Nonverbal Immediacy in the Classroom.
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
ALBERS, D. L. (2001). Nonverbal Immediacy in the Classroom.. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 4. Available online at Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

Nonverbal Immediacy in the Classroom.
Missouri Western State University DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (
This project explores the use of nonverbal communication in the learning setting. We examine the relationship between the use of nonverbal communication and the willingness of audience members to participate in discussions outside the speaking setting. It has been hypothesized that the willingness of the student to discuss things with a teacher can help improve the ability of that student to perform in the academic setting. In this research we demonstrate that the use of nonverbally immediate behaviors can increase the willingness of audience members to engage in contact outside of the speaking setting.

Nonverbal communication can have a powerful impact on many aspects of our communication with others, including power, synchrony, and immediacy. However, immediacy has been perceived as one of the most powerful dimensions of nonverbal communication and has been one of the most researched (Slane & Leak, 1979). Immediacy coincides with the idea of liking or disliking, and that individuals tend to shy away from those who they dislike, and will try to spend more time with those who the like (Baringer,& McCroskey, 2000). Nonverbal behaviors that have been proposed to affect the immediacy are such things as: tonality, vocal pace, eye contact, smiling, body tenseness, and trunk and limb movements (Burgoon, Birk, & Pfau, 1990).Since this time there has been a lot of research into the area of nonverbal immediacy and its effect on classroom situations. Much of the research into the effects of immediacy on the learning of students in the classroom setting have been based on immediacy as a whole and not broken apart into verbal and nonverbal immediacy. The research so far has shown a positive correlation between the use of immediacy behaviors and the overall learning of the student (Allen, & Shaw, 1990; Christophel, 1990; Rodriguez, Plax, & Kearney, 1996; Menzel, & Carrell, 1999). However, many of these articles fail to agree on exactly how the immediacy behaviors affect the learning of the students in the classroom. On the one hand there are those who argue that the use of immediacy behaviors affects the learning of the students by first changing the state motivation of the students in the classroom (Christophel, 1990). What this means is that the students perform better in the classroom because the teachers high immediacy behaviors motivates the students to work harder, therefore they automatically perform better than students who are observing a teacher will low immediacy behaviors.

Contrary to the above finding other research has indicated that the main way immediacy interacts with learning is through an affective model of learning (Rodriguez, Plax, & Kearney, 1996). In this model of learning the teachers use of immediate behaviors would increase the students positive attitude toward the subject, which would consequently increase the ability of the student to learn the material the teacher is offering them. In this study, the researchers did separate verbal from nonverbal immediacy to get individual measures of their affect on student learning. In this they found, that the nonverbal immediacy had little impact on the affective learning of the students, but there was a positive correlation between verbal immediacy and affective learning. The authors argue that the affective learning effect is a better way of explaining the immediacy than the motivation state theory that was used above. The reasoning for this is that they both fit the data set, but since the affective model has fewer errors than the state motivation model, therefore the affective model is the better model for the understanding of this phenomenon. Secondly, the affective learning model is better because it is more parsimonious than the state motivation model. Another impact of immediacy that has been researched is its impact on a students willingness to talk in class and on the perceived learning of the student. The researchers found, that verbal immediacy does seem to have an impact on both willingness to talk and on perceived learning of the students (Menzel, & Carrell, 1999). However, this study could find no significant link between the nonverbal immediacy of the teacher and the willingness of the student to talk in class and the student`s perceived learning. In another series of studies, conducted across four different cultures, researchers found that there is indeed a direct and strong correlation between nonverbal immediacy and the affective learning of the individual students (McCroskey, Sallinen, Fayer, & Richmond, et-al, 1996; McCroskey, Richmond, Sallinen, & Fayer, et-al, 1995). The researchers conducted these studies in Australia, Finland, Puerto Rico, and U.S.A., and found that while the results were different from culture to culture there remained a significant correlation between affective learning and nonverbal immediacy, which would tend to indicate that the research is not conclusive across all experiments and indicates that future research is necessary in order to pinpoint exactly if and how nonverbal immediacy affects the learning of the students. While the majority of the research on nonverbal immediacy in the classroom has been directed at the teachers use of nonverbal immediate behaviors, there has been a small body of research on the students use of nonverbal immediate behaviors in the classroom. On such study found that there was a positive correlation between the student`s use of immediate behaviors and the instructor developing a favorable opinion of the student (Baringer,& McCroskey, 2000). Furthermore, the researchers found that the teachers would respond more positively to these students than to students that poor nonverbal immediacy. This tends to create a feedback loop, due to the fact that as the researchers respond more positively they will increase their nonverbal immediate behaviors which will increase the motivation of the student (Christophel, 1990). From this we can draw a tentative conclusion that by increasing the nonverbal immediate behaviors of one side of the speaker-audience dyad, we can increase the overall effectiveness of the interaction. One area of the research that has seemed to be largely ignored is the effect of nonverbal immediacy on the students willingness to deal with the teacher outside of the classroom. One study has dealt specifically with the concept of the speakers nonverbal messages and there impact on the students level of trust and motivation to deal with the teacher (Jaasma, & Koper, 1999). In this study the researchers investigated the effect of both teacher verbal and nonverbal immediacy on the willingness of students to deal with the instructor in an out of classroom communication(OCC). And then how does this affect their overall trust of the instructor and their motivation to perform well in the classroom. From this they found that both verbal and nonverbal immediacy played a role in the students willingness to approach the teacher outside of the classroom. From this they also found that the increased willingness to have relations with the teacher outside of the classroom was positively correlated with the individual students motivation to perform well in the classroom. The verbal immediacy of the instructor was correlated well with both formal and informal contact outside of the classroom. The instructor`s nonverbal immediacy was more heavily correlated with informal contact outside of the classroom. The previous study indicates to us that there is at least some relation between the nonverbal component of a speaker and an audiences (e.g. students) willingness to approach the speaker in a setting other than the classroom. The disadvantages to this study was that it was completely a correlational study, therefore having absolutely no manipulation of an independent variable (e.g. nonverbal communication cues) to see if there is a direct causal link between the nonverbal communication and the willingness of the students to approach the speaker. Therefore, this study proposes to investigate the following research question: is there a direct link between nonverbal immediacy and the students willingness to approach the instructor outside the classroom.


