Temperature, Lighting , and Color

Temperature, Lighting , and Color

Three other elements of the environment that can be controlled affect communication and send messages. These are temperature, lighting, and the colors used in the environment.

Temperature can stimulate or inhibit effective communication by altering people’s mood and changing their level of attentiveness. Can you recall the difficulty you have had listening to a teacher in a hot stuffy classroom? Have you found that you become edgy when you are cold?

Lighting levels also add meaning to communication messages. In lecture halls and reading rooms, bright light is expected it encourages good listening and comfortable reading. By contrast, in a chic restaurant, a music listening room, or a television lounge, you expect the lighting to be soft and rather dim, which makes for a cozy atmosphere that invites intimate conversation (Knapp & Hall). We often change the lighting level in a room to change the mood and indicate the type of interaction that is expected. Bright lights encourage activity and boisterous. conversations, whereas softer light levels calm and soothe, encouraging quiet and more serious conversations.

Color may stimulate both emotional and physical reactions. For instance, red excites, blue comforts and soothes, and yellow cheers and elevates mood. Professional interior designers who understand how people react to colors may choose blues when they are trying to create a peaceful, serene atmosphere for a :Jiving room, whereas they will decorate in reds and yellows in a playroom.

In addition, specific colors also convey information about people and events. For instance, youth gangs often use colors to signal membership. In some communities gang members wear bandannas or other articles of clothing in-a specific color.

Cultural Variations in Management of the Environment

As you would expect, the environments in which people feel comfortable depend on their cultural background. In the United States, where we have ample land, many people live in individual homes or in large apartments. In other countries, where land is scarce, people live in more confined spaces and can feel lonely or isolated in larger spaces. In Asia, most people live in spaces that by our standards would feel quite cramped. Similarly, people from different cultures have different ideas about what constitutes appropriate distances for various interactions. Recall that in the dominant culture of the United States personal or intimate space is eighteen inches or less. In Middle Eastern cultures, ho~ever, men move much closer to other men when they are talking (Samovar, Porter, & Stefani, 1998, p. 165). Thus, when an Arab man talks with a man from the United States, one of the two is likely to be uncomfortable. Either the American will feel uncomfortable and invaded or the Arab will feel isolated and too distant for serious conversation. We also differ in the temperature ranges that we find comfortable. People who originate from  warmer climates can federate heat more easily than people who originate in cooler climates. Even the meanings we assign to colors  by national culture and religion. In India white not black is the color of mourning, and Hindu brides wear red.

Summary Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication refers to how people communicate through the use of body motions, para language, self-presentation cues, and the physical environment.

Perhaps the most familiar methods of nonverbal communication are what and how a person communicates through body motions and para language. Eye contact, facial expression, gesture and  posture are four major types of body motions. Body motions ac: as emblems, illustrators, affect displays, regulators, and tension relievers. Likewise, a person’s vocal characteristics (volume rate, pitch and  quality) as well as the vocal interference (ahs, urns, you knows  and likes) help us interpret the meaning of the verbal message.

A though verbal and nonverbal communication work together best when they are complementary, nonverbal cues may replace or even contradict verbal symbols. Generally, nonverbal communication is more to be trusted when verbal and nonverbal cues are in conflict.

Through self-presentation cues such as clothing, touching behavior, and use of time, people communicate about themselves and their relationship to .others. The physical environment is often overlooked even though we set the tone for conversations and non verbally communicate through ‘it. The choices people make in their  permanent spaces, the way they arrange the objects in those spaces, and the way they control or react to temperature, lighting, and color contribute to the quality and meaning of the communication episodes that occur.



People learn a great deal about us based on how we choose to present ourselves through our choices in clothing and personal grooming, our use of touching, a person  and the way we treat time.

