion specic
postures were rarely studied. In fact, Ekman and Friesen
(1974) considered postures only indicative of the intensity of
an emotion and not of its quality. Yet, even early studies by
Bull and colleagues (e.g., Bull and Gidro-Frank, 1950) sug-
gested that some basic emotions can be recognized from
postures. In recent years, interest in postures has blossomed
again. Work on static expressions suggests that at least the
basic emotions can be well recognized from postural cues
212 Nonverbal Communication
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alone (see Atkinson, 2013, for a review). Other work has
shown that basic emotions can also be recognized from gait at
levels that are comparable to facial emotion recognition and
ranging up to 92% correct for sad and fearful expressions
(Schneider et al., 2013). In addition, emotions such as pride
and others that are not considered as basic (mainly because
they are not associated with a prototypical and unique facial
expression) seem by contrast to have a universal postural
component (Tracy and Matsumoto, 2008). Further, there is
evidence of cross-model mimicry of postures such that indi-
viduals who observe emotional postures tend to show con-
gruent facial expressions in response (Magnée et al., 2007),
suggesting that observers react to postural emotion cues in
much the same way as to facial emotion cues.
Despite early research suggesting a relationship between
emotion and touch (Clynes, 1977), research on touch has
been mostly focused on its use as a function of intimacy
(Burgoon, 1991;McDaniel and Andersen, 1998) and as a cue
to relative power. The latter is based on Henleys (1973) no-
tion of a touch privilege for individuals higher in power.
However, the ndings in that regard remained mixed even
though there is some evidence for differences in touching
between men and women, these differences are not system-
atically related to power or status differences (Hall, 1996;Hall
and Veccia, 1990). However, more recently touch as an emo-
tional signal has been studied. Thus, touch has been found to
communicate anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, and sym-
pathy at better than chance levels (Hertenstein et al., 2006).
There is also evidence that squeezing touch is better for com-
municating unpleasant and aroused emotional intention,
whereas nger touch is better for communicating pleasant and
relaxed emotional intention (Rantala et al., 2013).
Gaze direction is something not usually thought to be part of
the emotional expression itself (e.g., Ellsworth and Ross, 1975;
Fehr and Exline, 1987). Indeed, the faces employed in nearly
all expression decoding studies have used stimuli where the
expressers gaze is directed at the perceiver. The general argu-
ment made concerning the effect of direct gaze is that it plays
an important role in the perception of the intensity of the
emotion but not in the perception of its quality (e.g., Argyle
and Cook, 1976;Kleinke, 1986;Webbink, 1986). An obvious
reason this might be the case is that direct gaze signals that the
perceiver is the object of whatever emotion is being displayed
by the expresser and thus captivates attentional resources
(Cary, 1978;Ellsworth and Ross, 1975;Grumet, 1999;Macrae
et al., 2002). By contrast, research by Adams and his colleagues
(Adams et al., 2003;Adams and Kleck, 2003,2005) support
the shared signal hypothesis, demonstrating that the gaze
direction of the expresser can affect the efciency with which a
given display is processed as well as determine the quality of
the emotion that will be perceived in a blended or ambiguous
expression. They argue that when different facial cues such as
the specic expression and the direction of gaze share the same
signal value (e.g., approach or avoidance) the shared signal
facilitates overall processing efciency. Others have reported
evidence supporting perceptual integration in the processing
of these cues. These studies also demonstrate that when gaze
and emotion are not of relatively equal discriminability, direct
gaze effects do occur (e.g., Graham and LaBar, 2007). Thus,
gaze direction appears to not only inuence emotion per-
ception but to do so through the processes of direct perceptual
integration and indirect attention capture.
Nonverbal Behavior in Dyads
As mentioned above, research on nonverbal behavior has long
focused either on the factors that inuence how the expresser
encodes certain traits or states or on the factors that inuence
how the perceiver decodes these traits or states. Yes, social
interaction implies an interplay of encoding and decoding.
