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50 Seiten, Note: PM
Does body language communicate personality? An investigation into observable behavioural patterns of Berens Interactions Styles.
An experiment was conducted to assess whether the claims made about body language in Berens theory of Interaction Styles could be demonstrated in practice. The proposed differences in characteristics associated with appearance and talents were performed by an actor in 4 separate short film presentations. Participants were asked to watch each film and select words from the theory to describe the personality of the actors they saw.
Positive evidence was found for the hypothesis that body language communicates
personality characteristics and that these descriptions follow a recognisable pattern in line with Berens Interactions Styles. Some expected patterns suggested by the model were indicated with strong significance for 10 words from the theory indicating the discrete characteristics were present.
Recommendations are made for applied research across a greater reach of the body
language model proposed by Berens’ and for bespoke training materials to be created to help practitioners in the field.
Personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures (F Scott Fitzgerald, 1925, p.6).
Writing on the Psychology Today website, Krauss-Whitborn (2012) states how learning to control the cues you communicate will “invariably boost not only the way you look, but the way you feel”. Riggio (2013) blogs on the same website that “a number of books (including one best-seller) suggests you can read people like a book. It’s simply not true.”
The ongoing debate within business psychology about non-verbal communication includes a variety of claims behind which the science remains unclear. This research attempts to quantify assertions made by proponents of leading personality theories about the meaningfulness of non-verbal communication.
There is an argument in the academic literature that body language indicates temperament. We know that our Interpretation of body language influences our responses to others and studies of non-verbal behaviour have enhanced our understanding of social interaction. Whether it is possible to consider that body language fits a pattern that is interpretable by others as a set of personality characteristics is not fully known.
Is there a dimension to our interpretation of body language that might provide a meaningful source of insight about someone’s personality?
According to Cunningham (1958) whilst scientific study into nonverbal communication is not new, it has been an important aspect of trying to understand how we develop skills in recognition and understanding of each other.
Springer (2015) notes the great deal of recent research into non-verbal communication, with journals dedicated to this study since at least the 1970s. Ambady (2000) describes the variety of research into the use of “thin slicing” to make judgements about people on the basis of their nonverbal expression, with research up to now mostly associated with interpreting facial expression and gaze-following.
Hogan (1996) explains personality as factors inside people that explain their behaviour. He also refers to distinctive interpersonal characteristics that can be described by others who have seen that person in various situations. The links made between our behaviour and personality certainly have a heritage: Eysenck (1985) integrated the Greek philosophical tradition of temperaments (or humours) from Hippocrates into the PEN inventory, which assesses personality in terms of psychoticism, extraversion and neuroticism. For Eysenck, personality is psychophysiological and the PEN traits associated with the taxonomy remain stable over time. McCrae (2000) also notes a tradition in the literature to regard temperament as a biologically based psychological tendency.
Ambady (2010) asserts how the successful interpretation of non-verbal communication is critical to social success. Being able to “read” others matters. For Martowska (2014), temperaments related to activity, emotional reactivity and sensitivity are significant predictors of social competencies. Ambady (1999) notes that whilst we may see what we expect to see, the information obtained earliest in a social interaction influences our later recollection and conclusions. In this sense, the temperaments or traits we assign to others on observation becomes a schema within which to both recollect and predict the behaviour of other people.
Finally here, Ambady (2010) asserts that nonverbal judgment is crucial for social adaptation and reports how some non-verbal behaviour may prove more accurate than we might suppose e.g, studies of successfully determining sexual orientation of others from short video clips. Ambady concludes:
1) there is a universal ability to decode affective facial and vocal expressions
2) people need little time to make relatively accurate conclusions about personality traits,
3) we need only limited information to do this.
Miles & Sadler-Smith (2014) tell us that intuition is frequently used as an indicator for personality. This is highly likely to involve bias; Grant-Halvorson (2015) note how it is possible to misread non-verbal communication. Two of “the most powerful and pervasive” factors involved in non-verbal communication are confirmation bias and the primacy effect. For Gilbert (1995) the correspondence bias is a tendency to draw inferences about a individual’s disposition from behaviours that could also be accurately explained by the situations in which they occur.
