Understanding each other through hand and eye expression; seen in a street near the bell tower of Xi'an, China

Nonverbal communication (NVC) is the nonlinguistic transmission of information through visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic (physical) channels.

It includes the use of [[2]] cues such as [language] ([[3]]), distance ([[4]]) and physical environments/appearance, of voice ([[5]]) and of touch ([communication|haptics]).[1] It can also include the use of time ([[6]]) and eye contact and the actions of looking while talking and listening, frequency of glances, patterns of fixation, pupil dilation, and blink rate ([[7]]).

Just as speech contains nonverbal elements known as paralanguage, including [quality], rate, pitch, [[8]], and speaking style, as well as [[9]] features such as [[10]], [(linguistics)|intonation], and [(linguistics)|stress], so written texts have nonverbal elements such as handwriting style, spatial arrangement of words, or the physical layout of a page. However, much of the study of nonverbal communication has focused on interaction between individuals,[2] where it can be classified into three principal areas: [environment|environmental] conditions where communication takes place, physical characteristics of the communicators, and behaviors of communicators during interaction.

Nonverbal communication involves the conscious and unconscious processes of encoding and decoding. Encoding is the act of generating information such as facial expressions, gestures, and postures. Encoding information utilizes signals which we may think to be universal. Decoding is the interpretation of information from received sensations given by the encoder. Decoding information utilizes knowledge one may have of certain received sensations. For example, refer to the picture provided above. The encode holds up two fingers and the decoder may know from previous experience that this means two.[2]

The Nonverbal encoding sequence includes facial expressions, gestures, posture, tone of voice, tactile stimulation such as touch, and body movements, like when someone moves closer to communicate or steps away due to spacial boundaries. The Decoding processes involves the use of received sensations combined with previous experience with understanding the meaning of communications with others.[3]

Culture plays an important role in nonverbal communication, and it is one aspect that helps to influence how learning activities are organized. In many Indigenous American Communities, for example, there is often an emphasis on nonverbal communication, which acts as a valued means by which children learn. In this sense, learning is not dependent on verbal communication; rather, it is nonverbal communication which serves as a primary means of not only organizing interpersonal interactions, but also conveying cultural values, and children learn how to participate in this system from a young age.[4]


Symbol table for non-verbal communication with [[1]]s

Nonverbal communication represents two-thirds of all communications.[5][dubious ] Nonverbal communication can portray a message both vocally and with the correct body signals or [[11]]s. Body signals comprise [features], conscious and [communication|unconscious] gestures and signals, and the mediation of [space].[5] The wrong message can also be established if the body language conveyed does not match a verbal message. Nonverbal communication strengthens a first [management|impression] in common situations like attracting a partner or in a business interview: impressions are on average formed within the first four seconds of contact.[5] First encounters or interactions with another person strongly affect a person's perception.[6] When the other person or group is absorbing the message, they are focused on the entire [environment|environment] around them, meaning the other person uses all five senses in the [[12]]: 83% sight, 11% hearing, 3% smell, 2% touch and 1% taste.[7] Many indigenous cultures use nonverbal communication in the integration of children at a young age into their cultural practices. Children in these communities learn through observing and pitching in through which nonverbal communication is a key aspect of observation.

History of researchEdit

Scientific research on nonverbal communication and behavior was started in 1872 with the publication of Charles Darwin's book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.[7] In the book, Darwin argued that all mammals, both humans and animals, showed emotion through facial expressions. He posed questions such as: "Why do our facial expressions of emotions take the particular forms they do?" and "Why do we wrinkle our nose when we are disgusted and bare our teeth when we are enraged?"[8] Darwin attributed these facial expressions to serviceable associated habits, which are behaviors that earlier in our evolutionary history had specific and direct functions.[8] For example, a species that attacked by biting, baring the teeth was a necessary act before an assault and wrinkling the nose reduced the inhalation of foul odors. In response to the question asking why facial expressions persist even when they no longer serve their original purposes, Darwin's predecessors have developed a highly valued explanation. According to Darwin, humans continue to make facial expressions because they have acquired communicative value throughout evolutionary history.[8] In other words, humans utilize facial expressions as external evidence of their internal state. Although The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals was not one of Darwin's most successful books in terms of its quality and overall impact in the field, his initial ideas started the abundance of research on the types, effects, and expressions of nonverbal communication and behavior.[9]

