Communication in Face to Face Interaction

PealkiriCommunication in face to face interaction : selected readings / edited by John Laver and Sandy Hutcheson
IlmunudHarmondsworth [etc.] : Penguin Books, 1972
ViideLaver, John and Sandy Hutcheson (eds.) 1972. Communication in face to face interaction: selected readings. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

Laver, John and Sandy Hutcheson 1972. Introduction. In: Laver, John and Sandy Hutcheson (eds.), Communication in face to face interaction: selected readings. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 11-14.
If we look first at the information exchanged between the participants, it is useful to distiguish between at least three different kinds. The first is what is sometimes referred to as cognitive information; this is the propositional or purely factual content of the linguistic signals exchanged. There is a large body of linguistic literature which deals with the semantic structure of language (Ullmann, 1957, 1962; Lyons, 1968), and it is not part of the objective of this book to explore this area of conversation in any detail.
The second kind of information is what has been called indexical information (Abercrombie, 1967, p. 6). This is information about the speaker himself. The listener uses it to draw inferences about the speaker's identity, attributes, attitudes and mood. It thus includes any behavioural information which serves as evidence for a speaker's biological, psychological or social characteristics. Most of the Readings are implicitly concerned with the communication of indexical information. A tacit theme running through the book is that a partipant uses all the communicative strands of conversation for a variety of indexical purposes. He uses them not only to announce his individual identity and personal characteristics, but also to state his view of the social and psychological structuring of the interaction. In brief, a participant projects indexical information in order to define and control the role he plays during the conversation.
Thirdly, there is the information that the participants exchange in order to collaborate with each other in organizing the temporal progress of the interaction. This kind of information might be called interaction-management information. It allows the participants to initiate and terminate the interaction in a conversational, mutually acceptable way; it also allows them to indicate the transitions within the interaction from one stage to another. Finally, it enables the participants to control the time-sharing of the interaction, in terms of who should occupy the role of the speaker, and when he should yield it to other participants. Thus conversational interaction involves the exchanges of cognitive, indexical and interaction-management information. (Laver and Hutcheson 1972: 11-12)
This is the missing peace to my nonverbalism (nonverbal semiotics) project. Thus far the notion of information has been a flaky one. The verbal- or cognitive one is obvious, related to meanings exchanged in the interaction. The indexical information channel I thought about briefly while reading some piece of semiotics - obviously behaviour reveals or objectifies something about the behaving agent/subject. The third one, interaction-management information - I am familiar as a form of meta-communication and involvement idiom. Now I can replace these crude notions with more refined ones. I would not have discovered this three-part distinction for myself as Ambercrombie's work seems out of my range of interest: Elements of General Phonetics (1967). It is impressive enough that I have read Lyons' Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics (thanks to Irina Avramets and the course in semiotics of language).
Argyle, M. and A. Kendon 1972. The Experimental Analysis of Social Performance. In: Laver, John and Sandy Hutcheson (eds.), Communication in face to face interaction: selected readings. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 19-63.
OP: M. Argyle and Kendon, 'The experimental analysis of social performance', in L. Berkowitx (ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Academic Press 1967, pp. 55-98.
Translation processes. When the input has been selevted and interpreted it must be put to use. Welford (1958) disginsuished as translation processes the ways in which items perceived are acted upon; translation is the term used to refer to the rule by which a particular signal is interpreted as requiring particular action. A great deal of what occurs while a skill is built up consists in development of translations which, once established, are 'ready at hand', so that action taken in regard to incoming signals is usually immediate. Where a new translation has been set up, a great deal of hesitancy and halting can be observed in the subject's performance. (Argyle and Kendon 1972: 21)
The scheme presented on page 20 is terribly familiar, almost an exact replication of Uexküll's functional circle (funktionskreis). The modifications seem to be that instead of a "subject" we are given a "goal", and instead of an "object" there are "changes in the outside world" followed by "feedback". The "perceptual cue" is replaced with generally "perception", and "effector cue" with "motor output". The surprising part is that between perception and motor output, there occurs "translation", yet another curiously familiar term which makes me wonder if I've stumbled upon a sure-fire way to unite the Uexküllian and Lotmanian perspectives in nonverbal communication by the help of very familiar writers (Michael Argyle and Adam Kendon, really? Really?). The source for this model is most likely Welford, A. T. (1958), Ageing and Human Skill, Oxford University Press (Link).
