Nonresponse in text messaging: Communication through silence

  • Literature Review

    • Silence and Communication
      • Silence is important to all areas of communication, it is the presence of silence that creates meaning for verbal communication (Johannesen, 1979).
      • Silences as longer pauses not only create space for verbal meaning, but also create their own nonverbal messages (Bruneau, 2008).
    • Expectancy Violation Theory (EVT)
      • EVT suggest that when a person violates an expectation that “triggers a change in arousal, which heightens the salience of cognitions about the communication and behavior” (Burgoon & Hale, 1988, p. 59). The violation is then evaluated for “implicit messages associated with the violation behavior” (Burgoon & Hale, 1988, p. 59).
      • In this way a violation of any expectation sends a nonverbal message to others.
    • EVT and Silence
      • EVT provides a framework of how silence sends nonverbal messages.
      • In Western Cultures we view silence as something negative and often shocking (Johannesen, 1974). Therefore, silence in our culture triggers arousal and others attribute messages to people engaging in violations to explain their behavior.
    • Nonresponse in CMC as silence
      • In computer mediated communication, the speed of a response is on of the only ways to signal immediacy, therefore we place emphasis on response time (Kalman, Ravid, Raban, & Rafaeli, 2006).
      • When we send a message we assume there will be a response in CMC. In this way when someone fails to respond we equate that similarly to silence in verbal communication (Kalman, Ravid, Raban, & Rafaeli, 2006)
    • Differences between SMS and other CMC methods
      • Nonresponse and silence was measured in asynchronous forms of CMC such as email, blog and google forum (Kalman, Ravid, Raban, & Rafaeli, 2006).
      • However, the synchronous use of text messaging means that this could create a different response and deserves separate study (Rettie, 2009).
    • RQ1: In an active text message exchange with a good friend/family member would a nonresponse be percieved as an expectancy violation?
    • RQ2: When in an active text message exchange with a good friend/family member how long would it take until a perceived nonresponse is understood?
  • Methods

    • Participants
      • 18 IPFW Students (10 Male, 8 Female)
      • Age range 18-22 with an average age of 20.6
    • EVT
      • Adapted from Afifi and Metts (1998) survey with emphasis on three categories of EVT (expectancy, importance and behavior valance).
    • Nonresponse
      • Looked for similar findings in Kalman, Ravid, Raban, and Rafaeli (2006) study on average response and latency before nonresponse was considered silence.
  • Results and Discussion

    • RQ1 on Nonresponse and expectancy violations
      • The survey results showed that a nonresponse was unexpected, however the level of unexpectedness was inconclusive.
      • A non response was not seen as a significant event in a relationship, but was viewed as negative experience within that relationship.
      • The behavior of a nonresponse was seen as very negative to respondents and a behavior “I’d rather never again experience”
    • RQ2 on perceived time before nonresponse becomes a message
      • It found that that the average response times to text messages was 7.5 minutes with a standard deviation of 8.25 minutes.
      • It found that respondents would wait 65 minutes before perceiving that someone may have made a “conscious decision to not respond.” The standard deviation however was 51 minutes.
      • The average numbers were consistent to previous studies finding the time to silence would be around 10 times the average response time, however, the ranges were so large this data should be viewed as inconclusive
  • Limitations and Implications

    • The survey only focused on a nonresponse from a good friend or family member. While this was done to control for variables, further study should be done on other relationships
    • This study had a very low number of respondents at 18 and therefore would need to be distributed to a larger population to be gneralizable.
    • This study was done only with college students. While college students are part of the generation that rely heavily on text messaging to communicate, other populations should be explored.
    • Most intriguing to me is the time that passes before a nonresponse would be perceived to have sent a verbal message. That would need to be explored in greater detail and find a better method for studying the phenomenon.



Afifi, W. A., & Metts, S. (1998). Characteristics and consequences of expectation violations in close relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 15, 3, 365-392.

Bruneau, T. J. (2008). How Americans use silence to communicate. China Media Research, 4, 77-85.

Burgoon, J. K., & Hale, J. L. (1988). Nonverbal expectancy violations: Model elaboration and application to immediacy behaviors. Communication Monographs, 55, 58-79.

Johannesen, R. L. (1974). The functions of silence: A plea for communication research. Western Speech, 38, 25-35.

