Communication For Success: Task 1.3

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Main task

Information concerning Assignment W3 – Communication Skills Journal and Reflections. A weekly journal: listening responses

Description: to keep a weekly journal with real-life examples of ineffective listening responses, what you have learned from your observations, and strategies to improve your listening skills.

  In the resources in Session 1 and 2, you will find some exercises and questions that are there to promote reflective practice on the topics studied.

  •   You should reflect these into your Communication Skills Journal and Reflections. You can also add any thoughts or analysis done from the other readings and the tests provided.
  •   The concept of this exercise is that “Reflection leads to learning”.
  •   Also share some of your experiences in communications.
  •   You can use the articles and documents made available to you on Moodle.
  •   I would expect a minimum of 1500 words for this assignment.
  1. Other details:
    •   Font size 12
    •   Double-spaced
    •   Number of words: 1500, minimum
      All refencing and citations require Harvard referencing style.

Social Intelligence and
the Biology of

by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis

Included with this full-text Harvard Business Review article:

The Idea in Brief—the core idea
The Idea in Practice—putting the idea to work


Article Summary


Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership

A list of related materials, with annotations to guide further
exploration of the article’s ideas and applications


Further Reading

New studies of the brain show
that leaders can improve
group performance by
understanding the biology of

Reprint R0809E

Social Intelligence and
the Biology of

by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis

harvard business review • september 2008 page 2























. A







New studies of the brain show that leaders can improve group
performance by understanding the biology of empathy.

In 1998, one of us, Daniel Goleman, published
in these pages his first article on emotional
intelligence and leadership. The response to
“What Makes a Leader?” was enthusiastic.
People throughout and beyond the business
community started talking about the vital role
that empathy and self-knowledge play in effec-
tive leadership. The concept of emotional in-
telligence continues to occupy a prominent
space in the leadership literature and in every-
day coaching practices. But in the past five
years, research in the emerging field of social
neuroscience—the study of what happens in
the brain while people interact—is beginning
to reveal subtle new truths about what makes
a good leader.

The salient discovery is that certain things
leaders do—specifically, exhibit empathy and
become attuned to others’ moods—literally af-
fect both their own brain chemistry and that of
their followers. Indeed, researchers have found
that the leader-follower dynamic is not a case
of two (or more) independent brains reacting
consciously or unconsciously to each other.

Rather, the individual minds become, in a
sense, fused into a single system. We believe
that great leaders are those whose behavior
powerfully leverages the system of brain inter-
connectedness. We place them on the opposite
end of the neural continuum from people with
serious social disorders, such as autism or As-
perger’s syndrome, that are characterized by
underdevelopment in the areas of the brain as-
sociated with social interactions. If we are cor-
rect, it follows that a potent way of becoming a
better leader is to find authentic contexts in
which to learn the kinds of social behavior that
reinforce the brain’s social circuitry. Leading ef-
fectively is, in other words, less about master-
ing situations—or even mastering social skill
sets—than about developing a genuine inter-
est in and talent for fostering positive feelings
in the people whose cooperation and support
you need.

The notion that effective leadership is
about having powerful social circuits in the
brain has prompted us to extend our concept
of emotional intelligence, which we had

Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership

harvard business review • september 2008 page 3

grounded in theories of individual psychol-
ogy. A more relationship-based construct for
assessing leadership is

social intelligence

which we define as a set of interpersonal com-
petencies built on specific neural circuits (and
related endocrine systems) that inspire oth-
ers to be effective.

The idea that leaders need social skills is not
new, of course. In 1920, Columbia University
psychologist Edward Thorndike pointed out
that “the best mechanic in a factory may fail as
a foreman for lack of social intelligence.” More
recently, our colleague Claudio Fernández-
Aráoz found in an analysis of new C-level exec-
utives that those who had been hired for their
self-discipline, drive, and intellect were some-
times later fired for lacking basic social skills.
In other words, the people Fernández-Aráoz
studied had smarts in spades, but their inabil-
ity to get along socially on the job was profes-
sionally self-defeating.

What’s new about our definition of social
intelligence is its biological underpinning,
which we will explore in the following pages.
Drawing on the work of neuroscientists, our
own research and consulting endeavors, and
the findings of researchers affiliated with the
Consortium for Research on Emotional Intel-
ligence in Organizations, we will show you
how to translate newly acquired knowledge
about mirror neurons, spindle cells, and oscil-
lators into practical, socially intelligent behav-
iors that can reinforce the neural links be-
tween you and your followers.

Followers Mirror Their Leaders—

Perhaps the most stunning recent discovery in
behavioral neuroscience is the identification
of mirror neurons in widely dispersed areas of
the brain. Italian neuroscientists found them
by accident while monitoring a particular cell
in a monkey’s brain that fired only when the
monkey raised its arm. One day a lab assistant
lifted an ice cream cone to his own mouth and
triggered a reaction in the monkey’s cell. It
was the first evidence that the brain is pep-
pered with neurons that mimic, or mirror,
what another being does. This previously un-
known class of brain cells operates as neural
Wi-Fi, allowing us to navigate our social world.
When we consciously or unconsciously detect
someone else’s emotions through their ac-
tions, our mirror neurons reproduce those

emotions. Collectively, these neurons create
an instant sense of shared experience.

Mirror neurons have particular importance
in organizations, because leaders’ emotions
and actions prompt followers to mirror those
feelings and deeds. The effects of activating
neural circuitry in followers’ brains can be very
powerful. In a recent study, our colleague
Marie Dasborough observed two groups: One
received negative performance feedback ac-
companied by positive emotional signals—
namely, nods and smiles; the other was given
positive feedback that was delivered critically,
with frowns and narrowed eyes. In subsequent
interviews conducted to compare the emo-
tional states of the two groups, the people who
had received positive feedback accompanied
by negative emotional signals reported feeling
worse about their performance than did the
participants who had received good-natured
negative feedback. In effect, the delivery was
more important than the message itself. And
everybody knows that when people feel better,
they perform better. So, if leaders hope to get
the best out of their people, they should con-
tinue to be demanding but in ways that foster
a positive mood in their teams. The old carrot-
and-stick approach alone doesn’t make neural
sense; traditional incentive systems are simply
not enough to get the best performance
from followers.

