GCSE Psychology Unit 1: Non-verbal Communication Revision Sheet
Verbal communicationis the passing on of information using words, it can also include written communication.
Non-verbal communication (NVC) can be divided into two types: communication during speech (paralinguistics) and communication that does not
involve speech at all, such as gestures and facial expression.
Interaction of verbal and non-verbal communication is used to regulate the flow of information
Repeating – gestures used to strengthen the verbal message
Conflicting – for example, saying you are telling the truth while fidgeting and//or avoiding eye contact may send a mixed message to the listener
Complementing – using non-verbal communication to reinforce speech, for example, smiling while thanking someone.
Substituting – NVC can be used as a substitute for a verbal message, for example nodding the head instead of saying yes.
Regulating – NVC can be used to regulate the conversation, for example, touching someone to interrupt or signal that you would like to speak
Argyle 1975 Conducted research into the functions of eye contact and showed that it
provides feedback to others about mood and personality. There was also
evidence that people who make frequent eye contact are seen as honest,
straightforward friendly and likeable. People who avoid eye contact are
judged to be unfriendly, shifty or shy.
Eye contact is important because it can indicate whether a person
is interested, paying attention or involved in the conversation.
Even subtle cues like pupil dilation can be used to accurately
determine a person‟s mood.
People in different cultures have different ideas of eye contact, for
example, Japanese people consider direct eye contact as rude
whereas in Britain it is considered good manners to have eye contact
Ekman suggested there are six categories of facial expression:
happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise and disgust.
Argyle showed that when people look at each other, there is evidence to
suggest that they tend to concentrate on the face
3 – 5 month old babies can distinguish joy, then surprise, fear and
At 2 years old, children can recognise all six main facial
expressions of emotion.
6 year old children can tell if the facial expression and the real
emotion do not match for example, they could tell that a person who is
smiling is really sad and not happy.
Sackheim Wanted to find out if one side of the face is more expressive than the
other side and if this showed that one side of the brain is more expressive
than the other. Found evidence to suggest that facial expressions
expressed on the left side of the face are perceived more strongly than
those of the right side. He suggested this was because “emotions are
expressed more intensely on the left side of the face”. Conclusion, since
the left side of the brain is controlled by the right hemisphere, it seems
likely that the right side of the brain controls basic emotions.
Other research has shown that the right hemisphere of the brain is
mostly responsible for basic emotions, which indicated that findings
The study lacks ecological validity because the photos used were
posed and not taken when people were showing true emotions and so
may not reflect how people would look in everyday life.
Postural echo – adopting the posture of the person opposite to show two people are getting on well together.
Open posture (hands and legs uncrossed and shoulders back) – may indicate one of several messages, self-confidence, a relaxed non-defensive
state or even an aggressive one.
Closed posture (hands/arms crossed or close to the body, or arms folded and legs crossed if sitting down) – a defensive posture and may show a
lack of confidence or nervousness.
Touch – the unwritten „rules‟ about touching vary from culture to culture. In France, for example, it is usual for men to greet each other with a kiss
GCSE Psychology Unit 1: Non-verbal Communication Revision Sheet
on either side of the cheek whereas this is totally unacceptable for British men. There is obvious embarrassment when male politicians from Britain
meet male politicians from France and they are embraced by their French counterpart. In all cultures it is more accepted for women to touch other
women and for men to touch other men. Research into touch has shown it is very powerful. For example, a man is more likely to be accepted for a
dance with strange woman if he touches her lightly.
Gestures – A gesture is a form on non-verbal communication using part of the body with or without words, some hand gestures work well without
context or words (e.g. thumbs up).
Argyle, Alkema and Gilmore compared verbal and non-verbal signals as
a way of judging someone on a friendly – hostile dimension. They found
that non-verbal cues were five times more effective (when a friendly
message was read in a hostile tone, the message was interpreted as
hostile and vice versa.
Conclusion when messages are in conflict, non-verbal cues have far
more effect than verbal cues.
Has support from other studies
findings may only be valid for simple messages
Personal Space How much space a person needs when in a social situation can be
defined as „an invisible bubble surrounding a person inside which others
may not pass;. If people invade our personal space we may feel
uncomfortable and try to move away from them in order to regain the
space required. The larger amounts of personal space required by people
with a high status in a community is evident by their larger homes and
Factors affecting personal space include such things as cultural
norms, sex differences, status and individual differences.
Conducted research in a university library and confederates selected a
person who was sitting at a table on their own. They either sat opposite to
them, one seat away or next to them. The participants were then
questioned about the experience answering questions about how they felt
about their personal space being invaded. The findings showed that
males did not like their space being invaded by someone approaching
from opposite them but they did not mind if the person invaded their
space from next to them The opposite was true for females who generally
did not mind people invading the space opposite them but disliked being
approached by someone sitting next to them.
This research was also backed up by how the participants placed
their personal belongings. Males tended to place their belongings in
front of them and females were more likely to place them by the side
of them. This shows that they were protecting that space with their
There are ethical issues with this research as the participants did
not have the right to withdraw because they were not informed that
they were taking part in the research until given the questionnaire.
Research has shown that facial expression is inherited, this means that it happens instinctively and it is more likely to be truthful. Therefore, if someone is saying
happy things with a sad facial expression, the chances are that person is feeling sad. It is easy to lie with words, but less easy with facial expression. This has
implications for people who need to tell if someone is lying or not (e.g. police).
Other research shows that the less information a person receives, the more likely they are to detect a lie. For example, if they only see the body of a person (on video)
and cannot see the face, they are better at detecting deception. This is because people find it harder to lie with their body than with their face. If only the body is
visible, detection of deception becomes easier.