The Dimensions of Non-Vebal Communication

"Nonverbal communication is the transfer of meaningful information from one person to another by means other than written or spoken language." - Vaughan & Hogg

Categories of Nonverbal Communication

  1. Sign language
  2. Action language
  3. Object language

Knapp's Classification

  1. Body motion or kinesics
    • Emblems - Sign language
    • Illustrators - Acts that accompany language
    • Affect displays - The external appearance of emotion
    • Regulators - Control the pace and flow of a communication
    • Adaptors - Release physical or emotional tension
  2. Physical characteristics
    • Physique, attractiveness, odour, weight, hair colour, skin tone, age.
  3. Touching behaviours or haptics
    • Stroking, patting, hitting, greetings and farewell, kissing, hugging.
  4. Paralanguage
    • Voice qualities - Pitch, range, tempo, control
    • Vocal characterisers - Laughing, crying , sighing
    • Vocalisations 
      • Vocal qualifiers - Intensity, pitch height, extentProxemics
      • Vocal segregates - Uhhmm, errr.
  5. Proxemics (spacial relationship of interactants)
    • Public distance
    • Social distance
    • Personal distance
    • Intimate distance
  6. Artefacts
    • Objects in contact with the interactants
  7. Environmental factors
    • Elements in the surroundings
    • Smell, lighting, noise, decorations

Functions of Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication is complex and its function can dramatically change the message being communicated. Nonverbal communication can compliment and contradict verbal communication.
  1. Repeating - Consists of using gestures to strengthen a verbal message, such as pointing at an object being discussed.
  2. Contradicting / Conflicting - Verbal and nonverbal messages within the same interaction can sometimes send opposing or conflicting messages.
  3. Substituting - Nonverbal behaviour is sometimes used as the sole channel for communication of a message.
  4. Complementing - The accurate interpretation of a message is made easier when nonverbal and verbal communication accompany each other.
  5. Accenting / Moderating - Nonverbal signals are used to alter the interpretation of verbal messages.
  6. Regulating - Nonverbal behaviour also controls our conversations.

Sign Language

British Sign Language is an example of a formal, codified nonverbal communication language. 

This is typically used with people who are deaf but at one point could hear, and therefore can relate to the alphabet.BSL Finger Spelling Alphabet

There are 5 types of sign language:
  1. Sign language for the deaf 
  2. Sign language for people who are deaf and blind
  3. Sign language for children and adults with special needs and communication problems, such as Makaton (see link further down)
  4. Sign language for babies - a most fabulous way to understand and communicate with your hearing baby, before he or she can speak!
  5. Sign language for communicating with animals for example dogs and dolphins

Facial Expressions

The facial expressions 


Hogg, M.A. & Vaughan, 2013. Social psychology,