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How Culture Structures Verbal and Nonverbal Communication
Week 2 Paper Training
The information in this document is designed to train you for the week 2 paper and will give you everything you need to know for the week 2 quiz.
Last week, when we discussed self-concept, we addressed the importance of culture in establishing the standards for what we strive for, in terms of setting our goals and determining the labels we want to be associated with. The cultural images and ideas around us are the basis of “social comparison,” and this is instrumental to how we evaluate ourselves and establish and maintain self-esteem. This week, we will continue to focus on culture, with an emphasis on the links between culture and communication. To get to the patterns of communication that result from cultural training, you will write a paper about culture this week, where you focus on culture and verbal/nonverbal communication and two of these themes:
The paper is worth 7.5 points, which is 7.5% of your overall grade.
Before you begin writing the paper, be sure to:
1) Watch the video on culture titled “Culture in Action.” 2) Read chapters 3 and 4 in Bevan (2020) and pay close attention to how culture shapes
verbal and nonverbal communication. 3) Identify two ADDITIONAL points about culture and communication that you will cover in
your paper. You will need to both LIST and EXPLAIN two of the following themes: • Gender • High-context versus low-context • Dominant and co-cultures • Individualism and collectivism • Perceptual filters
4) Explain how paying attention to culture can help a person improve as a communicator, utilizing Bevan and, if you choose, one of the supplemental videos you watched
While reading and watching the videos:
1) Take notes. When you identify the themes that you will cover, remember that you are required to cover verbal and nonverbal communication and then two of the following themes –gender, high versus low context cultures, dominant cultures versus co-cultures, individualism and collectivism, and perceptual filter.
2) Make connections between what you read in Bevan and if you chose to watch a video, one of the themes covered in a video. You will need to “engage” with the reading and/or video. If you do not quite understand what it means to “engage” with course material and cite sources, please review the document titled “Engaging with Course Content,” which can be found in the “resources” section of the paper assignment.
3) Bevan (2020) covers verbal and nonverbal communication and the five themes listed above well. However, if you want to address race and ethnicity or social class and link those ideas to one of the other themes such as perceptual filters, you will be required to spend more time with one of the videos in the “resources” box.
1) Be sure to do everything that is required. You must: a) Use and cite Bevan to support you to discuss culture. Students will not likely earn a passing
grade if they do not use and cite Bevan. b) Explain two points Bevan made about how culture structures verbal and nonverbal
communication. It is highly advised that you begin with a definition of culture as this will help lay down a framework for your overall paper. If you do, try to relate your key points about details about culture to that definition.
including the author’s name and the date of publication (e.g. Bevan, 2020), including a title and reference page, inserting page numbers and a running header.
2) Be sure to carefully review the grading rubric. You will see that you are assessed on how well you connect culture to communication, how well you explain verbal and nonverbal communication and its connection to culture, and the TWO other cultural elements that you selected to address. Remember, we are looking for you to “engage” with Bevan. However, if you choose two themes that are not covered in Bevan (e.g. race/ethnicity and class), you will have to watch and cite at least one video.
3) When you are done with the paper, we strongly recommend that you submit it to the Writing Center’s “Paper Review” service. If not, before submitting, go through the grading rubric and assess yourself on each category. If you are missing any elements, be sure to do them.
4) In the end, instructors are looking for evidence that you a) have done the reading, b) understand the reading, c) have watched at least one video, d) can bring in some points from the video to support you, and e) can list some ways one can use the information about culture to improve as a communicator.
OPTIONAL – Advice for approaching each theme
The information above is all you need for the quiz. Below is some advice about approaching each theme. Remember, it is required to address how culture shapes verbal and nonverbal communication and then you select two additional themes.
Verbal communication is covered in section 4.1 in Bevan. There are many themes you can choose to address, including formal versus informal language, the various roles of language, and biased language. Given that culture is defined by Bevan as a shared set of values, customs, beliefs, and norms that are passed down from one generation to the next, through communication, what role does language itself play in producing and sustaining culture? Try to be as precise as possible in explaining the links between verbal communication and culture. For example, perhaps you could explain how we are taught formal rules for how to behave in school, and teachers use phrases such as “use your inside voice” or “time to put your things away.” How do those subtle phrases teach children both “traditions” and “values?” What other customs do we learn through verbal communication from our parents or the government? Try to come up with examples to illustrate your key points and answer those types of questions.
Nonverbal communication is covered in chapter 4 in Bevan. She explains that nonverbal communication is a primary way we process the messages of others and this typically happens unconsciously. She lists four forms of nonverbal communication, including kinesics, vocalics, haptics, and proxemics. For each, you don’t want to just explain the concept. You want to connect the idea to specific cultural training and/or cultural norms, values and beliefs. For instance, why might extended eye contact have different meaning Japan? Is this a form of kinesics? Does it connect to the ways they convey respect? Explain each concept you use and give an example to illustrate the point.
