Psychology W2240y

Human Communication

Spring 2006

(last revised October 29, 2006 )


Teaching Assistant I.

Teaching Assistant II.

Robert M. Krauss
Alexandra Suppes
Christina Massey


401C Schermerhorn
312 Schermerhorn
312 Schermerhorn



Office Hours
Wed 2:00-4:00
Tues. 9:00-11:00
Tues 2:30-4:30


rmk @

acs2008 @
cnm2006 @


This course examines human communicative behavior, both verbal and nonverbal, from a social psychological perspective. The focus is on the cognitive and social processes that underlie human communication, rather than the content of communication, analysis of the mass media, or communicative efficacy. The early part of the course considers the nature of language, emphasizing speech production and comprehension; the latter part examines social factors involved in speech communication, and the role of nonverbal behaviors. Reading assignments are drawn from a variety of sources (see below), including the research literature. Students will be responsible for the contents of assigned readings, lectures and in-class demonstrations, as well as materials posted on the course website (see below).

About this Syllabus

The paragraphs below contain information about various aspects of the course, designed to give prospective students a clear understanding of what the course is about and what will be expected of them. Prospective students should read them carefully. A compilation of Frequently Asked Questions about W2240 has been posted for students whose have questions not covered in the material below. Other questions about the content or approach of the course should be addressed to the instructor or the TAs. The Syllabus will be revised over the course of the semester as new information becomes available. Please note the date of the latest revision, which appears above in red.

Admission to Course

An introductory course in psychology is a prerequisite for this course. Students who have not taken an introductory course should not register without first obtaining the permission of the instructor. A course in linguistics may be accepted as a substitute for the prerequisite. Students who have taken linguistics but not psychology should consult the instructor before registering. In past years because of overenrollment some students who had registered for the course were not allowed to continue in it. Changes in the preregistration procedure should make this unnecessary, but please note the following: Students who do not both register in advance and attend the first and second class meetings will lose their priority and will be allowed to take the course only as space permits. Students who, for whatever reason, find they must take W2240 this semester should be sure they are preregistered and in attendance. Because every year some students who preregister decide not to take the course, students who were unable to preregister and want to take the course should attend the first class meeting; they will be given first priority for any openings that develop.

Course Requirements

The course meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:10-2:25 in room 614 Schermerhorn. Regular class attendance is expected. Students will be responsible for work covered in class whether or not they have attended.

Examinations: A Midterm and a Final examination will be given. The Midterm will account for 20 percent of the course grade and will cover material assigned or covered in class up to that point. The Final, which will account for 50 percent of the course grade, will cover the entire semester's work, but will emphasize material covered after the Midterm. Both Midterm and Final will include multiple choice, short answer, and essay questions. The Midterm will be given in class on March 9th. The Final examination will be given on Tuesday May 9th 1:10-4:00 pm. The times specified are the only times the Midterm and Final examinations will be given. Students whose plans or commitments preclude taking the exams at the scheduled times should not register for the course.
Term Paper: A paper (minimum length 3000 words) on an assigned topic is required. The paper will contribute 30% to the final grade. Information on the paper as well as .pdf files of the readings can be found at the CourseWorks site for this course.t.

Caveat: Is this the right course for you?

In past years, some students (self-described as "science averse") have elected Human Communication to fulfill the Science Requirement, assuming that it would be less "scientific," less quantitative, or "less concerned with facts" than other courses that satisfy that Requirement. Many who enrolled under this misapprehension turned out to be unhappy with their choice. Before registering for the course, prospective students are strongly advised to examine the assigned readings.

To help students decide whether W2240 is for them, the comments students made on course evaluation forms recently have been posted. There was less than complete unanimity; some (but not all) of the students who took the course liked it, some were indifferent, and some found it genuinely dreadful. From these comments, prospective students can get some sense of what others found to be the course's strengths and weaknesses. To view the comments, click HERE.

Electronic Communication

The course will rely on electronic communication for a variety of functions. All students must have email accounts and should check their email regularly. The instructor and TAs will use that medium to communicate with the class, and class members can use it to direct questions and comments to the instructor and TAs. The Term Paper and Optional Project must be submitted electronically. Students who do not know how to use a web browser, email or word processing software should ask the TAs to help them master the simple skills involved.

Lectures will not parallel the readings, although they will address many of the topics the readings discuss. An electronic version of Topic Notes for each of the seven topics will be posted on the course website. The Topic Notes are not transcriptions of the in-class lectures, and diverge from them at several points. In addition to a rough outline of the lectures, the Notes include illustrations and graphs, samples of graphic and auditory materials discussed in the lectures, "sidebars" amplifying issues touched on in the lectures, demonstrations, prepackaged experiments, and pointers to sites on the Internet containing relevant material. However, not everything presented in the lectures will be represented in the Topic Notes, which are intended to enhance the information conveyed by the readings and lectures.They are not a substitute for reading the assignments or for in-class note-taking (much less class attendance). The Topic Notes will be linked to the topic title in this syllabus, and can be accessed by clicking on the relevant title. Readings posted on the website can be accessed by clicking on the appropriate hotlink on the assignment list. Readings available in downloadable format are designated by this icon .. They can be downloaded by clicking on the icon.

