Discuss the role Non Verbal Communication plays in Essay

This essay has a total of 1526 words and 9 pages.

Discuss the role Non Verbal Communication plays in the facilitation of social interaction
and the consequences of its absence on social relationships


The ability to communicate with one another is of paramount importance to the success of
the human race (Hartley, 1999). Communication is a dynamic process with the interacting
components of sending and receiving information. Nonverbal cues may provide clarity or
contradiction for a message being sent (Dunn, 1998). This is not to say that nonverbal
forms of communication merely provide a modem of clarity for verbal communication, they
can, and do, stand alone (Krauss et al, 1995). Facial expressions, body movements, gaze
and posture can all be used to provide further emphasis to language communication or can
be employed silently and still convey important messages (Danziger, 1976). This paper will
discuss the role nonverbal communication plays in reference to social interaction and what
happens in its absence, using autism studies as examples.


Nonverbal communication has many functions in the communication process (Dunn, 1998). In
1976, Danziger outlined what he believed to be the three main roles of nonverbal
communication. ‘Presentation' is the first of three categories. Danziger argued that
nonverbal communication is able to convey the structure of interpersonal relationships
between individuals by displaying levels of closeness. For example, the difference between
acquaintances and lovers could be acknowledged by differing levels of eye contact,
proximity, bodily contact and so on. Presentation also allows for the expression status
differentials via the same channels. For example, the body language used by the
interviewee is likely to be subordinate to that used by the interviewer (Kando, 1977).
Presentation enables us to define human interaction in terms of certain fundamental
properties of social relationships (Danziger, 1976).


The second role outlined by Danziger is that of ‘address'. When individuals wish to
communicate with one another, it is important to specify for whom the message is intended.
This is done via nonverbal cues such as emblems (Kendon, 1981), bodily movements, spatial
behaviour and so on. Danziger argued that the forms of address confer particular social
identities on the interactants.


The final category discussed by Danziger (1976) was that of ‘feedback'. Danziger
believed that nonverbal communication provides unspoken feedback, which is essential for
effective communication and which is necessary for the ongoing of any interaction.
Nonverbal communication is the only way an individual is able to regulate their
performance in a social setting and make any necessary adjustments. For example, when a
lecturer attempts to give an explanation to a room full of students, the only way they can
ascertain the students' level of understanding is to watch for nonverbal cues. A nod and a
smile provides enough information for the lecturer to know that they can continue, as the
information has been understood. Whereas a room full of frowns will convey that more
explanation is needed and the lecturer can act accordingly. This example shows the
importance of nonverbal communication in everyday, social life as without it the lecturer
would have to rely on verbal feedback, which would be confusing and time consuming when a
large number of students are present.


Hartley (1999) had differing views on the role of nonverbal communication. He argued that
‘representation' was also a key function in that nonverbal communication allows a
channel for individuals to pass on points of view and differing perceptions and is a vital
medium of information. This idea is supported by Krauss et al (1995) who studied hand
gestures to determine if they help increase understanding. The results of this study show
that communication understanding accuracy was better than chance when hand gestures were
present.


‘Presentation' also appears in Hartley's (1999) definitions, but he argued that this
category should also include the facilitation of how individuals wish to be perceived. For
example, it is possible to give a message to others of personal confidence via the use of
body posturing, clothing and eye contact.


Palmer and Simmons (1995) argue that to conduct successful interpersonal relationships the
ability to give and interpret nonverbal cues is of paramount importance because social
constraints often hinder explicit verbal messages. If this statement is taken as fact,
then what happens if an individual lacks such ability? This question can be tackled by
looking at studies on individuals who have adequate verbal abilities but lack the ability
to communicate nonverbally as the majority of society deems normal.




Hobson (1997) argued that every human is born with a biologically based capacity for the
perception of, and empathic responsiveness to, the bodily expressed feelings and attitudes
of others. An exception to this rule can be found when looking at mental disorders.
Bormann-Kischkel et al (1995) studied autistic infants and found that they appear to lack
the basic components of emotional reactivity, which appear in normally developing infants
within the first few months of life. Sorce et al (1985) noted that such a lack could
interfere with the child's ability to learn via observing the caregiver's nonverbal cues
for danger and passivity.


The parents of autistic children frequently report a lack of nonverbal communication
basics very early on in development. Skills such as eye contact and facial expressiveness
appear to be omitted (Farran and Kasari, 1990). Dunn (1995) further described autistic
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