The channels of nonverbal communication include kinesics (body motion, gesture and facial expressions), tactilism (touching behavior), paralanguage (pitch, stress, intonation and voice quality), proxemics (distance or space), artifacts (clothing, cosmetic aids) and environmental factors (Knapp, 1978). Since an examination of the literature suggests that the major channels are kinesics, paralanguage, and proxemics, these areas will be the focus of the discussion in this section.
First, one goal of the study was to begin to explore the effects of a new set of child behaviors upon adults. So, children's nonverbal communications of positivity, that is smiling and visual attentiveness, were experimentally varied, which has not been done previously. The second issue that was considered was the selection of dependent variables of adult behavior which might have important impact upon the child. It seemed very possible that the child's nonverbal cues might affect an adult's own nonverbal cues, and that the adult responses would, in return, importantly affect the child.
The ethological paradigm asserts that nonverbal behavior is at least partly innate or genetically determined, with certain general patterns inflexible within species. The enculturation paradigm claims that nonverbal behavior reflects contingent, somewhat arbitrary, but individually stable norms inculcated in all members of a society through socialization. The internal states paradigm contends that nonverbal behavior, whether innate or learned, fluctuates as a function of ego's individual attributes or internal psychological states.
It seems remarkable that nonverbal communication has not been a major concern of investigators in psychotherapy. Particular therapists, however, have viewed the interpretation of nonverbal behavior as a central concern of the therapeutic interview. Theodore Reik (1948), borrowing a phrase from Nietzsche, held that the psychoanalyst must listen "with the third ear," suggesting that the therapist must learn how one mind speaks to another "beyond words and in silence." Reich (1928, 1958) theorized that skeletal and speech behaviors constituted stable defense mechanisms with stable characteristics.
With her right hand covering her entire face, she then began to rhythmically and gently rub her abdomen with her other hand. This example portrays a variety of the nonverbal behaviors observable during labor. The major modes of nonverbal communication women use during labor involve vision and touch. Facial expressions, body movements, and vocal quality are other modes.
There is a growing body of research showing that nonverbal behavior plays an important role in adult communication and social interaction, and the suggestion that nonverbal behavior constitutes a communication channel separate and distinct from verbal discourse now appears to be well-supported (Dittman, 1973). Research on adults has shown that the attitudes an individual holds about the person with whom he is interacting result in nonverbal behavior that may be unrelated to the verbal content of the interaction. For instance, Mehrabian (1972) reported that positive affect was related to greater touching, closer position, greater forward lean, more eye contact, and more direct body orientation, independent of the content of verbal conversation.
Immediately understanding another and having the other understand us is commonly referred to as empathy. In fact, most of us believe that the most personal and valid kinds of information can be discovered this way. Yet, we rarely attribute our understanding to the influence of nonverbal communication. It is by reacting to the nonverbal cues of others--to their facial expressions, movements, postures, mannerisms, vocal tones, gestures, energy changes, etc.--that we pick up information which we use in deciding what to do next and in determining what our role needs to be.
Nonverbal behaviors generally fall into two categories: paralinguistic features and physical nonverbal behaviors. Paralinguistic features are aspects of the voice, and occur in conjunction with some sort of speech verb. They include elements such as speech rate, tone of voice, pitch, voice volume, pauses, and self-interruptions (e.g., laughing or coughing). Physical nonverbal behaviors include gestures (hand movements), body movements (positioning, use of space) and facial expressions (e.g., smiling/frowning, eyebrow movements, nose wrinkling).
The important role played by nonverbal communication in any society has been discussed from a variety of perspectives (cf., Argyle, 1975; Hall, 1966, 1976; Harrison & Crouch, 1975; Knapp, 1978; Morris, 1977). For example, Harrison and Crouch (1975) suggested that the verbal symbol was only the tip of the communication iceberg and that, "in the development of each human being, nonverbal communication precedes and perhaps structures all subsequent communication" (p. 77). The authors then went on to show that nonverbal symbols are everywhere, even though we tend to use verbal forms for our most formal communications.
First, we learned that parental use of nonverbal behavior varies with changes in the family context. For the most part, these changes were in line with the aforementioned social psychological literature. As expected, in the triadic family context the spatial boundaries between parents and offspring increased and the incidences of touching decreased. However, the increase in positive facial expressions with the concomitant increase in personal space boundaries and decrease in touching was somewhat surprising.