Nonverbal Behavior

During this exercise participants will be observing people interacting in the natural environment and engaged in typical daily activities, such as shopping, dining, exploring, playing, and so forth, rather than requiring a structured site visit. The manner in which people of different cultures interact is often said to involve many mostly unconscious “communications,” including behavioral mannerisms that are not verbal but rather more basic exchanges of information.   This is captured to some extent in the expression “body language,” but it manifests in several ways during interpersonal interactions.  Some of these include facial expressions, hand and finger signals and other gestures, posture, eye contact, queue behavior, touching, interpersonal distance preferences, public displays of affection, bazaar/market/mall etiquette (e.g., bartering, handling merchandise, cash register banter and payment protocols, etc.), public event behavior (e.g., applause, cheering, standing, etc.), and so forth.  The exercise will involve spending the day in various public places, “people watching.”

Academic Objectives:

The first objective is to explore the notion that cultures do differ in nonverbal styles and mannerisms, and how these differences may illustrate psychological principles.  An exercise of this type early in the voyage should also provide a context for interacting locally in the subsequent ports, thereby further expanding the concepts.

The second objective is to demonstrate how research can be done outside a laboratory setting, and to develop some skills in naturalistic observation.  The project will also afford an opportunity to consider to what extent the differences are theoretically significant, or whether the differences are more curiosities.    Further, the exercise should yield some appreciation for the difficulty of reaching causal conclusions from naturalistic observation.