First impressionEdit

Main page: First impression (psychology)

It takes just one-tenth of a second for someone to judge and make their first impression.[10] A first impression is a lasting non-verbal communicator. The way a person portrays themselves on the first encounter is non-verbal statement to the observer. "First impressions are lasting impressions." There can be positive and negative impressions.[11] Positive impressions can be made through the way people present themselves. Presentation can include clothing and other visible attributes. Negative impressions can also be based on presentation and also on personal prejudice. First impressions, although sometimes misleading, can in many situations be an accurate depiction of others.[10]


Main page: Posture (psychology)

Posture is a nonverbal cue that is associated with positioning and that these two are used as sources of information about individual's characteristics, attitudes, and feelings about themselves and other people.[12] There are many different types of body positioning to portray certain postures, including slouching, towering, legs spread, jaw thrust, shoulders forward, and arm crossing. The posture or bodily stance exhibited by individuals communicates a variety of messages whether good or bad. A study, for instance, identified around 200 postures that are related to maladjustment and withholding of information.[12]

Posture can be used to determine a participant's degree of attention or involvement, the difference in status between communicators, and the level of fondness a person has for the other communicator, depending on body "openness".[13]:9 It can also be effectively used as a way for an individual to convey a desire to increase, limit, or avoid interaction with another person.[14] Studies investigating the impact of posture on interpersonal relationships suggest that mirror-image congruent postures, where one person's left side is parallel to the other person's right side, leads to favorable perception of communicators and positive [[13]]; a person who [in|displays a forward lean] or decreases a backward lean also signifies positive sentiment during communication.[15]

Posture can be situation-relative, that is, people will change their posture depending on the situation they are in.[16] This can be demonstrated in the case of relaxed posture when an individual is within a nonthreatening situation and the way one's body tightens or become rigid when under stress.[17]


Clothing is one of the most common forms of non-verbal communication. The study of clothing and other objects as a means of non-verbal communication is known as artifactics[18] or objectics.[19] The types of clothing that an individual wears convey nonverbal cues about his or her personality, background and financial status, and how others will respond to them.[7] An individual's clothing style can demonstrate their [[14]], [(psychology)|mood], level of confidence, interests, age, authority, and values/beliefs.[20] For instance, Jewish men may wear a [[15]] to outwardly communicate their religious belief. Similarly, clothing can communicate what nationality a person or group is; for example, in traditional festivities Scottish men often wear kilts to specify their culture.


Gestures may be made with the [[16]], arms or [body|body], and also include movements of the head, face and [[17]], such as [[18]], nodding, or [one's eyes]. Although the study of gesture is still in its [[19]], some broad categories of gestures have been identified by researchers. The most familiar are the so-called emblems or quotable gestures. These are conventional, culture-specific gestures that can be used as replacement for words, such as the hand wave used in western cultures for "hello" and "goodbye". A single emblematic gesture can have a very different significance in different cultural contexts, ranging from complimentary to highly offensive.[21] For a list of emblematic gestures, see [of gestures]. There are some universal gestures like the [shrug].[7]

Gestures can also be categorized as either speech independent or speech related. Speech-independent gestures are dependent upon culturally accepted interpretation and have a direct verbal [[20]].[13]:9 A wave or a [sign] are examples of speech-independent gestures. Speech-related gestures are used in parallel with verbal speech; this form of nonverbal communication is used to emphasize the message that is being communicated. Speech-related gestures are intended to provide supplemental information to a verbal message such as pointing to an object of discussion.