The above quote deals with the acquisition of behaviour, noting (on page 20) that an action such as driving a car is "far from automatic, though it may be seen to be built of elements that are automatized". It is here relevant for me that automatizing is an important part of any kind of training and if I am to someday make an effort to analyze army training, this little piece of information might serve as a major guiding post.
We may distinguish three ways in which visual orientation functions in interaction:
  1. To look at another is a social act in itself.
  2. To meet the gaze of another is a significant event, and may often be an important part of the goal sought in interaction.
  3. In seeing another, much imporatnt information about him may be gathered in addition to his direction of gaze.
(Argyle and Kendon 1972: 37)
A quite conclusive list of the function of visual orientation.
The social techniques used for self-presentation. To create perceptions of an attitude toward the self on the part of others present is a subtle social skill, though one that is usually practiced quite unconsciously. How is it done? A can simply tell B about himself, but this is not socially acceptable, except in the most modest and indirect form. The same is true of hints, name-dropping, and the various techniques of one-upmanship described by Stephen Potter (1952). Another method of projecting an identity is by means of clothes and general appearance, which are in fact excellent clues to a person'ś self-image. Third, a person's style of behavior can indicate, by gesture, manner of speech, and general demeanor, the kind of person he thinks he is and the way he is used to being treated. Finally, the most effective way is by aspects of behavior that are relevant to the self-image; thes ecan prove, as words cannot, that a person really is what he claims to be. Generally speaking, people present a somewhat idealized, or at least edited, version of themselves for public inspection. Thus they conceal a great deal about themselves; they reveal most to those whom they can trust not to reject them, and reveal least about topics such as sex and money (Jourard, 1964). (Argyle and Kendon 1972: 46)
This is valuable discussion for "the nonverbal self". It should be compared to perspective presented in Self and Society (Hewitt 1979).

Abercrombie, D. 1972. Paralanguage. In: Laver, John and Sandy Hutcheson (eds.), Communication in face to face interaction: selected readings. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 64-70.
OP: D. Abercrombie, 'Paralanguage', British Journal of Disorders of Communication, vol. 3, 1968, pp. 55-9.
Paralinguistic phenomena are neither idiosyncratic and personal, on the one hand, nor generally human, on the other. They must, therefore, be culturally determined, and so, as one would expect, they differ from social group to social group. The differ a great deal, and the differences go with language differences, even with dialect differences within languages, though they sometimes cut across linguistic boundaries. (Abercrombie 1972: 64)
Clear and concise: paralinguistic phenomena fall into the socio-cultural category.
If we start examining visible paralinguistic elements, we find another dichotomy, a functional one, useful here, which I suggested some years ago (Abercombie, 1954). This dichotomy is into those elements which can be independent of the verbal elements of conversation, and those which must be dependent on them. A participant in a conversation may nod his head, for example, at the same time as he says the word 'yes'; or he may nod but say nothing - the nod will still communicate. This, therefore, is an independent paralinguistic element - it can occur alone, though it does not have to. Manual gestures of emphasis, on the one hand, must always accompany spoken words, and communicate nothing without them. These therefore are dependent paralinguistic elements. (Abercrombie 1972: 66)
Aside from misspelling own name, Ambercrombie suggest that paralinguistic should also denote kinesic movements and postures, much like Birdwhistell suggested that kinesics should also denote paralinguistic elements. Another possiblity is denoting both with metalinguistic, as was reportedly done in: Smith, H. L. (1950), The Communication Situation, Foreign Service Institute, Department of State, Washington (mimeographed). The distinction outlined here could be of valuable use to differentiate the relationship between nonverbal expressions and lexical affiliates.
Birdwhistell, R. L. 1972. Paralanguage Twenty-five Years after Sapir. In: Laver, John and Sandy Hutcheson (eds.), Communication in face to face interaction: selected readings. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 82-100.
OP: R. L. Birdwhistell, 'Paralanguage twenty-five years after Sapir', in H. G. Brosin (ed.), Lectures in Experimental Psychiatry, Pittsburgh University Press, 1961, pp. 43-63.
