Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Lecturers are fwends: Non-verbal responses on liking and compliance

As many of us already know or will have learnt, we usually try to say yes to the people we like. Research has found that we are more likely to comply with and give power to those we like or have respect for (McCroskey & Richmond, 1992). With this knowledge, it is quite easy to see how we could influence significant people in our lives, i.e teachers, parents, friends, to our advantage. And, in some cases, we don’t even have to say anything!

Mottet, Beebe, Raffeld and Paulsel (2004) were interested in finding if there was any effect of student’s verbal and non-verbal responsiveness on teachers’ liking of students and willingness to comply with their requests. Hmm, interesting…

Method: 112 instructors viewed one of four videos of a staged classroom situation. Independent variable 1: students’ non-verbal responsiveness (high/low), which included posture, eye-contact, note-taking, and vocal assurances.
Independent variable 2: students’ verbal responsiveness (high/low), which included asking questions and responding to teacher’s questions.
This gave a 2x2 design.
After watching the video, instructors were given a questionnaire on “liking” of students (using Mottet’s [2000] scale) and a questionnaire on their willingness to comply with potential student requests (see figure 1).

Results: The authors did predict an interaction between students’ verbal and non-verbal responsiveness on teachers’ liking of students, however, this did not happen. In fact, only the non-verbal responsiveness factor was significant, accounting for a whopping 66% of the variance. A similar story was found for the willingness to comply measure, where non-verbal responsiveness accounted for 31% of the variance (see table 3 for a summary).

In real-speak: high non-verbal responsiveness (making eye-contact, taking notes, upright posture, etc.) increased teachers’ liking of students and therefore made them more likely to comply with students’ requests. Verbal responsiveness, such as asking and answering questions, didn’t have much of an effect (in this study!).

So, what does this mean for us, as students? Well, here are a few tips if you want to get your lecturers to like you (and hence give you an extension on that all-important deadline…):

  • Sit up in lectures! Look like you’re interested and paying attention (this one will probably prove too difficult after a night at Pop! or Smack. Gotta be dedicated);
  • Make eye-contact with lecturers – most of them aren’t that scary anyway;
  • Actually make real notes (this is much easier on paper rather than your laptop, as it doesn’t look like you’re just on Facebook…also interferes with the above point!);
  • Nod, make vocal reassurances, and generally agree with the lecturer’s points so it makes him/her look clever -> feel better about him/herself -> like you. J


McCroskey, J. C., & Richmond, V. P. (1992). Increasing teacher influence through immediacy. In V. P. Richmond & J. C. McCroskey (Eds.), Power in the classroom: Communication, control, and concern (pp. 101-119). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Mottet, T. P. (2000). Interactive television instructors' perceptions of students' nonverbal responsiveness and their influence on distance teaching. Communication Education, 49, 146-164.

Mottet, T. P., Beebe, S. A., Raffeld, P. C., & Paulsel, M. L. (2004). The effects of student verbal and nonverbal responsiveness on teachers' liking of students and willingness to comply with student requests. Communication Quarterly, 52, 27-38.

Lauren Rosewarne (Blog 3)

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