Discerning Goodness via Nonverbal Cues: Perspectives from High-Context Cultures

Madiha Hashmi (1) , Moniza Waheed (2)
(1) Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, School of Arts and Sciences, American University in Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Rd – Dubai, P.O. Box 28282, UAE , United Arab Emirates
(2) Department of Communication, Faculty of Modern Languages & Communication, Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 UPM Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia , United Arab Emirates


The current study ventured to explore nonverbal behavioral cues associated with the construct of goodness. In a focus-group setting, perceivers from the high-context cultures of Malaysia and China were asked to define goodness and discuss how they interpreted goodness in others. Across all groups (Malaysian and Chinese) a recurring theme consisting of dynamic cues, static cues and paralinguistic cues was frequently cited, with emphasis across the spectrum. The study findings have implications for the areas of nonverbal communication, social judgments, and person perception.

Full text article

Generated from XML file


Ambady, N. & R. Rosenthal (1992). Thin slices of expressive behavior as predictors of interpersonal consequences: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 111(2): 256-274. http://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.111.2.256. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.111.2.256

Ambady, N., M. Hallahan & R. Rosenthal (1995). On judging and being judged accurately in zero acquaintance situations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(3): 518-529. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.69.3.518. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.69.3.518

Ambady, N. & M. Weisbuch (2010). Nonverbal behavior. In S.T. Fiske, D.T. Gilbert & G. Lindzey (eds.), Handbook of Social Psychology (464-497). Hoboken, NJ, USA: Wiley. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470561119.socpsy001013

Anderson, P.A. (1999). Nonverbal Communication Forms and Functions. Mountain View, CA, USA: Mayfield.

Argyle, M., V. Salte, H. Nicholson, M. Williams & P. Burgess (1970). The communication of inferior and superior attitudes by verbal and nonverbal signals. British Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 9(3): 222-231. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8260.1970.tb00668.x. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8260.1970.tb00668.x

Bai, H. (2016). A cross-cultural analysis of advertisements from high-context cultures and low context cultures. English Language Teaching, 9(8): 21-27. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5539/elt.v9n8p21

Barbour, R. (2007). Doing Focus Groups. London: Sage. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4135/9781849208956

Bente, G., M. Senokozlieva, S. Pennig, A. Al-Issa & O. Fischer (2008). Deciphering the secret code: A new methodology for the cross-cultural analysis of nonverbal behavior. Behavior Research Methods, 40: 269–277. http://doi.org/10.3758/BRM.40.1.269. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3758/BRM.40.1.269

Brambilla, M., P. Rusconi, S. Sacchi & P. Cherubini (2011). Looking for honesty: The primary role of morality (vs. sociability and competence) in information gathering. European Journal of Social Psychology, 41(2): 135–143. http://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.744. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.744

Brambilla, M., P. Rusconi, S. Sacchi, P. Cherubini & V.Y. Yzerbyt (2012). You want to give a good impression? Be honest! Moral traits dominate group impression formation. British Journal of Social Psychology, 51: 149–166. http://10.1111/j.2044-8309.2010.02011.x. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8309.2010.02011.x

Burgoon, J.K. (1994). Nonverbal signals. In M.L. Knapp & G.R. Miller (eds.), Handbook of Interpersonal Communication (344-390). Beverly Hills, CA, USA: Sage.

Creswell, J.W. & D. Miller (2000). Determining validity in qualitative inquiry. Theory into Practice, 39(3): 124-130. http://doi.org/10.1207/s15430421tip3903_2. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1207/s15430421tip3903_2

DeGroot, T. & J. Gooty (2009). Can nonverbal cues be used to make meaningful attributions in employment interviews? Journal of Business and Psychology, 24(2): 179-192. http://10.1007/s10869-009-9098-0. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-009-9098-0

DePaulo, B.M. & H.S. Friedman (1998). Nonverbal communication. In D. Gilbert, S. Fiske & G. Lindzey (eds.), Handbook of Social Psychology (3-40). Boston: McGraw Hill.

