NVC: The State of the Art

AuthorsRobert Gale Harper, Arthur N. Wiens, Joseph D. Matarazzo (Eds.)
TitleNonverbal communication : the state of the art
PublisherNew York : John Wiley & Sons, c1978.
SeriesWiley series on personality processes
Personality Processes Series
Wiley Publication in Applied Statistics
ISBN0471026727, 9780471026723
SubjectsLanguage Arts & Disciplines / General
Eye movements
Nonverbal communication
Psychology / General
Reference / Questions & Answers
Spatial behavior
ReferenceHarper, Robert G., Arthur N. Wiens, and Joseph D. Matarazzo (Eds.) 1978. Nonverbal communication : the state of the art. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

1. Introduction to Nonverbal Communication Research
Consistent with their broad view of nonverbal communication, Barker and Collins (1970) classified 18 nonverbal communication forms: (a) animal and insect; (b) culture; (c) environmental surroundings; (d) gestures, facial expressions, bodily movement, and kinesics; (e) human behavior; (f) interaction patterns; (g) learning; (h) machine; (i) media; (j) mental processes, perception, imagination, and creativity; (k) music; (l) paralinguistics; (m) personal grooming and apparel; (n) physiological; (o) pictures; (p) space; (q) tactile and cutaneous; and (r) time. (Harper et al. 1978: 3)
This is indeed very broad, but equally comprehensive and covers many instances of nonverbal communication that I consider subsidiary but interesting. In a sense they are very much related and constitute the "nonverbal sphere".
Harrison 81973) subsumed various combinationf of nonverbal behavior under the following categories: "performance codes" based on bodily actions, "artifactual codes" (e.g., the use of clothing, jewelry), "mediational codes" involving manipulation of the media, and "contextual codes" (e.g., employment of nonverba signs in time and space). (Harper et al. 1978: 4)
As I have yet to read Harrison's crestomatic book I consider it worthwhile to keep these categories in mind.
Several authors have defined functions of nonverbal phenomena from the perspective of a communication system. Harrison (1973), for example, proposed that "nonverbal signs" function at three different levels:
1. Nonverbal signs define, condition, and constrain the system; e.g., time, place, and arrangement may provide cues for the participants as to who is in the system, what the pattern of interaction will be, and what is appropriate and inappropriate communication content.
2. Nonverbal signs help regulate the system, cueing hierarchy and priority among communciators, signaling the flow of interaction, providing metacommunication and feedback.
3. Nonverbal signs communicate content, sometimes more efficiently than linguistic signs but usually in complementary redundancy to the verbal flow. (p. 94)
(Harper et al. 1978: 4-5)
It seems that Harrison had a Goffmanian bent and should be consulted when constructing an "interaction system" approach.
Nonverbal communication refers to the whole process of communication between two or more persons. In contrast, nonverbal behaviors are simply behaviors or physical acts that may or may not have a particular "meaning." The term nonverbal cue or sign implies that the behavior has some referential meaning beyond the act itself, but whether it is communicative or merely indicative depends upon the model of communication subscribed to and certain methodological considerations to which we now turn. (Harper et al. 1978: 8)
Very brief and concise explanation of these phenomena, although indeed subscription to a certain model muddles the affair. For example, the self-communicative model does not differentiate these phenomena so clearly because in sense every physical act can be subjectively attached to a referent and thus made communicative (with oneself, of course, but still: intracommunication here precedes intercommunication).
In the development of models (Barnlund, 1968), communication has been conceptualized "structually" in terms of sender-message-receiver; "functionally" in terms of encoding-decoding processes, based on intent of message (expressive-instrumental); and in terms of "channel" (mode of transmission). (Harper et al. 1978: 8)
Another concise overview, here of models. Indeed very practical, as these different models do tend to be muddled in other approaches. A distinction such as this can be very useful.
Duncan identifies two broad research strategies that have been employed. In the first, the structural approach, nonverbal communication is studied as "a tightly organized and self-contained social system like language ... [which] operates according to a definite set of rules" (1969, p. 121). [...] Typically, structural studies have involved descriptionf os minute behavior sequences (e.g.,Crystal and Quirk, 1964; Scheflen, 1966). In some respects this approach would appear tedious and unproductive, but Duncan emphasized that both approaches were "complementary and mutually facilitating ... [and] should be vigorously pursued" (1969, p. 121). Indeed, he stated, "It is clear that extensive research on the function of nonverbal behaviors in communication and on their personality and situation concomitants will be unnnecessarily encumbered until larger structural units, perhaps analogous to known linguistic units, can be discovered" (1969, p. 122). That such an approach can yield valuable information is seen in the classic study by Condon and Ogston (1967) in which analyis, "over many months," of a 5-second portion of sound film produced their notion of "self-syncrhony" (in an individual) and "motion flow syncrhony" between interactants. (Harper et al. 1978: 13)
Why Birdwhistell and Scheflen are rightfully called "structural" (nonverbal communication = social system) and where Condon's self-synchrony originated from. My work is essentially structural as I am viewing dystopic fiction texts as systems (in which every nonverbal behavior has a definite structure and function in relation to everything else that goes on).