One of the phenomena that occur in a dyadic context is be-
havioral synchronization. Early research on speech for ex-
ample, noted that as an interaction progresses, the interaction
partners converge with regard to certain characteristics of
speech such as loudness and speed. The person who initially
spoke louder and faster becomes softer and slower and the
converse for the other person. This convergence is linked to the
rapport between the interaction partners (Giles and Smith,
1979). Other research looked at behavioral synchronization
and its effect on experienced or perceived rapport (Bavelas
et al., 1986;Bernieri and Rosenthal, 1991). This research was
taken up and made popular by Chartrand and Bargh (1999)
who coined the term chameleon effect to describe the simi-
larities of nonverbal behaviors such as foot tapping and face
touching between two interaction partners. As behavioral
synchronization fosters afliation it has also been referred to
as social glue(Lakin et al., 2003).
Facial Mimicry
A related but different phenomenon is facial or emotional
mimicry, which refers specically to the imitation of emo-
tional behavior (Hess and Fischer, 2013). Facial mimicry is
usually considered a form of affective empathy or a low road
in the empathy process (Walter, 2012). It has also been sug-
gested that imitation is required for the understanding of the
emotions of others (Lipps, 1907) a notion that resonates with
mirror neuron accounts of human emotion recognition
(Goldman and Sripada, 2005). There is little evidence that
emotional mimicry is a necessary element of emotion recog-
nition, however, in certain situations the blocking of mimicry
can result in a reduction in decoding accuracy (see Hess and
Fischer, 2013, for a review). Yet, as in these studies usually
only the mouth region was blocked, this may also be mediated
by the blocking of subvocalization.
Emotional mimicry is often conated with other dyadic
emotional phenomena such as emotional contagion and
empathy. It can also be confused with other phenomena such
as social referencing and parallel emotion elicitation, which
can also result in matching facial expressions between two
individuals (cf. Hess and Fischer, 2013).
Nonverbal Communication 213
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The main difference between the last two on one hand and
contagion, mimicry, and empathy on the other, is the source
of the affect expression. Thus, individuals may show the same
expression because the same emotion was elicited in both of
them at the same time. For example, two people may both
witness an unfair event and both react with righteous anger. In
this form of parallel emotion elicitation, the individuals need
not even be aware of each other. Second, similar emotion
expressions may also be due to social referencing. In this case,
the observed emotions of others are used as a cue to the ap-
propriate responding in an ambiguous situation (see e.g.,
Klinnert et al., 1983). In this case also the source of the ex-
pression is an external event.
In emotional mimicry, emotional contagion, and empathy,
the source of the reaction is the interaction partner. What differs
is the nature of the reaction and the awareness of the other as
source of the reaction. Thus, Hateld and colleagues broadly
dene emotional contagion as: The tendency to automatically
mimic and synchronize expressions, vocalizations, postures,
and movements with those of another person and, con-
sequently, to converge emotionally(Hateld et al.,1992,
p. 153). They also refer to this process as the tendency to catch
another persons emotions. That is, Hateld and colleagues
include mimicry in their denition and also refer to mimicry as
primitive emotional contagionand one of the routes via which
we catchothersemotions. In this view, mimicry would be one
causal route to contagion. However, the relationship between
the two is not as simple as that. There are not many studies that
assess both mimicry and contagion in the same experiment, but
those that did, found evidence for both, but not for the same
emotions or in a tight mediation (Hess and Blairy, 2001;
Lundqvist and Dimberg, 1995). Thus it is better to consider the
two phenomena to be separate psychological processes, with as
yet unclear boundary conditions.
Affective empathy has been dened as a process during
which the perception of anothers emotional state generates a
matching state in the perceiver (see e.g., de Waal, 2008). Both
emotional mimicry and contagion have been considered as
forms of affective empathy (Hoffman, 1984). Yet, empathy on
the one hand and mimicry on the other should be dis-
tinguished because empathy does not necessarily require
congruent emotional states or emotional displays, which is a
dening characteristic of mimicry and contagion, respectively.
In fact, it can be argued that in many situations it would be
counterproductive for an empathic person desiring to help
someone in distress to experience the same debilitating emo-
tion as the person that requires the help.
Another difference relates to our awareness of the source of
the affect. Specically, Lamm et al. (2007) conclude that for a
subjective experience to be labeled empathy, the observer must
recognize that the felt emotion is a response to the observed
other. This is not the case for mimicry or contagion, which are
generally considered automatic processes which operate
largely outside of consciousness, even though they are in
principle accessible.
