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The role of nonverbal behavior in persuasion

Daniel Anthony Hrubes, University of Massachusetts Amherst


An effective nonverbal delivery style is generally recognized as vital to the success of persuasive communications. However, surprisingly little research has examined the role of nonverbal behavior in actual attitude change. The current research investigated whether the nonverbal behavior closely associated with communication influenced message processing and attitude change. In two studies, participants were exposed to videotaped persuasive messages about an issue of low involvement. These messages varied in verbal content and nonverbal delivery style. In Experiment 1, participants were exposed to strong or weak arguments delivered expressively or unexpressively. The effects of these message factors on impressions, attitudes, and message memory were assessed. In Experiment 2, participants either high or low in need for cognition (Cacioppo & Petty, 1982) were exposed to the target message and a distractor message. Their impressions, attitudes, message related thoughts and message memory were assessed. Converging evidence from both studies indicated that the nonverbal behavior of a speaker acted as a message processing cue which influenced the motivation of observers to thoughtfully process the persuasive messages. This effect was moderated by individual differences in need for cognition in a manner consistent with the idea that a speaker's nonverbal behavior affects motivation to process message related information.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Communication

Recommended Citation

Hrubes, Daniel Anthony, "The role of nonverbal behavior in persuasion" (2001). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3027208.