A revision summary of non-verbal communication based around the OCR GCSE Psychology exam paper 2. 

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  • Created by: Chloe
  • Created on: 19-05-11 16:55

Key Concepts

- Actions speak louder than words concept.

- NVC: Telling others what we are thinking or feeling or planning by some recognised body movement. It can be conscious or unconscious.

- Body Language: Communicating something physically through our body, for example our body movement, gestures, touching, keeping a distance and so on.

- Facial Expressions: Communicating something through the movement of the muscles in the face, for example by moving eyebrows, lips, eyes and so on. 

- One expert claims that during face-to-face conversation, only 7% of the message is conveyed through your words, while 38% is revealed by the tone of your voice and 55% comes through your gestures, facial expression and posture.

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Core Theory: Social Learning Theory

- About how people look, listen and notice what key people do and say, and how people react to praise for getting something right and being told off for getting something wrong and so on.

- Observation: Paying attention and watching, consciously and unconsciously, to the behaviour of the key players around us from infancy right through to adulthood.

- Imitation: Making ourselves be like or behave like the people around us, whom we like, love or admire; in other words - how we copy them.

- Reinforcement: When we remember the effect of some sense of reward or praise, enough to make us do the same thing again and again, and make it a habit.

- Role Models: The person or persons who are seen or watched and listened to. These are often influential adults, such as parents, but can be celebrities, older siblings or our peers.

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Cultural Variations in Non-Verbal Communication

- Observation: We see how other people or culture communicate with each other.

- Imitation: It is easier to imitate the behaviours we see more frequently or more easily.

- Reinforcement: We are rewarded for communicating as expected because people like it when we follow cultural norms. 

- Punishment: We are reluctant to repeat a behaviour if it has been punished or has caused offence, so NVC that is not accepted by a culture should 'die out' within it.

- Argue that it is natural and instinctive. However, if this was the case, then we would not expect to see cultural variations.

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Criticisms of the Social Learning Theory

- The social learning theory stuggles to explain why certain examples of non-verbal communication may persist even when they have been punished.

- The social learning theory suggests that people can learn new ways of communicating non-verbally - but this is not always true.

- The social learning theory cannot really explain why children brought up in the same environment can have quite different ways of communicating non-verbally.

- The social learning theory ignores the effect of nature on non-verbal communication. 

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An Alternative Theory: Evolutionary Theory

- We are controlled by instinct. Humans have evolved to pass on behaviours to help them survive and reproduce.

- If we apply the evolutionary theory to non-verbal communication, and particularly to universal behaviours, then we would say that certain forms of non-verbal communication have evolved to help survival and/or reproduction.

- Certain gestures and expressions ward off potential enemies or threats, reduce conflict or threat and allow people to co-operate so that they can help each other survive.

- Certain gestures and expressions may help reproduction by allowing people to court (or flirt with) each other, makes a person appear attractive to the opposite sex and helps people communicate within a relationship.

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Core Study: Yuki et al (2007)

Aim: To see whether there are cultural differences in recognising emotions.

Procedure: Cross-cultural research of American & Japanese students (118 American volunteer students & 95 Japanese volunteer students). They were given a questionnaire to rate the emotional expressions of emoticons. Ratings of 1-10. 1 (very sad) and 10 (very happy) of computer generated faces. 

Results: Japanese people gave higher ratings when eyes were happy & American people gave higher ratings when mouths were happy. So, NVC is affected by culture.

Limitations: Lacks ecological validity as faces are not real, students' not representative since only from America and Japan and one narrow age group so therefore cannot generalise to Europe or other ages etc, the task was too simple - is it really reliable?

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Applications of Research into Non-Verbal Communica

- Social Skills Training: The application of our knowledge of non-verbal communication to situations in which people need help in coping. E.g. help individual stand out for themselves in situations where they would normally 'give in' to others, and doing so without using aggressive body language.

- Rehabilitation of offenders: Social skils can help the offenders. These are; modelling (the trainer demonstrating the good behaviour e.g. good eye contact), practice (the offender imitates the model & sometimes uses role play), feedback (trainer comments on offenders performance sometimes using video of the behaviour) and homework (tasks between sessions).

- Managing Conflict: Training employees. e.g. in armed forces, police force, social services, education & health service.

- Customer Service Training: Working with the public and giving a good impression & good service. E.g. in retail, catering and leisure industries.

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