Clothing and Personal Grooming

Choice of clothing and personal grooming will communicate a message, Determine what message you want to send, and then dress and groom yourself accordingly. Lawyers and business managers understand the power of dress Akkad grooming quite well. For instance, an attorney knows that a person charged with drug peddling would be foolish to show up in the courtroom wearing the local gang starter jacket, heavy gold chains, oversize pants,  end a  backward facing baseball cap. Similarly, business managers periodically adjust their dress codes to make sure they are reflective of the image they want their business to project. For instance, many have been rethinking their decisions about “casual dress days. As George Ge yer (1999) pointed out in an editorial, Kern Ferry International, the nation’s largest executive search firm, experimented all summer with five day a week casual. Finally, it declared the experiment a failure, because. We found that casual dress fostered a casual attitude.

Many young people consciously choose’ clothing styles and personal grooming behaviors that stretch Western norms of acceptability. From retro fashions to hip hop styles, from blue hair and nail colors to dreadlocks and Hawks, from tattooing to body piercing, more and more people are choosing to use their clothing and appearance to differentiate themselves from some groups an.d to identify closely with others.

Each of  us has the right to express our individuality and to communicate our political feelings in our dress  and personal grooming, but we must recognize that doing so sends messages that can create barriers as well as bonds. Part of being a skilled communicator is realizing that the meaning of clothing and grooming depends as much on receivers’ perceptions as on our own intentions.


Poise refers to assurance of manner. As much as 20 percent of the population experience a high degree of nervousness when encountering strangers, speaking in groups, and in public-speaking settings (Richmond & McCroskey, 1995, p. 35). For most people, nervousness decreases as they gain confidence in their ability to function well in the particular setting. Mastery of the skills discussed in the next three parts of this text should help you cope with the’ nervousness you might face in differing communication situations.


Through touch (the use of hands, arms, and other body parts to pat, hug, slap, kiss, pinch, stroke, hold, embrace, and tickle) we communicate a variety of meanings. In Western culture, we shake hands to be sociable and polite, we pat a person on the back for encouragement, we hug a person to show love, and we clasp raised hands to demonstrate solidarity. Our touching can be gentle or firm, perfunctory or passionate, brief or lingering. And how we touch can communicate our power, our empathy, or our understanding.

People differ in their touching behavior and in their reactions to unsolicited touch from others. Some people like to touch and be touched; other people do not. Women rend to touch others less than men do, but women value touching more than men do. Women view touch as an expressive behavior that demon states warmth and affiliation. Men view touch as instrumental behavior for example, touching females is considered a prelude to sexual activity (Pearson, West, & Turner, 1995, p. 142).

Although U.S. culture is relatively non contact oriented, the kinds and amounts of touching behavior within our society vary widely. Touching behavior that seems innocuous to one person may be perceived to be overly intimate or threatening to another. Touch that is perceived to be OK in private may embarrass a person when done in public or with a large group of people. What you communicate by touching may be perceived positively or negatively. Thus, if you want to be perceived as sensitive and caring, it is a good idea to ask the other before touching.


A less obvious aspect of our self-presentation is how we manage and react to others’ use and management of what Edward T. Hall (1959) calls informal  time, including duration, activity, and punctuality.

Duration is the amount of time that we regard as appropriate for certain -0 events or activities. For instance, we may think a sermon should last twenty minutes and a typical class fifty minutes. When the duration of that event or activity differs significantly from our expectations, we begin to attribute meaning to that difference. For example, if we are told that our job interview will take one hour and it is over in twenty minutes, we may conclude that we didn’t get the job. Similarly, if the interview stretches to two hours, we may believe we are in strong contention for the job. Because our use of time creates its own meanings, we need to be sensitive to polite conventions about the appropriate duration of events and activities.

Activity refers to what people perceive should be done in a given time  period. Many of us work during the day, sleep at night, eat a light meal around midday, and so on. When someone engages in behavior at a time that we deem inappropriate, we are likely to react negatively. For instance, Susan, who prides herself on being available to her employees, may well be put off when Sung Lei calls her at home during the dinner hour to discuss a presentation that is to be delivered at the-end of the month. Sung Lei may think she is presenting herself as organized an’d interested in her work, but Susan may view this interruption as rude and insensitive.

