What Is the Definition of Social Cues?

Social cues are verbal or nonverbal indicators that give people an idea of how they are being accepted or rejected in any given situation. Social cues include facial expression, tone of voice, body language, posture, gestures and proximity. These cues often dictate how well each interaction goes and how individuals feel about said interactions.

Social cues are best read during face-to-face interactions in which all parties involved can pick up on or read all clues given. However, they can also be inferred through text messaging or other forms of interaction where intent or feelings are clear. Since it is possible to misread social cues in this context, they are best read in person.

Common social cues include eye contact. For example, someone who looks away or consistently breaks eye contact may seem disinterested or distracted. How close people position themselves to one another also gives observers an idea of the comfort or intimacy in the relationship. Crossed arms is a classic defensive posture easily recognized by all.

Individuals with certain medical conditions such as Asperger's syndrome often have difficulty reading social cues, making it difficult for them to discern sarcasm or humor. In these situations, words are translated literally regardless of the context in which they are spoken.