Here’s an example of what does work. It
turns out that there’s a subset of mirror neurons
whose only job is to detect other people’s
smiles and laughter, prompting smiles and
laughter in return. A boss who is self-controlled
and humorless will rarely engage those neu-
rons in his team members, but a boss who
laughs and sets an easygoing tone puts those
neurons to work, triggering spontaneous
laughter and knitting his team together in the
process. A bonded group is one that performs
well, as our colleague Fabio Sala has shown in
his research. He found that top-performing
leaders elicited laughter from their subordi-
nates three times as often, on average, as
did midperforming leaders. Being in a good
mood, other research finds, helps people take
in information effectively and respond nim-
bly and creatively. In other words, laughter is
serious business.

It certainly made a difference at one university-
based hospital in Boston. Two doctors we’ll
call Dr. Burke and Dr. Humboldt were in

Daniel Goleman

(contact@ is a cochairman of
the Consortium for Research on Emo-
tional Intelligence in Organizations,
which is based at Rutgers University’s
Graduate School of Applied and Pro-
fessional Psychology in Piscataway,
New Jersey. He is the author of Social
Intelligence: The New Science of Human
Relationships (Bantam, 2006).
Richard Boyatzis (richard.boyatzis@ is the H.R. Horvitz Chair of
Family Business and a professor in the
departments of organizational behav-
ior, psychology, and cognitive science
at Case Western Reserve University in
Cleveland. He is a coauthor, with Annie
McKee and Frances Johnston, of Be-
coming a Resonant Leader (Harvard
Business Press, 2008).

Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership

harvard business review • september 2008 page 4

contention for the post of CEO of the corpo-
ration that ran this hospital and others. Both
of them headed up departments, were superb
physicians, and had published many widely
cited research articles in prestigious medical
journals. But the two had very different
personalities. Burke was intense, task focused,
and impersonal. He was a relentless perfec-
tionist with a combative tone that kept his
staff continually on edge. Humboldt was no
less demanding, but he was very approachable,
even playful, in relating to staff, colleagues,
and patients. Observers noted that people
smiled and teased one another—and even
spoke their minds—more in Humboldt’s de-
partment than in Burke’s. Prized talent often
ended up leaving Burke’s department; in con-
trast, outstanding folks gravitated to Hum-
boldt’s warmer working climate. Recognizing
Humboldt’s socially intelligent leadership
style, the hospital corporation’s board picked
him as the new CEO.

The “Finely Attuned” Leader

Great executives often talk about leading
from the gut. Indeed, having good instincts is
widely recognized as an advantage for a leader
in any context, whether in reading the mood
of one’s organization or in conducting a deli-
cate negotiation with the competition. Leader-
ship scholars characterize this talent as an
ability to recognize patterns, usually born of
extensive experience. Their advice: Trust your
gut, but get lots of input as you make deci-
sions. That’s sound practice, of course, but
managers don’t always have the time to con-
sult dozens of people.

Findings in neuroscience suggest that this
approach is probably too cautious. Intuition,
too, is in the brain, produced in part by a class
of neurons called spindle cells because of their
shape. They have a body size about four times
that of other brain cells, with an extra-long
branch to make attaching to other cells easier
and transmitting thoughts and feelings to
them quicker. This ultrarapid connection of
emotions, beliefs, and judgments creates what
behavioral scientists call our social guidance
system. Spindle cells trigger neural networks
that come into play whenever we have to
choose the best response among many—even
for a task as routine as prioritizing a to-do list.
These cells also help us gauge whether some-
one is trustworthy and right (or wrong) for a

job. Within one-twentieth of a second, our
spindle cells fire with information about how
we feel about that person; such “thin-slice”
judgments can be very accurate, as follow-up
metrics reveal. Therefore, leaders should not
fear to act on those judgments, provided that
they are also attuned to others’ moods.

Such attunement is literally physical. Fol-
lowers of an effective leader experience rap-
port with her—or what we and our colleague
Annie McKee call “resonance.” Much of this
feeling arises unconsciously, thanks to mirror
neurons and spindle-cell circuitry. But another
class of neurons is also involved: Oscillators co-
ordinate people physically by regulating how
and when their bodies move together. You can
see oscillators in action when you watch peo-
ple about to kiss; their movements look like a
dance, one body responding to the other seam-
lessly. The same dynamic occurs when two cel-
lists play together. Not only do they hit their
notes in unison, but thanks to oscillators, the
two musicians’ right brain hemispheres are
more closely coordinated than are the left and
right sides of their individual brains.

Firing Up Your Social Neurons

The firing of social neurons is evident all
around us. We once analyzed a video of Herb
Kelleher, a cofounder and former CEO of
Southwest Airlines, strolling down the corridors
of Love Field in Dallas, the airline’s hub. We
could practically see him activate the mirror
neurons, oscillators, and other social circuitry
in each person he encountered. He offered
beaming smiles, shook hands with customers
as he told them how much he appreciated
their business, hugged employees as he
thanked them for their good work. And he got
back exactly what he gave. Typical was the
flight attendant whose face lit up when she un-
expectedly encountered her boss. “Oh, my
honey!” she blurted, brimming with warmth,
and gave him a big hug. She later explained,
“Everyone just feels like family with him.”

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to turn yourself
into a Herb Kelleher or a Dr. Humboldt if
you’re not one already. We know of no clear-
cut methods to strengthen mirror neurons,
spindle cells, and oscillators; they activate by
the thousands per second during any encoun-
ter, and their precise firing patterns remain
elusive. What’s more, self-conscious attempts
to display social intelligence can often backfire.