Kinesics, as a methodology, is concerned with the communicational aspects of learned, patterned body motion behavior. When, in 1951, it was experimentally determined that body motion could be abstracted and analysed in a manner analogous to speech behavior, it was clear that systematization of such behavior necessitated a clear distinction between that behavior which was prekinesic and that which was subject to kinesic analysis (Birdwhistell, 1952). It is necessary to separate those aspects of behavior which are biological from those which are systematically adapted to the communication needs of the particular society. Only then can we hope to measure the particular interaction or personality system. (Birdwhistell 1972: 93)
This is where I had made a mistake in my seminar paper. Since I have yet to read Introduction to Kinesics, I wrongly assumed that prekinesics was Knapp's invention. From this Birdwhistell's paper it is clear that he indeed modelled this notion after Trager (1949): "Prelinguistics is concerned with the study of the physical and biological events which enter into the act of speech (and hearing)" (cited in Birdwhistell 1972: 90).
Malinowski, B. 1972. Phatic Communication. In: Laver, John and Sandy Hutcheson (eds.), Communication in face to face interaction: selected readings. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 146-152.
OP: Excerpt from B. Malinowski, 'The problem of meaning in primitive languages', supplement to C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards, The Meaning of Meaning, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1923.
The case of language used in free, aimless, social intercourse requires special consideration. When a number of people sit together at a village fire, after all the daily tasks are over, or when they chat, resting from work, or when they accompany some mere manual work by gossip quite unconnected with what they are doing - it is clear that here we have to do with another mode of using language, with another type of speech function. Language here is not dependent upon what happens at that moment, it seems to be even deprived of any context of situation. The meaning of any utterance cannot be connected with the speaker's or hearer's behaviour, with the purpose of what they are doing.
A mere phrase of politeness, in use as much among savage tribes as in a European drawing room, fulfils a function to which the meaning of its words is almost completely irrelevant. Inquiries about health, comments on weather, affirmations of some supremely obvious state of things - all such are exchanged, not in order to inform, not in this case to connect people in action, certainly not in order to express any thought. It would be even incorrect, I think, to say that such words serve the purpose of establishing a common sentiment, for this is usually absent from such current phrases of intercourse; and where it purports to exist, as in expressions of sympathy, it is avowedly spurious on one side. What is the raison d'étre, therefore of such phrases as How do you do? Ah, here you are. WHere to you come from? Nice day today - all of which serve in one society or another as formulae of greeting or approach?
I think that, in discussing the function of speech in mere sociabilities, we come to one of the bedrock aspects of man's nature in society. There is in all human beings the well-known tendency to congregate, to be together, to enjoy each other's company. Many instincts and innate trends, such as fear or pugnacity, all the types of social sentiments such as amition, vanity, passion for power and wealth, are dependent upon and associated with the fundamental tendency which makes the mere presence of others a necessity for man.
Now speech is the intimate correlate of this tendency, for, to a natural man, another man's silence is not a reassuring factor, but, on the contrary, something alarming and dangerous. The stranger who cannot speak the language is to all savage trbesmen a natural enemy. To the primitive mind, whether among savages or our own uneducated classes, taciturnity means not only unfriendliness but indirectly a bad character. This no doubt varies greatly with the national character but remains true as a general rule. The breaking of silence, the communion of words it the first act to establish links of fellowship, which is consummated only by the breaking of bread and the communion of food. The modern English expression, Nice day today or the Melanesian phrase, Whence comest thou? are needed to get over the strange and unpleasant tension which men feel when facing each other in silence.
After the first formula, there comes a flow of language, purposeless expressions of preference or aversion, accounts of irrelevant happenings, comments on what is perfectly obvious. Such gossip, as found in primitive societies, differs only a little from out own. Always the same emphasis of affirmation and consent, mixed perhaps with an indicental disagreement which creates the bonds of antipathy. Or personal accounts of the speaker's views and life history, to which the hearer listens under some restraint and with slightly veiled impatience, waiting till his own turn arrives to speak. For in this use of speech the bonds created between hearer and speaker are not quire symmetrical, the man linguistically active receiving the greater share of social pleasure and self-enhancement. But though the hearing given to such utterances is as a rule not as intense as the speaker's own share, it is quite essential for his pleasure, and the reciprocity is established by the change of roles.