The course web pages can be accessed only from machines that are within the Columbia domain (have a Columbia IP number). Students who connect from some other internet site, including such internet service providers as AOL, will not be able to access the pages or send and receive course-related email via CourseWorks.

Optional Project

Students may elect to do an optional project that can add up to ten points of extra credit to the final grade. The project will involve the collection, analysis and interpretation of original data. For information on the Project, click HERE.


Main Readings

Denes, P., & Pinson, E. (1993). The speech chain: The physics and biology of spoken language. New York: W.H. Freeman & Co. (paper)

Miller, G.A. (1991). The science of words. New York: Scientific American Library (paper).

Pinker, S. (1993). The language instinct. New York: Harper-Collins (paper).

Topic I. Introduction

Denes & Pinson, Chapter 1 (pp. 1-9).

Hockett, C.F. (1960). The origins of language. Scientific American, 3-11.

Krauss, R.M. (in press). The psychology of verbal communication. In, N. Smelser & P. Baltes (eds.), Internaltional Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. London: Elsevier.

Pinker, Chapters 1 (pp 1-11) and -2, (pp. 12-43).

Students interested in pursuing this topic in greater depth should read: Krauss, R. M., & Fussell, S. R. (1996). Social psychological models of interpersonal communication. In E. T. Higgins, & A. Kruglanski (Eds.), Social psychology: A handbook of basic principles (pp. 655-701). New York: Guilford. For a review of social psychological research on language and language use, see Krauss, R. M., & Chiu, C.-y. (1997). Language and social behavior. In D. Gilbert, S. Fiske, & G. Lindsey (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (pp. 41-88). Boston: McGraw-Hill. An excellent and readable introduction to the evolutionary approach to language can be found in Deacon, T.W. (1997) Simbolic species. New York: Norton.

Topic II. Language and Speech

Denes & Pinson Chapters 2 (pp.11-16), 4 (47-78).8 (pp. 153-183).

Levelt, W.J.M. (1999). Models of speech produdction. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 3, 223-230.

Pinker, Chapters 4 (pp. 74-118), 5 (pp. 119-152), 6 (pp. 153-189), 7 (pp. 190-230), 8 (pp. 231-264), 9 (pp.265-301).

Students interest in pursuing this topic in greater depth should read the unassigned chapters of Denes & Pinson and Chapters 4, 5 and 11 in Miller. More detail on the categorical perception of speech can be found in: Mattingly, I. G. (1972). Speech cues and sign stimuli. American Scientist, 60, 327-337. For a detailed and comprehensive discussion of speech production, see Levelt, W. J. M. (1989). Speaking: From intention to articulation . Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Topic III. Meaning

Gasser, M. (2003). How Language Works, Chap.2, Meaning (Sections 2.1-2.7).

Miller, G.A. (1999) On knowing a word. Annual Review of Psychology, 30, 1-19.

Miller, G.A. Chapters 7  9 10

Pinker, S. Chapters 3 (pp. 44-73) and 12 (pp. 382-418.)

For discussions of other perspectives on meaning, see: Glucksberg, S. (1998). Understanding metaphors. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 7, 39-42; Schober, M.S. (in press). Conversational evidence for rethinking meaning. Social Research;. Gibbs, R. W. (1984). Literal meaning and psychological theory. Cognitive Science, 8, 275-304.

Topic IV. Communication and Cognition

Clark, H.H., & Bangerter, A. (2004). Changing ideas about reference. In, I.A. Noveck & D. Sperber (Eds.), Experimental Pragmatics. Palgrave (pp. 24-49).

Clark, H.H. & Wilkes-Gibbs, D. (1986), Referring as a collaborative process. Cognition, 22, 1-39.

Garrod, S. & Pickering, M. (2004) Why is conversation so easy? Trends in Cognitive Science, 6 6-11.

Keysar, B., Barr, D.J., Horton, W.S. (1998). The egocentric basis of language use: Insights from a processing approach. Current Directions in Psychological Science,. 7, 46-50.

Krauss, R. M. & Fussell, S. R. (1990). Mutual knowledge and communicative effectiveness. In, J. Galegher, R. E. Kraut & C. Egido (Eds.), Intellectual Teamwork: Social and Technical Bases of Collaborative Work. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 111-144.