  • Argyle, M. (1969). Social Interaction. New York: Atherton.
  • Barker, L. L., and N. B. Collins (1970). Nonverbal and kinesic research. In P. Emmert and W. D. Brooks (Eds.), Methods of Research in communication. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Pp. 343-371.
  • Barlund, D. C. (Ed.) (1968). Interpersonal Communication: Survey and studies. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Broadbent, D. E. (1958). Perception and communication. Oxford: Pergamon press.
  • Dittman, A. (1972). Interpersonal messages of emotion. New York: Springer.
  • Condon, W. S., and W. D. Ogston (1967). A segmentation of behavior. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 5, 221-235.
  • Duncan, S. D., Jr. (1969). Nonverbal communication. Psychological Bulletin, 72, 118-237.
  • Scheflen, A. E. (1968). Human communication: Behavioral programs and their integration in interaction. Behavioral Science, 13, 44-55.
  • Speer, D. C. (1972). Nonverbal communication of affective information: Some laboratory findings pertaining to an interaction process. Comparative Group Studies, 3, 409-423.
  • Wiener, M., S. Devoe, S. Rubinow, and J. Geller (1972). Nonverbal behavior and nonverbal communication. Psychological Review, 79, 185-214.

I didn't glean almost anything from chapter 2 as I seem to have very little real interest in paralanguage.
3. Research on Facial Expression
The implication of Tomkins' theory for psychological research is that in study facial expressions we are, in fact, studying "emotion itself," whereas the traditional reliance upon introspective reports, self-report devices, or only gorssly accurate, nonspecific measures of physiological (autonomic) arousal may be in contrast to the more indirect measures. (Harper et al. 1978: 78)
The same problem largely looms in my own research: descriptions of nonverbal behaviour in literature (what I call concursive discourse) is "only grossly accurate", as it mainly draws on cultural knowledge ("stereotypes"). It may be accurate (as is Huxley's tentative description of Lenina and John falling in love) or it may be very inaccurate (the case of "invented emotions" and other suchlike stuff).
Ekman's theory of facial affext expressions consists of elicitors that evoke the innate facial affect program, which is in turn modified by cultural display rules, resulting in certain behavioral consequences. Elicitors of facial expression can, in some cases, be unlearned, such as a disgust expression in response to a bad smell or taste, or surprising expressions to a sudden loud sound of unexpected event. However, most elicitors of emotional reactions are learned and a majority are interpersonal in nature and, as such, tied to the culture. Though the facial expression will have the same meaning across cultures, the stimulus that elicited it may differ from culture to culture. A common fault in cross-cultural research has been the assumption that the same stimulus or event will elicit the same emotional reaction in two different peoples. For example, one might erroneously assume that a New Orleans black's facial expression of sadness at a funeral is what we would consider a smile, when in truth their cultural response to death is not sadness but instead joy and happiness for the deceased, which is quite consonant with the smiling seen at the funeral. (Harper et al. 1978: 100)
A short and to-the-point conclusion of what can be read more extensively in Ekman (1976).
when an eliciting event occurs, it is usually subject to some "cognitive processing" by the individual prior to activation of the facial affect program. For example, when a football player scores a touchdown we must first identify his team before we can react emotionally with sadness or happiness. The more complex the eliciting circumstance (i.e., the more social learning involved), generally, the more cognitive processing is involved. Following this, the facial appearance may be modified either by voluntary decision and control of facial muscles or by more or less "unconscious," automatic habits (which Ekman called display rules) that modify or alter facial expression in accordance with the social situation. Socially learned (culture-specific) display rules can modify facial expression in the following ways:
  1. A display rule can require intensification of the felt emotion. In some cultures, especially Mediterranean, grief (sadness) responses are exaggerated.
  2. Deintensification of the emotion may be appropriate - the British are noted for their "understatement" of emotion.
  3. Neutralization of the emotion may be called for, as in the case of sadness and fear in public situations for middle-class white males in the United States.
  4. Masking an emotion with a different one may be dictated in some situations. For example, a beauty contest runner-up is supposed to show happiness for the winner rather than sadness over her own disappointment. Morsbach (1973) noted that the Japanese often employ laughing and smiling to cover up anger, sorrow, or disgust.
(Harper et al. 1978: 101)
The relationship between cognitive processing and display rules of emotion. Also, a list of Ekman's display rules with some well-known examples. The last one reminded me of how Thoth in his documentary laughed very robustly every time someone insulted his art in some way.