Punctuality is the extent to which one strictly adheres to the appointed or regular time. In many respects, it may be the dimension of time catharsis most clops related to self-presentation. If you make an appointment to meet your professor in her office at 10 a.m., her opinion of you may differ depending on whether you arrive at 9:50, at 10:00, at 10:10, or at 10:30. Similarly, opinion of her will whether she is appointed  . In the United States, strict punctuality is a dominant cultural inoperative. When a date is made or an appointment set, one is normally expected to be prompt or risk having early or late arrival interpreted as meaningful.

Cultural Variations in Self Presentation

Just as the meaning of body motions and para language are culturally determined, so too are self presentation behaviors.

Touch According to Gudykunst and Kim (1997), differences in touching behavior are highly correlated with culture. In some cultures, lots of contact and touching is normal behavior, whereas in other cultures, individual space is respected and frequent touching is not encouraged. People in high contact cultures evaluate close as positive and good, and evaluate far as negative and bad. People in low contact cultures evaluate close as negative and bad, and far as positive and good. Latin American and Mediterranean countries  are high contact cultures, northern European cultures are medium to low in contact, and Asian cultures are for the most part low-contact cultures. As you can imagine then, the United States, which is a country of immigrants, is generally perceived to be medium contact, although there are wide differences between individual Americans due to family heritage.

Time A particularly important area of differences concerns perceptions of time. Countercultures, like the dominant culture of the United States, view time chronologically; that they see time as compartmental, irreversible, and one dimensional. Time is a scarce resource to be spent,saved, and budgeted. As a result, in the United States, being even a few minutes late may require you to acknowledge your lateness. Being ten to fifteen minutes late usually requires an apology, and being more than thirty minutes late is likely to be perceived as an insult requiring a great seal of explanation to earn the person’s forgiveness.

People from other cultural backgrounds, such as those from Latin America, Asia, or the Middle East, tend to view time poly chronically, a view that sees time as continuous and involves engaging in several activities at the same time. To those following a poly chronic view of time, the concept of  being late has no meaning. One arrives when one has completed what came before. In Latin American or Arab cultures, for instance, it is not unusual for either person to be more than thirty minutes late, and Heine is likely to expect or offer an apology. Although the dominant culture:in the United States is monochromatic in the extreme, within some of our Americana or African American subcultures a poly chromatic view of time still influences behavior.

Communication through Management of Your Environment

In addition to the way we use body motions, para language, and self presentation cues, we Communicate non verbally through the physical environment in which our conversations occur, including the space we occupy, the temperature of the surroundings, the lighting levels, and the colors used in the interior decorations.


As a study, space includes permanent structures, the movable objects within space, and informal space.

Management of permanent structures Permanent structures arc the buildings in which we live and work and the parts of those buildings that cannot he moved not have much control over their creation, we do   exercise control in our selection of them. For instance, when you rent an apartment or buy a condominium or a home, you consider whether or not it is in tune with your lifestyle. People who select a fourth-floor loft may view themselves differently from those who select one room inefficiencies. Doctors, lawyers, and other professionals usually search with care to find homes that fit the image they want to communicate.

In addition, specific features affect our communication within that environment. For instance, people who live in apartment buildings are likely to become better acquainted with neighbors who live across the hall and next door than with those who live on other floors. Similarly, people who share common space such as laundry facilities or garages are more likely to become acquainted than those who do nor.

Management of movable objects within space Whether the space is a dormitory room, a living room, a seminar room, or a classroom, we have the opportunity to arrange and rearrange movable objects to achieve the effect we want. For example, a manager’s office arranged so that the manager sits behind the desk and the employee chair is on the other side of that desk says, Let’s talk business I’m the boss and you’re the employee. In contrast, if the employee chair is at the side of the desk (creating an absence of a formal barrier), the arrangement says, Don’t be nervous let’s just chat.

