Ethological Approaches to Nonverbal Communication



Ethology is a branch of evolutionary biology which focuses on the behavioral, rather than the morphological, characteristics of animal species. Since ethologists originally restricted themselves to investigating nonhuman organisms, of necessity they developed a methodology particularly appropriate to the study of nonverbal behaviors. In recent years, researchers have begun to apply the concepts and methods of ethology to the study of humans, and especially human children. In this chapter, I will explore the contribution which an ethological approach can make to our understanding of children’s facial expressions, one important form of nonverbal communication. I will begin by describing characteristics of the ethological approach, and contrasting it with the methods often used by psychologists. Following this, I will review selected ethological studies of children which have examined facial behavior. Lastly, I will describe my own work, focusing on the relationship between primate threat displays and children’s use of facial expressions in a conflict situation.


Nonverbal Behavior Nonverbal Communication Target Expression Display Rule Facial Expres 
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