Importance of decoding Nonverbal Skills with emotionally disturbed boys by Robert Smalley


For my journal blog I selected an article about nonverbal decoding skills in boys with server emotional disturbances. The textbook, Nonverbal Communication, states that a study by Mehrabian show that 66% of meaning in human interaction derives from nonverbal cues. (p2) The ability to decode nonverbal cues is essential for normal social skills and proper social development. An individual who is lacking the ability to send and receive nonverbal cues correctly can struggle severely with interpersonal relationships. A connection between classroom social behavior and nonverbal decoding skills with children with severe emotional disturbances is the main subject of this article.

 In this study, researchers compared a control group of 22 normal 10-year-old boys with a group of 25 10-year old boys with severe emotional disturbances regarding social behaviors in the classroom and nonverbal decoding skills they lack. The failure to decode nonverbal cues may cause the child to be more frustrated and aggressive toward his peers. The boys with severe emotional disturbances tend to showed aggressive classroom behavior that was keeping them from attending regular elementary schools. Half the children in this article were attending a psycho educational facility.

There were three hypotheses given. The first hypothesis stated that there would be great connection in nonverbal decoding skills compared to the teachers rating of social behavior in the classroom. The second hypothesis stated that the emotionally disturbed boys would be more aggressive and less popular that the control group boys. The last hypothesis stated that the emotionally disturbed boys would not do as well as the control group in decoding emotions portrayed through facial expressions or tone of voice. Researchers gave each child in the study a Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy Test. This test measures the subject’s abilities to decode nonverbal cues. In addition, both groups of boys received a rating by teachers on their social behaviors in a classroom setting. The researchers made a five point rating scale for the teacher to rate each child.  The teacher was looks for social interaction and aggression with the boys in the class environment and the link to nonverbal decoding.

The results were not shocking to me at all. The boy’s evaluation of nonverbal decoding skills showed that the boys with severe emotional disturbances did not have fewer abilities than the control group in their abilities to identify emotions from facial expressions or tones of voices. All the boys had the abilities to decode nonverbal expression and tone the same during the Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy test that did not include social interaction with peers. The teachers rating however revealed a group difference on all but one area in the rating. There did show a consistent link between the nonverbal skills of the emotionally disturbed boys and their behavior in the classroom with peers. The predictions were precise. These results confirm the predictions of nonverbal skills limiting social progress of children who suffer with severe emotional disturbances. Helping these emotionally disturbed children to decode nonverbal expressions and tones could help with interpersonal relationships in school and in every area of their lives.

I found this article very interesting and thought it compared with the study of nonverbal communication and the importance of decoding nonverbal cues. The textbook, Nonverbal communication, says, “Although nonverbal signals can aid us greatly in making sense out of the world, they are equally important because of the misunderstanding they can cause.” The chance of nonverbal cues to be misread or missed altogether is evident.


Burgoon, J. K., Guerrero, L. K., & Floyd, K. (2010). Nonverbal Communication. New York, New York: Pearson Education, Inc.

 Classroom Behavior and the Ability to Decode Nonverbal Cues in Boys With Severe Emotional Disturbance. By: Cooley, Eileen L., Triemer, David M., Journal of Social Psychology, 00224545, Dec2002, Vol. 142, Issue 6


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