The social regulatory function of mimicry
Emotional mimicry seems to serve a social regulatory function
in dyads (see Hess and Fischer, 2013) and depends on the
relationship between interaction partners and more generally
on the goals and intentions of the expresser. Thus, whether the
relationship with the other is cooperative or competitive
(Lanzetta and Englis, 1989;Weyers et al., 2009), or whether
one identies with the expresser as a member of a specic
group (Bourgeois and Hess, 2008) moderates mimicry. In a
competitive or hostile interaction, facial reactions are also
more likely to be a reaction to rather than with the emotion
displayed by the other person. These relationships inhibit
mimicry (Lanzetta and Englis, 1989;Weyers et al., 2009)or
may even elicit facial displays that are incongruent with the
observed expression, such as smiling when seeing the pain or
fear display of a competitor or a disliked out-group member
(Lanzetta and Englis, 1989). More generally, a negative atti-
tude toward the target tends to inhibit emotional mimicry and
increase the interpretation of the emotional signal as hostile
(e.g., Hutchings and Haddock, 2008). Interestingly, Likowski
et al. (2008) demonstrated that this is the case even when
attitudes are newly formed by narratives about a specic
character. In line with afliation at the individual level, afli-
ation at the group level also fosters mimicry. Thus, individuals
are more likely to mimic the emotional reactions of in-group
members than those of out-group members (Bourgeois and
Hess, 2008;Van der Schalk et al., 2011).
In sum, emotional mimicry has relational implications:
emotionally mimicking others can create social warmth and
also social coolness when people do not mimic the other.
Emotional mimicry is a function of interaction goals, and a
change of those goals, whether conscious or automatic, has an
effect on whether people mimic othersemotions or react
to them.
First Impressions
In an early article on human nonverbal communication,
Argyle (1972) listed appearance as one domain of study, with
the notion that appearance can be modied for self-repre-
sentational goals. In fact, people rapidly and spontaneously
make judgments about the personality of others based on
appearance cues (see e.g., Kenny, 2004;Todorov and Uleman,
2002,2003). One classic study found that varying one aspect
only of a photo (e.g., adding glasses) impacts on the perceived
personality of the depicted person (Thornton, 1943). But ap-
pearance also sends signals regarding the social group mem-
bership of the person, including such aspects as gender, age,
ethnicity, and also status.
Often, correct judgments of personality characteristics can
be made based on very thin slicesof behavior, that is, ex-
tremely short exposures to what may appear to be minimal
information (Ambady et al., 1995;Ambady and Rosenthal,
1992), including static photos of only the eye region (Rule
et al., 2009). One important source of such judgments is facial
appearance (Zebrowitz, 1997). One line of research, which has
a long history, has focused on physical attractiveness and on
stereotype and halo effects that associate attractiveness with
other desirable traits such as leading to the what is beautiful is
goodstereotype (Felson, 1979;Reis et al., 1990).
Another line of research has focused on the static aspects of
facial and bodily appearance cues that can signal general dis-
positions and behavioral intentions. For example, a square
214 Nonverbal Communication
Author's personal copy
jaw, high forehead, or heavy eyebrows cross-culturally connote
social dominance (Keating et al., 1981;Senior et al., 1999). On
the other hand, a rounded face with large eyes, thin eyebrows,
and low facial features a babyface connotes approach-
ability (e.g., Berry and McArthur, 1985).
These behavioral dispositions are of central importance for
our interactions with others as they allow us to judge vital
social characteristics of an individual we may interact with. In
hierarchical primate societies, for example, highly dominant
individuals pose a certain threat insofar as they can claim
territory or possessions (food, sexual partners, etc.) from lower
status group members (Menzel, 1973,1974). Hence the
presence of a perceived dominant other should lead to in-
creased vigilance and a preparedness for withdrawal (Coussi-
Korbel, 1994). In contrast, an afliation motive is associated
with nurturing, supportive behaviors and should lead to ap-
proach when the other is perceived to be high on this
Interestingly, the same information that is transmitted by
relatively static morphological cues can also be transmitted by
movement behaviors, including facial expressions. Of these,
anger, happiness, and fear displays have been shown to be
associated with perceived dominance and afliation. Accord-
ingly, drawing the eyebrows together in anger leads to in-
creased attributions of dominance, whereas smiling leads to
increased attributions of afliation (Hess et al., 2000;Knutson,
1996). At the same time, anger expressions are perceived as
threatening (e.g., Aronoff et al., 1992), whereas smiles are
perceived as warm, friendly, and welcoming (see e.g., Hess
et al., 2002). Similarly, it has been argued that fear expressions
elicit afliative reactions in conspecics (Bauer and Gariépy,
2001;Marsh et al., 2005). This notion of a perceptual overlap
between emotion expressions and certain trait markers, which
then inuences emotion communication, has been more re-
cently taken up by Zebrowitz (see Zebrowitz and Montepare,
2006) as well as Hess et al. (2007,2008,2009). Derived from
this is the notion that emotional expressions can be used to
infer behavioral intentions (Hareli and Hess, 2010) and that
the resemblance of certain facial features to emotion ex-
pressions drives the attribution of behavioral intentions to
some types of faces (Zebrowitz et al., 2003). That appearance
cues can have lasting effects on individuals was shown for
example by Mueller and Mazur (1996) who found the per-
ceived dominance of West Point cadets, based on photos
alone, to be a predictor of later military rank.
