Social Psychology

Unspoken means of communication or non-verbal communication reveal much about a persons identity and influence dealings with other people. Empirical research on non-verbal communication started with Charles Darwins The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals published in 1872. Since then, studies on the types and importance of non-verbal communication have been pursued by many researchers. Primarily, there are four types of non-verbal communication eye contact, voice changes, body posture, and body movements.

Eye Contact. People use the eye gaze in a number of ways. I have observed people in my class communicate different emotions with their eyes. It could indicate boredom, interest, amazement, or even hostility. Some students make eye contact with the professor in class, some have their eyes downcast. A person staring at a fellow student is a manifestation of great interest. Staring fixatedly at someone could also indicate anger or hostility.

Voice changes. The meaning of the words we speak are often interpreted with the tone or pitch of our voice. Often, it indicates our true feelings on something or someone. A friend speaking to someone in an animated tone of voice is enthusiastic about the topic. A mother raising her voice at a son in a grocery store could mean she is displeased or angry.

Body posture. When engaged in a conversation, I observe people lean either forward or backwards. Sometimes, people have a stiff body position and some are open. Posture determines the level of attention or sentiment a person has for the other communicator.

Body movements. People use non-vocal body movements or gestures to express themselves. A girl rolling her eyes, a guy winking at a girl, or two friends exchanging high fives are examples of people using gestures to indicate disbelief, romantic interest, or enthusiasm, respectively.

The use of non-verbal communication is essential to how we interrelate with other people. There are five primary functions of non-verbal communication. According to Andersen (2007), they are used in expressing emotions, expressing interpersonal attitudes, presenting ones personality, accompanying speech to manage interaction between speaker and listener, and as a form of ritual.


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