Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 224–237

Identification of spontaneous and deliberate behavior


  • Vernon L. Allen
    • Department of PsychologyUniversity of Wisconsin
  • Michael L. Atkinson
    • Department of PsychologyUniversity of Wisconsin

DOI: 10.1007/BF00987461

Cite this article as:
Allen, V.L. & Atkinson, M.L. J Nonverbal Behav (1981) 5: 224. doi:10.1007/BF00987461


The present research investigates the accuracy of decoding spontaneous (natural or unintentional) and deliberate (posed or intentional) nonverbal behavior. Previous research has suggested that spontaneous and deliberate nonverbal cues are highly similar if not identical, implying that observers cannot discriminate accurately between the two types of behavior. But this conclusion is based on the decoding of information about content, without taking into account the structure of the behavior. Observers in the present study viewed silent videotapes of schoolchildren listening to a lesson. The behavior of the stimulus children was either spontaneous or deliberate, and they either comprehended or did not comprehend the lesson. Simultaneously, observers were required to identify the behavior both in terms of its content (comprehension or noncomprehension) and its structure (spontaneous or deliberate). Results indicated that observers readily differentiated between spontaneous and deliberate behavior. Implications for existing theories of deception are discussed

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press 1981