Nonverbal Behavior to Predict Certainty

Nonverbal Behavior to Predict Certainty


By: Courtney Wallace

The article, “Certainty Broadcasts Risk Preferences: Verbal and Nonverbal Cues to Risk-Taking,” is about how people may show their risk preferences through clues that show their certainty how confident people feel about their current, past, or future state or position. Particularly, the current research examines whether people show verbal and nonverbal cues to their degree of certainty, and whether these cues foresee their tendency to participate in risky decision-making. The article explained how certainty could be shown by nonverbal behavior.

The hypothesis of the study was that both the subjective and objective assessments to participants’ certainty would be positively associated with their preference for the riskier options. The participants used in this study were 106 undergraduate students, 90 of which were women. The students worked in small groups of two to four members. The participants were asked to complete two scenarios in which the outcome of their choice would theoretically effect the entire population. Both problems asked the participants to choose the option that had a definite outcome (Program A) or to choose the riskier option with potentially better but also possibly worse outcome (Program B). Participants recorded their personal risk preference; each outcome was scaled from 1-6. The results did not vary by problem, so these risk indicators were averaged into a composite score that reflect risk preferences across different contexts, where higher number indicate greater riskiness. For the researchers to see if the certainty was conveyed nonverbally, 4 coders watched muted recordings of the group interactions. They rated how confident and certain each participant seemed to be using a similar scale as before. The results of this study concluded that the participants who were judged by the coders, had more confident nonverbal behaviors that were engaged in riskier decision-making. Narrowing attention to specific nonverbal cues may improve the power of nonverbal certainty to predict risk.

 I believe that the coders, who were watching the participant’s actions, were using kinesics to conclude their answers. We’ve learned in class that kinesics is the study of a person’s body language, or body movements. The coders were most likely watching for their facial expressions, eye movements, posture, etc., to convey which participants were riskier than the others. Since the coders watched the recording while it was muted they were able to notice these behaviors and directly relate them to risky or not risky behaviors. A nonverbal less risky behavior for example would be scratching their head, their eyes wandering around a lot, biting their nails, and slouching A nonverbal risky behavior example would be answering the questions more quickly, sitting up straighter, and even smiling. Overall this was very interesting research to me. It makes me realize that nonverbal behavior can show your moods, attitude, and even your certainty in something. Now the next time I need to hide my emotions or certainty, I will be much more aware of my nonverbal behavior.

Moons, W. G., Spoor, J. R., Kalomiris, A. E., & Rizk, M. K. (2013). Certainty broadcasts risk preferences: Verbal and nonverbal cues to risk-taking. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 37(2), 79-89. doi: 10.1007/s10919-013-0146-0


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