Thus far we have only made some passing reference to special measurement techniques for studying facial expression. One important aspect of facial behavior that requires special measurement techniques is what Haggard and Isaacs (1966) have described as "micromomentary facial expressions." This phenomenon was discovered by the authors when viewing some psychoterapy films for nonverbal behavior:
During such explorations, for instance, we noted that occasionally the expression on the patient's face would change dramatically within three to five frames on film (as from smile to grimace to smile), which is equivalent to a period of from one-eight to one-fifth of a second. We were not able to see these expression changes at the normal rate. (Haggard and Isaacs, 1966, p. 154)
In applying this technique to the analysis of psychotherapy sessions they noted that rapid changes of facial expressions seemed to occur most during phases of general expressiveness except when the patient was in conflict concerning feelings and impulses. During periods of coflict, micromomentary facial expressions appeared to be inconsistent with the verbal content and adjacent facial expressions. Heimann (1967) measured the facial movements of his patients for symmetry by comparing the static positions of the face every tenth frame. For schizophrenic patients, the index of symmetry of right-left facial movements was considerably different from normals. Reduced symmetry was also noted for subjects receiving LSD and experiencing mental stress. (Harper et al. 1978: 105)
Extremely important. This accout should be kept in mind so as to not come to believe that the case presented in the TV show Lie To Me is correct and Paul Ekman discovered micromomentary expressions in interviewing his own grandma or something to that effect. The sources for these references are: Haggard, E. A., and K. S. Isaacs (1966). Micromomentary facial expressions as indicators of ego mechanisms in psychotherapy. In L. A. Gottschalk and A. H. Auerbach (Eds.), Methods of research in psychotherapy. New York Appleton-Century-Crofts. Pp. 154-165. and Heimann, H. (1967). Die qualitative Analyse mimischer Bewegungen und ihre Anwendungsmöglichkeiten. Bericht über den 22. Kongress der Deutchen Gessellschaft für Phsychologie, Göttingen. (Izard, C. E. (1971). The face of emotion. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.)
4. Kinesics
Kinesic behavior or body movements fall on the expressive end of the communicative specificity dimension described by Dittmann (1972b). With the exception of movements such as head-nods and certain well understood gestures, few body movements can be considered discrete, most being continuous in nature. As such, given the expressive nature of movements, kinesics as a channel of communication possesses relatively low channel capacity (compared to speech and facial expression). These characteristics should not, however, belittle the role that body movements play in the total communication process. (Harper et al. 1978: 120)
It is interesting that the only significant kinesic signs mentioned by Greimas are exactly these (head-nods and emblems).
In evaluating Birdwhistell's contributions, we should note that he has not lciamed to have procided the answer to the study of body movement. As Kendon (1972) noted in his book review:
We do not get a well-worked map of the territory. Despite some reviewers, however, I see no reason why we should have expected such a map. It is only within the last five years that anyone other than Birdwhistell himself, besides a mere handful of workers, has even begun to take the field seriously. (1972, p. 441)
Nevertheless, it is possible legitimately to criticize Birdwhistell's research on a number of grounds. Weitz (1974) pointed out that "kinesic analysis is very much like literary analysis: one can impose one's own structure on the material and never really be certain that this is the best fitting model or the 'correct' one" (p. 130). From a more practical standpoint, the method of analysis is extremely time-consuming and the recording system (i.e., use of kinegraphs) is not readily adaptable to typewriters or for the use with computers. In addition, there are only verbal descriptions of the kines, kinemorphs, and pictorial symbols in the observation system; no pictures are provided to exemplify what the prciese movements are. Birdwhistell's system does not provide for sampling behavioral sequences; it requires an entire event. (Harper et al. 1978: 125)
Well, M. R. Key was kinda off in referring to this piece from Kendon's review of Birdwhistell (below). Kendon is speaking specifically about Birdwhistell's work not the whole field. And Harper et al. are kinda wrong in referring to Weitz's review of Birdwhistell as she also saw Birdwhistell's holistic approach to contribute positively to psychology which is atomistic as it is. Also, I don't agree with kinetographs not being easily adaptable to use with computers. It's actually quite easy. It merely was't easy in 1978. And today, as far as I know, no-one has taken up the quest to computerize kinegraphs because it's a bother. Well, as I have the necessary knowledge and skill to do this (it could be as simple as creating a new font) I should go back a few pages and re-read this carefully and pick out any relevant information about kinesic notation. It may very well come in handy in my future work. Perhaps learning kinegraphs is as fruitless as the idea of translating Kinesics and Context into Estonian, but I can't dismiss these ideas before I have tried them out. Also, there doesn't appear to be a kinegraphic font done (or simply not available on the internet), but there is a weakly MS Notepad analogue named Kinesics Text Editor created in 2010. I might start using it just for the name.
