Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Social behaviour is often something which is very influential on environment, circumstances and the company you are surrounded by. It can vary from culture to culture and is without question a vastly disperse topic. Within social behaviour you have the issue of communication. How people communicate is different for each individual and is something which can be extremely complex to research and can be very intriguing. For my previous assignment, I researched into the subject of how social behaviour relates to crime. I brainstormed ideas and ways to combat this through futuristic design projections. This has led me to research in greater depth the subject matter of how crime can be combatted but first I need to grasp the core roots associated with social behaviour. In order to do so I am going to use resources sourced from my bibliography from assignment three. 

My first text I am going to use is "The definitive book of body language" by Allan and Barbara Pease. In this book, the authors looks into the nature of the human body and how to read body language. My thinking behind choosing this book was that if security teams had better training in specialised areas such as reading body language or devices they could wear which could specialize in reading body language, they could aid combatting crime. Therefore, they could read situations more easily and stop fights and crime related issues before they began due to having previous warning through reading  signals. Throughout the book, the idea that body language is a key source of communication is broadly addressed, as is the idea that reading body language is about “ matching what you see and hear in the environment in which it all happens” (Pease;2005,p2). You have to take into account all the key elements and factors before making a choice or decision. Concerning this statement, yes, it is true that it is vital to consider these factor, but it could also be very risky and create multiple problems. It seems that a lot of the information is based on findings rather than solid facts. This in turn, conjures up the thought that the authors are very much taking for granted their findings which poses the question, is it really reliable? Will this book benefit the reader at all?  For example, throughout this book there are numerous examples of certain movements, actions or situations which could have multiple meanings; therefore making the judgement not always 100% accurate. In my opinion, the book as been written from a relatively open minded, non bias point of view as it contains plenty of key secondary and primary sources which back up a lot of findings and statements throughout this book.

Within the chapter, ‘Understanding the Basics’ the three main rules of reading body language are covered; rule 1-read gestures in clusters, rule 2-look for congruence and rule 3-in context. The book itself is designed to educate the reader to gain a deeper understanding of other people, as once we grasp this “understanding how something works make living with it easier whereas ignorance and lack of understanding promote fear and superstition” (2005,p6). Research used for the book is very much science based and was extracted from new scientific disciplines such as evolutionary biology, evolutionary psychology and also through research into MRI scans (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) of the brain’s activities. As I have previously mentioned, body language is a form of muted communication and has been recognized as a substitute for verbal messages. Albert Mehrabain, a leading researcher in the 1950’s found that the total impact of a message is around “7% verbal, 38% vocal and 55% non-verbal” (2005,p9). Also, anthropologist Ray Birdwhistell conducted a study on ‘kinesics’, the original study of verbal communication and he found that the average person throughout the course of a day would only speak for 10-11 minutes with the average sentence generally taking only 2.5 seconds. (2005,p9). Both of these findings support Allan and Barbara Pease’s recognition of how significant this muted communication really is in comparison to spoken communication. Relating what I have read in this book with what I was thinking about combatting crime, I feel that Pease has provided me with a small glimpse of how it could benefit this issue. I have also had my eyes truly opened to how complex and vast the topic really is. 

Concerning cultural differences interlinking with this topic, body language gestures and movements will still emit a valuable key to evaluating ones emotions, however, it could also cause a high percentage of confusion and so would need to be taken into high consideration. The contention of crime related body language is touched upon when it is noted that the nostrils and teeth play key roles in this area and provide key indications. We learn that, “nostril flaring allows more air to oxygenate the body in preparation for a fight or flight and, in the primate world, it tells others that back-up support is needed to deal with an imminent threat” (2005,p19-20). Through acquiring knowledge such as this, our thinking and actions towards social behaviour could potentially increase.

For my second source I have used another published book rather than a journal as I was finding it difficult to get a journal particularly relevant to this subject matter and I felt I would have been limiting my resources had I stuck solely to journals. The book I have chosen is “The Social Context of Nonverbal Behaviour” edited by Pierre Philippot, Robert S.Feldman and Erik J.Coats. This publication has many highly respected contributors from all over the world for each different chapter and is primarily sourced from research and discussions held in Belgium and the United States over many years. Due to this I feel that the research, evidence and findings will be from an unbiased background possibly making this text more reliable. The chief aim of the book is, “to provide an extensive review of the most contemporary theories and bodies of empirical research in this growing area”(Philippot, Feldman and Coats, 1977,p3). Where they say, ‘in this growing area’ they mean looking within social context and interaction the prime role nonverbal communication plays. The book is spilt up into four parts, each addressing a different complexity of the aroused issue but yet all maintain a strong link concerning the key element at scrutiny, nonverbal behaviour. 

