Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 111–132 | Cite as

A Systems Model of Dyadic Nonverbal Interaction

  • Miles L. PattersonEmail author
Review Paper


This article discusses a new systems model of dyadic nonverbal interaction. The model builds on earlier theories by integrating partners’ parallel sending and receiving nonverbal processes into a broader, dynamic ecological system. It does so in two ways. First, it moves the level of description beyond the individual level to the coordination of both partners’ contributions to the interaction. Second, it recognizes that the relationships between (a) individuals’ characteristics and processes and (b) the social ecology of the interaction setting are reciprocal and best analyzed at the systems level. Thus, the systems model attempts to describe and explain the dynamic interplay among individual, dyadic, and environmental processes in nonverbal interactions. The potential utility and the limitations of the systems model are discussed and the implications for future research considered. Although the systems model is focused explicitly on face-to-face nonverbal communication, it has considerable relevance for digital communication. Specifically, this model provides a useful framework for examining the social effects of mobile device use and as a template for studying human–robot interactions.


Nonverbal behavior Systems approach Interaction Theories Automaticity 



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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychological SciencesUniversity of Missouri-St. LouisSt. LouisUSA

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