Nonverbal behaviour is an area of psychology that receives stacks of media attention. There are endless popular psychology pieces claiming to teach you how to tell if someone is lying or whether they like you or not. All well and good, these things are really useful to know. But where popular accounts often fail is they tend to be simplistic.
This series takes a look at some of the more novel and sophisticated approaches to research in non-verbal communication. We start with a study on the ‘temporal dynamics of smiling’ followed by an investigation of gender differences in reading nonverbal behaviour.
A Slow Smile Attracts
“Some of the best known research on smiling is about how people judge an authentic smile – the so-called ‘Duchenne smile’ or the ‘crinkly-eyed smile’. What this research asks, though, is how does a smile’s speed in combination with head-tilt and gender affect its perception.”
Gender Differences in Reading Nonverbal Behaviour
“Some psychologists, in testing understanding of nonverbal behaviour, have found that women fare better than men. While this might be explained by some experiential, or even intrinsic, failing in men, new research suggests it might have more to do with interpersonal goals.”
How do Emoticons and Capitalisation Affect Perception of Email?
“Psychologists have theorised our motivation for generating meaning is reducing levels of uncertainty and helping predict other people’s behaviour. This might explain how, in emails, even two simple things like capitalisation and emoticons can have important effects on reader’s perceptions.”
The Nonverbal Symphony of Attraction
“Glossy magazine articles on the body language of attraction often quote two vital nonverbal factors: posture mirroring and movement echo. While they both play a role, research suggests it’s not the individual movements that tell the story of attraction between two people, but the emerging patterns.”
Busting The Myth 93% of Communication is Nonverbal
“The idea the vast majority of communication occurs nonverbally is quoted everywhere from advertising to popular psychology articles. In fact the original experiments from which these findings derive have been seriously questioned.”
Meaning and Memory in Gesture
“A strange thing happens when talking we usually don’t notice – our hands move. They draw precise shapes, caress invisible objects, punch the air and quiver. What is the point of all this hand waving?”
Detecting Lies: Top 3 Myths, Top 5 Proven Factors
“Lies are extremely difficult to detect. Research shows the average person barely does any better than chance. Part of the reason may be there’s so much misinformation about how to detect lies floating around.”
Which Culture Most Controls Their Facial Emotions?
“According to some research it’s Russians! And the least control over facial emotions? Americans. These are just two relatively new findings to emerge from studying cultural differences in nonverbal behaviour.”
Frown and the Net Frowns With You, But Smile and You Smile Alone
“That’s according to a study which assessed the effects of smileys :) and frownies :( as I’m now calling them. Walther and D’Addario (2001) found that while smileys had no effect on the way a message was interpreted, frowns did reduce the positivity of positive messages.”
Achieving Rapport: Expressivity, Coordination and Flow
“There are any number of reasons why rapport is important: we need rapport to influence others, to teach and learn, to achieve difficult tasks in groups and even to mate. The latest research reveals gaining rapport is not just about matching body language and being positive…”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Education Reduces Cross-Cultural Misunderstanding of Nonverbal Behaviour
“When nonverbal behaviour varies across cultures, it’s easy to misunderstand someone from a different culture to your own. Despite this, when learning a foreign language, there’s not much focus on nonverbal behaviour. Perhaps there should be.”