Facial expressions, more than anything, serve as a practical means of communication. With all the various muscles that precisely control mouth, lips, eyes, nose, forehead, and jaw, human faces are estimated to be capable of more than ten thousand different expressions. This versatility makes non-verbals of the face extremely efficient and honest, unless deliberately manipulated. In addition, many of these emotions, including happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, disgust, shame, anguish and interest are universally recognized.[22]

Displays of emotions can generally be categorized into two groups: negative and positive. Negative emotions usually manifest as increased tension in various muscle groups: tightening of jaw muscles, furrowing of forehead, squinting eyes, or lip occlusion (when the lips seemingly disappear). In contrast, positive emotions are revealed by the loosening of the furrowed lines on the forehead, relaxation of the muscles around the mouth, and widening of the eye area. When individuals are truly relaxed and at ease, the head will also tilt to the side, exposing our most vulnerable area, the neck. This is a high-comfort display, often seen during courtship, that is nearly impossible to mimic when tense or suspicious.[23]

Gestures can be subdivided into three groups:


Some hand movements are not considered to be gestures. They consist of manipulations either of the person or some object (e.g. clothing, pencils, eyeglasses)—the kinds of scratching, fidgeting, rubbing, tapping, and touching that people often do with their hands. Such behaviors are referred to as adapters. They may not be perceived as meaningfully related to the speech in which they accompany, but may serve as the basis for dispositional inferences of the speaker's emotion (nervous, uncomfortable, bored.)[8]


Other hand movements are considered to be gestures. They are movements with specific, conventionalized meanings called symbolic gestures. Familiar symbolic gestures include the "raised fist," "bye-bye," and "thumbs up." In contrast to adapters, symbolic gestures are used intentionally and serve a clear communicative function. Every culture has their own set of gestures, some of which are unique only to a specific culture. Very similar gestures can have very different meanings across cultures. Symbolic gestures are usually used in the absence of speech, but can also accompany speech.[8]


The middle ground between adapters and symbolic gestures is occupied by conversational gestures. These gestures do not refer to actions or words, but do accompany speech. Conversational gestures are hand movements that accompany speech, and are related to the speech they accompany. Though they do accompany speech, conversational gestures are not seen in the absence of speech and are only made by the person who is speaking.[8]


According to Edward T. Hall, the amount of space we maintain between ourselves and the persons with whom we are communicating shows the importance of the science of proxemics. In this process, it is seen how we feel towards the others at that particular time. Within American culture Hall defines four primary distance zones:

  1. (i) intimate (touching to eighteen inches) distance,
  2. (ii) personal (eighteen inches to four feet) distance,
  3. (iii) social (four to twelve feet) distance, and (iv) public (more than twelve feet) distance.

Intimate distance is considered appropriate for familiar relationships and indicates closeness and trust. Personal distance is still close but keeps another "at arm's length" and is considered the most comfortable distance for most of our interpersonal contact, while social distance is used for the kind of communication that occurs in business relationships and, sometimes, in the classroom. Public distance occurs in situations where two-way communication is not desirable or possible.[24]:137

Movement and body positionEdit


Kinesics is the area of nonverbal communication related to movements of the body, including gestures, posture, and facial expressions, and the study of that area. The word was first coined by Ray Birdwhistell, who considered the term body language inaccurate and improper to use as a definition.[25] Examples of kinesic communication range from a nod of the head meaning “yes” (or “I am listening”) to a student shifting in their seat indicating a wandering attention. Kinesic communication differs from culture to culture, depending on how much contact each culture contains (high or low contact) and what has been established by long held traditions and values related to nonverbal communication.[25]

Kinesics is the study of body movements. The aspects of kinesics are face, eye contact, gesture, posture, body movements.

