Unit 2 Non-Verbal Communication - Key Studies


Argyle, Alkema & Gilmour

AIM:To see if tone of voice has an effect when interpreting verbal messages

METHOD:Different groups of participants listened to different tape recordings and were asked to interpret the message. Some groups listened to a ostile message spoken in a friendly tone of voice whilst some groups listened to a friendly message spoken in a hostile voice.

RESULTS:  When asked to interoret the message, it was found that the tone of voice had 5 times te effect than the verbal message itself.

CONCLUSION:Tone of voive is important when interpreting verbal messages.

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AIM:To see the effect of pupil dilation on peoples expressions/ emotions.

METHOD:Participants were shown two pictures of the same person; one with dilated pupils & one without. The participants were asked 'Which is more attractive?' 

RESULTS:The picture with the dilated pupils was picked as the more attractive one but could not give a reason why.

CONCLUSION:Pupil dilation can have a positive but unconscious effect on people's expressions/emotions.

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AIM:To see if there is a relationship between 

METHOD:Pictures of people's faces showing different emotions were cut in half and new pictures were created with each half and its mirror image. Participants were shown the new images and were asked which one they likes better.

RESULTS:The majority of the paricipants preferred the left half and its mirror image because it looked 'warmer' 

CONCLUSION: The left half of the face seems to express much more emotion than the right half.

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AIM:To see the effect of postural echo when having a conversation

MEHOD:Confederates approached individuals in a social setting and had a conversation with them. In half the meeting, the confederate echoded the individuals posture posture. In the other half, postural echo was not used. Afterwards, the expreimenter approached teh individuals and asked them what they hought of the confederate.

RESULTS:When postural echo was used, the indivduals liked the confederate and thought that they got on well together. When postural echo was not used , the individuals did not like the confederate as much as the conversation felt awkwards.

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Lynn & Mynier - 1933

AIM:to see if gestures used by waiters and waitresses on customers in a restraunt has an effect on tipping behaviour 

METHOD:Whilst taking orders from seated customers, waiters were instructed to either squat down (making more eye contact possible) or stand upright.

RESULTS:The waiters & waitresses who squatted down recieved larger tips than the waiters & Waitresses who stood upright.

CONCLUSION:The gesture of squatting down in a restraunt when taking orders has a positive effect on tipping behaviour.


- Size of the bill could have affected tipping behaviour. For eg. teh more the customers spent, they could have given larger tips as waiter had to work harder.

- It was unethical as customers were not aware that they were part of an experiment- deception 

- Extraneous variables - the appearence of the waiter/waitress, whether the customer found them attractive.

+ Practical applications (such as a waiter lowering their posture when taking orders to earn more more) can be gathered from the study

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Fisher, Ryting & Heslin - 1967

AIM: To see the effect of touch on people's attitudes 

METHOD:Female students in a libary were handed books by a librarian; the librarian was a confederate of the experimenter. Half of the students were briefly touched on the hand when the books were handed to them. The other half were not

RESULTS:When questioned late, the students that were touched had a more positive attitude towards the library and the librarian than those who were not toucehd

CONCLUSION: Touch can have a powerful but unconscious effect on people's attitudes


- Sample biased as all paticipants were female and students 

- It would be intersting to know the gender of the librarian as if it was a male, some females may have been a bit weirded out by the fact that he touched he touched them.

- Whether they knew the librarian previously may have also had an effect on their attitude towards them.

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Argyle & Dean - 1965

AIM:To see if sex difference affect personal space

METHOD: One at a time, participants were asked to sit & have a conversation with another person (who was actually a confederate). Sometimes the confederate was the same sex & at other times the confederate was the opposite sex. The confederate sat at different distances & continually looked into the participants eyes.

RESULTS: Participants tended to break eye contact at a greater distance when the confederate was the opposite sex than when the confederate was of the same sex.

CONCLUSION: When having a conversation, people tend to feel comfortable having small personal space with members of the same sex 


- Whether the confederate was attractive could've made the participant break eye contact at a greater distance 

+ In a working enviroment, teachers need to be aware of a students personal spcae especiallt if they are members of the opposite sex.

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AIM: To see if there are culture differences in the use of persoanl space

METHOD: He observed groups of white English people in conversation with groups of Arab people.

RESULTS:The comfortable conversation distance for the white English was 1-1.5 m whereas it was much less for the Arabs.

CONCLUSION: Culture differences can affect a person's use of personal space.

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