Nonverbal Communication in Relation to Women's Experiences of Self and Body: A Mixed Methods Examination
Conan, Michelle C 1989-
Understanding how nonverbal behaviour imparts information about women’s attractiveness and body image is important, given that peers are a source of information about appearance (e.g., Tiggemann, 2011). Research has demonstrated that negative messages from peers are associated with body dissatisfaction and disordered eating among females (e.g., Vincent & McCabe, 2000) but less is known about nonverbal communication. The current research examined women’s nonverbal behaviour, physical appearance, and body image within interactions. An explanatory sequential mixed method design was used. The initial quantitative study examined the relationship between immediacy and women’s body attractiveness, facial attractiveness, and body image in peer-dyad interactions (n = 80 dyads). Participants were videotaped interacting in a laboratory setting for 15 minutes and then completed self-report measures of their interaction partner for immediacy and attractiveness. They also completed self-report measures of their body image, internalization of the thin ideal, and appearance comparison. The researcher measured body mass index. Results indicated that as perceptions of body and facial attractiveness and body image of an interaction partner decrease, so does the immediacy shown towards the partner. Following the quantitative component, a follow-up qualitative study explored women’s experiences of their bodies and themselves in relation to nonverbal communication in interactions with peers. It was conducted according to Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009). A subset of participants (n = 4) was invited to review their videotaped conversation and participate in a semi-structured interview with the researcher. Results indicated that women experience complex processes within interactions, including comparing and judging as well as body consciousness and that both the egocentric and sociocentric parts of the self are involved. Results also illuminated women’s experience of resisting the influence of adhering to society’s ideals of appearance. Together, the findings indicate that weight-based bias is present within everyday interactions among women. It is hoped that this research will bring attention to biases that are routinely communicated in subtle ways to decrease it and positively impact women’s experiences of themselves and their bodies.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
CommitteeCummings, Jorden; Desjardins, Michel; Kowalski, Kent; Olver, Mark
Copyright DateOctober 2018