Verbal Nonimmediacy: Inferring Like-Dislike From Subtle Variations in Speech

Verbal immediacy refers to the degree of intensity and directness of interaction between a speaker and the object about which he speaks, as assessed from the verbal (i.e., written or transcribed) message itself. Speech samples of a speaker can be scored for nonimmediacy to help bring to light unexpressed and/or hidden feelings of the speaker. Thus, for example, nonimmediacy scoring can be used to identify true and unexpressed feelings of a client in a therapy situation, the source of a manuscript based on known attitudes of the manuscript's possible authors, or real attitutdes of politicians about various topics that they discuss.

Previous studies indicate that there is more immediacy in statements about liked others than in statements about disliked others. Also, when participants are presented with pairs of statements differing in degree of immediacy, but neutral in explicit attitudes, it is found that more immediate statements are judged as indicating more positive speaker feelings.

A reasonably thorough description of the many aspects of immediacy in speech was given by Mehrabian (1972, Chapter 3).

Student researchers can request a copy of the chapter by emailing a description of their project
Mehrabian, A. (1972). Nonverbal communication. Chicago, IL: Aldine-Atherton.


Copyright© 1995-2010 by Albert Mehrabian