Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Communication Studies


Interpersonal Communication


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Rachel L. DiCioccio


This study examined Nonverbal communication which consists of construction of meaning via non-word codes that are comprised of various forms such as intrinsic, iconic, and arbitrary. Intercultural communication occurs when there is communication within cultures. When considering environment, culture can have an influence. However, culture is not principally geographical, political, or racial. Culture is behaviors, perceptions and values that are learned and passed on from one group to another. Higher education is essential when it comes to producing economic growth and stability. In the US, the multicultural student population in higher education has been challenged with student affective learning and immediacy as a result of professors’ nonverbal behavior. Diversity within US colleges and universities is not reflective of the community around it. This problem is large and deep, and research can help to discover some of the important issues as well as possible solutions. Identifying which non-verbal behaviors juxtaposed with intercultural communication impact student desire to learn will help professors and students to build their communication skills. All students are impacted by professors’ nonverbal behaviors such as prima facial expressions, kinesics, haptics, vocalics, proxemics, physical appearance and chronemics. The study was to find which nonverbal behaviors professors exhibit and how they impact multicultural students learning in the classroom. Data collected from 157 undergraduate students at the University of Rhode Island was quantitatively and qualitatively analyzed. The research survey instrument was distributed in person to a diverse student population. It contained behavioral questions that address “how we say what we say” as well as “what is done while teaching” within a Likert scale survey. Over 40% of students indicted that nonverbal behaviors that a professor exhibits that can be considered positive are from the facial primacy and kinesics area. Whereas 41.7% of students indicated that they experienced both nonverbal behaviors from the facial primacy and kinesics area. Student perception of nonverbal behaviors scale had 24 questions with a reliability statistic that is considered reliable. Student’s perception of professors’ nonverbal behavior had a reliability statistic of .816.



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