Nonverbal Expressions of Liking and Disliking in Initial Interaction: Encoding and Decoding Perspectives


By: Kristen Reid

This article explored the nonverbal behaviors linked with training and interpreting of liking and disliking based upon primary communication. The expression of liking happens during ongoing interaction in which nonverbal signals are being rapidly exchanged and the participants are making judgments about each other’s behaviors. How individuals express and evaluate affect cues such as liking has an important bearing, not only on the interaction itself, but on future interactions as well.

Seventy-two men and seventy-two women were all randomly assigned a single role (confederate, participant, or observer). Each confederate was paired with a naïve participant and the partners were instructed to participate in a problem-solving activity, while the observer watched from a different room. Halfway through the activity, all of the contributors were separated and told to record how they thought the interaction went based on what they experienced. Then, without the participant’s knowledge, the confederates were told to express a feeling (extreme like/extreme dislike) towards their partner using nonverbal communication throughout the second interaction.  After the activity was finished, the participants and observers provided their perception of the confederates and their behaviors.

As a result of this experiment, the examination of the simultaneous encoding and decoding of nonverbal behaviors, the precise measurement of vocalic behaviors, and clarification of nonverbal behaviors prove to be most influential in reaching judgments of liking and disliking.

The textbook Nonverbal Communication states that 97% of all meaning is nonverbal, which means that only 7% of meaning actually comes from verbal content. People often rely on nonverbal cues to express themselves and to interpret others’ communication. I am one of those people. If someone’s verbal messages contradict the nonverbal one, then I will most likely choose to believe the nonverbal messages over the verbal one. I almost always rely on nonverbal behavior to judge another person’s feelings on a subject and I’m pretty positive that this is a good tool to use when meeting new people for the first time.

I believe that this article settles any and all arguments about how significant our nonverbal communication really is when it comes to how we are portrayed to others. A popular saying says, “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it!” That quote is so unbelievably true! In the research portion of this experiment, the participant’s vocalic communications were recorded and decoded based on multiple different characteristics. The results showed that when the person was speaking at a normal level with a fast tempo, the reactions were much more pleasant than the people that talked loud and slow. Of course, this will not always be the case, but the tempo, sound level, and softness of the voice has a large part to do with the overall message taken from the speaker.


Ray, G. B., & Floyd, K. (2006). Nonverbal Expressions of Liking and Disliking in Initial Interaction: Encoding and Decoding Perspectives. Southern Communication Journal, 71(1), 45-65. doi:10.1080/10417940500503506

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


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