For Brendl (1996) we make biased referential judgements to provide us with either a positive or negative valence about someone or something. Van Edwards (2015) recent research into the visual impact of the online education resource - TED talks - reported a correlation between the number of views of a talk and the hand gestures of the speakers. The more a speaker used their hands, the more engaging and “charismatic” they seemed. Sullins (1985) describes how judgements of others’ competence also involve the “thin slicing” effect. Studies into teacher performance show that the more expressive a teacher seems to be, the more able a communicator they will be regarded as.
Perceived intelligence in nonverbal judgment is also associated with affiliation. Reed
(2000) noted how teachers gauge affiliation by using physiological categories to determine the type of learning their students will prefer. The McCarthy (1980) 4MAT model of teaching design includes specific psychophysiological characteristics drawn from earlier work by Hunt (1964) that proposes four body tension patterns to demonstrate intention - the assister, posturer, resister, and perceverator patterns.
Such typologies of body language and personality occur frequently in the literature.
Although differently sourced and referenced, there is similarity in their use of temperament descriptions to explain physically expressive movement.
This tradition has in part derived from Jung’s (1923) model of personality type, which is typically measured by the MBTI instrument. Essig (2014) notes that this is the most popular personality assessment in the world (even though it’s psychometric properties are often challenged). Jung’s theory describes universal behavioural patterns, or types, that influence energy, assimilation of information and decision-making.
Sheldon (1940) originally proposed a theory of personality based on body types alone.
From a famous study of white US males this concluded that there were three basic types - ectomorph, endomorph and mesomorph - this typology described personality features and attempted to demonstrate how certain behaviours might be predicted from this. Whether the body-type model is truly a universal theory is debatable, although Janes (1949) noted the connections made by this theory to extant models of temperament found elsewhere in the literature.
Lurie (1937) claimed there were four basic “attitudes”: social (relationship oriented), philistine (utility oriented), theoretical (objectivity/logic oriented) and religious (spiritual oriented). Merrill & Reid’s social style profile (1981) of driving, expressive, analytical, and amiable denotes some appreciable dynamics of communication; describing responsiveness and assertiveness plus a further dimension of versatility that indicates the extent to which others see us as adaptable, resourceful, and competent.
For Ornstein (1993 p 47 ) a type is “a cluster of related traits - a super factor”. These traits are described as temperaments which are themselves defined as a “predisposition to respond to specific events in a specific way - temperament refers to the style rather than the content of behaviour.”
Bolton & Bolton (1984) consider how observable behaviour is the key to understanding a person’s social style. Marston’s DiSC theory (1928) defines such styles as dominant, influential, steady and compliant. Further, current DiSC assessment training explicitly uses body language as a way to recognise the styles, e.g., in their training literature, the DiSC company PeopleKeys (2012) note how faster moves and gestures indicates a dominant or influential style.
Samir (1988 p 80) notes affiliation patterns which are similar to behaviour traits and describe the placater (the body “appeases”), blamer (the body “accuses’”, computer (the body “computes”) and distracter (the body is “angular”) patterns. Whiltelaw (2000) describes a driver, visionary, organiser and collaborator typology of movement and personality type, citing as yet unpublished factor analysis comparing this typology to the NEO five factor personality assessment; with correlations to physical energy at 0.4 against the five factor model.
The study of socionics is a less well known tradition using research by Soviet sociologist Ausra Augustinavic in defining temperaments as groups of four types that possess behavioural chsractersitcs. Stern (2007) notes how this model is independently derived but is similar to Kiersey and draws upon Jung. The author describes the socionic typology that comprises an e xtraverted rational type ( energetic and proactive behaviour), an i ntroverted rational type (slow and methodical behaviour), an e xtraverted Irrational type (impulsive and unpredictable behaviour) and an i ntroverted Irrational type ( lack of motivation, inertia, and unstable moods and energy levels).
The Kiersey temperament model (1984) describes energies associated with an artisan, guardian, idealist or rational temperament. This model has been utilised as the basis for much research and debate in the academic community represented by various associations of psychological type throughout the world (APTI 2016).
