Nonverbal Expectancies and the Evaluative Consequences of Violations



    1. Judee K, Burgoon is Professor of Communication at the University of Arizona.
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    1. Joseph B. Walther is Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Oklahoma. An earlier version of this article was presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, San Francisco, May 1989.
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This report reviews the construct of expectancy and its relevance to understanding communication phenomena. Given the shortage of empirically based knowledge about what constitute expected and unexpected interpersonal behaviors and how they are evaluated, a two-part experiment was conducted to determine the expectedness and evaluation of three nonverbal variables: touch, conversational distance, and posture. The possible moderating effects of communicator attractiveness, status, and gender were also examined. Respondents (N = 622) viewed photographs of an attractive or unattractive male or female stimulus interacting with a male or female partner, attributed to be of same, higher, or lower status, who displayed one of seven forms of touch or one of nine combinations of posture and proximity. Respondents rated the appropriateness, typicality, and desirability of the observed behavior. Results demonstrated that several behaviors are expected and positively valenced, while others qualify as positive or negative violations of expectations. Attractiveness influenced expectancies and evaluations; gender and status had limited effects. Implications for information processing and nonverbal expectancy violations theory are discussed.