  1. Face: The face and eyes are the most expressive means of body communication.It can facilitate or hamper feedback.
  2. Eye contact: It is the most powerful form of non-verbal communication. It builds emotional relationship between listener and speaker.
  3. Gesture: It is the motion of the body to express the speech.
  4. Posture: The body position of an individual conveys a variety of messages.
  5. Body movement: Used to understand what people are communicating with their gestures and posture[24]:141

Kinesic messages are more subtle than gestures.[26]:419 Kinesic messages comprise the posture, gaze, and facial movements.[26]:419 American looks are short enough just to see if there is recognition of the other person, Arabs look at each other in the eye intensely, and many Africans avert the gaze as a sign of respect to superiors.[26]:420 There are also many postures for people in the Congo; they stretch their hands and put them together in the direction of the other person.[27]:9

Haptics: touching in communicationEdit

Main page: Haptic communication
A high five is an example of communicative touch.

[communication|Haptics] is the study of touching as nonverbal communication, and haptic communication refers to how people and other animals communicate via touching.

Touches among humans that can be defined as communication include [[21]]s, holding hands, kissing (cheek, lips, hand), back slapping, [five]s, a pat on the shoulder, and brushing an arm. Touching of oneself may include licking, picking, holding, and scratching.[13]:9 These behaviors are referred to as "adapters" or "tells" and may send messages that reveal the intentions or feelings of a communicator and a listener. The meaning conveyed from touch is highly dependent upon the culture, the context of the situation, the relationship between communicators, and the manner of touch.[13]:10

Touch is an extremely important sense for humans; as well as providing information about surfaces and textures it is a component of nonverbal communication in interpersonal relationships, and vital in conveying physical intimacy. It can be both sexual (such as kissing) and platonic (such as hugging or tickling).

Touch is the earliest sense to develop in the fetus. Human babies have been observed to have enormous difficulty surviving if they do not possess a sense of touch, even if they retain sight and hearing.[citation needed] Babies who can perceive through touch, even without sight and hearing, tend to fare much better.

In chimpanzees, the sense of touch is highly developed. As newborns, they see and hear poorly but cling strongly to their mothers. Harry Harlow conducted a controversial study involving rhesus monkeys and observed that monkeys reared with a "terry cloth mother," a wire feeding apparatus wrapped in soft terry cloth that provided a level of tactile stimulation and comfort, the monkey who had the real parent were considerably more emotionally stable as adults than those with a mere wire mother (Harlow, 1958).

Touching is treated differently from one country to another and socially acceptable levels of touching vary from one culture to another (Remland, 2009). In Thai culture, for example, touching someone's head may be thought rude. Remland and Jones (1995) studied groups of people communicating and found that touching was rare among the English (8%), the French (5%) and the Dutch (4%) compared to Italians (14%) and Greeks (12.5%).[28] Striking, pushing, pulling, pinching, kicking, strangling and hand-to-hand fighting are forms of touch in the context of physical abuse.


Main page: Proxemics

Proxemics is the study of the cultural, behavioral, and sociological aspects of spatial distances between individuals.[29] Every person has a particular space that they keep to themselves when communicating, like a personal bubble. When used as a type of nonverbal signal in communication, proxemics helps to determine the space between individuals while they interact. There are four types of proxemics with different distances depending on the situation and people involved.[30] Intimate distance is used for close encounters like embracing, touching, or whispering. Personal distance is for interactions with close friends and family members. Social distance is for interactions among acquaintances. It is mostly used in workplace or school settings where there is no physical contact. Public distance is for strangers or public speaking.

