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It is quite possible for many or most people to portray an emotion they do not actually feel. Similarly, it is possible for many people to repress the expression of anemotion they feel would be inappropriate for others to be aware of. However, behaviors that reveal true emotional states are usually unintentional, even when weare aware of them. For instance, when we feel our knees shaking and see our handstrembling while experiencing fear or anxiety, we often cannot control them.AdaptorsThe fifth category of nonverbal behavior is the adaptor. Adaptorsare highly unintentional behaviors that are usually responses to boredom or stress or are closely linked with negative feelings toward ourselves or others. These behaviors are vestiges of coping behavior that we learn very early in life. According to several writers, adaptors were once part of our efforts to cope with physical and emotional needs and the need to learn instrumental behavior. They are, in essence, behaviors that once allowed us to adapt to situational, social, and cultural influences. They can be described as leftovers of goal-directed behavior that later became automatic, habitual actions.Quite often, behaviors that people use every day may actually be adaptors. Are you,for instance, aware when you pick your nose, tap your pen or pencil on your desk, pull at your earlobe, rub your arms, or fiddle with an object in your hand? Lip biting and nail biting are not generally well-accepted behaviors, but we often see people do them in front of total strangers. Chances are that such behaviors are adaptors.
Many researchers characterize adaptors as falling into three different types. Self-adaptorsare nonverbal acts in which an individual manipulates her or his own body. Scratching, rubbing, and hair twisting are common self-adaptors. Alter-directed adaptorsare movements that are designed to protect the individual fromother interactants. Folding one’s arms may indicate protection against some sort of verbal or nonverbal attack. Unconscious leg movements during interaction may represent a thinly repressed desire to keep others away.Finally, there are object-focused adaptors. These acts include the unconscious manipulation of a particular object, such as tapping a pen, smoking, or twisting a ring around your finger. Some speakers feel it necessary to have a piece of chalk in hand while speaking.While not contradicting the work of Ekman and his colleagues, Wachsmuth (2006) has explained some new elements of gesture theory. This work has been taking place in the area of neuroscience. Here the researchers believe that gestures are coverbal. That is, they believe that gestures arrive along the same pathways as verbal communication. Kelly, Kravitz, and Hopkins (2004) studied what happened when their subjects were forced to create messages with consistent and inconsistent verbal and nonverbal messages. They found that there were negative peaks (called the N400 effect) when there were contradictions between the verbal and the nonverbal. Similar N400 effects occurred when subjects made verbal