How you say something may matter much more than what you say. Nonverbal communication is any type of communication other than the actual words you speak, which include your tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures, clothing and how you conduct yourself. A close look at recent studies in nonverbal communication could lead to topics that serve as a starting place for further research and study.
Accessories and Nonverbals
What you wear in certain contexts gives nonverbal signals to those around you. For instance, people make assumptions about one another based on the type and amount of jewelry that is worn, either acting as a status symbol or as a signifier of whether someone is married or single. One possible research topic could focus on married versus unmarried bar patron experiences. Such research could focus on the different responses given to customers patronizing a bar alone, with and without these nonverbal accessories. A multicultural approach could be taken as well. According to the Vermont Department of Health, for example, a "come here" hand gesture with the index finger is common in the United States, but is also used to get the attention of a dog in other cultures. Another potential topic could analyze the unintended consequences of culturally insensitive, nonverbal communication.
We don't only perceive nonverbal communication through sight, but also through sound and smell. Scents make powerful connections between young animals -- and likely newborn infants -- and their mothers, according to research conducted at the University of California, San Diego. Dig into this topic and make it your own. For example, consider examining the effects of perfume, cologne and aftershave on others. When men wear strong-smelling scents, what are the effects on those in close proximity? What type of subconscious cues are sent?
Albert Mehrabian and his research colleagues famously developed the theory that 55 percent of communication consists of body language, 38 percent consists of tone of voice and 7 percent is made up of the actual words spoken. This is most true when two forms of communication contradict one another: for instance, someone's body language is aggressive while their words are polite. Analyzing how this theory works with digital communication could be enlightening. How frequent is miscommunication in the absence of body language and tone of voice, specifically via email, online chatting and text messaging?
Interpreting more than one nonverbal cue can lead to increased accuracy in determining someone's mood. Examining the combination of nonverbal cues can build on existing research and lead to some valuable conclusions, according to Griffith University researcher Jeff Thompson. Consider a research topic that studies the environment and context of people's actions. For example, if someone on the city bus is perspiring, is it because they just ran to catch a ride or is it because they have the flu and are feeling feverish? If the same individual is also sneezing and appears to be tired and achy, it might be the latter. Choose a research topic that analyzes individual nonverbal cues like these that could have one meaning when taken out of context but another when considered with other cues.
- Nonverbal Communication: Science and Applications; by Matsumoto et al
- Phsychology Today: Beyond Words - Is Nonverbal Communication a Numbers Game?
- American Advertising Federation: Nonverbal Communication
- Vermont Department of Health: Cultural Differences in Nonverbal Communication
- WebMD: Baby's Nose Knows Mom's Smell
- Photo Credit AID/a.collectionRF/amana images/Getty Images
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