Finally, eye behaviors were consistently a part of events that were reported to result in changes in perception. *Corresponding author at: Communication Studies, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, 4231 Centennial Hall, La Crosse, WI 54601, United States.This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
This paper investigates reports of transformative nonverbal behaviors: cues that act as important interactional triggers for a change in or between people in a relationship.
To explore such behaviors, we asked participants to report on any situation in which they recalled one or more nonverbal cues that they or others used and that changed something for them.
That is, one or more nonverbal cues may function to alter something in a relationship—or at least within the minds of the partners to that relationship—quickly and saliently.
Manusov and Milstein (2005) refer to the ability to evoke change as the “transformational quality” of nonverbal cues, and such a conceptualization is consistent with Andersen’s (2008) claim that nonverbal cues in relationships can be “capricious and nonlinear” (p.
Nonverbal cues have arisen inductively as “turning point material” in several studies, however.
In their investigation of romantic partners, for example, Baxter and Bullis (1986) noted that two behaviors associated with touch—first kiss and first sex—were important events in escalating relationship commitment.
The concurrence of so many related constructs suggests the importance of change in the relational context and provides epistemological backing for further investigation.
Researchers who study turning points in relationships have been concerned primarily with identifying the types of events (e.g., an argument, a change in marital status) that create marked changes within particular relationship types, such as romantic (Dailey, Rossetto, Mc Cracken, Jin, & Green, 2012), family (Poulos, 2012), friendships (Becker et al., 2009), and teacher-student relationships (Docan-Morgan, 2011; Docan-Morgan & Manusov, 2009).
Using the constant comparative approach, we found four large categories of changes the participants reported as resulting from these nonverbal cues and provide examples of these change types from our data corpus.
We labeled these “relational,” “perceptual,” “affective,” and “behavior”.
207) as they play out in the complexities of real life.