MCAT Content / Self Presentation And Interacting With Others / Verbal And Nonverbal Communication

Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

Topic: Self Presentation And Interacting With Others

Two of the primary vehicles for communication are verbal and non-verbal.

Oral communication describes the verbal exchange of information, emotions, thoughts, and perceptions. It includes speeches, presentations, conversations, and discussions. Body language and tone of voice play a significant role in how oral communication is perceived. Since verbal communication almost always involves the simultaneous transmission and receipt of a message, feedback from the audience is immediate.

Social psychologist Michael Argyle said that while spoken language is usually used to communicate information about external events that impact the speakers, non-verbal codes establish and maintain interpersonal relationships. Argyle concluded there are five primary functions of non-verbal bodily behavior in human communication:

  1. Express emotions
  2. Express interpersonal attitudes
  3. Work with speech to manage the cues of interaction between speakers and listeners.
  4. Present one’s personality
  5. Conduct rituals (greetings)

Humans communicate interpersonal closeness through a series of non-verbal actions known as immediacy behaviors. Examples of immediacy behaviors are smiling, touching, open body positions, and eye contact. Cultures that display these immediacy behaviors are considered high-contact cultures.

Practice Questions 

 MCAT Official Prep (AAMC)

Sample Test P/S Section Question 27


Key Points

• Types of communication include verbal and nonverbal.

• Verbal communication provides immediate feedback, and so it is best for conveying emotions and maintaining interpersonal relationships; it can involve storytelling and crucial conversations.

• Non-verbal communication is the process of sending and receiving wordless (mostly visual) cues.


Key Terms

nonverbal: a form other than written or spoken words, like gestures, facial expressions, or body language

verbal communication: the use of sounds and words to express yourself

Michael Argyle: developed theories on social communication



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