Responses to nonverbal intimacy change in romantic dyads: Effects of behavioral valence and degree of behavioral change on nonverbal and verbal reactions

Laura Guerrero, Susanne M. Jones, Judee K. Burgoon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations


Varions theories of nonverbal adaptation feature behavioral valence (i.e., positive vs. negative behavior) and degree of behavioral change (e.g., very low vs. low intimacy) as critical elements affecting whether changes in nonverbal intimacy are met with reciprocity or compensation. The present study, which utilizes data from 100 romantic dyads, makes comparisons across five conditions: very low intimacy, low intimacy, very high intimacy, high intimacy, and a no change (control) condition. Repeated measures analyses of variance showed that targets in the two high intimacy conditions reciprocated their partners' intimacy change by appearing more nonverbally involved and pleasant and engaging in more verbal intimacy. Targets in the two low intimacy conditions also reciprocated by becoming less nonverbally pleasant and fluent as well as more verbally hostile. However, these targets also used verbal repair strategies, thereby showing some degree of compensation. Targets in the very low intimacy condition also became more vocally anxious and less composed after their partners decreased intimacy. Targets in the very low intimacy condition were also particularly likely to engage in verbal repair strategies. These and other findings are discussed in light of their implications for applying theories of nonverbal intimacy exchange to the context of romantic relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-346
Number of pages22
JournalCommunication Monographs
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2000


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication

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