Do Women Have
Stronger Social

People often ask whether gender
differences factor into the social in-
telligence skills needed for outstand-
ing leadership. The answer is yes and
no. It’s true that women tend, on av-
erage, to be better than men at im-
mediately sensing other people’s
emotions, whereas men tend to have
more social confidence, at least in
work settings. However, gender dif-
ferences in social intelligence that
are dramatic in the general popula-
tion are all but absent among the
most successful leaders.

When the University of Toledo’s
Margaret Hopkins studied several
hundred executives from a major
bank, she found gender differences
in social intelligence in the overall
group but not between the most ef-
fective men and the most effective
women. Ruth Malloy of the Hay
Group uncovered a similar pattern in
her study of CEOs of international
companies. Gender, clearly, is not
neural destiny.

Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership

harvard business review • september 2008 page 5

When you make an intentional effort to coor-
dinate movements with another person, it is
not only oscillators that fire. In such situations
the brain uses other, less adept circuitry to ini-
tiate and guide movements; as a result, the in-
teraction feels forced.

The only way to develop your social cir-
cuitry effectively is to undertake the hard
work of changing your behavior (see “Primal
Leadership: The Hidden Driver of Great Per-
formance,” our December 2001 HBR article
with Annie McKee). Companies interested in
leadership development need to begin by as-
sessing the willingness of individuals to enter
a change program. Eager candidates should
first develop a personal vision for change and
then undergo a thorough diagnostic assess-
ment, akin to a medical workup, to identify
areas of social weakness and strength. Armed
with the feedback, the aspiring leader can be
trained in specific areas where developing
better social skills will have the greatest pay-
off. The training can range from rehearsing
better ways of interacting and trying them
out at every opportunity, to being shadowed
by a coach and then debriefed about what he
observes, to learning directly from a role
model. The options are many, but the road to

success is always tough.

How to Become Socially Smarter

To see what social intelligence training in-
volves, consider the case of a top executive
we’ll call Janice. She had been hired as a mar-
keting manager by a Fortune 500 company be-
cause of her business expertise, outstanding
track record as a strategic thinker and planner,
reputation as a straight talker, and ability to
anticipate business issues that were crucial
for meeting goals. Within her first six months
on the job, however, Janice was floundering;
other executives saw her as aggressive and
opinionated, lacking in political astuteness,
and careless about what she said and to whom,
especially higher-ups.

To save this promising leader, Janice’s boss
called in Kathleen Cavallo, an organizational
psychologist and senior consultant with the
Hay Group, who immediately put Janice
through a 360-degree evaluation. Her direct
reports, peers, and managers gave Janice
low ratings on empathy, service orientation,
adaptability, and managing conflicts. Cavallo
learned more by having confidential conver-
sations with the people who worked most
closely with Janice. Their complaints focused

Are You a Socially Intelligent Leader?

To measure an executive’s social intelligence
and help him or her develop a plan for improv-
ing it, we have a specialist administer our be-
havioral assessment tool, the Emotional and
Social Competency Inventory. It is a 360-degree
evaluation instrument by which bosses, peers,
direct reports, clients, and sometimes even
family members assess a leader according to
seven social intelligence qualities.

We came up with these seven by integrating
our existing emotional intelligence framework
with data assembled by our colleagues at the
Hay Group, who used hard metrics to capture
the behavior of top-performing leaders at hun-
dreds of corporations over two decades. Listed
here are each of the qualities, followed by
some of the questions we use to assess them.


• Do you understand

what motivates other
people, even those from different

• Are you sensitive

to others’ needs?


• Do you listen attentively

and think about
how others feel?

• Are you attuned

to others’ moods?

Organizational Awareness

• Do you appreciate

the culture and values
of the group or organization?

• Do you understand social networks

know their unspoken norms?


• Do you persuade others

by engaging
them in discussion and appealing to
their self-interests?

• Do you get support

from key people?

Developing Others

• Do you coach

and mentor others with
compassion and personally invest time
and energy in mentoring?

• Do you provide feedback

that people
find helpful for their professional


• Do you articulate a compelling vision,

build group pride, and foster a positive
emotional tone?

• Do you lead

by bringing out the best
in people?


• Do you solicit input

from everyone on
the team?

• Do you support

all team members
and encourage cooperation?

Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership

harvard business review • september 2008 page 6

on her failure to establish rapport with peo-
ple or even notice their reactions. The bottom
line: Janice was adept neither at reading the
social norms of a group nor at recognizing
people’s emotional cues when she violated
those norms. Even more dangerous, Janice did
not realize she was being too blunt in managing
upward. When she had a strong difference of
opinion with a manager, she did not sense
when to back off. Her “let’s get it all on the
table and mix it up” approach was threatening
her job; top management was getting fed up.

When Cavallo presented this performance
feedback as a wake-up call to Janice, she was
of course shaken to discover that her job
might be in danger. What upset her more,
though, was the realization that she was not
having her desired impact on other people.
Cavallo initiated coaching sessions in which
Janice would describe notable successes and
failures from her day. The more time Janice
spent reviewing these incidents, the better
she became at recognizing the difference
between expressing an idea with conviction
and acting like a pit bull. She began to antici-
pate how people might react to her in a meet-
ing or during a negative performance review;

she rehearsed more-astute ways to present
her opinions; and she developed a personal
vision for change. Such mental preparation
activates the social circuitry of the brain,
strengthening the neural connections you
need to act effectively; that’s why Olympic
athletes put hundreds of hours into mental
review of their moves.

At one point, Cavallo asked Janice to name a
leader in her organization who had excellent
social intelligence skills. Janice identified a vet-
eran senior manager who was masterly both in
the art of the critique and at expressing dis-
agreement in meetings without damaging rela-
tionships. She asked him to help coach her,
and she switched to a job where she could
work with him—a post she held for two years.
Janice was lucky to find a mentor who believed
that part of a leader’s job is to develop human
capital. Many bosses would rather manage
around a problem employee than help her get
better. Janice’s new boss took her on because
he recognized her other strengths as invalu-
able, and his gut told him that Janice could im-
prove with guidance.

