What Are Social Cues? - Definition & Examples

Instructor: David White
Social cues are a critically important aspect of communication. Through this lesson, you will learn how to define social cues and explore some examples of how they influence social interaction and engagement.

Recognizing Social Cues

Imagine that you're explaining something to someone at a party and halfway through your conversation the person turns and walks away. Would you follow them and keep talking or would you simply go talk to someone else? More than likely you would go find someone else because you recognize that walking away from someone in the middle of a conversation, while incredibly rude, is an indication that they aren't interested in what you're saying.

The reason you know that the person isn't interested in your explanation is because they've given you a social cue. These are social symbols expressed through body language, tone, or words that are intended to send a message from one person to another. In simple terms, social cues are a category of communication that helps guide us in our relationships and interactions with others. In the example above, the listener chose to use a social cue to indicate something rather than directly tell you they aren't interested in talking to you.

Having a well-developed understanding of social cues and the strong ability to interpret them can greatly increase your skills as a communicator because you'll be able to read a person's behavior and respond appropriately. Under-developed awareness of social cues, on the other hand, can make it challenging to form relationships with others and interact in social situations.

Facial Expressions

Facial expressions can be a great way to communicate social cues. A common example of this type of social cue is a furrowed brow, which is when a person squints their eyes or scrunches up their face causing wrinkles on their forehead. This is usually an indication that the person is annoyed or confused by what the speaker is saying or doing. For instance, if you are talking to someone about molecular biology and notice a furrowed brow, you could assume they're confused and you should find a better way to explain your thought.

A furrowed brow often indicates confusion or annoyance.

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