Body Language: Cultural or Universal? Essay

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Body language and various other nonverbal cues have long been recognized as being of great importance to the facilitation of communication. There has been a long running debate as to whether body language signals and their meanings are culturally determined or whether such cues are innate and thus universal. The nature versus nurture dichotomy inherent in this debate is false; one does not preclude the other’s influence. Rather researchers should seek to address the question how much of nonverbal communication is innate and how much is culturally defined? Are there any true universal nonverbal cues or just universal tendencies modified to suit cultural ideals and constraints? It is my proposal that of all forms of nonverbal…show more content…
The Japanese subjects were able to identify the emotions of the English and Italians better than those groups had been able to judge the Japanese. However the Japanese subjects had difficulty determining Japanese facial expressions. This would seem to indicate that the Japanese face does not express emotion in the same manner as those of other cultures. However, another experiment (3) demonstrated different results. American and Japanese subjects were observed while watching films designed to evoke fear and disgust. During part of this observation the subjects were videotaped while watching the film alone. It was presumed that during this time no social rules would restrict the subject’s display of emotion. When alone, no difference existed between the American and the Japanese subjects in the display of emotion. While watching the film with the researcher present the Japanese were more likely than the Americans to hide negative emotions with a smile.
Observation of children who were born deaf and blind show that they make the same emotional expressions (3). There is no way that these children could have learned this behavior through sensory input. Similarly, a study involving sighted babies less than six months of age has shown that they react with fear to negative faces (7). These infants were too young to have learned which faces had negative connotations. This would have to be an innate response. Different cultures define when and
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