Management of: informal space Managing informal space includes the space around us at.the moment. In the dominant U.S. culture, four distinct distances represent what most people consider appropriate or comfortable in various situations (Hall, 1969).

• Intimate distance, up to eighteen inches, is appropriate for private conversations between close friends.

• Personal distance, from eighteen inches to four feet, is the space in which casual conversation occurs.

• Social distance, from four to twelve feet, is where; impersonal business such as job interviews is conducted.

• Public distance is anything more than twelve feet.

Of greatest concern to us is the intimate distance, that which we regard as appropriate for intimate conversation with close friends, parents, and younger children. If you have become uncomfortable because a person you were  talking with was standing too close to you, you are already aware of how attitudes toward intimate space influence people’s conversation. People usually become uncomfortable when “outsiders” violate this intimate distance.

 Intrusions into our intimate space are acceptable only in certain settings and then only when all involved follow the unwritten rules. For instance, people will tolerate being packed into a crowded elevator or subway and even  touching others they do not know provided the others follow such rules as standing rigidly, looking at the floor or the indicator above the door, and not making eye contact with others. Only occasionally will people who are forced to invade each other’s intimate space acknowledge the other.as a person. Then they are likely to exchange sheepish smiles or otherwise acknowledge the mutual invasion of intimate distance. In the Spotlight on Scholars, we feature Judee Bur goon, who has focused a great deal of her research on the effects of such intrusions into our intimate space. Her findings develop and test what she calls “expectancy violation theory.

Interpersonal problems occur when one person’s use of space violates the behavioral expectations of another. Unfortunately, sometimes one person intentionally violates the space expectations of another, When the violation is between members of the opposite sex, it can be considered sexual harassment. Don may, through consolations of informal space, posture, movements, or gestures, appear on to Dormice. If Donnie does not welcome the attention, she may feel threatened. In this case, Dan’s nonverbal behavior can be construed as sexual harassment. To avoid perceptions of harassment, people need to be especially sensitive to others’ definitions of intimate space.

Our intimate or personal space moves when we move, but we also seek to claim other space whether we currently are occupying it or not. That is, we are likely to look at certain space as our territory, as space over which we may claim ownership. If Marcia decides to eat lunch at the company commissary, the space at the table she selects becomes her territory. Suppose that during lunch Marcia leaves her territory to get butter for her roll. The chair she left, the food on the table, and the space around that food are hers, and she will expect others to stay away. If, when she returns, Marcia finds that someone at the table has moved a glass or a dish into the area that she regards as her territory, she is likely to feel resentful.

Many people stake out their territory with markers. For example, Ramon arrives early for the first day of class, finds an empty desk, puts his backpack at the side on the floor, and puts his coat on the seat. He then makes a quick trip to the restroom. If someone comes along while Ramon is gone, moves his backpack and coat and sits down at the desk, that person is violating what Ramon has marked as his territory.

As a student of nonverbal communication, you understand, however, that other people may not look at either the space around you or your territory in quite the same way as you do. Even though the majority of U.S. residents have learned the same basic rules governing the management of space, this does not mean that everyone shares the same respect for the rules or treats the consequences of breaking the rules in the same way.

Para language

Para language

Para language is the no~verbal “sound” of what we hear how something is said. We begin by describing the four vocal characteristics that comprise para language. Then we discuss how vocal interference can disrupt message flow.

Vocal Characteristics

By controlling the pitch, volume, rate, and quality of our voice the four major vocal characteristics-we can c implement, supplement, or contradict the meaning conveyed by the language of our message.

Pitch is the highness or lowness of tone. People tend to raise and lower vocal pitch to accompany changes in volume. They may also raise the pitch when they are nervous or lower the pitch when they are trying to be forceful.

Volume is loudness or softness of tone. Some people have booming voices that carry long distances, and others are normally soft spoken. Regardless of their normal volume level, people vary their volume depending on the situation and the topic of discussion.