Before meetings, Janice’s mentor coached
her on how to express her viewpoint about
contentious issues and how to talk to higher-
ups, and he modeled for her the art of perfor-
mance feedback. By observing him day in and
day out, Janice learned to affirm people even
as she challenged their positions or critiqued
their performance. Spending time with a liv-
ing, breathing model of effective behavior
provides the perfect stimulation for our
mirror neurons, which allow us to directly
experience, internalize, and ultimately emu-
late what we observe.

Janice’s transformation was genuine and
comprehensive. In a sense, she went in one
person and came out another. If you think
about it, that’s an important lesson from neu-
roscience: Because our behavior creates and
develops neural networks, we are not necessar-
ily prisoners of our genes and our early child-
hood experiences. Leaders can change if, like
Janice, they are ready to put in the effort. As
she progressed in her training, the social be-
haviors she was learning became more like sec-
ond nature to her. In scientific terms, Janice
was strengthening her social circuits through
practice. And as others responded to her, their
brains connected with hers more profoundly
and effectively, thereby reinforcing Janice’s cir-

The Chemistry of Stress

When people are under stress, surges in
the stress hormones adrenaline and cor-
tisol strongly affect their reasoning and
cognition. At low levels, cortisol facili-
tates thinking and other mental func-
tions, so well-timed pressure to perform
and targeted critiques of subordinates
certainly have their place. When a
leader’s demands become too great for a
subordinate to handle, however, soaring
cortisol levels and an added hard kick of
adrenaline can paralyze the mind’s criti-
cal abilities. Attention fixates on the
threat from the boss rather than the
work at hand; memory, planning, and
creativity go out the window. People fall
back on old habits, no matter how un-
suitable those are for addressing new

Poorly delivered criticism and dis-
plays of anger by leaders are common
triggers of hormonal surges. In fact,

when laboratory scientists want to study
the highest levels of stress hormones,
they simulate a job interview in which
an applicant receives intense face-to-face
criticism—an analogue of a boss’s tear-
ing apart a subordinate’s performance.
Researchers likewise find that when
someone who is very important to a per-
son expresses contempt or disgust to-
ward him, his stress circuitry triggers an
explosion by stress hormones and a
spike in heart rate of 30 to 40 beats per
minute. Then, because of the interper-
sonal dynamic of mirror neurons and os-
cillators, the tension spreads to other
people. Before you know it, the destruc-
tive emotions have infected an entire
group and inhibited its performance.

Leaders are themselves not immune to
the contagion of stress. All the more rea-
son they should take the time to under-
stand the biology of their emotions.

Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership

harvard business review • september 2008 page 7

cuits in a virtuous circle. The upshot: Janice
went from being on the verge of dismissal to
getting promoted to a position two levels up.

A few years later, some members of Janice’s
staff left the company because they were not
happy—so she asked Cavallo to come back.
Cavallo discovered that although Janice had
mastered the ability to communicate and con-
nect with management and peers, she still
sometimes missed cues from her direct reports
when they tried to signal their frustration.
With more help from Cavallo, Janice was able
to turn the situation around by refocusing her
attention on her staff’s emotional needs and
fine-tuning her communication style. Opinion
surveys conducted with Janice’s staff before
and after Cavallo’s second round of coaching
documented dramatic increases in their emo-
tional commitment and intention to stay in the
organization. Janice and the staff also deliv-
ered a 6% increase in annual sales, and after
another successful year she was made presi-
dent of a multibillion-dollar unit. Companies
can clearly benefit a lot from putting people
through the kind of program Janice completed.

Hard Metrics of Social Intelligence

Our research over the past decade has con-
firmed that there is a large performance gap
between socially intelligent and socially un-
intelligent leaders. At a major national bank,
for example, we found that levels of an execu-
tive’s social intelligence competencies pre-
dicted yearly performance appraisals more
powerfully than did the emotional intelli-
gence competencies of self-awareness and self-
management. (For a brief explanation of our
assessment tool, which focuses on seven di-
mensions, see the exhibit “Are You a Socially
Intelligent Leader?”)

Social intelligence turns out to be espe-
cially important in crisis situations. Consider
the experience of workers at a large Canadian
provincial health care system that had gone
through drastic cutbacks and a reorganiza-
tion. Internal surveys revealed that the front-
line workers had become frustrated that they

were no longer able to give their patients a
high level of care. Notably, workers whose
leaders scored low in social intelligence re-
ported unmet patient-care needs at three
times the rate—and emotional exhaustion at
four times the rate—of their colleagues who
had supportive leaders. At the same time,
nurses with socially intelligent bosses re-
ported good emotional health and an en-
hanced ability to care for their patients, even
during the stress of layoffs (see the sidebar
“The Chemistry of Stress”). These results
should be compulsory reading for the boards
of companies in crisis. Such boards typically
favor expertise over social intelligence when
selecting someone to guide the institution
through tough times. A crisis manager
needs both.

• • •

As we explore the discoveries of neuroscience,
we are struck by how closely the best psycho-
logical theories of development map to the
newly charted hardwiring of the brain. Back in
the 1950s, for example, British pediatrician
and psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott was advo-
cating for play as a way to accelerate children’s
learning. Similarly, British physician and psy-
choanalyst John Bowlby emphasized the im-
portance of providing a secure base from
which people can strive toward goals, take
risks without unwarranted fear, and freely ex-
plore new possibilities. Hard-bitten executives
may consider it absurdly indulgent and finan-
cially untenable to concern themselves with
such theories in a world where bottom-line
performance is the yardstick of success. But as
new ways of scientifically measuring human
development start to bear out these theories
and link them directly with performance, the
so-called soft side of business begins to look
not so soft after all.

