Objects and images are also tools that can be used to communicate nonverbally. On an online forum, for example, you might select an avatar to represent your identity online and to communicate information about who you are and the things you like. People often spend a great deal of time developing a particular image and surrounding themselves with objects designed to convey information about the things that are important to them. Uniforms, for example, can be used to transmit a tremendous amount of information about a person. A soldier will don fatigues, a police offers will wear a uniform, and a doctor will wear a white lab coat. At a mere glance, these outfits tell people what a person does for a living.
Research into how nonverbal actions influence the communication process is, however, a very late development. Indeed, the term ‘nonverbal communication’ does not appear in the literature until the middle of the 20th century - ushered in, undoubtedly, by the advent of television, which at that time was just about to begin its meteoric ascent toward becoming the dominant medium of mass communication. As the public’s attention now quickly shifted from listening and reading to seeing, the new medium almost single-handedly relegated the verbal component of communication from its long-predominant status to a secondary source of information. It thus became instantly clear that in order to understand how communication functions in the modern world, it would be of paramount importance to study the cognitive and emotional processes that steer, on the basis of nonverbal cues, the formation of visual impressions.