Rate is the speed at which a person speaks. People tend to talk more rapidly when they are happy, frightened, nervous, or excited and more slowly when they are problem solving out loud or are trying to emphasize a point.

Quality is the sound of the voice. Each human voice has a distinct tone. Some voices are raspy, some smoky, some have bell-like qualities, and others are throaty. Moreover, each of us uses a slightly different quality of voice to .communicate a particular state of mind. We may associate complaints with a whiny, nasal quality; seductive invitation with a soft, breathy quality; and anger with a strident, harsh quality.

Some of us have developed local habits that lead others to consistently misinterpret what we say. For instance, some people have cultivated a tone of voice that causes others to believe they are being sarcastic when they are not. If you have concerns about your vocal-characteristics, talk them over with your professor. Your professor can observe you and make recommendations for additional help should you need it.

Vocal Interference

Although most of us are occasionally guilty of using some vocal interference (extraneous sounds or words that interrupt fluent speech), these interference become a problem when they are perceived by others as excessive and when they begin to call attention to themselves and so prevent listeners from concentrating on meaning. The most common interference that creep into our speech include the uh’s,er’s, well’s, and OK’s and those nearly universal interrupters of Americans conversation, you know and like.

Vocal interference may initially be used as place markers, filling momentary gaps in speech that would otherwise be silence. In this way, we indicate that we have not finished speaking and that it is still our turn. We may use an urn when we need to momentarily pause to search for the right word or die. Although the chance f being interrupted  real (some people will seek to siren up at any pause), the intrusion of an excessive number of fillers can lead to the impression` that  you are unsure of yourself or confused in what you arc attempting to say.

Equally prevalent and perhaps even more disruptive, is the overuse of you know and like. The you know habit may begin as a genuine way to find out whacker what is being said is already known by other. Similarly, the use of  like may arras from making comparisons such as Tom is hot, he looks like Denizen Washington. Soon the comparisons become shortcuts as in He’s like really hot Finally, the use of  like becomes pure filler. Like, he’s really cool, like I can’t really explain it, but I’ll tell you he’s like wow.

Curiously, no matter how irritating the use of you know or like may be to listeners, they are unlikely to verbalize their irritation. Yet their habitual use can prove to be a handicap in many settings. For example, excessive use of vocal interference during job interviews, at work, or in class can adversely affect the impression you make.

Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal Communication

Marsha Collins steps into Houston’s office  and says, I’m not going to be able to meet with you to talk about the report you wrote because I’m swamped with work.

In  a speech to her constituents, Stephanie Morris a candidate for Congress, says, I want you to know I am committed to the needs of the people of this district.

How will Houston take Marsha Collins’s excuse? Likewise, how much faith will Stephanie Morris’s constituents have in her commitment? In both cases, the answer will rest largely on how Houston and Morris’s constituents interpret Marsha’s and Stephanie’s vocal inflections, facial expressions, and gestures as much as their words. In reality, the meaning of any communication is based on both the content of the verbal message and the interpretation of the nonverbal behavior that accompanies and surrounds the verbal message.

In this chapter, we provide a framework for analyzing and improving nonverbal communication behavior in all contexts. We begin by studying the nature of nonverbal behavior and the way verbal and nonverbal communication messages interrelate. We then look at the major types of nonverbal communication body motions, para language, self presentation, and management of the environment. We conclude our discussion by suggesting methods for increasing the accuracy with which nonverbal behavior is understood.

The Nature of Nonverbal Communication Behavior

Nonverbal communication behaviors are those bodily actions and vocal qualities that typically accompany a verbal message, that are usually interpreted as intentional, and that have agreed upon interpretations within a culture or speech community (Bur goon, 1994).

When we say that nonverbal are interpreted as intentional, we mean that people act as if they are intended even if they are performed unconsciously or unintentionally. So, when Anita says I’ve had it as she slams a book down on the table, we interpret the loudness of her voice and the act of slamming the book down as intentionally emphasizing the meaning of the words.

