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Research paper topic: Body Language: Cultural Or Universal - 1115 words
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.. is tolerated. In private there is a great deal of touching and less privacy than in Western homes. Traditionally young people walk behind their parents and wives walk behind their husbands. Arabs are also very sensitive to nonverbal behaviour.
They too engage in a great deal of behaviour that is ritualized or socially determined; it is the nonverbal cues that clarify meaning. Tradition dictates that interactants should control their emotions and the pitch of their voice. In reality men often show powerful displays of emotion, even going so far as to tear at their clothing and scream in public (Hottinger, 1963). Interpersonal attitudes are conveyed almost entirely by nonverbal cues. Because Arabs are very concerned with their standing in the eyes of others outward appearance and honour are very important.
Often little distinction is made between status and affect; flattery, ingratiation and other displays of interpersonal affect may be employed to manipulate others (Ibid). Peter Collett (cited in Argyle, 1975) found that Arabs tend to have a high sense of self-esteem which leads to an expectation of praise. It also often leads to exaggeration and "keeping up appearances." In conversation a pair of Arabs will look into one another's eyes more than would two Americans or Englishmen (Argyle, 1975). It is considered impolite not to face someone directly when engaged in conversation. Males will routinely touch one another on the arm or hand, particularly to emphasize a point or a joke.
Upon greeting men will often hold hands loosely while going through the verbal greeting and may kiss if they have not seen one another in some time. There are many gestures used to convey specific meanings (i.e. making pyramid with upward pointing thumb and fingers of one hand and shaking hand up and down from wrist indicates someone is beautiful) (Ibid). Arab clothing conceals much of the person from view; the clothing of a woman may leave only here eyes showing. Tone of voice is important in indicating the real meaning of verbal utterances (whether they are friendly, sincere, etc.), particularly because many verbal utterances are "stereotyped and ambiguous" (Ibid, 94). In both examples described above nonverbal input is critical to interpreting the true meaning of the communication; the similarity seems to end there. An Arab attempting to indicate respect by holding the gaze of a Japanese person would offend him instead. Not only do the codes that are employed (i.e.
the behaviour that conveys meaning) vary between cultures but the information that is conferred with these codes varies greatly as well. An Arab may indicate his emotions in a nonverbal manner during an exchange. In the same situation a Japanese man would be expected to contain indicators of his emotional status. With such differences apparent it would seem difficult to argue for the existence of universals in body language. No universal gesture or posture indicates the same idea everywhere. However, if one looks beyond the apparent dissimilarity some patterns do become clear.
Each part of the bodily communication is used for the same purposes in every culture (Knapp and Hall, 1992). Tone of voice always modifies the meaning of utterances and communicates interpersonal attitudes (Eibl-Eibelsfeldt, 1988). Bodily appearance always conveys information about the self - sex, age, social status, role, etc. All cultures use nonverbal cues to transmit the same range of information (primarily meaning and information about the self). Certain cultures may restrict what information should be transmitted through nonverbal cues (i.e.
Japan, where nonverbal communication is expected to carry cues about status but not emotion). Another pattern that seems to appear universally is that the meaning of both intention movements (which are biologically innate) and illustrative movements or gestures is usually analogical (Ellen, 1977). While some signals do acquire arbitrary meaning through historical association (such as many religious and political symbols) most bear a metaphoric relation to that which they represent. It has been show that the facial expression of emotion does not vary cross-culturally. The physical expression of nonverbal cues may vary from culture to culture as societal rules dictate what it is that we express with these cues remains the same cross-culturally. Most nonverbal signals obey the basic principles of semiotics (Ibid).
These principles are culturally universal and show that although the manifestation of nonverbal cues is different cross-culturally the underlying tendency in the brain to pattern information in such a manner is the same. Nonverbal communication is not either learned or innate. It is both; it is innate impulse working within the restrictions set by a particular culture. Bibliography Bibliography Argyle, M. (1975).
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