Interpersonal scholars are concerned about what motivates people to communicate with one another, and how
motivation manifests itself in dyadic interaction. Rubin, Perse, and Barbato (1988) identified the main motives for
interpersonal communication: control, inclusion, affection, relaxation, pleasure, and escape. Although Myers and Ferry
(2001) examined interpersonal communication motives and immediacy behaviors in general, there is a dearth of research
addressing how nonverbal cues or messages correlate to motives in specific communication events. Examining the
nonverbal layer that accompanies a verbal message is an important step in interpersonal communication motives research.
Most of the meaning of a message is derived from the nonverbal layer of the message (Mehrabian, 1969). Incongruent
verbal and nonverbal messages are more difficult to interpret than are congruent messages (Burgoon & Bacue, 2003). In
addition, the sender of incongruent messages might “come across as smug, insincere, or patronizing” (p. 194). Schrader
(1994) found, however, that messages attempting to convince an adversary were rated more appropriate when
accompanied by nonverbal indicators of immediacy and intimacy, not dominance. In this case, incongruent behaviors
preserved a favorable impression of the sender. Given these findings, it makes sense to examine whether or not nonverbal
messages seem to complement or contradict the motivation of the message.
Nonverbal cues normally tell us little about the messages when viewed in isolation from one another. Burgoon and Hale
(1984) argued that relational messages encompass “both the verbal and nonverbal expression that indicate how two or
more people regard each other, regard their relationship, or regard themselves” (p. 193). Although they identified several
relational messages, Dillard, Solomon, and Palmer (1999) argued that substantive relational messages could be subsumed
into two larger categories: dominance and affiliation.
This study examines how nonverbal cues are interpreted in terms of dominance and affiliation for messages motivated by
the three primary interpersonal communication motives: control, inclusion, and affection. The findings will illuminate
how speakers package messages according to the motive for the communication.