Berens (2011) sets out an integrated model of non-verbal communications that draws upon social styles, temperament and Jungian theory to describe an overall pattern to personalty and behaviour. Links are made between what drives people and how they behave in order to fulfil those needs.
illustration not visible in this excerpt
Table 1 - list of drives and attributes of Berens Interaction Styles
Within this model, Berens (2013) notes behavioural characteristics and describes definite, punctuated gestures and open, eliciting gestures that link into a larger integral type model. Berens explains that these interaction styles possess 4 patterns, which each have associated talents and a characteristic appearance that can be assessed through body language.
For Berens, with the Interaction Styles model there is a potential extra dimension to how people might interpret type through their expressed energy. Ornstein (1993, p 47) suggests that “belief in traits rests on the assumption that knowing a person’s characteristics will tell us something about how that person will behave”.
If typologies have this kind of utility for de-coding body language, it should follow that personality traits can be discerned in ways that are consistent with it. Churyumov (2003) claims that it is possible to do this in socionics by using expert analytics but the research to support this is not readily available to demonstrate the efficacy of the claims.
Buboltz (2000) demonstrated it was possible to make some reliable inferences about personality preferences from personal styles (as measured by the Strong Interest Inventory). McCroskey (2004) used Eysenck’s trait descriptions to demonstrate how some communication traits demonstrate temperament. They suggest that many communication related traits are correlated with one or more temperament variables.
Heberlein (2004) suggests there is evidence from neuroscience that individuals assess personality traits in discernibly different ways from their recognition of non-verbal expressiveness. Yet Ambady (2010) notes the practical difficulty of deciding which bodily movements relate to what in any experiment design. Gergen (1973) asserts how positive correlations might simply be reflecting a prevailing cultural norm instead of being universal. Zebrowitz & Collins (1997) suggest that ultimately, zero acquaintance with non-verbal communication is required when conducting experiments, as the risk of seeing what we expect to see remains ever present.
Gibson (1979) introduces the idea of social affordance, which is well known as a design factor in ergonomics (Chiappini 2012). This would suggest that our perception of others’ behaviour is actually quantitative rather than qualitative; we estimate what or whether someone’s behaviour affords us something and then respond in kind, e.g. friendliness, hostility, etc.
This ergonomic approach to the interpretation of action discounts social or cultural factors. It attempts to explain misinterpretation of behaviour as a response to an environmental stimulus presented by non-verbal behaviour. In short, it isn't what the signaller intends to describe but what the signalled deciphers that matters most.
Allport (1921 p7-8) suggests two features of the method that are required when conducting personality research are: 1) The raters of personality “must be fairly numerous, in order to give certainty” and 2) raters “must have actual opportunity to observe the behaviour of the subjects”.
Following Allport, this research sought to discover the ways in which claims made about body language contained within the integral theory of Berens Interaction Styles can be assessed from a quantitative research standpoint. The research question centred upon whether non-verbal behaviour is understood by the interpreter in ways that consistently demonstrate personality characteristics and perhaps even discrete talents and appearances. If personality can be differentiated through non-verbal behaviour then we would expect to see distinct differences in the explanations given for these behaviours by observers.
An experiment was designed to ascertain whether someone observing a social interaction would follow the rules of Berens’ theory when asked to describe behaviour in terms of the temperament of the person observed. Would interaction style behaviour patterns reliably occur when people were asked to use body language alone to determine personality?
Hypothesis 1 - body language communicates personality characteristics.
Hypothesis 2 - descriptions of personality characteristics follow a recognisable pattern
Hypothesis 3 - this pattern possesses the rules of the Berens Interaction Styles model.
Participants would be asked to make judgements about an actor’s temperament when watching short films and then selecting appropriate words from a list of 16 possible descriptive words to explain the behaviour they observed. The experiment would last between 10-15 minutes in total. A well known UK retail optician company was contacted to take part in this study.
The four bespoke films were embedded into a slide deck with written instructions about what to do; in short, the instruction to the participants was to watch each film and then select words to describe the behaviours observed from a table of words provided.
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