Paralinguistic and Nonverbal Behaviour in Social Interactions: A Lens Model Perspective
Ethier, Nicole Ann
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It is widely accepted in our society that people’s paralinguistic (i.e., non-semantic characteristics of the voice) and nonverbal (i.e., posture, gestures, and facial expressions) behaviours play an important role in conveying information about their personality traits. Two particularly relevant traits include one’s preferred levels of dominance and affiliation, which are the two major axes of the interpersonal circumplex. The current study investigates how dominance and affiliation are conveyed through paralinguistic and nonverbal behaviour using a lens model framework. Two major issues addressed by this framework include: 1) How do observers make inferences about people’s dominance and affiliation using paralinguistic and nonverbal behaviours and 2) How do people’s trait dominance and affiliation relate to these behavioural cues? To examine these two questions, we collected data from 114 opposite-sex dyads who worked together to complete a relatively unstructured collaborative task. The videotaped interactions were coded for specific paralinguistic (e.g., pitch, volume, resonance) and nonverbal (e.g., hand gestures, trunk posture, facial expressions) behaviours, in addition to coding more global displays of dominance and affiliation. Participants also completed several measures of trait dominance and affiliation, which tapped both their relatively conscious (i.e., explicit) and their relatively unconscious (i.e., implicit) levels of these traits. Our findings suggest that observers used mainly paralinguistic behaviour to infer dominance and mainly nonverbal behaviour to infer affiliation. In comparison to observers’ perceptions, there were fewer significant relations between individuals’ self-reported trait dominance and affiliation and the nonverbal and paralinguistic behaviours they expressed during the interaction, suggesting that people may have limited conscious awareness of how these behaviours convey information about their trait dominance and affiliation. In line with this idea, several behaviours showed relations to implicit measures of trait dominance and affiliation. We also conducted factor analyses of the measured paralinguistic and nonverbal behaviours, to examine whether or not these behaviours might co-occur as subsets or factors. We found that paralinguistic and nonverbal behaviours can be captured by overarching factors which relate meaningfully to measures of dominance and affiliation. Finally, we demonstrated that dyad members’ paralinguistic and nonverbal behaviours become interdependent as they interact with one another.