Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




This research investigated the ability to comprehend and express affect by non-verbal means. Darwin (1872) suggested that the non-verbal communication of emotion had a biological basis. Hughlings-Jackson (1879) emphasized the relationship between cerebral functioning and the ability to communicate affect. Neuropsychological research suggests that a major neuronal network located in the right hemisphere supports non-verbal communication. The evidence indicates the localization of expressive skills in the anterior cortex and comprehensive skills in the posterior cortex.

In the present study 31 behavioral tasks comprised a scale to assess the ability to communicate affect by non-verbal means. The tasks assessed the comprehension and/or expression of affect in facial expressions, drawings of faces, intonations of neutral sentences, and non-verbal vocal sounds. Six basic emotions were used--happiness, sadness, fear, surprise, anger, and disgust.

The scale was administered to 20 male and 25 female college students. Measures of internal consistency and reliability were calculated. Interrelationships between the tasks were analyzed as were relationships between the scale and demographic, personality and intellectual variables. The scale was analyzed via factor analysis and factor scores were calculated and correlated with demographic, personality and intellectual variables.

The scale was found to be internally consistent and the scoring reliable. Performances on the 31 tasks were highly interrelated, which suggested a general ability to communicate emotion by non-verbal means. This general non-verbal ability appeared similar in many ways to the ability to use language to communicate. Comprehension skills appeared more fundamental than expression. The more highly developed skills in non-verbal communication were found for subjects at high levels of intellectual functioning. Communication of affect by non-verbal means appeared to be a skill that can be studied with cognitive research methods.