Nonverbal behavior plays an important role for the com-
munication of states such as emotions as well as in rst
impressions. Nonverbal communication is imbedded in a
social context, which inuences how expressions are perceived
and interpreted. This context is dened not only through the
relevant cultural rules and norms but also by the social group
membership of the interaction partners.
See also: Emotional Intelligence. Empathy
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... Facial expressions are a prime source of non-verbal communication. Hess (2016) believed that human emotional expressions are universal and that all humans encode (express or emit nonverbal behavior) and decode (interpret the meaning of the nonverbal behavior of others) expressions in the same way. Modern research suggests that Hess was right, for the six major emotional expressions which are anger, happiness, surprise, fear, disgust, and sadness. ...
... Self-serving attributions are explanations for one's successes that credit internal, dispositional factors and explanations for one's failures that blame external, situational factors. Hess (2016) observed this pattern in the attributions professional athletes made for their performances. Ekman & Friesen (1971) found that less-experienced athletes, more highly skilled athletes, and athletes in solo sports are more likely to make self-serving attributions. ...
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Purpose: This paper discuss what is social perception, social perception aspects of non-verbal communication, attribution and impression formation and also some suggestion on how social perception affected cultures. Design/methodology/approach: Describe your method here. This research is literature study research. The first step was collected literature that relevant to the topic. The second step was data reduction, that is reduced data and chosen the main data. The third step was presented the data and the last step was made conclusion. Findings: Impaired social perception can have serious social consequences. For example, an adolescent boy might misread a girl's sympathetic smile as a romantic invitation, and proceed to respond in a sexually offensive manner or a child might misread a peer's teasing gesture as a threat and react aggressively. In these cases, the socially unsuccessful responses were not a result of inadequate social skills. Rather, they resulted from social "misreading", that is, impaired social perception. Not surprisingly, the more we get to know someone, the more accurate we are at describing their traits and motives. Even when judging people we know well, however, the shortcuts we use sometimes lead to mistaken impressions. As these examples suggest, effective social perception contributes in important ways to social success, peer acceptance, and friendship. Research limitations/implications: This research is literature review research. Further empirical research is needed. Practical implications: Result of this research can be used as references in appraisal on social perception pertaining to communication and psychology. Originality/value: This paper is original. Paper type: Literature review
... The duration of actions, such as eye contact and physical touch, will even differ, with longer duration suggesting greater levels of trust and intimacy. Status and power can also be communicated nonverbally through one's self-presentation to the outside world (Hess, 2015). Nicer clothes, more expensive jewelry, a fancier office, a nicer car-all suggest more affluence, and as such, more status. ...
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While a first impression may seem a singular unit of analysis, it comprises a number of elements. Those elements include facial and body appearance, expressions, eye behavior, posture, gestures , vocal characteristics, proximity, and touch (Knapp et al., 2014). Forensic vocational rehabilitation experts are tasked with analyzing several sources of assessment to develop objective conclusions related to a claimant's ability to work or to decide how to assist in the job placement process. To assist in this effort, the current paper will provide an overview related to the following topics: (a) general nonverbal behavior/communication; (b) different representations and interpretations based on culture, gender, and disability; (c) the impact of first impressions and clinical impressions ; and (d) interventions to avoid erroneous interpretations of behavior on the part of the professional or others with whom the client might interact.