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Further Reading


Competent Jerks, Lovable Fools, and the
Formation of Social Networks

by Tiziana Casciaro and Miguel Sousa Lobo

Harvard Business Review

June 2005
Product no. R0506E

When looking for help with a task at work,
people turn to those best able to do the job.
Right? Wrong. New research shows that work
partners tend to be chosen not for ability but
for likeability. Drawing from their study en-
compassing 10,000 work relationships in five
organizations, the authors have classified
work partners into four archetypes: the
competent jerk, who knows a lot but is un-
pleasant; the lovable fool, who doesn’t know
much but is a delight; the lovable star, who’s
both smart and likeable; and the incompetent
jerk, who…well, that’s self-explanatory. Of
course, everybody wants to work with the
lovable star, and nobody wants to work with
the incompetent jerk. More interesting is that
people prefer the lovable fool over the
competent jerk. That has big implications for
every organization, as both of these types
often represent missed opportunities. Lovable
fools can bridge gaps between diverse groups
that might not otherwise interact. But their
networking skills are often developed at the
expense of job performance, which can make
these employees underappreciated and
vulnerable to downsizing. To get the most out
of them, managers need to protect them and
put them in positions that don’t waste their
bridge-building talents. As for the competent
jerks, many can be socialized through
coaching or by being made accountable for
bad behavior.

Cultural Intelligence

by P. Christopher Earley and
Elaine Mosakowski
Harvard Business Review
October 2004
Product no. R0410J

In an increasingly diverse business environ-
ment, managers must be able to navigate the
thicket of habits, gestures, and assumptions
that define their coworkers’ differences.
Foreign cultures are everywhere—in other
countries, certainly, but also in corporations,
vocations, and regions. Interacting with indi-
viduals within them demands perceptiveness
and adaptability. And the people who have
those traits in abundance aren’t necessarily
the ones who enjoy the greatest social suc-
cess in familiar settings. Cultural intelligence,
or CQ, is the ability to make sense of unfamiliar
contexts and then blend in. It has three
components—cognitive, physical, and emo-
tional/motivational. Although it shares many
of the properties of emotional intelligence,
CQ goes one step further by equipping a per-
son to distinguish behaviors produced by the
culture in question from behaviors that are
peculiar to particular individuals and those
found in all human beings. In their surveys of
2,000 managers in 60 countries, the authors
found that most managers are not equally
strong in all three of these areas of CQ. The
authors have devised tools that show how to
identify one’s strengths and developed train-
ing techniques to help people overcome
weaknesses. They conclude that anyone
reasonably alert, motivated, and poised can
attain an acceptable level of CQ.

Understanding Media:
The Extensions of Man
by Marshall McLuhan


The Medium is the Message


In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a
means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in opera-
tional and practical fact, the medium is the message. This is merely to say that the
personal and social consequences of any medium—that is, of any extension of our-
selves—result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each exten-
sion of ourselves, or by any new technology. Thus, with automation, for example,
the new patterns of human association tend to eliminate jobs it is true. That is the
negative result. Positively, automation creates roles for people, which is to say
depth of involvement in their work and human association that our preceding me-
chanical technology had destroyed. Many people would be disposed to say that it
was not the machine, but what one did with the machine, that was its meaning or
message. In terms of the ways in which the machine altered our relations to one
another and to ourselves, it mattered not in the least whether it turned out corn-
flakes or Cadillacs. The restructuring of human work and association was shaped
by the technique of fragmentation that is the essence of machine technology. The
essence of automation technology is the opposite. It is integral and decentralist in
depth, just as the machine was fragmentary, centralist, and superficial in its pat-
terning of human relationships.
The instance of the electric light may prove illuminating in this connection.
The electric light is pure information. It is a medium without a message, as it were,
unless it is used to spell out some verbal ad or name. This fact, characteristic of all
media, means that the “content” of any medium is always another medium. The
content of writing is speech, just as the written word is the content of print, and
print is the content of the telegraph. If it is asked, “What is the content of speech?,”
it is necessary to say, “It is an actual process of thought, which is in itself nonver-
bal.” An abstract painting represents direct manifestation of creative thought proc-
esses as they might appear in computer designs. What we are considering here,
however, are the psychic and social consequences of the designs or patterns as they
amplify or accelerate existing processes. For the “message” of any medium or
technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human
affairs. The railway did not introduce movement or transportation or wheel or road
into human society, but it accelerated and enlarged the scale of previous human
functions, creating totally new kinds of cities and new kinds of work and leisure.
This happened whether the railway functioned in a tropical or a northern environ-


ment, and is quite independent of the freight or content of the railway medium. The
airplane, on the other hand, by accelerating the rate of transportation, tends to dis-
solve the railway form of city, politics, and association, quite independently of
what the airplane is used for.
Let us return to the electric light. Whether the light is being used for brain sur-
gery or night baseball is a matter of indifference. It could be argued that these ac-
tivities are in some way the “content” of the electric light, since they could not ex-
ist without the electric light. This fact merely underlines the point that “the me-
dium is the message” because it is the medium that shapes and controls the scale
and form of human association and action. The content or uses of such media are
as diverse as they are ineffectual in shaping the form of human association. Indeed,
it is only too typical that the “content” of any medium blinds us to the character of
the medium. It is only today that industries have become aware of the various
kinds of business in which they are engaged. When IBM discovered that it was not
in the business of making office equipment or business machines, but that it was in
the business of processing information, then it began to navigate with clear vision.
The General Electric Company makes a considerable portion of its profits from
electric light bulbs and lighting systems. It has not yet discovered that, quite as
much as A.T.&T., it is in the business of moving information.
The electric light escapes attention as a communication medium just because it
has no “content.” And this makes it an invaluable instance of how people fail to
study media at all.
For it is not till the electric light is used to spell out some brand name that it is
noticed as a medium. Then it is not the light but the “content” (or what is really
another medium) that is noticed. The message of the electric light is like the mes-
sage of electric power in industry, totally radical, pervasive, and decentralized. For
electric light and power are separate from their uses, yet they eliminate time and
space factors in human association exactly as do radio, telegraph, telephone, and
TV, creating involvement in depth.
A fairly complete handbook for studying the extensions of man could be made
up from selections from Shakespeare. Some might quibble about whether or not he
was referring to TV in these familiar lines from Romeo and Juliet:

But soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It speaks, and yet says nothing.