In relation to verbal communicationEdit

When communicating face-to-face with someone, it's sometimes hard to differentiate which parts of conversing are communicated via verbally or non-verbally.[31] Other studies done on the same subject have concluded that in more relaxed and natural settings of communication, verbal and non-verbal signals and cues can contribute in surprisingly similar ways.[32] Argyle,[33] using video tapes shown to the subjects, analysed the communication of submissive/dominant attitude, (high and low context, high context resorting to more strict social classes and take a more short and quick response route to portray dominance, low context being the opposite by taking time to explain everything and putting a lot of importance on communication and building trust and respect with others in a submissive and relaxed manner),[34] and found that non-verbal cues had 4.3 times the effect of verbal cues. The most important effect was that body posture communicated superior status (specific to culture and context said person grew up in) in a very efficient way. On the other hand, a study by Hsee et al.[35] had subjects judge a person on the dimension happy/sad and found that words spoken with minimal variation in intonation had an impact about 4 times larger than face expressions seen in a film without sound. Therefore, when considering certain non-verbal mannerisms such as facial expressions and physical cues, they can conflict in meaning when compared to spoken language and emotions. Different set ups and scenarios would yield different responses and meanings when using both types of communication. In other ways they can complement each other, provided they're used together wisely during a conversation.[36]


When communicating, nonverbal messages can interact with verbal messages in six ways: repeating, conflicting, complementing, substituting, regulating and accenting/moderating.


Conflicting verbal and nonverbal messages within the same interaction can sometimes send opposing or conflicting messages. A person verbally expressing a statement of truth while simultaneously fidgeting or avoiding eye contact may convey a mixed message to the receiver in the interaction. Conflicting messages may occur for a variety of reasons often stemming from feelings of uncertainty, ambivalence, or frustration. When mixed messages occur, nonverbal communication becomes the primary tool people use to attain additional information to clarify the situation; great attention is placed on bodily movements and positioning when people perceive mixed messages during interactions. Definitions of nonverbal communication creates a limited picture in our minds but there are ways to create a clearer one. There are different dimensions of verbal and nonverbal communication that have been discovered. They are (1) structure versus non-structure, (2) linguistic versus non-linguistic, (3) continuous versus discontinuous, (4) learned versus innate, and (5) left versus right hemispheric processing.[37]:7


Accurate interpretation of messages is made easier when nonverbal and verbal communication complement each other. Nonverbal cues can be used to elaborate on verbal messages to reinforce the information sent when trying to achieve communicative goals; messages have been shown to be remembered better when nonverbal signals affirm the verbal exchange.[13]:14


Nonverbal behavior is sometimes used as the sole channel for communication of a message. People learn to identify facial expressions, body movements, and body positioning as corresponding with specific feelings and intentions. Nonverbal signals can be used without [communication] to convey messages; when nonverbal behavior does not effectively communicate a message, verbal methods are used to enhance understanding.[13]:16

Structure versus non-structureEdit

Verbal communication is a highly structured form of communication with set rules of grammar. The rules of verbal communication help to understand and make sense of what other people are saying. For example, foreigners learning a new language can have a hard time making themselves understood. On the other hand, nonverbal communication has no formal structure when it comes to communicating. Nonverbal communication occurs without even thinking about it. The same behavior can mean different things, such as crying of sadness or of joy. Therefore, these cues need to be interpreted carefully to get their correct meaning.[37]:7–8

Linguistic versus non-linguisticEdit

There are only a few assigned symbols in the system of nonverbal communication. Nodding the head is one symbol that indicates agreement in some cultures, but in others, it means disagreement. On the other hand, verbal communication has a system of symbols that have specific meanings to them.[37]:8

Continuous and discontinuousEdit

Verbal communication is based on discontinuous units whereas nonverbal communication is continuous. Communicating nonverbally cannot be stopped unless one would leave the room, but even then, the intrapersonal processes still take place (individuals communicating with themselves). Without the presence of someone else, the body still manages to undergo nonverbal communication. For example, there are no other words being spoken after a heated debate, but there are still angry faces and cold stares being distributed. This is an example of how nonverbal communication is continuous.[37]:8

Learned versus innateEdit

Learned non-verbal cues require a community or culture for their reinforcement. For example, table manners are not innate capabilities upon birth. Dress code is a non-verbal cue that must be established by society. Hand symbols, whose interpretation can vary from culture to culture, are not innate nonverbal cues. Learned cues must be gradually reinforced by admonition or positive feedback.

