Nonverbal Expressiveness

An Introduction to Nonverbal Expressiveness

Nonverbal encoding skill, mostly referred to as “nonverbal expressiveness”, involves the ability to send nonverbal messages to others accurately.

The ability to convey nonverbal messages to others, particularly the sending of emotional messages, is a critical skill for social success, and a fundamental component of the larger construct of communication competence (Green & Burleson, 2003).

Scores of nonverbal encoding ability consist of the percentage of judges who identify correctly the posed emotion or affect (e.g., Zaidel & Mehrabian, 1969; Zuckerman, Lipets, Koivumaki, & Rosenthal, 1975).

Traditionally, performance measures of individual differences in nonverbal encoding consist of videotaping participants while they are sending emotional expressions spontaneously or while posing them on cue. For example, Buck’s (2005) slide-viewing technique was reviewed earlier as a method of assessing nonverbal decoding skill.

Unlike measures of nonverbal decoding ability, there are no standardized observation-based tests of nonverbal encoding ability readily available. Instead, researchers have either used the slide-viewing technique or created some form of posed nonverbal encoding task to measure individual differences. For example, in a series of studies, nonverbal encoding ability was measured by having participants pose each of six basic emotional expressions to a video camera while saying content-standard sentences (Friedman, Prince, Riggio, & DiMatteo, 1980).

Persons scoring high on posed emotional encoding were evaluated as better speakers and were viewed as more likable than individuals scoring low on encoding ability (Riggio & Friedman, 1986). Good encoders of emotion were also more successful deceivers than were poor encoders (Riggio & Friedman, 1983).