Beneficial outcomes of (appropriate) nonverbal displays of negative affect in virtual teams

Ella Glikson, Monica A. Riordan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nonverbal cues have repeatedly been shown to impact the perception of others and their relationships. How does this work in online virtual work settings, where most of the communication is text-based? Construal level theory predicts that by offering concrete emotional information, use of nonverbal cues would indicate close interpersonal distance between interlocutors. In two studies, we made comparisons between observers' perceptions of team members' chat conversations that use various digital nonverbal cues, such as non-face emojis and face and non-face GIFs of both positive and negative valence. We found that use of these cues leads observers to perceive greater emotional intensity in the conversation, which was linked to higher perceived closeness among the team members and thus higher participant motivation to join the team, regardless of cue valence. However, emotion displays are not always considered appropriate for the workplace; dual threshold theory suggests that emotion displays that are deemed inappropriate would lead to negative perceptions. In study 3, we compared chat conversations between team members using no emotion displays, face emojis, punctuation markers, or direct emotion words. We found that observers’ perceived appropriateness of the team members' communication affected participant motivation to join the team, while emotion words were perceived as being less appropriate than using any of the digital nonverbal cues. These findings extend the construal level theory and dual threshold theory to virtual text-based workplace environments, while exploring a range of nonverbal cues available in this context and demonstrating the positive impact of digital nonverbal cues with a negative valence.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108165
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
StatePublished - May 2024

Bibliographical note

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© 2024 Elsevier Ltd


  • Construal level theory
  • Dual threshold theory
  • Emoji
  • GIF
  • Nonverbal cues
  • Virtual teams


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