Innate non-verbal cues are "built-in" features of human behavior. Generally, these innate cues are universally prevalent and regardless of culture. For example, smiling, crying, and laughing do not require teaching. Similarly, some body positions, such as the fetal position, are universally associated with weakness. Due to their universality, the ability to comprehend these cues is not limited to individual cultures.[37]:9

Left versus right-hemispheric processingEdit

This type of processing involves the neurophysiological approach to nonverbal communication. It explains that the right hemisphere processes nonverbal stimuli such as those involving spatial, pictorial, and gestalt tasks while the left hemisphere involves the verbal stimuli involving analytical and reasoning tasks. It is important to know the implications in processing the differences between verbal and nonverbal communication messages. It is possible that individuals may not use the correct hemisphere at appropriate times when it comes to interpreting a message or meaning.[37]:9

Across culturesEdit

While not traditionally thought of as "talk," nonverbal communication has been found to contain highly precise and symbolic meanings, similar to verbal speech. However the meanings in nonverbal communication are conveyed through the use of gesture, posture changes, and timing.[38] Nuances across different aspects of nonverbal communication can be found in cultures all around the world. These differences can often lead to miscommunication between people of different cultures, who usually do not mean to offend. Differences can be based in preferences for mode of communication, like the Chinese, who prefer silence over verbal communication.[39]:69 Differences can even be based on how cultures perceive the passage of time. Chronemics, how people handle time, can be categorized in two ways: polychronic which is when people do many activities at once and is common in Italy and Spain, or monochronic which is when people do one thing at a time which is common in America.[40]:422 Because nonverbal communication can vary across many axes—gestures, gaze, clothing, posture, direction, or even environmental cues like lighting—there is a lot of room for cultural differences.[27]:8 In Japan, a country which prides itself on the best customer service, workers tend to use wide arm gestures to give clear directions to strangers—accompanied by the ever-present bow to indicate respect. One of the main factors that differentiates nonverbal communication in cultures is high and low-context. context relates to certain events and the meaning that is ultimately derived from it.[41] “High-context” cultures rely mostly on nonverbal cues and gestures, using elements such as the closeness of the kind of the relationships they have with others, strict social hierarchies and classes and deep cultural tradition and widely known beliefs and rules. In contrast, “low-context” cultures depend largely on words and verbal communication, where communications are direct and social hierarchies are way less tense and more loose.


[hand gesture.png|thumb|271x271px|This gesture is accepted by Dutch people as meaning "brilliant", but varies greatly in other cultures around the world.] Gestures vary widely across cultures in how they are used and what they mean. A common example is pointing. In the United States, pointing is the gesture of a finger or hand to indicate or "come here please" when beckoning a dog. But pointing with one finger is also considered to be rude by some cultures. Those from Asian cultures typically use their entire hand to point to something.[42] Other examples include, sticking your tongue out. In Western countries, it can be seen as mockery, but in Polynesia it serves as a greeting and a sign of reverence.[40]:417 Clapping is a North American way of applauding, but in Spain is used to summon a waiter at a restaurant. Differences in nodding and shaking the head to indicate agreement and disagreement also exist. Northern Europeans nodding their heads up and down to say "yes", and shaking their head from side to side to say "no". But the Greeks have for at least three thousand years used the upward nod for disagreement and the downward nod for agreement."[40]:417 There are many ways of waving goodbye: Americans face the palm outward and move the hand side to side, Italians face the palm inward and move the fingers facing the other person, French and Germans face the hand horizontal and move the fingers toward the person leaving.[40]:417 Also, it is important to note that gestures are used in more informal settings and more often by children.[40]:417 People in the United States commonly use the "OK" hand gesture[41] to give permission and allow an action. In Japan, however, the same sign means "money". It refers to "zero" or "nothing" in several cultures besides these two (Argentina, Belgium, French and the Portuguese). To Eastern European cultures that same "OK" sign is considered a vulgar swearing gesture.