In Othello, which, as much as King Lear, is concerned with the torment of people
transformed by illusions, there are these lines that bespeak Shakespeare’s intuition
of the transforming powers of new media:

Is there not charms
By which the property of youth and maidhood
May be abus’d? Have you not read Roderigo,
Of some such thing?


In Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, which is almost completely devoted to
both a psychic and social study of communication, Shakespeare states his aware-
ness that true social and political navigation depend upon anticipating the conse-
quences of innovation:

The providence that’s in a watchful state
Knows almost every grain of Plutus’ gold,
Finds bottom in the uncomprehensive deeps,
Keeps place with thought, and almost like the gods
Does thoughts unveil in their dumb cradles.

The increasing awareness of the action of media, quite independently of their
“content” or programming, was indicated in the annoyed and anonymous stanza:

In modern thought, (if not in fact)
Nothing is that doesn’t act,
So that is reckoned wisdom which
Describes the scratch but not the itch.

The same kind of total, configurational awareness that reveals why the me-
dium is socially the message has occurred in the most recent and radical medical
theories. In his Stress of Life, Hans Selye tells of the dismay of a research
co11eague on hearing of Selye’s theory:

When he saw me thus launched on yet another enraptured description of
what I had observed in animals treated with this or that impure, toxic mate-
rial, he looked at me with desperately sad eyes and said in obvious despair:
“But Selye try to realize what you are doing before it is too late! You have
now decided to spend your entire life studying the pharmacology of dirt!”

(Hans Selye, The Stress of Life)

As Selye deals with the total environmental situation in his “stress” theory of
disease, so the latest approach to media study considers not only the “content” but
the medium and the cultural matrix within which the particular medium operates.
The older unawareness of the psychic and social effects of media can be illustrated
from almost any of the conventional pronouncements.
In accepting an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame a few
years ago, General David Sarnoff made this statement: “We are too prone to make
technological instruments the scapegoats for the sins of those who wield them. The
products of modern science are not in themselves good or bad; it is the way they
are used that determines their value.” That is the voice of the current somnambu-
lism. Suppose we were to say, “Apple pie is in itself neither good nor bad; it is the
way it is used that determines its value.” Or, “The smallpox virus is in itself neither
good nor bad; it is the way it is used that determines its value.” Again, “Firearms
are in themselves neither good nor bad; it is the way they are used that determines
their value.” That is, if the slugs reach the right people firearms are good. If the TV


tube fires the right ammunition at the right people it is good. I am not being per-
verse. There is simply nothing in the Sarnoff statement that will bear scrutiny, for
it ignores the nature of the medium, of any and all media, in the true Narcissus
style of one hypnotized by the amputation and extension of his own being in a new
technical form. General Sarnoff went on to explain his attitude to the technology of
print, saying that it was true that print caused much trash to circulate, but it had
also disseminated the Bible and the thoughts of seers and philosophers. It has
never occurred to General Sarnoff that any technology could do anything but add
itself on to what we already are.
Such economists as Robert Theobald, W. W. Rostow, and John Kenneth Gal-
braith have been explaining for years how it is that “classical economics” cannot
explain change or growth. And the paradox of mechanization is that although it is
itself the cause of maximal growth and change, the principle of mechanization ex-
cludes the very possibility of growth or the understanding of change. For mechani-
zation is achieved by fragmentation of any process and by putting the fragmented
parts in a series. Yet, as David Hume showed in the eighteenth century, there is no
principle of causality in a mere sequence. That one thing follows another accounts
for nothing. Nothing follows from following, except change. So the greatest of all
reversals occurred with electricity, that ended sequence by making things instant.
With instant speed the causes of things began to emerge to awareness again, as
they had not done with things in sequence and in concatenation accordingly. In-
stead of asking which came first, the chicken or the egg, it suddenly seemed that a
chicken was an egg’s idea for getting more eggs.
Just before an airplane breaks the sound barrier, sound waves become visible
on the wings of the plane. The sudden visibility of sound just as sound ends is an
apt instance of that great pattern of being that reveals new and opposite forms just
as the earlier forms reach their peak performance. Mechanization was never so viv-
idly fragmented or sequential as in the birth of the movies, the moment that trans-
lated us beyond mechanism into the world of growth and organic interrelation. The
movie, by sheer speeding up the mechanical, carried us from the world of sequence
and connections into the world of creative configuration and structure. The mes-
sage of the movie medium is that of transition from lineal connections to configu-
rations. It is the transition that produced the now quite correct observation: “If it
works, it’s obsolete.” When electric speed further takes over from mechanical
movie sequences, then the lines of force in structures and in media become loud
and clear. We return to the inclusive form of the icon.
To a highly literate and mechanized culture the movie appeared as a world of
triumphant illusions and dreams that money could buy. It was at this moment of
the movie that cubism occurred and it has been described by E. H. Gombrich (Art
and Illusion) as “the most radical attempt to stamp out ambiguity and to enforce
one reading of the picture—that of a man-made construction, a colored canvas.”
For cubism substitutes all facets of an object simultaneously for the “point of
view” or facet of perspective illusion. Instead of the specialized illusion of the third