The impact of gender on patterns of communication is a point of debate among communication scholars. Bevan focuses on whether an individual is more “masculine” or “feminine” in their orientation, instead of focusing on biological sex. Ultimately, what do they have to say about the potential impact of one’s gender orientation and patterns of communication? To learn more about these potential patterns, we strongly advise that you watch one of the videos as they provide more detail about the themes covered in Bevan. For instance, in the video on credibility, Professor Soraya Chemaly argues gender bias structures our world and that we must find ways to overcome it. Focusing on the brain specifically, neuroscientist Sophie Scott contends that gender does not have the type of power others have suggested, as communication is primarily about social grooming, and that men and women both do it. Next,
communication specialist Audrey Nelson discusses both how and why women tend to be more indirect and process-/emotion-oriented. Finally, Deborah Tannen, the creator of the “different cultures” hypothesis addressed in Bevan (2020), explains her research in more detail. In the end, why is all this information relevant? Does awareness of another’s style, whether they are more “masculine” or “feminine” in their orientation help us improve as a communicator? s
High versus low context cultures
Bevan (2020) overs this topic in-depth in section 3.3. High context cultures tend to more indirect in how they convey information and they rely more heavily on nonverbal cues and implicit rules of engagement. Low-context cultures tend to be more direct, with meaning derived more through verbal communication, and there is less reading between the lines. As you read that section of Bevan, think about the quote from Edward Hall that says context is a function of culture and it “designates what we pay attention to and what we ignore” (Section 3.3, Low-Context and High-Context Cultures, para. 1). Are there then overlaps here with perceptual filters? If so you think so, make that connection.
Dominant versus co-cultures
Bevan (2020) address the idea of dominant and co-cultures in section 3.1. The dominant culture establishes the general rules of a people and is represented through the language used for trade, legal proceedings, law, and even entertainment. It also controls key social institutions like the government, schools, media, and cultural expression. Remember while dominant cultures are typically the majority of people in a given area, they don’t have to be as there are sometimes dominant minorities, such as the White South Africans during apartheid. As you think about this question, think about what politics, religious organizations, or hobbies are dominant in your area and then what tends to be dominant in the United States more generally. How are those dominant cultures sustained through communication?
Individualism versus collectivism
As has been stated, a central part of culture is training us how to think and how to think of our place in the world and relationships to others. In section 3.1, in Bevan (2020), she addresses the impact of leaning toward a more individualistic perspective (focusing more on the self as an independent unit, where self-interest reigns) versus a collectivist perspective (focusing more on the group interest, where the social-interest reigns). While the United States and Western European nations tend to be more individualistic, these are not absolutes and sometimes we lean toward individualism during certain periods and sometimes we lean toward the collective. In fact, as people process the COVID 19 pandemic, you see countries that heavily value individualism make choices designed to sustain the collective and we take individual actions based on the social, collective good. As you read this section, pay special attention to how focusing on individualism versus collectivism might shape specific patterns of communication.
The concept of perceptual filters is also covered in section 3.1 in Bevan (2020) in the section titled “Culture and Communication.” One of the primary reasons culture is so important is that it basically gives us a lens which through we look to see the world. Through cultural lenses, or perceptual “filters” we are trained what to focus on, how we act, what we wear, how we celebrate milestones, how close we stand to each other, or even how we think about the meaning of life and death. Perceptual filters involve the mental structures we use to make sense of both ourselves and the world around us. When you approach covering this topic, think about filters as a way we are kind of programmed to think and act, including how we communicate both verbally and nonverbally.
Covering the following themes is optional, but can help you make points about perceptual filters and dominant versus co-cultures
Race and ethnicity
Bevan does not address race and ethnicity, but they are both typically linked to culture and styles of communication. In the first video option, we learn about the idea of “racial literacy” and in the second, we hear about race and ethnicity as it relates to acceptance, for our difference, not just our similarities. For each, focus on the ways they address communication specifically and try to make connections to more general points from Bevan (2020) about culture, in terms of values, beliefs, customs, norms, and traditions. For the latter, on similarities, pay attention what it means to ask the question “where are you from?” That seemingly innocent question can be damaging to the receiver. How can the information covered in one or both videos help one improve as a communicator? Can you link it to any of the principles of effective/competent communication from week 1?
While most people in the United States consider themselves to be “middle class,” social class (like race and ethnicity) are a primary way that we divide people into groups. The social classes of which we are a part teach us values, such as what we find attractive, our personal and professional goals, and patterns of communication. The video on linguistic bias starts to address this, as our social class is often linked to the ways we speak, as well as the way we dress. As you write your paper, how can knowledge of social class and its links to communication help one improve as a communicator? Should we pay more or less attention to social class?
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