Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 180–190 | Cite as

Nonverbal dominance in the communication of affect: A myth?

  • Antonietta Trimboli
  • Michael B. Walker


The claim that nonverbal signals are more important than verbal signals in the communication of affect is widely accepted and has had considerable impact on therapy, counselling, and education. In a typical experiment, subjects are presented with a long series of artificially constructed inconsistent messages (messages in which the verbal and nonverbal components are opposite in valence) and asked to judge the strength of the emotion felt by the encoder. In such studies little attempt is made to camouflage the nature of the stimuli or the intent of the experimenter. In this study, it is argued that the absence of camouflage (defined as naturally occurring consistent messages) may bias the results in favour of the nonverbal dominance effect, so that as the level of camouflage is increased, the size of the nonverbal dominance effect is decreased. Four groups of subjects (34 subjects per group) were required to rate a series of audiovisually presented messages. The level of camouflage varied between groups: 0% (all messages presented were inconsistent), 50% (half of the messages presented were consistent and half were inconsistent), 83% (the majority of messages presented were consistent), and 94%. The results clearly demonstrated that the nonverbal dominance effect was present when the level of camouflage was low, and disappeared when the level of camouflage was high. The implications of these findings for the nonverbal dominance hypothesis are discussed.


Social Psychology Verbal Signal Typical Experiment Considerable Impact Dominance Effect 
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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antonietta Trimboli
    • 1
  • Michael B. Walker
    • 2
  1. 1.N.S.W. Department of Technical and Further EducationAustralia
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

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