AQA psychology non-verbal communication

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  • Created on: 24-05-13 17:58

How do we communicate?

There are many ways that people communicate. A few of them include things like email, texting, verbal and many others.

Communication that requires the use of words or vocal sounds is called verbal communication. This also includes paralinguistics. These are vocal features that accompany speech, such as tone of voice, emphasis or intonation.

Communication that does not require the use of words or vocal sounds is called non-verbal communication. This includes eye contact, facial expressions and body language.

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How do we communicate? - key words

Key terms:

Communication: Passing information from one person to another.

Verbal communication: conveying messages using words or vocal sounds.

Paralinguistics: Vocal features that accompany speech.

Tone of voice: The way towards are spoken to convey emotion.

Emphasis: Giving prominence to some words more than others.

Intonation: inflection in the voice when speaking.

Non-verbal communication: Conveying messages that do not require the use of words or vocal sounds.

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Argyle, Alkema and Gilmour

Aim: To see if tone of voice has any effect when interpreting a verbal message.

Method: Different groups of participants listened to either friendly or hostile messages spoken in either friendly or hostile tones of voice. Therefore, some participants head a hostile message spoken in a friendly tone of voice and others heard a friendly message spoken in a hostile tone of voice.

Results: When participants were asked to interpret the messages, it was found that tone of voice had about five times the effect of the verbal message itself.

Conclusion: Tone of voice is extremely important in how people interpret verbal messages.

Evaluation: Negative this was carried out in artificial conditions and in real life people would not focus on the details much  Positive helps us know if someone is telling the truth or not. 

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Davitz and Davitz (1961)

Aim: To see the effect of paralinguistics on the assessment of emotion.

Method: Participants were asked to listen to tape recordings and to assess the speakers' emotions from the paralinguistic cues: tone of voice, emphasis and intonation.

Results: there was a very high level of accuracy in recognising these emotions: affection, amusement, disgust and fear.

Conclusion: Paralinguisics has a great importance when judging emotion.

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Eye contact and Facial expresion

Eye movements in conversation usually happen automatically. We are almost unaware that they are happening and yet eye movements have important functions. According to Argyle (1957), they help to make the conversation flow smoothly: they give feedback about how you are being received by the other person and they can help to express emotions.

key term:

Eye contact: When two people in a conversation are looking at each other's eyes at the same time.

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Kendon (1967)

Aim: To see how eye movements affect the flow of conversation.

Method: Pairs of participants were asked to get acquainted. Their conversations were secretly watched by observers through a one-way mirror system.

Results: As one participant was about to speak, they looked away from the other person, briefly avoiding eye contact. Then they would give the other person's face a prolonged look when they were about to finished what they were saying. When the speaker gave the prolonged look it seemed to indicate to the other person that they could begin to speak. If the prolonged  look didn't happen, there was a pause in the conversion.

Conclusion: Eye movements signal turn taking in conversation.

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Argyle (1968)

Aim: To see how interrupting eye contact affects conversation.

Method: Pairs of participants were observed having conversations. In half the conversations, one of the participants wore dark glasses so that the other could not receive eye contact.

Results: When one of the participants wore dark glasses, there were more pauses and interruptions than when dark glasses were not worn.

Conclusion: eye contact is important in ensuring the smooth flow of conversation.

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Hess (1963)

Aim: To see the effect of pupil dilation on emotion.

Method: Participants were shown two nearly identical pictures of the same girl and asked which picture was the most attractive. The only difference between the two pictures was that , in one of them, the girl's pupils were dilated, and in the other picture they were not.

Results: The majority of participants said that the picture of the girl with dilated pupils was more attractive. Strangely though, they could not say why they thought that.

Conclusion: Pupil dilation has an unconscious but powerful effect on emotion.

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Facial expresion

Osgood (1966) found that he seven facial expressions; happiness, surprised, anger, fear, sadness. interested and disgust are recognised in virtually all societies. This probably means that they are inherited. As humans, we have more muscles for moving our faces than any other animal. Our facial expressions can change very rapidly; some may last for just 0.2 of a second. All this is controlled by two hemispheres of the brain.

key term:

Hemispheres of the brain: the human brain is divided into two halves, called the left and the right hemispheres.

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Sackiem (1978)

Aim: To look at the relationship between facial expressions and the hemispheres of the brain.

Method: Pictures of people's faces showing different emotions were cut down the middle. New pictures created with each half face and its mirror image. Then each pair of new faces were shown to participants. They were asked which picture they liked better.

Results: The majority of participants said they preferred the picture of the left half of the face and its reflection. When asked why, they said the person in the picture looked 'warmer'.

Conclusion: The left side of the face seems to express emotion much better than the right side.

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Facial expression (part 2)

other research has shown that our emotions are contained in the right hemispheres of our brains. Sikkim's study makes sense, as the right hemisphere controls the left side of our body and vice versa. Therefore, we would expect emotion to show on the left side of the face.

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people who are getting on well together tend  to adopt each other's posture where they are having a conversation. This is known as postural echo.

Key term:

Body language: a general term describe aspects of non-verbal communication.

Posture: the positioning of the body, often regarded as a non-verbal communication signal.

Postural echo: mirroring another person's body position.

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McGinley (1975)

Aim: To see the effect of postural echo when having a conversation.

Method: a confederate of the experimenter approached individuals in a social setting and had conversations with them. In half of the meetings, the confederate echoed the posture of the person they were talking to. In the rest of the meetings, the confederate did not echo the posture of the other person. Afterwards, the experimenter approached the individuals and asked them what they thought of the confederate.

Results: When postural echo was used, the people questioned liked the confederate and thought they got on well together. When postural echo was not used, the confederate was not liked as much and the conversation felt awkward.