There can be no doubt that we have here a new type of linguistic use - phatic communion I am tempted to call it, actuated by the demon of terminological invention - a type of speech in which ties of union are created by a mere exchange of words. Let us look at it from the special point of view with which we are here concerned; let us ask what light it throws on the function or nature of language. Are words in phatic communication used primarily to convey meaning, the meaning which is symbolically theirs? Certainly not! THey fulfil a social function and that is their principal aim, but they are neither the result of intellectual reflection, nor do they necessarily arouse reflection in the listener. Once again we may say that language does not function here as a means of transmission of thought. (Malinowski 1972: 149-151)
Quoted at lenght because of it's importance.
La Barre, Weston 1972. The Cultural Basis of Emotions and Gestures. In: Laver, John and Sandy Hutcheson (eds.), Communication in face to face interaction: selected readings. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 207-224.
OP: W. La Barre, 'The cultural basis of emotions and gestures, Journal of Personality, vol. 16, 1947. pp. 49-68.
Some time afterward I asked a somewhat naïve question of a very great anthropologist, the late Edward Sapir: 'Do other tribes cry and lauigh as we do?' In appropriate response, Sapir himself laughed, but with an instant grasping of the point of the question: In which of these things are men alike everywhere, in which different? Where are the international boundaries between physiology and culture? WHat are the extremes of variability, and what are the scope and range of cultural differences in emotional and gestural expression? Probably one of the most learned linguist who have ever lives, Sapir was extremely sensitive to emotional and sublinguistic gesture - an area of deep illiteracy for most 'Anglo-Saxon' Americans - and my present interest was founded on our convesation at that time. (La Barre 1972: 209)
This question has plagued me also.
However, American Indian gestures soon pass over into the undisputedly linguistic area, as when two old men of different tribes who do not know a word of each other's spoken language, sit side by side and tell each other improper stories in the complex and highly articulate intertribal sign language of the Plains. These conventionalized gestures of the Plains sign language must of course be learned as a language is learned, for they are a kind of kinaesthetic ideograph, resembling written Chinese. THe number of mutually unintelligible spoken Chinese dialects; similarly, the sign language may be 'read' by Comanche, in Cheyenne or in Pawnee, all of which belong to different language families. The primitive Australian sign language was evidently of the conventionalized Plains type also, for it reproduced words, not mere letters (since of course they had no written language), but unfortunately little is known in detail of its mechanisms. (La Barre 1972: 215)
I've known about the existence of the Plains (or "Native-American") sign-language, but this is the first instance it has sparked interest in me.
Scheflen, A. E. 1972. The Significance of Posture in Communication systems. In: Laver, John and Sandy Hutcheson (eds.), Communication in face to face interaction: selected readings. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 225-246.
OP: A. E. Scheflen, 'The significance of posture in communication systems.
This paper will discuss these postural configurations, which are reliable indicators of the following aspects of communication:
  1. They demarcate the components of individual behavior that each person contributes to the group activities.
  2. They indicate how the individual contributions are related to each other.
  3. They define the steps and order in the interaction - that is, the 'program'.
(Scheflen 1972: 225)
Someone (probably Argyle and Kendon) introduced Scheflens work here as pointing to the fact that interaction has a program which can be discriminated by the postures of interactants.
That these behaviors are regular, uniform entities within a culture tremendously simplifies both research into human interaction and practical understanding of it. These [culturally coded behavioural] forms are so familiar that a description of them leads to immediate recognition by most people, without elaborate details or measurements. (Scheflen 1972: 225)
This seems to be true, as far as books on nonverbal communication are quite understandable without illustrations. The visual redundancy in manuals such as "The Body Language Project" seems to be aimed at people who aren't on best terms with descriptions and prefer the examples to be presented to them visually.
Now, the theoretical point is this: human social behavior is neither universal for all members of Homo sapiens nor individual and unique for each person. The musculoskeletal underpinnings of human behavior are determined by biological form and transmitted by genetic mechanisms, but every culture molds the raw actions according to its own traditions. Intromission and ejaculation are universal human behaviors, but none of the other activities involved in mating is universal. The forms of how coitus is performed differ from culture to culture. The ability to speak is universal, but language is culturally determined. Thus, to understand the meaning of gestures, postures, inflections and even affect expressions, it is necessary to look critically across cultures, across classes, across institutions. (Scheflen 1972: 226)
These are fine examples between the relationship of universal and cultural forms behaviors.

Further readings


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