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Nonverbal Vocalic Communication and Perceptions of a Speaker


The rationale of this experiment was to study the differences in the information about
a speaker which is communicated by conversational and dynamic styles of nonverbal vocalic communication. The first hypothesis of the study is that audiences perceive different personality, demographic, and credibility characteristics if the same speaker used different styles of vocal cues. The second hypothesis predicted an interaction between delivery style and the announced topic. The third hypothesis predicted an interaction between audience sex and delivery style.

The methods of this experiment revolved around messages to listeners. Most importantly, to stray from the results of the study being biased toward the topic of the message, the study was replicated over four topics. Two audio-tape recordings of a speaker delivering verbal messages was used in the study. One tape, the speaker presented the message in a conversational mode, and on the other, he delivered it in a dynamic mode. Conversational mode can be characterized as smaller range of inflections, more consistency of rate and pitch, less volume, and generally lower pitch levels than the opposite dynamic mode. The panel of judges that were trained in speech were able to choose from a comprehensive list of adjectives to describe both messages. The panel judged conversational delivery as reasonable, sophisticated, knowledgeable, calm and sincere. They described dynamic delivery as emotional, excited, dynamic, unyielding, demagogic, and overbearing.

The subjects used in this study were 160 students in eight different speech classes at the University of Northern Iowa. The four topics used during the experiment were that the speaker ostensibly 1) favored immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam 2)opposed the legalization and use of marijuana 3) favored campus demonstrations for student demands 4) favored passage of legislation to control air pollution. None of the subjects reported that they were aware that the same speaker delivered both messages. After listening, the subjects described the speaker using a three-part questionnaire. The first part included twenty-one sets of bipolar adjectives, trustworthiness, dynamism, evaluation, and competence. The second section contained nine Likert- type items that asked the subjects to describe the speakers demographic characteristics: height, age, personal attractiveness, family status, occupation, economic status, educational attainment, and sociological background. The third section consisted of seven perceived similarity scales in the Likerty-like format. These being sociability, people-orientation, assertiveness, self-assuredness, honesty, task-orientation, and tough-mindedness. They were told to compare their perception of the speaker with how they perceived themselves in this last section.

The results of the experiment were varied.The second hypothesis was not confirmed because there was no topic/delivery- style interaction occurrence, though the speaker was described differently in the way he introduced as addressing different topics regardless of delivery style. The third hypothesis was almost not proven as well because the only interaction that took place between sex and delivery style was in the ratings of two of the nine demographic characteristics. Male subjects rated the speaker as wealthier when he used conversational rather than dynamic delivery, while females perceived little if any difference. Females judged the

speaker to be taller when he used conversational rather than dynamic delivery, while males made no appreciable distinction. The first and main hypothesis was strongly supported. The voice style of the speaker conditioned the subjects perception on three of four credibility dimensions. When using the conversational style, the speaker was described as more trustworthy and more favorably evaluated than when he used dynamic delivery. There was no different between styles in competence ratings. The speaker was described differently on five of seven demographic variables. He was judged more attractive, better educated, and more professional when using conversational delivery. The speaker was also described as more honest and person-oriented when he used conversational delivery. When he used dynamic delivery, he was described as tough-minded, task oriented, self- assured, and assertive.

Our activity will be based very closely off the journal article. Before we summarize the article we will show two video clips without letting the class see them. The class will listen to the audio of the clips and we will ask them a series of questions. The questions will include describing to us the gender of the singers, an approximate age, and what they think their personality is like. After we hear their feedback we will show the class what the singers sound like to see if they were correct.

It is interesting how quick we make judgement or create an idea of who a person is and the type of characteristics they made hold based on their vocalics. We are so robotic and traditional in America and the way in which we go about things.