A comparison of the effects of positive and standard nonverbal and verbal behaviors on impression formation during a police-citizen encounter



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The present study was conducted to investigate the relative preponderance of effects of nonverbal versus verbal behaviors in a role defined interaction. Positive and standard nonverbal and verbal behaviors were manipulated in the course of a police-citizen interview. Three hypotheses were advanced: (1) When errploying positive nonverbal behaviors officers would be evaluated more favorably than when using standard nonverbal behaviors. (2) When employing positive verbal behaviors officers would be evaluated more favorably than when using standard verbal behaviors. (3) Nonverbal behaviors would account for a greater preponderance of effect than verbal behaviors. All three hypotheses were confirmed. When officers exhibited positive nonverbal behaviors they received higher (more favorable) ratings on a ntnber of interpersonal qualities and job related qualities than when standard nonverbal behaviors were exhibited. Similar findings were obtained for the verbal manipulation with positive verbal presentation receiving more favorable evaluations than those obtained for the standard presentation. Nonverbal components were found to account for a greater proportion of the variance than verbal components. This was evidenced by the finding that when officers employed positive nonverbal-positive verbal behaviors they were rated most favorably, followed by positive nonverbal-standard verbal, standard nonverbal-positive verbal, with officers when using standard nonverbal-standard verbal behaviors receiving the least favorable evaluations. The results are discussed within the context of impression formation and attribution theory. Implications for police training are also discussed