Functions of Regulators in Communicative

Regulators are nonverbal acts which sustain and regulate the back-and-forth nature of speaking and listening between two or more interactants.

Regulators, like illustrators Opens in new window, are related to the conversation, but while the illustrators are specifically interlaced with the moment-to-moment fluctuations in speech, the regulators are instead related to the conversational flow, the pacing of the exchange. They are intended to tell the speaker to continue, repeat, elaborate, hurry up, become more interesting, less salacious, give the other a chance to talk, etc.

The most common regulator is the head nod, the equivalent of the verbal mm-hmm; other regulators include eye contacts, slight movements forward, small postural shifts, eyebrow raises, hand movements, and a whole host of other small nonverbal acts. The regulators can also tell the listener to pay special attention, to wait just a minute more, to talk, etc.

Most regulators, like the categories of batons and ideographic illustrators, carry no message content in themselves, but convey information necessary to the pacing of the conversation. They differ from batons and ideographic illustrators in that the regulators manage the exchange between the conversationalists, and do not accent a word or trace the development of a speech. Affect displays Opens in new window and adaptors Opens in new window can also serve as regulators.

Regulators are not as intentional as either emblems or illustrators; people do not knowingly perform them in order to manage the communication system. They are usually not deliberate, but almost involuntary, highly over-learned habits.