The participants consisted of 108 undergraduate students in basic communication and psychology courses, at a medium sized state college in northwestern Missouri. Volunteers were not be paid for participating, though some did receive extra credit, depending on the class professor. All subjects were be treated in accordance with the "Ethical Principles of Psychologist and Code of Conduct."

The first instrument used was the 10 item Revised Nonverbal Immediacy Measure (McCroskey, Sallinen, Fayer, & Richmond, et-al, 1996). This measurement has been shown to have a good validity coefficient and has been widely used in recent years (McCroskey, Sallinen, Fayer, & Richmond, et-al, 1996). I also included a scale of my own called the Albers Scale of Extracurricular Communication (Appendix A).

The research was conducted by first obtaining a videotape of an individuals giving a three to four minute speech on success after college, using very few of the nonverbal behaviors that have been considered to be immediate (i.e. eye contact, voice fluctuations, movement around the room, smile, and gestures). Then the person was taped again using the same speech, but with full use of these nonverbally immediate gestures. One condition was then shown to the participants in a class and they were asked to rate the individual`s performance. This proceeded with each condition being show to at least three classes.

For the statistical analysis, a 2(Nonverbal immediacy) x 2(gender of subject) between subjects factorial ANOVA was calculated comparing total scores on the Albers Scale of Extracurricular Communication with the use of nonverbally immediate behaviors in the speech, and the gender of the subject. A significant main effect was found for the use of nonverbal communication (F(1,103)= 56.970), p<.05). The extracurricular communication score for individuals viewing video one (m= 11.661, sd=.414). For individuals viewing video two (m= 16.761, sd=.534). The main effect for the gender of the person viewing the video was not significant (F(1,103)= .044, p>.05). For the males who viewed the videos (m=14.282, sd=.414). For the females who viewed the video (m= 14.140, sd=.371). The interaction was not significant (F(1,103)= 1.921, p>.05). See figure number one. Furthermore, we conducted analysis of whether the videos actually did isolate the nonverbal communication and create a difference in perception of the communication act. We found a significant main effect of the video on the Revised Nonverbal Immediacy Score(RNIM) (F(1,100)= 358.431, p<.05). The students who viewed video 1 (m= 18.893, sd=.540). The students who viewed video two (m= 36.044, .728). We found no significant main effect for the gender on RNIM (F(1,100)= .000, p>.05). The males who viewed the videos (m=27.470, sd=.762). The females who viewed the video (m= 27.467, sd= .491). There was a significant interaction between the perception of nonverbal and gender of the participant (F(1,100)= 8.828, p<.05). See figure number two.