Displays of emotionEdit

Emotions are a key factor in nonverbal communication. Just as gestures and other hand movements vary across cultures, so does the way people display their emotions. For example, "In many cultures, such as the Arab and Iranian cultures, people express grief openly. They mourn out loud, while in Asian cultures, the general belief is that it is unacceptable to show emotion openly."[43] For people in Westernized countries, laughter is a sign of amusement, but in some parts of Africa it is a sign of wonder or embarrassment.[40]:417 Emotional expression varies with culture.[44] Native Americans tend to be more reserved and less expressive with emotions.[45]:44 Frequent touches are common for Chinese people; however, such actions like touching, patting, hugging or kissing in America are less frequent and not often publicly displayed.[39]:68According to Rebecca Bernstein (from Point Park University) "Winking is a facial expression particularly varied in meaning." According to Latin culture, a wink was a display or invitation of romantic pursuit. The Yoruba (Nigeria) have taught their children to follow certain nonverbal commands, such as winking, which tells them it's time to leave the room. To the Chinese it comes off as an offensive gesture.[41]

Nonverbal actionsEdit

According to Matsumoto and Juang, the nonverbal motions of different people indicate important channels of communication. Nonverbal actions should match and harmonize with the message being portrayed, otherwise confusion will occur.[9] For instance, an individual would normally not be seen smiling and gesturing broadly when saying a sad message. The author states that nonverbal communication is very important to be aware of, especially if comparing gestures, gaze, and tone of voice amongst different cultures. As Latin American cultures embrace big speech gestures, Middle Eastern cultures are relatively more modest in public and are not expressive. Within cultures, different rules are made about staring or gazing. Women may especially avoid eye contact with men because it can be taken as a sign of sexual interest.[42] In some cultures, gaze can be seen as a sign of respect. In Western culture, eye contact is interpreted as attentiveness and honesty. In Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Native American cultures, eye contact is thought to be disrespectful or rude, and lack of eye contact does not mean that a person is not paying attention. Voice is a category that changes within cultures. Depending on whether or not the cultures is expressive or non-expressive, many variants of the voice can depict different reactions.[46]

The acceptable physical distance is another major difference in the nonverbal communication between cultures. In Latin America and the Middle East the acceptable distance is much shorter than what most Europeans and Americans feel comfortable with. This is why an American or a European might wonder why the other person is invading his or her personal space by standing so close, while the other person might wonder why the American/European is standing so far from him or her.[47] In addition, for Latin Americans, the French, Italians, and Arabs the distance between people is much closer than the distance for Americans; in general for these close distance groups, 1 foot of distance is for lovers, 1.5–4 feet of distance is for family and friends, and 4–12 feet is for strangers.[40]:421 In the opposite way, most Native Americans value distance to protect themselves.[45]:43

Disadvantages of Nonverbal communication across culturesEdit

People who have studied in mainly nonverbal communication may not be skilled as a verbal speaker, so much of what they are portraying is through gestures and facial expressions which can lead to major cultural barriers if they have conflict with diverse cultures already.[48] "This can lead to intercultural conflict (according to Marianna Pogosyan Ph.D.), misunderstandings and ambiguities in communication, despite language fluency."[48] Nonverbal communication makes the difference between bringing cultures together in understanding one another, appearing authentic. Or it can push people farther away due to misunderstandings in how different groups see certain nonverbal cues or gestures. From birth, children in various cultures are taught the gestures and cues their culture defines as universal which is not the case for others, but some movements are universal.[49] Evidence suggests humans all smile when happy about something and frowning when something is upsetting or bad.[49]


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