Birdwhistell is an anthropologist who has devoted his research career to the study fo human communication. He first elaborated his theories in 1952 with the publication Introduction to Kinesics: An Annotation System for Analysis of Body Motion and Gestures, although, for many years thereafter, he studied body movement in relative isolation since few other researchers were interested in that field. However, it is largely due to his contribution that there has been a resurgence of interest in kinesics and nonverbal communication, and any criticism of his approach should be tempered with this realization. Birdwhistell's influence has been greaterst in the nonexperimental areas of psychiatry and communications research, though, as with Freud, many of his naturalistic observations later became subject matter for empirical investigation. Until recently, few of his writings were in print because most of his work was communicated at professional meetings. His 1970 book, Kinesics and Context, edited by Barton Jones, provides a review of his work. Important reviews of this work were written by Kendon (1972) and Dittmann (1971). (Harper et al. 1978: 121)
This creates the impression of a lone and lowly anthropologist tucked away in a dark room with a film projector displaying films of human behaviour on the whitescreen, scribbling self-invented symbols (kinegraphs) on paper and appearing in diverse conferences delivering unappreciated speeches on the importance of body motion communication. This makes him seem like a crazy-person although he was an innovator with far-reaching influence.
Birdwhistell has taken an ethological or essentially descriptive approach to studying human communication. As Kendon (1972) noted, Birdwhistell views communication as a system with a structure that can be described independently of the behavior of the particular participants. This is a "systemic" view of communication and it assumed that all interpersonal behavior, that is, behavior that occurs and is detectable by another person, must be presumed to be socially learned and communicative until proven otherwise. Verbal and nonverbal communication are integral and inseparable parts of the total communication system. Knapp (1972) quoted Birdwhistell as saying that "studying nonverbal communication is like studying noncardiac physiology" (p. 3). In other words, it is not meaningful or useful to talk about a distinction between verbal and nonverbal communication. From this point of view, one cannot focus on one part of the total pattern of verbal and nonverbal interaction and expect to understand the significance, for example, of individual movements. A person's orientation to another (e.g., facing towards or away) is as important or "communicative" as the exact words being spoken (e.g. "I really think a lot of you"), and the significance of each is partially dependent on the other. (Harper et al. 1978: 121-122)
At this point I find that R. Birdwhistell and Ju. M. Lotman are similar in the sense that they were both holists.
To Birdwhistell, the context in which certain body movements occur was crucial as they could not be understood in isolation. Kendon (1972) described an example of a man with a raised fist. Unless the whole communicational context were known, we could not decide whether that action represented a greeting, a sign of anger, accompanied a verbal description of another person as "tightfisted," or represented a political symbol of "power." Whereas others might try to learn the "meaning" of this particular behavior, Birdwhistell sought to determine the different environments in which the behavior occurred (i.e., its range of use), from which one could begin to determine the function of the movement within the total communication situation. (Harper et al. 1978: 122)
That is, do not succumb to the carrier temptation! At the outset this seems to exclude all semiotic investigation of body motion communication, and indeed Birdwhistell at some point noted that he had found no "semiotic units" - who knows what he meant by "semiotic units" but at another point he did identify "behavior" and "sign" so the standpoint he took is not exactly clear.
The method of study chosen by Birdwhistell was nicely summarized by Kendon (1972):
The focus, then, is on what behaviors people characteristically engage in when they interact. Since we do not know what these behaviors are, we must look and see. Most often, an ivnestigator with this orientation will seek to gather records on film or video tape of occasions when people are present to one another and then, by patient and detailed watching, he will try to describe the elements of behavior that occur and the way these elements are patterned to one another. Gradually, as he accumulates examples, he will be able to state the contexts within which the elements he has isolated may be found, and from such statements specify the ways in which these elements function in the communication system he is studying.
The most rigorously developed methodology consonant with this approach is that of descriptive linguistics. (p. 443)
(Harper et al. 1978: 122)
About a year ago I did manage to read Kendon's review of Birdwhistell, but at this point I'm disposed to think that Harper et al. constructed this subchapter only on reviews without consulting neither of Birdwhistell's books. Who knows. Generaly, Kendon's review is available on JSTOR but Dittman's and Sebeok's reviews are unavailable as far as I know.
Knapp (1972) provided a good analysis of the "linguistic-kinesic analogy" that underlies Birdwhistell's methodology. As linguistic study can be divided up into descriptive and historical linguistics, kinesic study can be broken up into prekinesics, microkinesics, and social kinesics. Prekinesics concerns the study of physiological determinants and limits of movements. Microkinesics deals with the identification of units of movement, and social kinesics is the study of units and patterns of movement in the social situation (context) where their function can be determined. As there are paralinguistic phenomena, one can also identify parakinesic variables. These include motion or activity qualifiers such as the degree of muscular tension for each movement, the time, and the range of movement. (Harper et al. 1978: 122-123)
But of course no-one - as far as I know - ever took up Knapp's elaboratin. I'd rather suggest that descriptive kinesics is synchronic and historical kinesics is diachronic, but how, I am not sure. It also seems that prekinesics is kinesiology in disguise, microkinesics is what Birdwhistell did and social kinesics perhaps what Scheflen did. Also - look into kinesiology!