Ekman, P. (1999). Basic emotions. In T. Dagleish & M. Power (eds), The Handbook of Cognition and Emotion (45-60). John Wiley and Sons. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/0470013494.ch3

Ellis, D.G. & B.A. Fisher (1994). Small Group Decision Making. Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Fiske, S.T., A.J.C. Cuddy & P. Glick (2007). Universal dimensions of social cognition: Warmth and competence. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 11(2): 77–83. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2006.11.005. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2006.11.005

Gibson, J.J. (1986). The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Hillsdale, NJ, USA: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Givens, D.B. (2005). The Nonverbal Dictionary of Gestures, Signs, and Body Language Cues. Spokane, WA, USA: Center for Nonverbal Studies Press.

Glaser, B.G. & A.L. Strauss (1967). The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research. New York: Aldine De Gruyter. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1097/00006199-196807000-00014

Goodwin, G.P., J. Piazza & P. Rozin (2014). Moral character predominates in person perception and evaluation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 106(1): 148–168. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0034726. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/a0034726

Gray, H.M. (2008). To what extent, and under what conditions, are first impressions valid? In N. Ambady & J. Skowronski (eds.), First Impressions (106-128). New York: Guilford Press.

Hall, E.T. (1983). The Dance of Life: The Other Dimension of Time. New York: Doubleday.

Hall, E.T. (1976). Beyond Culture. New York: Doubleday.

Hall, J.A., F.J. Bernieri & D.R. Carney (2005). Nonverbal behavior and interpersonal sensitivity. In J.A. Harrigan, R. Rosenthal & K.R. Scherer (eds.), The New Handbook of Methods in Nonverbal Behavior Research (237-281). New York: Oxford University Press. http://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198529620.001.0001. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198529620.001.0001

Hashmi, M., M. Waheed, E. Tamam, S.E. Krauss & A. Ahmad (2017). Exploring perceptions of goodness among the Malaysian and Chinese university students: A focus group study. The Qualitative Report, 22(4): 1076-1090. https://nsuworks.nova.edu/tqr/vol22/iss4/9 (accessed 22 November 2020).

Hesse-Biber, S.N. & P.L. Leavy (2006). The Practice of Qualitative Research. London: Sage.

Jandt, F.E. (2016). An Introduction to Intercultural Communication, 8th Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA, USA: Sage.

Kihlstrom, J.F. (2010). An Introduction to Social Cognition (presentation at the Berkeley Social Ontology Group, University of California, Berkeley).

Knapp, M.L. (1972). Nonverbal Communication in Human Interaction. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

Knapp, M.L., J.A. Hall & T.G. Horgan (2013). Nonverbal Communication in Human Interaction. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Krauss, S.E. & I.A. Ismail (2010). PhD students’ experiences of thesis supervision in Malaysia: Managing relationships in the midst of Institutional change. The Qualitative Report, 15(4): 802-822. http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR15-4/krauss.pdf (accessed 22 November 2020).

Leathers, D.G. (1992). Successful Nonverbal Communication. New York: Macmillan.

Lustig, M.W. & J. Koester (1999). Intercultural Competence: Interpersonal communication across culture, 3rd Edition. New York: Longman.

Matsumoto, D. (2001). Culture and emotion. In D. Matsumoto (ed.), The Handbook of Culture and Psychology (171-194). New York: Oxford University Press.

McArthur, L.Z. & R.M. Baron (1983). Toward an ecological theory of social perception. Psychological Review, 90: 215-238. http://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.90.3.215. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.90.3.215

Mehrabian, A. & S.R. Ferris (1967). Inference of attitudes from nonverbal communication in two channels. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 31(3): 248-252. http://doi.org/10.1037/h0024648. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/h0024648

Mehrabian, A. & M. Wiener (1967). Decoding of inconsistent communications, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 6(1): 109-114. http://doi.org/10.1037/h0024532. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/h0024532

Mohd Yusof, S.A., N. Zakaria & N.A.R. Mutin (2017). Timely Trust: The Use of IoT and Cultural Effects of Swift Trust Formation Within Global Virtual Teams. Presentation at the 8th International Conference on Information Technology. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1109/ICITECH.2017.8080016

Moll, J., R. Zahn, R. de Oliveira-Souza, F. Krueger & J. Grafman (2005). The neural basis of human moral cognition. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 6(10): 799-809. http://doi.org/10.1038/nrn1768. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn1768

Myers, G. & P. Macnaghten (1999). Can focus groups be analyzed as talks? In R.S. Barbour & J. Kitzinger (eds.), Developing Focus Group Research: Politics, Theory and Practice (1-225). Thousand Oaks, CA, USA: Sage. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4135/9781849208857.n12