A broader discussion of topics discussed here can be found in: Krauss, R. M., & Fussell, S. R. (1996). Social psychological models of interpersonal communication. In E. T. Higgins, & A. Kruglanski (Eds.), Social psychology: A handbook of basic principles (pp. 655-701) New York: Guilford. An assortment of excellent papers dealing with a variety of issues in communication and cognition can be found in S. R. Fussell & R. J. Kreuz (Eds.), Social and cognitive approaches to interpersonal communication (pp. 259-278). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. A well-developed theory formulated from the Dialogic perspective is presented in Clark, H. H. (1996). Using language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Topic V. Vocal Behavior

Bachorowski, J.-A., (1999) Vocal expression and perception of emotion. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8, 53-57.  

Clark, H.H. (1994). Managing problems in speaking. Speech Communication, 15, 243-250.

Hughes, S. M., Dispenza, F. & Gallop, G.G., Jr. (2004). Ratings of voice attractiveness predict sexual behavior and body configuration. Evolution and Behavior, 25, 295-304.

Krauss, R.M., Freyberg, R., & Morsella, E. (2002). Inferring speakers' physical attributes from their voices Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 38, 618-625.

Schachter, S., Christenfeld, N., Ravina, B., & Bilous, F. (1991). Speech disfluency and the structure of knowledge. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 362-367.

Students who wish to pursue these topics in greater depth should see Giles, H., & Powsland, N. F. (1975). Speech style and social evaluation. New York: Academic Press. Butterworth, B. (1980). Evidence from pauses in speech. In B. Butterworth (Ed.), Speech and talk (pp. 155-176). London:: Academic Press; Apple, W., & Hecht, K. (1982). Speaking emotionally: The relation between verbal and vocal communication of affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42, 864-875; Cosmides, L. (1983). Invariances in the acoustic expression of emotion in speech. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Perception and performance, 9, 864-881.


Topic VI. Communication and Social Interaction

Argyle, M. & Dean, J. (1965). Eye contact, distance and affiliation. Sociometry, 28, 289-304.

Dovidio, J.F., Brown, C.E., Heitman, K., Ellyson, S.I., & Keating, C.F. (1988). Power displays between men and women in discussions of gender-related tasks. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55, 580-587.

Schober, M.F. & Brennan, S.E. (2003) Processes of interactive spoken discourse: The role of the partner. In Graesser, A.C., Gernsbacher, M.A. & Goldman, S.R. (Eds). Handbook of discourse processes. (pp. 123-164).

Sancier, M.L., & Fowler, C.A. (1997). Gestural drift in a bilingual speaker of Brazilian Portuguese and English. Journal of Phonetics, 25, 421-436.

Sussman, N. & Rosenfeld, H. (1982). Influence of culture, language and sex on conversational distance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42, 66-74.

Watson, O. M. & Graves, T. D. (1966) Qualitative research in proxemic behavior. American Anthropologist, 68, 971-985.

Other approaches to the sudy of communication and interaction can be found in: Patterson, M. L. (1991). A functional approach to nonverbal exchange. In R. S. Feldman, & B. Rimé (Ed.), Fundamentals of nonverbal behavior (pp. 458-495). New York: Cambridge University Press; Beattie, G. W. (1983). Talk: An analysis of speech and non-verbal behaviour in conversation. Milton Keynes: Open University Press; Goodwin, C. (1981). Conversational organization: Interaction between speakers and hearers . New York: Academic Press. Kendon, A. (1967). Some functions of gaze direction in social interaction. Acta Psychologica, 26, 22-63.Schegloff, E. A. (1991). Conversational analysis and socially shared cognition. In L. B. Resnick, J. M. Levine, & S. D. Teasley (Ed.), Perspectives on socially shared cognition. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Topic VII. Visible Behaviors:

Facial Expression and Gesture


Alibali, M,W., Heath, D.C. & Myers, H.J. (2001) Effects of visibility between speaker and listener on gesture production: Some gestures are meant to be seen. Journal of Memory and Language, 44, 169-188.

Krauss, R. M. (1998). Why do we gesture when we speak? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 7, 54-59.

Krauss, R.M., & Putnam, L.E. (1985). Dimensions of emotion in facial and autonomic responses. Talk given at meetings of American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, D.C.

Russell, J.A., Bachorowski, J.-A., & Fernando-Dols, J.-M. (2003) Facial and vocal expressions of emotion. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 329-349.

Additional information on these topics can be found in: Buck, R. (1984). The communication of emotion. New York: Guilford Press; Rimé, B., & Schiaratura, L. (1991). Gesture and speech. In R. S. Feldman, & B. Rimé (Ed.), Fundamentals of nonverbal behavior (pp. 239-281). New York: Cambridge University Press, Krauss, R. M., Apple, W., Morency, N., Wenzel, C., & Winton, W. (1981). Verbal, vocal and visible factors in judgments of another's affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 40, 312-320,.and Krauss, R. M., Chen, Y., & Chawla, P. (1996). Nonverbal behavior and nonverbal communication: What do conversational hand gestures tell us? In M. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (pp. 389-450). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

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