From reading this book one is made aware of the different communicative factors which are involved in the process. “Journal of Nonverbal Behaviour” by Arvid Kappas (1997) provides a “modified Brunswikian lens model to identify the different factors involved in the communicative process” (Philippot, Feldman, Coats ,1977,p4). The “Brunswikian lens model was developed for the study of visual perception” (Brunswik,1956). Basically, it talks about three main issues we need to consider when researching this area which are “situational context, social relationships and cultural conventions” (Philippot, Feldman, Coats, 1977, p4). I think for my research for this assignment looking into the cultural slant is very important and highly intriguing. Chapter 2 of this book is bursting full of facts from theories and studies conducted on this subject. One preposed question which caught my attention was “How and why does Culture Affect Emotion?” (1977,p33). If we can gain even the smallest grasp of an answer or research into this I feel that it would further our knowledge and understanding within nonverbal behaviour in society today as it is so culturally diverse. The author talks about the importance of taking into consideration ingroups and outgroups. Ingroups being described as “relationships characterized by some degree of familiarity, intimacy, and trust” (Matsumoto, 1996, p159) and outgroups being the opposite. Another key area of study contained in this book is as stated previously, context. It is said that the context “becomes the explanatory variable of the relation between feeling state and nonverbal display” (Philippot, Feldman, Coats, 1977, p8). It is clear from reading other chapters and sections also from this book that many researchers believe that context is one of the major deciding factors and can be extremely influential. This in return should challenge us all to think twice about the social contexts we put ourselves into and the dominating effects they could potentially have.

After studying in depth "The definitive book of body language" by Allan and Barbara Pease and “The Social Context of Nonverbal Behaviour” edited by Pierre Philippot, Robert S.Feldman and Erik J.Coats I feel I have learnt a great deal on social behaviour as a whole. Both publications look into the nature of the human body and how communication can be muted or nonverbal which to me was something I’d not really thought about or considered much before carrying out this research but now realise is a hugely important part of our behaviour as everyday beings. Each source emphasizes the importance of taking into account every factor in order for the decision to be fair and unbiased. This is stated in my first source when the authors state; “It’s about matching what you see and hear in the environment in which it all happens and drawing probable conclusions” (Pease,2005,p2). Then following on in the second source we are informed to take into account “situational context, social relationships and cultural conventions” (Philippot, Feldman, Coats, 1977, p4). These would both suggest that the environment in which you are is very persuasive on your social behaviour. A further comparison on the elected texts is that they are both based on scientific related experiments, findings and studies as they are both to do with psychology and our thoughts and actions are dependable on the individual and their emotive state. There cannot be clear facts, it is mostly primary sources from which they are written. This brings me onto my next point. Each book places high significance on the fact that our social behaviour, nonverbal actions, i.e. our body language is very much linked on our emotive states as human beings. “Each gesture and movement can be a valuable key to an emotion a person may be feeling at the time” (Pease, 2005, p11). A further topical issue they both place significant emphasis on is how cultural differences prove to be a hugely influential factor. For instance, “The Social Context of Nonverbal Behaviour” has a whole chapter focusing on the “cultural influences on nonverbal expressions of emotion” (Kupperbusch, Matsumoto, Kooken, Loewinger, Uchida, Wilson-Cohn, Yrizarry, 1999, p17) and in "The definitive book of body language" Allan and Barbara Pease state how they feel that within many cultures the basic body language signals would be be same (2005, p18). Evaluating now both texts side by side it is clear that the first   was more focused on teaching the reader how to read body language and understand the basics of this acquired skill whereas my second text had more of an aim to help the reader understand the psychology behind our nonverbal behaviour, it was more theory based. In conclusion to these summaries and comparison I feel that my understanding of the human being as a communicator has been vastly broadened. I believe that my research was extremely useful and relevant with regards to my initial assignments, design thoughts and projections. 

What else could I research around this issue? Further studies could entail conducting research into some root factors which can fuel crime related incidents and crime as a whole. A key contender for this could be looking deeper into alcohol consumption, the psychology of why people feel the need to drink it in excess and it’s effects. Another possible approach could be to interview bar and club owners as well as the police. The police would be a key contact as they daily see crime in all it’s different shapes and forms and may well have ideas which could play a prime role in this research.


Pease, A and B,(2005), "The definitive book of body language", Manjul Publishing House Pvt Ltd 

Philippot, Feldman and Coats, P, R and E, (1999) “The Social Context of Nonverbal Behaviour”, Cambridge, The Press syndicate of the University of Cambridge

Mastsumoto, D, (1996) “The Culture and psychology.” Pacific Grove, CA:Brooks/Cole Publishing Company

 Brunswikian Lens Model available: 03/12/09

No comments:

Post a Comment