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Nonverbal Communication

  1. Miles L. Patterson

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0610

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Patterson, M. L. 2010. Nonverbal Communication. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. University of Missouri-St. Louis

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Although language is obviously important in interactions, the nonverbal side of communication usually has a greater impact on how we think about others and relate to them. Nonverbal communication may be defined as the sending and/or receiving of information and influence through one's immediate environment, appearance, and nonverbal behavior (Patterson, 2002). Unlike verbal communication, nonverbal communication is always “on” in social settings, with the sending and receiving sides operating simultaneously. That is, even in the absence of conversation, we are continually sending and receiving nonverbal signals. Although verbal communication requires some attention and deliberation, nonverbal communication often operates automatically and outside of awareness. In turn, this leads to another characteristic—cognitive efficiency. Thus, the nonverbal system typically runs with minimal effort, freeing cognitive resources for more demanding activities.


  • nonverbal communication;
  • interaction;
  • automatic processes