Birdwhistell determined that the study of kinesics should begin with derivation of the basic units of analysis, the units of measurement. Determination of the units of analysis is microkinesic analysis. The basic kinesic unit with discriminable meaning is the kine. Those kines or movements which may have the same differential meaning are called allokines. The analysis of body movement into these units required slow-motion film analysis by Birdwhistell:
In terms of duration, kines have been regarded in sequences that range from 1/50 of a second (significant lid, finger, hand, lip, and head movements faster than this seem to be allokinic within a range from as fast as 1/100 of a second to as long as a full second) to over 3 seconds. (1970, pp. 101-102)
For example, all those kines that consists of raising the eyebrows are also allokines in that they can be substituted for one another without changing their meaning. Together, a group of allokines make up a kineme, the smallest set of body movements with differential meaning, which is analogous to the linguistic unit, the phoneme. (Differential meaning is determined by asking subjects in an experimental setting whether a particular movement or position has a "different meaning" to them compared to another movement or position.) (Harper et al. 1978: 123)
Concerning how difficult it is to understand anything Birdwhistell has written: Harper et al. are not able to comprehend "differential meanign" in structural terms in any other way than translating it into the external variable (experimental) lingo. Perhaps semiotics, especially Tartu semiotics, would indeed be perfect for reopening the kinesics project and continuing where Birdwhistell left off. He did do humongous work to establish kinesics, it's only that no-one has had the means to continue it.
In studying body movements in American culture, Birdwhistell hypothesized approximately 50 or 60 kinemes. The significance of this list can readily be appreciated by considering the following:
Physiologists have estimated that the facial musculature is such that over twenty thousand different facial expressions are somatically possible. At the present state of investigation, we have been able to isolate thirty-two kinemes in the face and head area. (1970, p. 99)
Kinemes, the basic movements that have structural meaning, "are combined into orderly structures of behavior in the interactive sequence ... [contributing] to social meaning" (Birdwhistell, 1970, p. 99). Kinemorphs are the next higher unit, consisting of combinations of kinemes. Birdwhistell noted that kinemorphs were "further analyzable into kinemorphic classes which behave like linguistic morphemes" (1970, p. 101). He developed a lenghty pictorial notation system for coding kines, called kinegraphs. In this system the body is divided into eight different areas and movements in each body area is transcribed in a different type of kinegraphic symbol. An observer trained in this system can easily record the movements quickly without the use of mechanical equipment. (Harper et al. 1978: 123)
Yet there is no other way to receive training than to train oneself following his cryptic book. In fact, if I truly wanted to take up Birdwhistell's kinesics I should probably beforehand familarize myself with structural linguistics, e.g. de Saussure and Hjelmslev (I have a book on the latters glossematics in my hand's reach right now). That is, before I could possibly undestand (fully) the linguistic-kinesic analogy I should understand linguistics to some degree.
The social meaning of kinesic units is determined, as mentioned earlier, by observing them in different social contexts. An example of what this method of context analysis can yield comes from Birdwhistell's identification of markers. These are defined as "particular movements that occur regularly in association with or in substitution for certain syntactic arrangements in American English speech" (Birdwhistell, 1970, p. 103). Hand gestures are a most common form of marker.
Birdwhistell (1968) transcribed conversations verbally and kinesically, later excluding all kinesic activity which did not accompany speech. Certain of the remaining movements were then discovered to accompany specific verbal behaviors such as statements and questions. Similarly, Birdwhistell identified other kinesic behaviors important to speech:
During the same period that research was delineating these semantically bound markers, systematic observation revealed that a second series of behaviors, previously discussed as speech effort behavior, were regular and orderly. Slight head nods and sweeps, eye blinks, small lip movements, chin thrusts, shoulder nods and sweeps, thorax thrusts, hand and finger movements, as well as leg and foot shifts proved to be allokines of a quadripartide kinesic stress system. (1970, pp. 103-104)
These included primary stress, secondary stress, unstressed movements, and destressed movements. A primary kinesic stress is a strong movement normally occurring with loudest linguistic stress. Secondary stress is a weaker movement that occurs in association with the primary stress and can be contrasted with unstressed or normal movements accompanying speech. Destressed allokines represent reductions of movements below the normal flow during phrases and clauses.
(Harper et al. 1978: 124)I'm not sure how easy or difficult it could be to notate stress markers without mechanical equipment. This seems to be something you need to slow a video down for.
