“Subordination” and Nonverbal Sensitivity: A Study and Synthesis of Findings Based on Trait Measures

Abstract

We conducted a primary study and a meta-analysis on the relation of trait “subordination” measures to trait measures of sensitivity to nonverbal cues, in order to test the hypothesis that more subordinate individuals have enhanced ability to decode nonverbal cues. In the primary study, subordination measures included socioeconomic background, two dominance scales, a capacity for status scale, a control by powerful others scale, self-ratings of leadership and social status in high school, and for women, measures of sex role values. Sensitivity to nonverbal cues was measured using three psychometric tests, Results showed little overall support for the subordination hypothesis, and some results were significantly opposite to the prediction. The meta-analysis showed that dominance, capacity for status, socioeconomic status, and women's sex role values all had relations to nonverbal sensitivity that were opposite to the predictions of the subordination hypothesis. Future prospects for the subordination hypothesis with respect to nonverbal sensitivity are discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

REFERENCES

  1. Alvarez, G., & Fuentes, P. (1994). Recognition of facial expression in diverging socioeconomic levels. Brain and Cognition, 25, 235–239.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Ambady, N., Hallahan, M., & Rosenthal, R. (1995). On judging and being judged accurately in zero-acquaintance situations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 518–529.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Barnes, M. L., & Sternberg, R. J. (1989). Social intelligence and decoding of nonverbal cues. Intelligence, 13, 263–287.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bernieri, F. J. (1991). Interpersonal sensitivity in teaching interactions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 17, 98–103.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Buck, R. (1976). A test of nonverbal receiving ability: Preliminary studies. Human Communication Research, 2, 162–171.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Buck, R. (1984). The communication of emotion. New York: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Buller, D. B., & Aune, R. K. (1988). The effects of vocalics and nonverbal sensitivity on compliance: A speech accommodation theory explanation. Human Communication Research, 14, 301–322.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Buller, D. B., & Burgoon, J. K. (1986). The effects of vocalics and nonverbal sensitivity on compliance: A replication and extension. Human Communication Research, 13, 126–144.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Costanzo, M., & Archer, D. (1989). Interpreting the expressive behavior of others: The Interpersonal Perception Task. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 13, 225–245.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Deutsch, F. M. (1990). Status, sex, and smiling: The effect of role on smiling in men and women. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 16, 531–540.

    Google Scholar 

  11. DiMatteo, M. R., & Hall, J. A. (1979). Nonverbal decoding skill and attention to nonverbal cues: A research note. Environmental Psychology and Nonverbal Behavior, 3, 188–192.

    Google Scholar 

  12. DiMatteo, M. R., Hayes, R. D., & Prince, L. M. (1986). Relationship of physicians' nonverbal communication skill to patient satisfaction, appointment noncompliance, and physician workload. Health Psychology, 5, 581–594.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Dovidio, J. F., Brown, C. E., Heltman, K., Ellyson, S. L., & Keating, C. F. (1988). Power displays between women and men in discussions of gender-linked tasks: A multichannel study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55, 580–587.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Fiske, S. T. (1993). Controlling other people: The impact of power on stereotyping. American Psychologist, 48, 621–628.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Frieze, I. H., & Ramsey, S. J. (1976). Nonverbal maintenance of traditional sex roles. Journal of Social Issues, 32, 133–141.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Funder, D. C., & Harris, M. J. (1986). On the several facets of personality assessment: The case of social acuity. Journal of Personality, 54, 528–550.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Goffman, E. (1979). Gender advertisements. New York: Harper & Row.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Gough, H. G. (1957). Manual for the California Psychological Inventory. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Halberstadt, A. G., & Saitta, M. B. (1987). Gender, nonverbal behavior, and perceived dominance: A test of the theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 257–272.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Halberstadt, A. G., Dovidio, J. F., & Davidson, L. A. (1988, October). Power, gender, and smiling. Paper presented at the Society for Experimental Social Psychology.

