Kerri L. Johnson

Department of Communication Studies

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Research Interests

Broadly construed, communication includes both the sending and receiving of information over distances in space and/or time. My research examines nonverbal aspects of interpersonal communication with an emphasis on visual communication, including both the encoding (i.e., production) and decoding (i.e., perception) of cues that convey messages to others. While we know quite a lot about how verbal messages operate in communication, we know considerably less about how nonverbal cues such as the body’s shape and motion communicate information to observers. Yet my research shows these messages are crucially important in interpersonal communication.

Thus, my research aims to understand the interpersonal messages that are sent by face and body cues. Central questions include: How/why does the way that we move our bodies communicate whether we are a man or woman, gay/lesbian or heterosexual, angry or sad? and How do overlapping categories–for instance that a person is both Black and male–affect the way that we interpret messages from nonverbal cues? The answers to such questions have important implications for interpersonal communication, altering not only the interpretation of actions and but also leading to biases that can foster discrimination.

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