The above description of kinesic speech markers and stress movements exemplifies only part of the productivity of Birdwhistell's system of analysis. In a fascinating discussion, "Masculinity and femininity as display" (Birdwhistell, 1970), he identified several gender-related kinesic behaviors in American cultures. The importance of identifying such behaviors follows from Birdwhistell's reasoning: "My work in kinesics leads me to postulate that man and probably a numer of other weakly dimorphic species necessarily organize much of gender display and recognition at the level of position, movement, and expression" (1970, p. 42). Birdwhistell noted that in peoples of eight different cultures "both male and female informants distinguished not only typically male communicational behavior from typically female communicational behavior, but when the opportunity presented itself, distinguished 'feminine' and 'masculine' females" (1970, p. 43). Difference in male and female movements were noted in "infrafemoral angle and body angle" and pelvic position. A more subtle difference was also identified:
Informants often describe particular lid and eye behavior as masculine or feminine. However, only careful observation and measurement reveal that the structural components of circumorbital behavior are related, in closure of the lid in males, to prohibiting movements of the eyeballs while the lids are closed. Comparably, the communicative convention prescribes that unless accompanying signals indicate sleepiness or distress, males should close and open their lids in a relatively continuous movement. (Birdwhistell, 1970, p. 44)
(Harper et al. 1978: 124-125)
C'mon, Birdwhistell had more juicy Desmond Morris-esque sexual stuff. In fact, D. M. might have got his contention that the correct sequence is more important than the duration of the sequence from Birdwhistell.
To date, Birdwhistell's research has largely been limited to the study of the units of kinesic analysis. Scheflen, a psychiatrist influenced by Birdwhistell, went beyond the units of kinesic analysis and attempted to specify behavioral programs, movement patterns much larger than kinemorphic constructions. [...] Suffice it to say here that Scheflen's method of contextual analysis is essentially the same as Birdwhistell, and both shar ethe same aversion to "atomistic" psychological research following the external variable approach. (Harper et al. 1978: 125)
Actually, I think their approaches were kind of different. At least in respect to their material. Scheflen photographed a jewish family for an extended period, to my knowledge Birdwhistell merely analyzed psychiatric films.
The most important criticism of this method, however, is the assumption of the analogy between kinesic behavior and language. Dittman (1971), in his review, concluded that "the basic hypothesis of kinesics as a communication system with the same structure as spoken language is not a viable one" (p. 341). He pointed out that wors were disrete information sources but that only certain movements that were discrete might be classified as kinemes, analogous to phonemes. However, the bulk of movements are more continuous in nature or, if discrete, cannot be considered kinemes. As such, too few movements in kinesic analysis probably exist to justify such an analogy. More importantly, "there is no evidence that movement elements are assembled into groupings based upon any set rules internal to the movements themselves" (p. 341). With language there are discrete, reliable units of analysis and readily discernible rules for their combination such that new utterances (consisting of units not previously combined) can be understood. No such rules exist for body movement behavior. Wiener, Devoe, Rubinow, and Gelelr (1972) thus concluded: "Although we can understand how to proceed with a structural analysis after a communication system has been designed, we do not know how to discover a communication system by analysis of the smallest common units of a modality" (p. 197). (Harper et al. 1978: 126)
Dayum, I'm getting the feeling that kinesics was never applied to its full potential exactly because of the negative reviews it received by people who clearly preferred to experiment instead of learning the structural approach. Perhaps because of the widely known piece of information that mastering the kinesic notation system takes years of training. Or perhaps because of the universalist-relativist arguments from which Ekman exited as a clear winner, putting both Birdwhistell and Mead at shame. Whatever the case it seems that the whole field received a disservice by people who merely didn't understand kinesics sufficiently. The discrete-continuous discussion being a point in case, as Birdwhistell's major contribution WAS breaking continuous movement down to discrete fucking units.
In summary, we agree with Dittmann's assessment of Birdwhistell's work and the structural approach:
Birdwhistell's initial inpact was to spur a number of workers to look at these [kinesic] phenomena, using whatever methods were available. ... The way one conceives of the basic data for his research determines the methods he may use to examine those data. If the basic hypothesis of kinesics had been accepted by all investigators interested in the communicative aspects of body movement, their research would have been limited to linguistic methods which are really not appropriate to research in this area, and the chances are that we would not know as much about these phenomena as we know today. Communication by means other than language is a field o fa number of diverse topics and the types of information encountered by the research are also diverse. ... Theories and methods appripriate to all these different kinds of information are needed. Birdwhistell has given a theory, resting on untenable premises, which would confine investigators to only one method. (1971, pp. 341-342).