The overriding theme of this research has been that the use of nonverbally immediate behaviors can have a powerful impact on the attitudes of audience members towards a speaker. There has been some preliminary research that shows a correlation between the student`s willingness to interact with the teacher outside of class, and their performance in school (Jaasma, & Koper, 1999). Due to this impact we have asked the question will nonverbally immediate behaviors on behalf of the speaker cause the audience members to desire outside contact with the speaker. These results indicate a strong relationship between these two important variables. In fact the use of nonverbally immediate behaviors account for 44.2% of the variance in the willingness of individuals to engage in out of classroom communications (OCC). These results are consistent with the other limited correlational research which has been done in this area (Jaasma, & Koper, 1999). Furthermore, we included the Revised Nonverbal Immediacy scale (RNIM) as a safeguard, to ensure that we were actually producing both immediate and non immediate nonverbal situations. With the statistical analysis we found that the videos did indeed produce both a immediate and non immediate nonverbal conditions for the audience. As evidenced by the fact that the video segments accounted for 83.8% of the variance in the scores on the RNIM. The one condition we were testing for that did not provide a significant result was the Gender of the audience member as an effect on both the willingness to partake in OCC and on the RNIM scale. The only gender effect that was found in this project was an interaction between the gender of the subject and the way in which they rated the speakers nonverbal communication on the RNIM. The female subjects tended to react with a greater score increase on the RNIM than their male counterparts. This would tend to indicate that maybe the females are more sensitive or more discriminating about noticing the nonverbal communication of others. Though this seems to have no impact on their comfortability level with the speaker. This tends to agree with other such research that has found very gender difference in nonverbal immediacy and the willingness to learn (Menzel & Carrell, 1999). In conclusion, further research should be done in this area to isolate out different parts of the nonverbal massages to see which may have the greatest strength. The only obstacle to doing this will be the fact that nonverbal communication tends to be a very holistic analysis process, therefore you may not be able to see an effect from just using one or two variables (Burgoon, Birk & Pfau, 1990). So any further research should take this into consideration and look at trying to isolate a few variables at a time. And if at all possible the isolation of the these variable should be relatively synchronous, in hopes to see the best results.

Allen, J.L., Shaw, D.H., (1990). Teachers` communication behaviors and supervisors` evaluation of instruction in elementary and secondary classrooms. Communication-Education, 39, 308-322. Baringer, D.K., McCroskey, J.C. (2000). Immediacy in the classroom: Student immediacy. Communication-Education, 49, 178-186. Burgoon, J.K., Birk, T., & Pfau, M. (1990). Nonverbal Behaviors, Persuasion, and Credibility. Human Communication Research, 17, 140-169. Christophel, D.M., (1990). The relationships among teacher immediacy behaviors, student motivation, and learning. Communication-Education, 39, 323-340. Jaasma, M.A., Koper, R.J. (1999). The relationship of student-faculty out-of-class communication to instructor immediacy and trust and to student motivation. Communication-Education, 48, 41-47. McCroskey, J.C., Sallinen, A., Fayer, J.M., Richmond, V.P., et-al, (1996). Nonverbal immediacy and cognitive learning: A cross-cultural investigation. Communication-Education, 45, 200-211. McCroskey, J.C., Richmond, V.P., Sallinen, A., Fayer, J.M., et-al, (1995). A cross-cultural and multi-behavioral analysis of the relationship between nonverbal immediacy and teacher evaluation. Communication Education, 44, 281-291. Menzel, K.E., Carrell, L.J. (1999). The impact of gender and immediacy on willingness to talk and perceived learning. Communication-Education, 48, 31-40. Rodriguez, J.I., Plax, T.G., Kearney, P. (1996). Clarifying the relationship between teacher nonverbal immediacy and student cognitive learning: Affective learning as the central causal mediator. Communication-Education, 45, 293-305. Slane, S., Leak, G. (1979). Effects of self perceived nonverbal immediacy behaviors on interpersonal attraction. The Journal of Psychology, 98, 241-248.

Albers Scale of Extracurricular Communication Below are some items about how comfortable you feel with the speaker, please circle the appropriate response for each statement.1. I think the speaker did an effective job presenting the material in a way most people can understand.Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree2. I would not be willing to approach the speaker outside of the classroom.*Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree3. The speaker seemed very friendly and open to outside opinions and questions.Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree4. If I saw this person again on the street I would stop and talk to them. Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree5. Overall, I did not enjoy the presentation.Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree

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Submitted 5/1/01 1:56:28 PM
Last Edited 5/1/01 2:26:37 PM
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