Nonverbal intimacy: affectionate communication, positive involvement behavior, and flirtation

Laura K. Guerrero, Benjamin Wiedmaier

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


In this chapter, intimacy is conceptualized as a product of interpersonal interaction that can involve affectionate communication, positive involvement, or flirtation. Affectionate communication reflects feelings of warmth and fondness. According to the tripartite model of affectionate behavior, people generally communicate affection using behaviors that are: (a) direct and verbal, such as saying "I love you"; (b) direct and nonverbal, such as hugging or smiling; and (c) indirect and nonverbal, such as providing social support. Affection exchange theory provides further insight into when and why people use affectionate communication. Positive involvement behaviors communicate attention and interest, as well as warmth and positivity. Several theories help explain reciprocity and compensation of positive involvement behavior. Four of these theories- expectancy violations theory, discrepancy arousal theory, cognitive valence theory, and interaction adaptation theory - are reviewed here. Finally, flirtatious behaviors communicate romantic and sexual interest, and are distinct from other intimacy cues because they are more ambiguous and playful. Examples include coy smiles, raised eyebrows, hair tosses, head tilts, and baby talk. Flirtation has been studied as a courtship cue and a relational maintenance behavior. All three types of intimate behavior - affectionate communication, positive involvement, and flirtation - reflect the type of relationship two people share.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNonverbal Communication
Publisherde Gruyter
Number of pages36
ISBN (Electronic)9783110238150
ISBN (Print)9783110238143
StatePublished - Jan 22 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Affection
  • Affectionate communication
  • Courtship
  • Flirtation
  • Immediacy
  • Intimacy
  • Nonverbal
  • Positive involvement
  • Relational maintenance
  • Relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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