The structure of nonverbal decoding skills1

Authors


  • 1

    . We thank Michael Fridkin, Carolyn Rieder Green, and Judith Rosenkrantz for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. Preparation of this paper was supported by the Milton Fund of Harvard University and the Biomedical Support Grant from the National Institutes of Health to Harvard University (5S07 RR07046-12). During the conduct of this research, the first author was supported by a National Science Foundation Fellowship.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Bella M. DePaulo, Department of Psychology, Cilmer Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22901.

Abstract

The structure of skill at decoding nonverbal cues was examined for 150 high school students and 95 college students. An overall principal components analysis yielded four factors differing in the complexity of the message (pure versus mixed) and in the relative importance of the video versus the audio modality. Factor 1 (pure video) was defined by accuracy at face and body cues of ordinary (2 second) and very brief exposure length. Factor 2 (mixed video) was defined by accuracy at face and body cues with a “noisy” background. Factor 3 (mixed audio) was defined by accuracy at decoding discrepant cues and “noisy” audio cues. Factor 4 (pure audio) was defined by accuracy at pure tone of voice cues. The overall evidence suggested that despite a nontrivial degree of relationship among all measures of skill at decoding nonverbal cues (Armor's Theta = .62), it would increase our theoretical and empirical precision to conceptualize nonverbal decoding ability as made up of several relatively unrelated subskills.

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