Conclusion: Postural echo gives an unconscious message of friendliness.

Evaluation: Negative unethical- the use of participants without their knowledge 

Key term:

confederate: and actor or stooge who appears to be a genuine participant in the experiment but is actually working for the experimenter

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Posture (part 2)

Crossing your arms while you are in conversation is known as closed posture. Psychologists say that this could indicate rejection or disagreement. Having your arms uncrossed and relaxed is known as open posture. This may indicate approval or acceptance.

Key terms:

Closed posture: Positioning the arms so that they are folded across the body and/or crossing the legs.

Open posture: Positioning the arms so that they are not folded across the body and not crossing the legs.

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McGinley, Lefevre and McGinley (1875)

Aim: To see the effect of open and closed posture when having a conversation.

Method: A individuals in a social setting and had conversations with them. In half of the conversation, the confederate adopted an open posture. In the other half, the confederate adopted closed posture. Afterwards, the experimenter approached the individuals and asked them what they thought of the confederate.

Results: When showing an open postural the confederate was seen as friendly and attractive. When showing a closed postural the confederate was seen as unfriendly and less attractive.

Conclusion: The posture that someone adopts will make a difference to how much they are liked. 

EvaluationNegative unethical- the use of participants without their knowledge 

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The gestures we make communicate additional information to people. Some gestures are deliberate to emphasise what we are saying or to affect the behavior of another person. Other gestures are unconscious and some times we do not realise that we are giving away information,for example, by nervously tapping our or even raising an eyebrow.

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Lynn and Myneir (1993)

Aim: To see the effect of gesture used by waiters and waitresses on the tipping behaviour of customers in a restaurant.

Method: While taking orders from seated customers, waiters and waitresses were instructed to either stand upright or squat down near the customer (squatting down makes more eye contact).

Results: When the waiters and waitresses squatted down, larger tips were received compared with when they took the orders standing upright.

Conclusions: The gesture of squatting down near a seated customer to take an order will have a positive effect on tipping behaviour.

Evalution: Negative there may have been other reasons between ther tipp difference  Positive shows how the effect of gestures can be used for our advantage.

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Touch is another non-verbal communication signal. It is a very powerful signal that can produce unconscious emotional reactions. There are huge cultural differences in amount of touch that is permitted between individuals. British society seems to be more restricted than other Western societies in its use of touch when communicating.

Key term: 

Touch: A form of non-verbal communication in which information is conveyed by physical contact between people

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Fisher, Rytting and Heslin (1976)

Aim: To see the effect of touch on people's attitude.

Method: Female students in a library were handed books by the librarian. The librarian was a confederate of the experimenter. Half of the students were briefly touched on the hand by the librarian when the books were handed to them. The other students were not touched by the librarian.

Results: When questioned later, the students who were touched had a much more positive attitude towards the librarian then those who were not touched. The interesting thing was that the students were not aware they had been touched.

Conclusion: Touch will have an unconscious and positive effect on attitudes.

Evaluation: Negative the participants were all female so the results can not be generalised  Positive show how the effect of gestures can be used to people's advantage.

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Personal space

The distance that feels comfortable between you and another person is called personal space. This distance varies depending on the circumstances you are in. After eye contact, personal space is perhaps the second most important non-verbal communication signal that we use.

Key terms:

Personal space: the distance we keep between ourselves and other people in our everyday life.

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Argyle and Dean (1965)

Aim: To see if sex differences affect personal space.

Method: One at a time, participants were asked to sit and have a conversation with another person who was actually a confederate of the experimenter. Sometimes the confederate was the same sex as the participant and at other times the confederate was of the opposite sex. The confederate sat different distances from the participant and continually looked into the participant's eyes.

Results: The participants tended to break eye contact with the confederate of the opposite sex at a greater distance than when the confederate was of the same sex. Argyle and Dean thought that this was the point at which personal space was being invaded.

Conclusion: We prefer to have a greater amount of personal space between ourselves and members of the opposite sex during normal conversations.

Key term:

Sex differences: differences due to being either male or female; these could affect personal space between individuals.

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Willis (1966)

Aim: To see if age has an effect on personal space.

Method: Willis observed almost 800 individuals in different social situations.

Results: Those he observed tended to stand closer to people their own age and further away from people who were either very much older or younger than themselves.

Conclusion: Age difference affects how close people will stand to one another.

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Williams (1971)

Aim: To see if personality has an effect on personal space.

Method: Collage students were given personality tests to see if they were extrovert (outgoing and sociable) or introvert (quit and reserved). They were then sent to an office one by one to receive their collage grades from a tutor. The researcher noted where they chose to sit in the office when receiving their grades.

Results: Introverts sat further away from the tutor than the extroverts.

Conclusion: whether someone is extrovert or introvert will affect their use of personal space.

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Summer (1969)

Aim: To see if there are cultural differences in the use of personal space.

Method: Summer observed groups of white English people and groups of Arab people in conversation.

Results: The comfortable conversation distance for the white English people was 1-1.5m, whereas the comfortable conversation distance for the people was much less than that.

Conclusion: The use of personal space in a normal  conversation varies with cultural.

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Zahn (1991)

Aim: To see if status has an effect on personal space.

Method: Zahn observed people of equal status approaching each other to have a conversation. he also observe people of unequal status approaching each other.

Results: Zahn found that people of lower status did not approach higher-status people with the same degree of closeness of equal status.

Conclusion: The use of personal space varies with differences in status when approaching people.

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A very comprehensive set of key terms cards which include evaluation points, key terms and plenty of detail!

joshua okwah





this is wicked





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