Likewise, when we refer to agreed-upon interpretations in a culture or speech community, we recognize that although people from around the world use many of the same nonverbal cues they may interpret them  differently. For instance, a smile may mean a positive experience, or it may mean enjoyment with contact, or it may simply be a means of saving face in an uncomfortable situation.

In addition to bodily actions and vocal qualities that accompany verbal messages, nonverbal communication also includes the messages sent by our use of physical space and our choices of clothing, furniture, lighting, temperature, and color.

Because much of what is considered appropriate nonverbal behavior depends on culture, we begin by discussing each type of behavior from a U.S. cultural perspective. Then we describe some of the most important ways nonverbal communication behavior is interpreted differently in other cultures and cornerstones.

Body Motions

Of all nonverbal behavior, you are probably most familiar with kinetics, or body motions, which include the use of eye contact, facial expression, gesture, and posture to communicate.

Eye Contact

Eye contact, also referred to as gaze, is how and how much we look at people with whom we are communicating. Eye contact serves many functions in our communication. Its presence shows that we are paying attention. How we look at a person also reveals a range of emotions such as affection, anger, or fear. Moreover, intensity of eye contact may also be used to exercise dominance (Pearson, West, & Turner, 1995). For instance, we describe people in love as looking doe eyed we comment on looks that could kill,” and we talk of someone staring another person down.

Moreover, through our eye contact we monitor the effect of our communication. By maintaining your eye contact, you can tell when or whether people are paying attention to you, when people are involved in what you are saying, and whether what you are saying is eliciting feelings.

The amount of eye contact differs from person to person and from situation to situation. Although people look at each other as they talk, studies show that talkers hold eye contact about 40 percent of the time and listeners nearly 70 percent of the time (Knapp & Hall, 1992).

We generally maintain better eye contact when we are discussing topics :with which we are comfortable, when we are genuinely interested in a person’s comments or reactions, or when we are trying to influence the other person. Conversely, we tend to avoid eye contact when we are discussing topics that make us uncomfortable, when we lack interest in the topic or person, or when we are embarrassed, ashamed, or trying to hide something.

Because of its importance in public speaking, we will talk more about eye contact Practicing the Presentation of Your Speech.

Facial Expression

Facial expression is the arrangement of facial muscles to communicate emotional states or reactions to messages. Our facial expressions are especially important in conveying the six basic emotions of happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, anger, and disgust that are recognized across cultures (Ekman & Fries en, 1.975).


Gestures are the movements of hand, arms, and finger that  we use  to describe or to emphasize. Thus, when a person says, about this high or nearly this round, we expect to see a gesture accompany the verbal description. Likewise, when a person says, Put that down or Listen to me, a pointing finger, pounding fist, or some other gesture often reinforces the point. People do vary, however, in the amount of gesturing that companies their speech. Some  people talk with their hands far more than others.


Posture is the position and movement of the body. Changes in posture can also communicate. For instance, suddenly sitting upright and leaning forward show increased attention, whereas standing up may signal I’m done now, and turning one’s back to the other conveys a redirection of attention away from the other person.

How Body Motions Are Used

Body motions in general and gestures in particular help us considerably in conveying meaning (Ekman & Friesen, 1969).

1. Body motions may be used to take the place of a word or phrase. We could many contexts, emblems are used as a complete language, Sign language refers to systems of body motions used to communicate, which include sign languages of the deaf and alternate sign languages used by Trappist monks in Europe and the women of Australia (Leathers, 1997).

2. Body motions may be used to illustrate what a speaker is saying. We use gestures to illustrate in at least five ways.

• To emphasize speech: A man may pound the table in front of him as he says, Don’t bug me.

• To show the path or direction of thought: A professor may move her hands on an imaginary continuum when she says. The papers ranged from very good to very bad.

• To show position: A waiter may point when he says, Take that table.