We now return to a research approach more in accord with our own thinking, that of the external variable approach demonstrated by Ekman and his colleagues. (Harper et al. 1978: 126)
Yup, haters gon' hate. Scheflen did incredible work and he was inspired by Birdwhistell, yet he did not confine himself to linguistic methods. Here's where the problem lays: Dittman claimed that Birdwhistell's approach arrested the development of nonverbal communication research and thus suffocated any real incentive to give kinescs a real try. I think he saw Birdwhistell's linguistic-kinesic analogy as too restrictive, which it doesn't have to be. One could very well build a semiotic approach on Birdwhistell's linguistic approach, and today's semiotic surely provides methods and theories for doing that. Dittman & Co. merely preferred experimental to non-experimental methods. There's more dollar bills in psychological laboratories with easily trainable reasearch assistants than in anthropological-linguistic-psychiatric study in a dark room watching endless reels of film at low speed.
An iconically coded extrinsic act, however, does resemble what it means, as when a person makes a throat-cutting movement with the index finger. In contrast, an act that is intrinsically coded "stands for itself:" the meaning of the act is seen in the action itself. If one were to substitute a karate chop movement for the words, "He gave John a 'karate chop,'" this would be an example of an intrinsically coded act. (Harper et al. 1978: 130)
No. This is not an example of intrinsically coded act. Intrinsically coded acts do not "substitute" or "stand for" anything other than the act itself. That is, giving John a karate chop is an intrinsically coded act, iconically substituting a similar movement for the verbal description is an iconically coded act. Here Harper et al. completely missed the point of intrinsic coding.
As Birdwhistell (1970) noted, many gestures and body movements are related to speech. In their study of synchrony, Condon and Ogston (1966) observed:
As a person talks, "blending phone into syllable into word," his body moves in a series of configurations of change which are precisely correlated with that serial transformation of "phone into syllable into word" of speech. Kinesic segmentation in general seems to coincide with etic segmentation of speech. (p. 339)
By "etic" the authors were referring to physical aspects of the articulation process, as opposed to "emic" segmentations, which are classes of sounds involved in language. Kendon (1970) studied interactional synchrony between speaker and listener and observed it to occur even when the listner could not observe the speaker. He concluded:
The coordiantion of the listener's movements with the behavior of the speaker is brought about through the listener's response to the stream of speech. ... The precision with which the listener's movements are synchronize dwith the speaker's speech means that the listener is in some way able to anticipate what the speaker is going to say. (p. 164)
Kendon speculated that in listening, as in speaking, body movements are coordinated with the cognitive processes that occur with those activities. He remarked that "It would be interesting to know if the listener marks in movement differentially the size of the unit of speech he is processing" (1970, p. 123). Kendon further noted that listener movements in processing speech may be an important source of feedback to the speaker that he is being understood and properly "tracked." (Harper et al. 1978: 143)
Here the difference between "emic" and "etic" is outlined, but I'm not sure if it is a reliable or even useful explanation. Kendon's reference to cognitive processing makes me wonder if this is a progenitor of future cognitivistic approaches to nonverbal behaviour.
An important final illustration of this point was provided in the study conducted by Knapp, hart, Fredrich, and Shulman 81973), who examined the "verbal and nonverbal correlates of human leave taking" (i.e., saying good-bye). These authors videotaped 80 5-minute interviews between dyads, of which the behaviors during the last 45 seconds were studied intensively. Their observations and prior theory yielded a large number of verbal and nonverbal behaviors used in terminating an interaction. Interestingly, those behaviors utilized by the subjects did not vary as a function of status difference or degree of acquaintance, and the authors noted that "behavior regularity attends leave-taking" (p. 193). Without going into detail about all of their findings we can note some, especially those related to body movement:
For this study, "proper" leave-taking seems to consist of a combination of Reinforcement, Professional Inquiry, Buffing [short words serving to change the discussion, e.g., "ah," "er"], and Appreciation on the verbal level, and the nonverbalisms of Breaking Eye Contact, Left Positioning, Forward Lean, and Head Nodding. (p. 194)
(Harper et al. 1978: 148-149)
Quote irrelevant for everyone else but highly significant for me: this is the earliest (compared to Portch 1985) use of the word "nonverbalism" I have come across. Reference: Knapp, M. L., R. P. Hart, G. W. Fredrich, and G. M. Shulman (1973). The rhetoric of good-bye: Verbal and nonverbal correlates of human leave-taking. Speech Monographs, 40, 182-198.
Hetherington (1972) compared, with male interviewers, the nonverbal behavior of girls who were daughters of dicorved or widowed mothers. Analysis of their body movements showed that daughters without fathers showed more self-manipulations that girls with fathers. Daughters of divorcees showed more forward lean, more arm and leg openness, and more smiling with the male interviewer, reflecting their positive reaction to him. In contrast, daughters of widows were more uncomfortable and less interactive, engaging in more backward-leaning, less direct orientation, and less arm openness, with their hands being folded in their laps and their legs together. These differences were even more pronounced for girls whose separations occurred early in their life. For example, daughters of dicorvees exhibited more than three times as many gesticulations or expressive hand movements as girls who lost their fathers before the age of five. These findings were part of impressive evidence that absence of the father in a family has a definite effect on adolescent daughters in their development of heterosexual relationships. (Harper et al. 1978: 151)
Curiously enough my first girlfriend grew up without a father and she engaged in self-manipulation extremely often.
