Ideas and thoughts can be communicated by different means other than spoken words. Thus, nonverbal communication may be defined as a method of communication, which consists of “messages other than words” which are usually used in verbal or oral communication. The importance of nonverbal communication arises due to its pre-positioned usage prior to verbal communication. For example, a frown expresses one’s dissatisfaction about something (Besson, Graf, Hartung, Kropfhäusser, & Voisard, 2005). Thus, before uttering a sentence, the listener observes the speaker’s facial expression, which divulges the symbolic message. It is believed that nonverbal cues can persuade its listeners (Cesario & Higgins, 2008) and they transmit messages, which are not expressible through words (Tenjes, 2001). This has been reiterated by Tenjes:
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“Gesticulation is often an important component of the utterance unit produced, in the sense that the utterance unit cannot be fully comprehended unless its gestural component is taken into consideration. In many instances it can be shown that the gesticulatory component has a complementary relationship to what is encoded in words, so that the full significance of the utterance can only be grasped if both words and gesture are taken into account.” (2001, p. 303)
Thus, nonverbal communication is more useful at times than verbal communication.
Individualist-Collectivist Communication Style
Collectivist and individualistic individuals are bipolar entities. Collectivists have been described as ones who value goals and interests associated with cultural groups while individualists have a more personal goals and tasks (Milhouse, 1996). Therefore, the former is more socially oriented and the latter is driven by personal goals. Collectivists have a different communication style as individuals with collectivist values will consider “relationally sensitive behaviors to be particularly important for satisfying cultural expectations and complying with social norms” (1996, p. 45). Therefore, according to the requirements of their culture these individuals are more likely to organize their behavioral style according to the accepted social patterns and interactions. Some argue that in relatively high collectivist societies where “maintaining face” is important as members belonging to this group believe that rationally susceptible behavioral style (nonverbal communication) is more capable in expressing feelings than direct communication (verbal communication). According to the study by Milhouse (1996), there is no significant difference in individualists’ and collectivists’ styles of communication as people from both the groups are comfortable about socialization with each other.
Usually collectivist and individualist ideals are considered bipolar and thus the polarity is used to explain the differences between the two. However, the balance that needs to be drawn in these two extreme situations is seldom enumerated. For viewing these as two extremes opens the possibility of provoking a dispute. Members in the individualistic groups are more likely to pick up conflicts while collectivists avoid conflicts. The collectivists avoid compromising styles. Thus collectivists are very competitive, but with out-groups. Communication in different cultures is important as they demonstrate how individuals behave in social or personal situations. Thus as the individual differs in their style for being collectivist or individualist, there is a difference in their communication style. Depending on culture being individualist or collectivist, there strikes a difference in interaction in personal life and in corporate communication. The collectivist communication style in office is expressed in its need to preserve group harmony. For instance, in Japan and Korea which are known for their collectivist values stress on group dynamics and harmony. In order to preserve this harmony, collectivists adopt an implicit style of communication. They use ambiguous words in order to avoid confrontation or dissatisfaction. Words, which are used mostly in such groups, are perhaps, maybe, etc (Earley, 1993). Collectivists’ communication has least amount of negative responses, as they want to preserve group harmony. However, individualists are less concerned with group harmony, and are more likely to use words, which are explicit like absolutely, certainly, and positively (1993). In collectivist, society’s corporate communication is mostly personal and oral form of communication and based on two-way flow communication.
Group meetings and activities are more common I collectivist societies than among individualists. These meetings are the means to “clarify decisions and strategies and to coordinate activates both horizontally and vertically” (Earley, 1993, p. 126). The style of conducting the meetings differs in collectivist and individualistic styles. In individualist style, open confrontation is expected while collectivists will avoid it. The collectivists to avoid confrontation during meetings will discuss the differences prior to the meeting and will look for solution in the meeting. Decisions in collectivist society are made through consensus while in individualistic society through majority rule. Further, communication in collectivist environment is bottom-up while in individualistic society it is top-down.
Direct and Limited Effect Model
Direct effect model pertain to early years of television and radio when communication researchers believed that media had the full power to directly affect its audiences. This view grew out of studies like the Payne Fund studies was conducted by was conducted by the Motion Picture Research Council in 1929 (Ferguson, 2000). The study showed that participants in an academic survey their play, fashion, style, hair, and emotions were directly influenced by the movies. The study brought out that people emulated movie stars considerably. Research also indicated that media had the capability of directly influencing children’s viewpoint regarding a social issue. It also advocated that the attitudinal change was more when exposed to similar media construct was repetitive. Thus, Madden suggests, “Youthful moviegoers imitated the behavior of movie stars, unintentionally learned things their parents might prefer remain hidden, and found themselves emotionally moved by what they viewed.” (Madden, 2001).
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The strong or powerful effects model thus suggests that mass media communication can significantly affect the views and uniformly across masses. Such effects are expected to generate false image in the mind of the viewer. They often are mimed by viewers and they copy non-healthy activities like drinking, smoking, etc. this tool is effective in communicating individualistic society wherein a strong message pertaining to bad habits will be more acceptable as there exists collective disregard. Thus according to this theory media has the capacity to capture the mind and soul of the viewers and divert them according to need.
Even though the power effect model is interesting, scientific research into the model does not support it adequately. Later research showed that people could be persuaded by the media, but the degree to which persuasion was possible was limited.
Thus, there are other reasons, which influence the person to emulate media actions other than media itself. Thus, the limited effect model postulates that media does have the capacity to influence people, but the degree or nature of influence depends on the primary cause, which may or may not be media report. Thus it must be noted that “Variations in individual psychology and values, membership in a particular social category, disparities in income, religion, age, gender, and other demographic characteristics can and often do overwhelm a mass medium message.” (Madden, 2001).
Thus, the difference in the two models lie in their assumptions wherein the first assumes that the viewers have isolated being and have no social interaction while the limited effect model suggests that people are social being and they interact with their family, friends, and coworkers. These differences affect the kind of message they will absorb and select to consume and the messages they will reject. This can be furthered by stating that in individualistic society people have fewer social interactions and thus the influence of media is stronger while in case of collectivist societies the level of interaction between people is high, thereby, increasing reducing the influence of media on people’s ideas and decisions. Further, non-verbal communication has greater influence in collectivist society as they believe in implicit communication while individualistic society will depend more on verbal communication. Thus, the thesis statement that the paper proposes is the degree of effect of communication on collectivist people is less and vice versa.
The research method that is proposed to be used is ethnography. The reason for this suggestion is that methods like conversation analysis can be used to analyses verbal communication, but not nonverbal communication and unobtrusive analysis can be used when observations are to be done in a simulated situation. However when we intend to observe the effect of the media discourse on a group of people it is better if they are observed in their natural context so that the real effect can be captured by the researcher.
Besson, C., Graf, D., Hartung, I., Kropfhäusser, B., & Voisard, S. (2005). The Importance of Non-verbal Communication in Professional Interpretation. Web.
Cesario, J., & Higgins, E. T. (2008). Making Message Recipients ‘‘Feel Right’’. Psychological Science 19(5) , 415-420.
Earley, P. C. (1993). Culture, self-identity, and work. New York: Oxford University Press.
Ferguson, S. D. (2000). Researching the public opinion environment: theories and methods. Thousand Oaks: CA: SAGE.
Madden, R. (2001). Media, Effects, and Politics. Web.
Milhouse, V. H. (1996). Intercultural strategic competence: An effective tool collectivist and individualist students can use to better understand each other. Journal of Instructional Psychology 23(1) , 45.
Tenjes, S. (2001). Gestures As Pre-Positions In Communication. Trames 5(55/50) , 302–320.