Do Actions Speak Louder than Words? Preschool Children’s Use of the Verbal-Nonverbal Consistency Principle during Inconsistent Communications

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Abstract This study investigated whether preschool children could use the conventional “actions speak louder than words” principle also known as the “verbal nonverbal consistency” principle to process information where verbal cues contradict nonverbal ques. Three through five year olds were shown a video where an actor drank a beverage and made a verbal statement (ex. I like it) that was inconsistent with her emotional expression (ex. frowning). The children were then asked whether or not the actor liked or disliked the beverage. If children used the verbal nonverbal consistency principle, they should respond according to the information conveyed by the actor’s emotional expression. The purpose of this study was to specifically address…show more content…
Method and Procedure Thirty-three 3 year-olds, twenty-eight 4 year-olds, and thirty 5 year-olds, recruited from local day cares, were divided into two groups: the Naturalistic video group and the Exaggerated video group. The children in the Naturalistic group saw a video where the actor displayed emotional expressions naturalistically while making verbal statements about liking or disliking one of the four drinks. The children in the Exaggerated group saw a video where the actor exaggerated emotional expressions in order to make it salient to the children. The children were seen individually and divided into one and two channel consistent and inconsistent phases. The One-Channel Phase came first and the actor had four drinks that were lined up, half were sweetened and half were unsweetened. The actor either had a positive facial expression and a verbal statement or a negative verbal statement and a neutral facial expression. After the One-Channel Phase the two Two-Channel Phases followed in which the children were shown videos where the actor displayed both verbal and nonverbal behaviors. Four new drinks were placed in front of the actor two sweetened and two unsweetened. The actor displayed positive valence trials in the Two-Channel Consistent Phase, but negative valence inconsistent trials in the Two-Channel Inconsistent Phase. Nonverbal communication normally occurs simultaneously in two or more channels, whereas verbal communication

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