One important set of research contributions that we do not describe in detail but should acknowledge is the work recently published by Spiegel and Machotka (1974) in their book, Messages of the Body. Rather than study live human interactions, the authors have chosen to investigate body movement and postures represented in famous paintings or depicted by mannequins. Much of the work reported reflects Machotka's interest in aesthetics. A number of experiments are reported in which the judgmental process of observers is studied in relation to their perception of various postures. A reader interested in kinesics and thea rts will find this book interesting reading. (Harper et al. 1978: 164)
This is available in utlib's repository.
5. The Eye and Visual Behavior
Table 5-1. Definitions of Visual Behavior (After von Cranach, 1971)
onesided lookGaze by one person in direction of another's face.
Face-gazeDirecting of one person's gaze at another's face.
Eye-gazeDirecting of one person's gaze at another's eyes.
Mutual lookTwo persons gaze at each other's face.
Eye contactTwo persons look into each other's eyes and are aware of each other's eye gaze.
Gaze avoidanceAvoidance of another's eye gaze
Gaze omissionFailure to look at another without intention to avoid eye contact.
(Harper et al. 1978: 173)
Some useful definitions. Other than this the whole chapter is pretty much void of anything of use.
6. Proxemics: The Study of Space
An important technical distinction that Watson (1972) has made and which concerns all the research that we consider is the emic-etic distinction, originally made by linguists. An emic level of analysis involves studying the relationships of behaviors within a specific system (such as a particular culture), i.e., the internal structure of the behavioral system. In contrast, "the etic approach involves viewing a system of behavior from outside the system, using criteria which are external to the system. ... The etic approach provides an initial base from which the observer can begin his analysis of the system" (p 454). In particular, Watson (1972) pointed out that "so far proxemic research has been cast almost entirely in an etic framework" (p. 454), based upon some variations of the etic notation system, developed by Hall. We do not belabor this distinction further in this review though the reader should be aware of it in considering research in this area as a whole. (Harper et al. 1978: 250)
A neat outtake of Watson's article in The Journal of Communication.
Key, Mary Ritchie 1979. Review of Robert G. Harper, Arthur N. Wiens & Joseph D. Matarazzo, Non-verbal communication: The state of the art and Marianne LaFrance & Clara Mayo, Moving bodies: Non-verbal communication in social relationships. Language in Society 8(2-3): 444-447.
The volume is research-oriented, and the authors consider the material in this state-of-the-art book to be presented in such a way as to give the reader an idea of how findings were obtained, in addition to what the findings were. They have very competently fulfilled their purpose. (Key 1979: 445)
I can concur, the HWM is indeed written mostly with research methodology in sight. Too bad it is of little use for my purposes other than hinting at complex problems within the field that I could consider in my own work. But I have to recognize that my current work has very little to do with actual nonverbal research but more with a semiotic interpretation of work done others and earlier (e.g. historical studies, which HWM by now already is.
While books such as these, written from one point of view, give us a fairly good picture of that particular perspective, a weakness, of course, is that they say nothing about another point of view; for example, the semiotic literature is almost completely missing in these books. (Key 1979: 445)
A valid problem, as Burgoon & Seine's The Unspoken Dialogue did indeed pay attention to different perspective... But I am surprised that M. R. Key puts emphasis on the semiotic perspective. I take it as a symptom that nonverbal communication research at the time (especially the anthropological and sociological varieties) did indeed pay attention to semiotics. How could they not, with all the work Sebeok did for the profusion of this subject in semiotics?
Another strenght of these books is the reliable discussion of the non-verbal articulation of emotions. Both books rely heavily on Ekman's research, who is perhaps best known in this country for pushing the study of universals and pancultural elements of emotion.
It is not necessary for authors of non-verbal communication studies to apologize that research is in the early stages. As Kendon reminded us (HWM: 125), we do not have a well-worked map, and thre is no reason to believe that we should expect sucha a map at these early stages of recognizing that non-verbal communication is an important aspect of human interaction. (Key 1979: 446)
I'm sorry to say but I'm not aware of any clear-cut map of the field being available even in 2012. But this could be accounted for by my ignorance of modern approaches.
In my rather comprehensive reading of non-verbal studies for two decades, I have noted that often the emic-etic concepts are not understood and in general are not appropriated even enough to give them a fair trial in analyzing larger units of behavior. Why? Perhaps because few linguists are involved in non-verbal research. Perhaps because these concepts are best learned at the level where the inventory of items to be analyzed has the least number of entities, and that is at the phonological level. (Key 1979: 446)
Here Key is right on the money: I have difficulties understanding the emic-etic concepts and as far as I know other semioticians have also.


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