... Specifically, the EA tasks used here tap processes linked to perspective-taking more than simple pattern matching, i.e., the careful observation of facial or auditory patterns (see Hess 2015, for a discussion of these two forms of emotion decoding). Participants had access to the full narrative and could leverage their understanding of the situational context and their impressions of the other's personality when "mind-reading." ...
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Emotion decoding competence can be addressed in different ways. In this study, clinical psychology, nursing, or social work students narrated a 2.5–3 min story about a self-experienced emotional event and also listened to another student’s story. Participants were video recorded during the session. Participants then annotated their own recordings regarding their own thoughts and feelings, and they rated recordings by other participants regarding their thoughts and feelings [empathic accuracy, EA, task]. Participants further completed two emotion recognition accuracy (ERA) tests that differed in complexity. The results showed that even though significant correlations were found between the emotion recognition tests, the tests did not positively predict empathic accuracy scores. These results raise questions regarding the extent to which ERA tests tap the competencies that underlie EA. Different possibilities to investigate the consequences of method choices are discussed.
... We tested two 3D models of virtual followers (one female model and one male model) and observed different results for these two models. Hess [25] suggests that static aspect of facial appearance and gender do signal behavioral intentions. Future studies should bring into play multiple 3D models and systematically investigate the impact of gender on participants' categorization processes. ...
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Managing a medical team in emergency situations requires not only technical but also non-technical skills. Leaders must train to manage different types of subordinates, and how these subordinates will respond to orders and stressful events. Before designing virtual training environments for these leaders, it is necessary to understand how leaders perceive the nonverbal behaviors of virtual characters playing the role of subordinates. In this article, we describe a study we conducted to explore how leaders categorize virtual subordinates from the non-verbal expressions they display (i.e., facial expressions, torso orientation, gaze direction). We analyze how these multimodal behaviors impact the perception of follower style (proactive vs. passive, insubordination), interpersonal attitudes (dominance vs. submission) and stress. Our results suggest that leaders categorize virtual subordinates via nonverbal behaviors that are also perceived as signs of stress and interpersonal attitudes.
... Importantly, people also transmit information about themselves through the way they present themselves to the outside world (Hess, 2015). Thus, the clothes that people wear can inform about preferences, but also and importantly are often associated with certain professions. ...
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While first impressions are often based on appearance cues, little is known about how these interact with information from other channels. The present research aimed to investigate the impact of occupational stereotypes, evoked by attire, as well as posture on person perception. For this, computer animation was used to create avatars with different types of attire (nurse, military, casual) and posture (open, closed). In Study 1 (N = 164), participants attributed significantly more empathy to avatars wearing a nurse versus a military uniform or casual outfit. When adding posture as an additional cue, Study 2 (N = 312) showed that ratings of empathy and dominance were affected by both attire and posture. This effect was replicated in Study 3 (N = 163) for female avatars, in the sense that open postures in nurses increased empathy ratings and decreased dominance ratings, which both in turn led to greater perceived competence. By contrast, for male avatars, posture did not affect attributions of competence directly. Rather, attire predicted perceived dominance directly, as well as through perceived empathy. The present findings suggest that both posture, and occupational information evoked by attire, are used to infer personal characteristics. However, the strength of each cue may vary with the gender of the target.
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Research on body language (nonverbal behavior, NVB) in sport is only slowly emerging, although it is considered important and has been frequently studied in other disciplines. The goal of the review is to provide a bio-cultural framework, methodological guidelines, and a review of existing studies on NVB in sport. Three methodological approaches are described to investigate naturally occurring NVB: evaluative, descriptive, and automated coding. 45 studies were identified that met the inclusion criteria (i.e. peer-reviewed empirical research using either of the methodologies to study the encoding and decoding of in-situ NVB in sports). Critical review methodology was used to integrate the existing research with the outlined bio-cultural framework. There was evidence for both biologically evolved and culturally learned influences on the encoding and decoding of NVB in sports. Results showed that athletes and referees show NVB that is correlated with various internal (e.g., emotions) or contextual (e.g., success) variables and observers can decode these NVBs. Recommendations for future research are made on how researchers can exploit the fact that NVB often informs observers about what is going on inside a person and thereby gain insights on the reciprocal relationships between contextual factors, the athlete, and performance in sports.