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Chapter 3

PSY220H1 Chapter Notes - Chapter 3: Nonverbal Communication, Emotional Contagion, Impression Formation

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Heather V.Fritzley

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PSY220: Chapter 3 Social Perception (Lecture 2)
Social Perception: The process through which we seek to know and understand other people
All we can observe is others’ outward appearances and overt behaviours, so perceiving them accurately is difficult
Attribution: understanding the reason behind someone’s behaviour
Impression formation: how we form impressions of others
Impression management: how we ensure that these impressions are favourable.
We try to find how others feel right now, and it is unlikely that asking someone directly will lead you to results
Nonverbal communication: communication between individuals, involving an unspoken language of facial
expressions, eye contact, body movements and postures,
Nonverbal cue deception:efforts by others to mislead us about their true feelings or beliefs
Nonverbal cues emitted by others can affect our feelings even if we are not consciously paying attention
Emotional contagion: a mechanism through which feelings are transferred in a seemingly automatic way from one
person to another
Facial expressions
Six basic emotions are represented clearly, and from an early age on the human face that are present
throughout the human raceanger, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise and disgust
Other findings may also suggest that contempt be another basic emotion
Although there are basic expression, there can be a large range of emotions with combinations
Our judgment of the meaning of these expressions are affected by various situational cues and the context
in which the facial expressions occur
But when the context and facial expression are not ‘inconsistent’, research has shown that others’
facial expression provide an accurate guide of underlying emotion
People from different cultures recognize emotions in different ways
In western countries, where emotion is expressed openly, observers focus on the mouth
In eastern countries, or countries where emotions are more controlled, observers focus on the eyes
This difference even holds through emoticons - :-) versus ^_^
Gazes and Stares: Eye Contact
‘Eyes are the window to the soul
Generally, high level of eye contact as a sign of friendliness or liking; avoiding eye contact may
conclude underfriendly, less like, or shyness
Exception: If another person gazes at us continuously and maintains contact regardless of what we do,
they are staringwhich could be a sign of anger, hostility (cold stare)
Body Language
Body language: cues provided by the position, posture, and movement of our bodies or body parts.
Body language often reveals others’ emotional states
Large numbers of movements can also give insight into emotional states, and even traits
Emblems: body movements carrying specific meanings in a given culture (different cultures can perceive
these gestures as different things)
Specific gestures can also have different meanings across genders
Touching: Firm Handshake?
The reaction to touching depends on several factors relating to who does the touching, the nature of the
physical contact (brief, prolonged, gentle, rough, what part of the body), and the context in which the
touching takes place

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Evidence indicates when touching is considered appropriate it often produces positive reactions in the
person being touched
Handshakesthe firmer, longer and more vigorous others’ handshakes are, the higher we tend to rate
them in terms of extraversion and openness to experience (and the better the first impressions)
Lying is an all-too-common part of social life, used to avoid hurting others’ feelings, conceal their real feelings/reactions, to
avoid punishments.
1) How good are we at recognizing deception by others?
We generally only do better than chance in determining whether others are lying or telling the truth.
Ekman and O’Sullivan (1991) found that even people whose profession depends on the ability to
differentiate between lie-tellers and truth-tellers (police, forensic psychiatrist, customs, FBI agents, judges)
only perform at chance level
U.S Secret Service Agents however, we able to perform a 64% accuracy
Reasons why we are bad: (1) We tend to perceive others as truthful and don’t search for clues to
deception, (2) we want to be polite, (3) we tend to assume if people are truthful in one context, they will be
truthful in the next
2) How do we do a better job at this task?
Accuracy in decoding non-verbal cues is also related to the desire to be liked and accepted by others, the
more individuals want to belong, the better they tend to read nonverbal cues because they pay careful
attention to others and want to understand them
Careful attention to both verbal and nonverbal cues that might reveal when others are trying deceive us.
People tend to focus on nonverbal cues to determine deception, but this is unreliable because research has
shown that over reliance on attention to nonverbal cues results in less accuracy during truth-lie
Nonverbal cues of deception:
i. Visual cueseye contact and amount of fidgeting are unreliable indicators of deception, but the
amount of movement is reliable (less movement of hands and fingers during deception)
ii. Vocal cues a persons’ linguistic style: aspects of speech apart from the meaning of the words
When a person is lying, often their pitch rises (esp. when highly motivated to lie)
They take longer to respond to a question or to describe an event
Greater tendency to start sentences and stop them, to begin again
They also might use I and me less often to avoid attention, may feel guilty and use words
that reflect negative emotion, and may use more words relating to simple actions
Can people be trained to better differentiate lies and the truth? Yes lie detection training can be effective;
Porter had trained police officers that performed at M = 40.4% to M = 76.7% by the end.
Does ‘Women’s Intuition’ Exist?
There is no clear evidence that women are better than men at all aspects of social perception, but women seem to
be better at nonverbal cue deciphering
Women seem to be better at both sending and interpreting non-verbal clues
Women are better able to transmit clear signs of their feelings or reactions through facial expressions, body
language and other nonverbal cues
They are better to ‘decode’ nonverbal messages
They are thus better able to predict how people will act
What is the reason for this? Possibly gender roles which lead to women paying more attention to reactions of
others and learning on how to be sensitive to them
Women appear to lose their edge when others are lying
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