Kalman, Y. M., Ravid, G., Raban, D. R., & Rafaeli, S. (2006) Pauses and response latencies: A chronemic analysis of asynchronous CMC. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12, 1-23.

Rettie, R. (2009). SMS: Exploiting the interactional characteristics of near synchrony. Information, Communication, & Society, 12, 1131-1148.


Black Uniforms

Frank and Gilovich (2008) found that people rated teams in black uniforms as more aggressive and malicious, referees penalized them more often and that when people were placed in black they were more likely to display an affinity toward aggressive sports (Frank & Gilovich, 2008). I performed a quick observation within a men’s volleyball context on whether the use of black jerseys would lead to refs calling more fouls on that team. I completed the observation in a slightly different manner as I compared the team’s fouls against themselves wearing the opposing color uniforms not two different teams. I compared their blocking errors and setting errors per set in black uniforms to their other colors. I used the schools Lindenwood (wore black and white jerseys over the season) and Lewis (wore black, white and red jerseys).


  • Lindenwood
    • White
      • .58 blocking errors per set
      • 0 setting errors
    • Black
      • .56 blocking errors per set
      • 1 setting error
  • Lewis
    • White
      • .46 blocking errors per set
      • 0 setting errors
    • Red
      • .42 blocking errors per set
      • 0 setting errors
    •  Black
      • .33 blocking errors per set
      • 1 setting error

Results were not significant but showed that these two teams were called for fouls more often in white uniforms than other colors. I learned that color may not affect perception in volleyball enough to produce more fouls from referees due to the fact that there is no contact between players. The limited ability for aggression to impact how the players compete in the sport may have led to the inconclusive results.


Hand Movements In Coaching

Within coaching it is important to be able to communicate a specific point quickly and efficiently as often the time you have to communicate is very short between plays. This means that hand movements and motions become very important in clarifying points as well as setting the team up with future plays. Ekman and Friesen (1972) discuss the three ways hand movements are  involved  as nonverbal communication: emblems. illustrators and adaptors.

The was people use these methods of nonverbal communication are numerous, but here are some examples from one of our practices:

  • Emblems
    • Handshake with player prior to practice
    • Hand signals for plays
  • Illustrators
    • Making circling motion with hand while telling them to jog in cirlcle
    • Displaying correct technique
    • Mimicking motion of the ball with hand
    • Pointing at the floor while discussing where the ball should be
  • Adaptors
    • Players wiping sweat from forehead

Positions of Power

Power Dynamics in my workplace

I looked to analyze Coach Rock in relation to myself and especially the players within the nonverbal power dynamics of the IPFW Men’s Volleyball team and IPFW Athletic Department. I focused on two of the main sections within the article in the book: kinesics and organizational environment. They each played a part in showing how nonverbal communication works to convey influence and power within daily interaction.


  • Coach feels free to move around my office while I often stand in his doorway when I communicate with him.
  • When Coach got into a meeting with a player his facial expression becomes very serious and his eyes tend to narrow.
  • Coach often has a glare when he is communicating to players within the gym, especially if he views a question as “simple”. This is sometimes referred to as an RBF.

Organizational Environment

  • Locker room downstairs in basement, offices on second floor of new building
  • Corner office being the last office of the Suite and the biggest
  • Must walk past assistant to gain access to head coach
  • Much larger desk than anyone in the suite
  • Newer phone with caller ID
  • Access to “A” parking right outside of the gym doors

Stereotypes and Nonverbal Cues

Everyone has to deal with stereotypes both in terms of stereotyping others as well as being stereotyped yourself. My paper focuses on how incoming players may stereotype coaches and its negative affect on their communication. One of our freshman came into a meeting with us and when Coach Rock asked him “what has gotten into you lately” the player immediately looked defensive and confused. Young players often have this view of coaches as they begin their careers:

01-09 Stanford Aaron Suozzi (222)


They often feel intimidated by us as they know us only from the critical side of being in the gym. In the gym we can be demanding. They come in with a stereotype of our communication being demanding and critical. However the more the get to know us the more they understand we are more like this:

rp_primary_MVB_First_PracticeWhere even though we can be critical that does not mean that we do not recognize their successes and praise them for it. They place so much focus on trying to improve when we give them critical feedback they sometimes misrepresent the positive and encouraging feedback.

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