Nagel, F., N. Maurer & C. Reinemann (2012). Is there a visual dominance in political communication? How verbal, visual, and vocal communication shape viewer’s impressions of political candidates. Journal of Communication, 62(5): 833-850. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.2012.01670.x. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.2012.01670.x

O’Connor, M.K., F.E. Netting & M.L. Thomas (2008). Grounded theory: Managing the challenge for those facing institutional review board oversight. Qualitative Inquiry, 14(1): 28-45. http://doi.org/10.1177/1077800407308907. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800407308907

Parzuchowski, M. & B. Wojciszke (2014). Hand over heart primes moral judgments and behavior. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 38: 145-165. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10919-013-0170-0. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10919-013-0170-0

Patterson, M.L., J.L. Foster & C.D. Bellmer (2001). Another look at accuracy and confidence in social judgments. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 25: 207-219. http://doi.org/10.1023/A:1010675210696. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1010675210696

Patton, M.Q. (2002). Qualitative Research Methodology. Thousand Oaks, CA, USA: Sage.

Porter, J. (2013). Be careful how you ask! Using focus groups and nominal group technique to explore the barriers to learning. International Journal of Research & Method in Education, 36(1): 33-51.http://doi.org/10.1080/1743727X.2012.675554. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1743727X.2012.675554

Rosenberg, S.H., & P. McCafferty (1987). The image and the vote manipulating voter’s preferences. Public Opinion Quarterly, 51(1): 31-47. http://doi.org/10.1086/269012. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/269012

Sadler-Smith E. (2007). The role of intuition in collective learning and the development of shared meaning. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 10(4): 494-508. http://doi.org/10.1177/1523422308320065. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1523422308320065

Smith, K.D., S. Türk Smith & J.C. Christopher (2007). What defines the good person? Cross-cultural comparisons of experts’ models with lay prototypes. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 38(3): 333-360. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022022107300279. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0022022107300279

Waterton, C. & B. Wyne (1999). Can focus groups access community views? In R.S. Barbour & J. Kitzinger (eds.), Developing Focus Group Research: Politics, Theory and Practice (1-225). Thousand Oaks, CA, USA: Sage. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4135/9781849208857.n9

Wojciszke, B., R. Bazinska & M. Jaworski (1998). On the dominance of moral categories in impression formation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24(12): 1251–1263. http://doi.org/10.1177/01461672982412001. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/01461672982412001

Wojciszke, B. (2005). Morality and competence in person and self-perception. European Review of Social Psychology, 16: 155–188. http://doi.org/10.1080/10463280500229619. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10463280500229619

Zebrowitz, L.A. & M.A. Collins (1997). Accurate social perception at zero acquaintance: The affordances of a Gibsonian approach. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 1(3): 204-233. http://doi.org/10.1207/s15327957pspr0103_2. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327957pspr0103_2


Madiha Hashmi
mhashmi@aud.edu (Primary Contact)
Moniza Waheed
Author Biographies

Madiha Hashmi, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, School of Arts and Sciences, American University in Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Rd – Dubai, P.O. Box 28282, UAE

Madiha Hashmi is assistant professor in the School of Arts and Sciences at the American University in Dubai. She received her masters from City University of New York and her PhD (in human communication) from Universiti Putra Malaysia. Dr. Hashmi’s research interests focus on the role of nonverbal cues in person perception; political discourse in news media; and communication in cross-cultural settings. She has published papers in peer-reviewed journals, the most recent being the Journal of Intercultural Communication Research and The Qualitative Report.

Moniza Waheed, Department of Communication, Faculty of Modern Languages & Communication, Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 UPM Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia

Moniza Waheed is associate professor in the Department of Communication of Universiti Putra, Malaysia. She received her MA (in communication) from Western Illinois University (USA) and her PhD (in political communication) from the University of Amsterdam. Her research interests include political communication, intercultural communication, and journalism. She has published articles in journals including the Journal of Intercultural CommunicationJournalism StudiesInternational Communication Gazette, and the Journal of European Communication Research.

Hashmi, M., & Waheed, M. (2020). Discerning Goodness via Nonverbal Cues: Perspectives from High-Context Cultures. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 20(3), 74–88. https://doi.org/10.36923/jicc.v20i3.313

Article Details

Smart Citations via scite_