Deception and Nonverbal Communication

If you’re teaching a course that includes a section on deception, take a look at the current issue of National Geographic (August 2009, Vol. 216, pp. 70-87). Here you’ll find an excellent article, “The Art of Deception,” by science writer Natalie Angier, with magnificent photos by Christian Ziegler illustrating how animals “deceive” their potential predators. The photos would make for a great introduction to the topic of deception in nonverbal communication.


No Boxed Gifts

I only recently learned what “no boxed gifts” means on an invitation—it means that money is the expected and appropriate gift—cash, check, and perhaps even gift cards but no blenders, toasters, or picture frames. Here’s a good example of insulting the guests before they even arrive and is a clear illustration of impolite behavior that violates negative face needs—the need and desire for autonomy, to do as one wishes without being told what to do.

Teacher Bias?

Here's an interesting summary of a study that was just brought to my attention by a recent NYTimes article--it's a better summary than provided in the Times. It concerns, among other things, possible teacher bias and especially the role of physical attractiveness (less important than we may have thought), personality (most important for female students), and grooming (most important for male students) as predictors of grades in high school--and perhaps in college and in the organization.

Content and Relationship Communication

Take a look at this letter to Dear Abby. In my opinion she completely misses the point and in doing so provides a great illustration of the importance of communication concepts in understanding a complex interaction. In this letter, a wife complains that her husband makes all the decisions about gifts and about how expensive they should be. In this case, he decided on a $100 bond for a grandchild. So, the wife correctly asks, shouldn't she have had some say? Btw, both husband and wife work full time or so it seems. But, Abby primarily addresses the content message--yes, Abby agrees, the bond is the better choice. It wasn't about the bond, Abby! And she misses the point because she doesn't see the difference between content and relationship messages. The content message was about the bond and that's the message that Abby addresses. But, the more important message was a relationship one that commented on their relationship in a way the wife found objectionable--he was the boss and he would make the decisions unilaterally.
Another way of looking at this is through the lens of equity--from what appears in the letter, I'd assume that both husband and wife contribute equally to the costs (they both work full time) but that the husband is deriving more of the rewards (making important decisions) with the result that resentment and relationship dissatisfaction develop.
I think this letter provides a useful way of showing students the value of seemingly academic (and therefore useless) terms in understanding everyday issues.



Here's an interesting site for material on communication that we don't often see in our textbooks. Especially interesting are the lists of the ten best and worst speakers of different years. This, and much more on this site, will make for interesting class discussions. A great assignment in public speaking--perhaps advanced public speaking--would be to have students prepare a speech on a contemporary speaker he or she would nominate for the best or the worst speaker of the year and, of course, explain why. It would be an interesting way to discuss the qualities of an effective speech.

Obama Inaugural Address

Here's an interesting discussion of President Obama's Inaugural Address which should make an effective outline for a discussion of this speech or speeches in general.


Carter's Malaise Speech

Here is a book review of What the heck are you up to, Mr. President: Jimmy Carter, America's 'Malaise,' and the speech that should have changed the country. It will make for an excellent discussion in political speech courses or in public speaking courses in general.


From Dating to Mating

Here's a great article on patterns of pursuit with some really excellent advice on moving from dating to mating.