  21. Hall, J. A. (1978). Gender effects in decoding nonverbal cues. Psychological Bulletin, 85, 845–857.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Hall, J. A. (1980). Voice tone and persuasion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 38, 924–934.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Hall, J. A. (1984). Nonverbal sex differences: Communication accuracy and expressive style. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Hall, J. A. (1987). On explaining gender differences: The case of nonverbal communication. In P. Shaver & C. Hendrick (Eds.), Sex and gender. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Hall, J. A., & Halberstadt, A. G. (1981). Sex roles and nonverbal communication skills. Sex Roles, 7, 273–287.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Hall, J. A., & Halberstadt, A. G. (1994). “Subordination” and sensitivity to nonverbal cues: A study of married working women. Sex Roles, 31, 149–165.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Hall, J. A., & Halberstadt, A. G. (1996). Subordination and nonverbal sensitivity: A hypothesis in search of support. In M. R. Walsh (Ed.), Women, men, and gender: Ongoing debates. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Hall, J. A., Carter, J. D., Friedman, G. B., & Roter, D. L. (1996). Smiling in relation to manipulated and acquired status. Unpublished manuscript.

  29. Hecht, M. A. (1995). The effect of power and gender on smiling. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Boston College.

  30. Henley, N. M. (1973). Status and sex: Some touching observations. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 2, 91–93.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Henley, N. M. (1977). Body politics: Power, sex, and nonverbal communication. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Henley, N., & LaFrance, M. (1984). Gender as culture: Difference and dominance in nonverbal behavior. In A. Wolfgang (Ed.), Nonverbal behavior: Perspectives, applications, intercultural insights. Lewiston, NY: C. J. Hogrefe.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Izard, C. E. (1971). The face of emotion. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Johnson, C. (1994). Gender, legitimate authority, and leader-subordinate conversations. American Sociological Review, 59, 122–135.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Kombos, N. A., & Fournet, G. P. (1985). Effects of dominance-submissiveness and gender on recognition of nonverbal emotional cues. Educational and Psychological Research, 5, 19–28.

    Google Scholar 

  36. LaFrance, M. (1986). Reading between the lines. Contemporary Psychology, 31, 793–794.

    Google Scholar 

  37. LaFrance, M., & Henley, N. M. (1994). On oppressing hypothesis: Or differences in nonverbal sensitivity revisited. In L. Radtke & H. Stam (Eds.), Power/gender: Social relations in theory and practice. London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Levenson, H. (1974). Activism and powerful others: Distinction within the concept of internal-external control. Journal of Personality Assessment, 38, 377–383.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Miller, J. B. (1986). Toward a new psychology of women (2nd ed.). Boston: Beacon Press.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Patterson, M. L. (1995). A parallel process model of nonverbal communication. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 19, 3–29.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Peplau, L. A. (1976). Impact of fear of success and sex-role attitudes on women's competitive achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34, 561–568.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Pfaff, P. L. (1954). An experimental study of the communication of feeling without contextual material. Speech Monographs, 21, 155–156.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Rosenthal, R. (1991). Meta-analytic procedures for social research (2nd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Rosenthal, R., Hall, J. A., DiMatteo, M. R., Rogers, P. L., & Archer, D. (1979). Sensitivity to nonverbal communication: The PONS test. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Sabatelli, R. M., Buck, R., & Dreyer, A. (1982). Nonverbal communication accuracy in married couples: Relationship with marital complaints. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43, 1088–1097.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Schutz, W. C. (1958). FIRO: A three-dimensional theory of interpersonal behavior. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Snodgrass, S. E. (1985). Women's intuition: The effect of subordinate role on interpersonal sensitivity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 146–155.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Snodgrass, S. E. (1992). Further effects of role versus gender on interpersonal sensitivity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62, 154–158.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Snodgrass, S. E., & Rosenthal, R. (1985). Interpersonal sensitivity and skills in decoding nonverbal channels: The value of face value. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 6, 243–255.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Snodgrass, S. E., Hecht, M. A., & Ploutz-Snyder, R. J. (1997). Interpersonal sensitivity: Expressivity or perceptivity? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, in press.

  51. Vrugt, A., & Kerkstra, A. (1984). Sex differences in nonverbal communication. Semiotica, 50, 1–41.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Weitz, S. (Ed.). (1974). Nonverbal communication: Readings with commentary. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Judith A. Hall.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Hall, J.A., Halberstadt, A.G. & O'Brien, C.E. “Subordination” and Nonverbal Sensitivity: A Study and Synthesis of Findings Based on Trait Measures. Sex Roles 37, 295–317 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1025608105284

Download citation

Keywords

  • High School
  • Socioeconomic Status
  • Social Psychology
  • Social Status
  • Primary Study