dimension on canvas, cubism sets up an interplay of planes and contradiction or
dramatic conflict of patterns, lights, textures that “drives home the message” by
involvement. This is held by many to be an exercise in painting, not in illusion.
In other words, cubism, by giving the inside and outside, the top, bottom, back,
and front and the rest, in two dimensions, drops the illusion of perspective in favor
of instant sensory awareness of the whole. Cubism, by seizing on instant total
awareness, suddenly announced that the medium is the message. Is it not evident
that the moment that sequence yields to the simultaneous, one is in the world of the
structure and of configuration? Is that not what has happened in physics as in
painting, poetry, and in communication? Specialized segments of attention have
shifted to total field, and we can now say, “The medium is the message” quite
naturally. Before the electric speed and total field, it was not obvious that the me-
dium is the message. The message, it seemed, was the “content,” as people used to
ask what a painting was about. Yet they never thought to ask what a melody was
about, nor what a house or a dress was about. In such matters, people retained
some sense of the whole pattern, of form and function as a unity. But in the electric
age this integral idea of structure and configuration has become so prevalent that
educational theory has taken up the matter. Instead of working with specialized
“problems” in arithmetic, the structural approach now follows the lines of force in
the field of number and has small children meditating about number theory and
Cardinal Newman said of Napoleon, “He understood the grammar of gunpow-
der.” Napoleon had paid some attention to other media as well, especially the
semaphore telegraph that gave him a great advantage over his enemies. He is on
record for saying that “Three hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thou-
sand bayonets.”
Alexis de Tocqueville was the first to master the grammar of print and typog-
raphy. He was thus able to read off the message of coming change in France and
America as if he were reading aloud from a text that had been handed to him. In
fact, the nineteenth century in France and in America was just such an open book
to de Tocqueville because he had learned the grammar of print. So he, also, knew
when that grammar did not apply. He was asked why he did not write a book on
England, since he knew and admired England. He replied:

One would have to have an unusual degree of philosophical folly to be-
lieve oneself able to judge England in six months. A year always seemed
to me too short a time in which to appreciate the United States properly,
and it is much easier to acquire clear and precise notions about the Ameri-
can Union than about Great Britain. In America all laws derive in a sense
from the same line of thought. The whole of society, so to speak, is
founded upon a single fact; everything springs from a simple principle.
One could compare America to a forest pierced by a multitude of straight
roads all converging on the same point. One has only to find the center and


everything is revealed at a glance. But in England the paths run criss-cross,
and it is only by travelling down each one of them that one can build up a
picture of the whole.

De Tocqueville in earlier work on the French Revolution, had explained how it
was the printed word that, achieving cultural saturation in the eighteenth century,
had homogenized the French nation. Frenchmen were the same kind of people
from north to south. The typographic principles of uniformity, continuity, and lin-
eality had overlaid the complexities of ancient feudal and oral society. The Revolu-
tion was carried out by the new literati and lawyers.
In England, however, such was the power of the ancient oral traditions of
common law, backed by the medieval institution of Parliament, that no uniformity
or continuity of the new visual print culture could take complete hold. The result
was that the most important event in English history has never taken place;
namely, the English Revolution on the lines of the French Revolution. The Ameri-
can Revolution had no medieval legal institutions to discard or to root out, apart
from monarchy. And many have held that the American Presidency has become
very much more personal and monarchical than any European monarch ever could
De Tocqueville’s contrast between England and America is clearly based on
the fact of typography and of print culture creating uniformity and continuity. Eng-
land, he says, has rejected this principle and clung to the dynamic or oral common-
law tradition. Hence the discontinuity and unpredictable quality of English culture.
The grammar of print cannot help to construe the message of oral and nonwritten
culture and institutions. The English aristocracy was properly classified as barbar-
ian by Matthew Arnold because its power and status had nothing to do with liter-
acy or with the cultural forms of typography. Said the Duke of Gloucester to Ed-
ward Gibbon upon the publication of his Decline and Fall: “Another damned fat
book, eh, Mr. Gibbon? Scribble, scribble, scribble, eh, Mr. Gibbon?” De Toc-
queville was a highly literate aristocrat who was quite able to be detached from the
values and assumptions of typography. That is why he alone understood the
grammar of typography. And it is only on those terms, standing aside from any
structure or medium, that its principles and lines of force can be discerned. For any
medium has the power of imposing its own assumption on the unwary. Prediction
and control consist in avoiding this subliminal state of Narcissus trance. But the
greatest aid to this end is simply in knowing that the spell can occur immediately
upon contact, as in the first bars of a melody.
A Passage to India by E. M. Forster is a dramatic study of the inability of oral
and intuitive oriental culture to meet with the rational, visual European patterns of
experience. “Rational,” of course, has for the West long meant “uniform and con-
tinuous and sequential.” In other words, we have confused reason with literacy,
and rationalism with a single technology. Thus in the electric age man seems to the
conventional West to become irrational. In Forster’s novel the moment of truth and


dislocation from the typographic trance of the West comes in the Marabar Caves.
Adela Quested’s reasoning powers cannot cope with the total inclusive field of
resonance that is India. After the Caves: “Life went on as usual, but had no conse-
quences, that is to say, sounds did not echo nor thought develop. Everything
seemed cut off at its root and therefore infected with illusion.”
A Passage to India (the phrase is from Whitman, who saw America headed
Eastward) is a parable of Western man in the electric age, and is only incidentally
related to Europe or the Orient. The ultimate conflict between sight and sound, be-
tween written and oral kinds of perception and organization of existence is upon
us. Since understanding stops action, as Nietzsche observed, we can moderate the
fierceness of this conflict by understanding the media that extend us and raise these
wars within and without us.
Detribalization by literacy and its traumatic effects on tribal man is the theme
of a book by the psychiatrist J. C. Carothers, The African Mind in Health and Dis-
ease (World Health Organization, Geneva, 1953). Much of his material appeared
in an article in Psychiatry magazine, November, 1959: “The Culture, Psychiatry,
and the Written Word.” Again, it is electric speed that has revealed the lines of
force operating from Western technology in the remotest areas of bush, savannah,
and desert. One example is the Bedouin with his battery radio on board the camel.
Submerging natives with floods of concepts for which nothing has prepared them
is the normal action of all of our technology. But with electric media Western man
himself experiences exactly the same inundation as the remote native. We are no
more prepared to encounter radio and TV in our literate milieu than the native of
Ghana is able to cope with the literacy that takes him out of his collective tribal
world and beaches him in individual isolation. We are as numb in our new electric
world as the native involved in our literate and mechanical culture.
Electric speed mingles the cultures of prehistory with the dregs of industrial
marketeers, the nonliterate with semiliterate and the postliterate. Mental break-
down of varying degrees is the very common result of uprooting and inundation
with new information and endless new patterns of information. Wyndham Lewis
made this a theme of his group of novels called The Human Age. The first of these,
The Childermass, is concerned precisely with accelerated media change as a kind
of massacre of the innocents. In our own world as we become more aware of the
effects of technology on psychic formation and manifestation, we are losing all
confidence in our right to assign guilt. Ancient prehistoric societies regard violent
crime as pathetic. The killer is regarded as we do a cancer victim. “How terrible it
must be to feel like that,” they say. J. M. Synge took up this idea very effectively
in his Playboy of the Western World.
If the criminal appears as a nonconformist who is unable to meet the demand
of technology that we behave in uniform and continuous patterns, literate man is
quite inclined to see others who cannot conform as somewhat pathetic. Especially
the child, the cripple, the woman, and the colored person appear in a world of vis-
ual and typographic technology as victims of injustice. On the other hand, in a cul-