•  To describe: People may use their hands to indicate size as they say. The ball is about three inches in diameter.

• To mimic: People may nod their heads as they say, Did you see the way he nodded.

3. Body motions can display the nonverbal expression of feelings. These emotional displays will take place automatically and are likely to be quite noticeable. For instance, if you stub your toe on a chair as you drag yourself out of bed in the morning, you are likely to grimace in pain. Occasionally we are fooled by these displays when people purposely intensify or overreact. For example, a baseball player may remain surfaced when he is hit by a wild pitch and refuse to rub the spot where he has been struck; likewise, a youngster may howl in pain when her older sister bumps her by accident.

4. Body motions may be used to control or regulate the flow of a conversation or other communication transaction. We use shifts in eye contact, slight head movements, .shifts in posture, raised eyebrows, and nodding head to tell a person when to continue, to repeat, to elaborate, to hurry up, or to finish. Effective communicators learn to adjust what they are saying and how they are saying it on the basis of such cues.

5. Body motions may be used to relieve tension. As we listen to people and watch them while they speak, they may scratch their head, tap their foot, wring their hands.

Cultural Variation

Several cultural differences in body motions are well documented.

Eye contact A majority of people in the ‘United States. and in other Western cultures expect those with whom they are communicating to look them in the eye, but in many societies avoiding eye contact communicates respect and deference (Martin & Nakayama, 1997, p. 149). For instance, in Japan people direct their gaze to a position around the Adam’s apple and avoid direct eye contact. Chinese, Indonesians, and rural Mexicans lower their eyes as a sign of deference-to them too much direct eye contact is a sign of bad manners. Arabs, in contrast, look intently into the eyes of the person with whom they are talking-to them direct eye contact demonstrates keen interest. Likewise, there are also differences in use of eye contact in the subcultures of the United States. For instance, African Americans use more continuous eye contact than whites when they are speaking but less when they are listening (Samovar, Porter, & Stefani, 1998).

Gestures, movements, and facial expression People of other cultures also show considerable differences in their use of gestures, movements, and facial expressions. Gestures in particular can assume completely different meanings. For instance, forming a circle with the thumb ‘and forefinger-the OK sign in the United States-means zero or worthless in France and is a vulgar gesture in Germany, Brazil, and Australia (Ax tell, 1999). Displays of emotion also vary. For instance in some Eastern cultures, people have been socialized to intensify emotional behavior cues, whereas members of other cultures have been socialized to amplify their displays of emotion. The cultural differences that are related to emotional displays are often reflected in the interpretation that can be given to facial expressions (Samovar, Porter, & Stefani, 1998).

Gender Variations

Men and women also show differences in their use of nonverbal communication behavior (Canary & Hause, 1993).

Eye contact In the United. States, women tend to have more frequent eye contact during conversations than men do (Cegala & Sillars, 1989). For instance, women tend to hold eye contact more than men regardless of the sex of the person they are interacting with (Wood 1997, p. 198).

Facial expression and gesture Women tend to smile more than men do, but their smiles are harder to inrerprer, Men’s smiles generally mean positive feelings, whereas women’s smiles tend to be suggestions of responding to affiliation and friendliness (Hall, 1998, p. 16.9). Gender differences in the use of gestures are so profound that people have been found to attribute masculinity or femininity on the basis of gesture style alone (Pearson, West, & Turner, 1995, p. 126). For instance, women are more likely to keel’ their arms close to rhei. body, are less likely to lean forward with their body, play more often with their hair or clothing, and tap their hands more often than men do.

Not only do men aw:l women use nonverbal behaviors in different way, but men and women differ in how they interpret the nonverbal communication behaviors of others. Major difficulties in male-female relationships are often created .by inaccurately encoding and decoding nonverbal messages. A number of studies have shown that women are better than men at decoding nonverbal, vocal, and facial cues (Stewart, Cooper, Stewart, & Friedley, 1998, p. 74).