ture that assigns roles instead of jobs to people—the dwarf, the skew, the child cre-
ate their own spaces. They are not expected to fit into some uniform and repeatable
niche that is not their size anyway. Consider the phrase “It’s a man’s world.” As a
quantitative observation endlessly repeated from within a homogenized culture,
this phrase refers to the men in such a culture who have to be homogenized Dag-
woods in order to belong at all. It is in our I.Q. testing that we have produced the
greatest flood of misbegotten standards. Unaware of our typographic cultural bias,
our testers assume that uniform and continuous habits are a sign of intelligence,
thus eliminating the ear man and the tactile man.
C. P. Snow, reviewing a book of A. L. Rowse (The New York Times Book Re-
view, December 24, 1961) on Appeasement and the road to Munich, describes the
top level of British brains and experience in the 1930s. “Their I.Q.’s were much
higher than usual among political bosses. Why were they such a disaster?” The
view of Rowse, Snow approves: “They would not listen to warnings because they
did not wish to hear.” Being anti-Red made it impossible for them to read the mes-
sage of Hitler. But their failure was as nothing compared to our present one. The
American stake in literacy as a technology or uniformity applied to every level of
education, government, industry, and social life is totally threatened by the electric
technology. The threat of Stalin or Hitler was external. The electric technology is
within the gates, and we are numb, deaf, blind, and mute about its encounter with
the Gutenberg technology, on and through which the American way of life was
formed. It is, however, no time to suggest strategies when the threat has not even
been acknowledged to exist. I am in the position of Louis Pasteur telling doctors
that their greatest enemy was quite invisible, and quite unrecognized by them. Our
conventional response to all media, namely that it is how they are used that counts,
is the numb stance of the technological idiot. For the “content” of a medium is like
the juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind.
The effect of the medium is made strong and intense just because it is given an-
other medium as “content.” The content of a movie is a novel or a play or an opera.
The effect of the movie form is not related to its program content. The “content” of
writing or print is speech, but the reader is almost entirely unaware either of print
or of speech.
Arnold Toynbee is innocent of any understanding of media as they have
shaped history’ but he is full of examples that the student of media can use. At one
moment he can seriously suggest that adult education, such as the Workers Educa-
tional Association in Britain, is a useful counterforce to the popular press. Toynbee
considers that although all of the oriental societies have in our time accepted the
industrial technology and its political consequences: “On the cultural plane, how-
ever, there is no uniform corresponding tendency.” (Somervell, I. 267) This is like
the voice of the literate man, floundering in a milieu of ads, who boasts, “Person-
ally, I pay no attention to ads.” The spiritual and cultural reservations that the ori-
ental peoples may have toward our technology will avail them not at all. The ef-
fects of technology do not occur at the level of opinions or concepts, but alter sense


ratios or patterns of perception steadily and without any resistance. The serious
artist is the only person able to encounter technology with impunity, just because
he is an expert aware of the changes in sense perception.
The operation of the money medium in seventeenth century Japan had effects
not unlike the operation of typography in the West. The penetration of the money
economy, wrote G. B. Sansom (in Japan, Cresset Press, London, 1931) “caused a
slow but irresistible revolution, culminating in the breakdown of feudal govern-
ment and the resumption of intercourse with foreign countries after more than two
hundred years of seclusion.” Money has reorganized the sense life of peoples just
because it is an extension of our sense lives. This change does not depend upon
approval or disapproval of those living in the society.
Arnold Toynbee made one approach to the transforming power of media in his
concept of “etherialization,” which he holds to be the principle of progressive sim-
plification and efficiency in any organization or technology. Typically, he is ignor-
ing the effect of the challenge of these forms upon the response of our senses. He
imagines that it is the response of our opinions that is relevant to the effect of me-
dia and technology in society, a “point of view” that is plainly the result of the ty-
pographic spell. For the man in a literate and homogenized society ceases to be
sensitive to the diverse and discontinuous life of forms. He acquires the illusion of
the third dimension and the “private point of view” as part of his Narcissus fixa-
tion, and is quite shut off from Blake’s awareness or that of the Psalmist, that we
become what we behold.
Today when we want to get our bearings in our own culture, and have need to
stand aside from the bias and pressure exerted by any technical form of human ex-
pression, we have only to visit a society where that particular form has not been
felt, or a historical period in which it was unknown. Professor Wilbur Schramm
made such a tactical move in studying Television in the Lives of Our Children. He
found areas where TV had not penetrated at all and ran some tests. Since he had
made no study of the peculiar nature of the TV image, his tests were of “content”
preferences, viewing time, and vocabulary counts. In a word, his approach to the
problem was a literary one, albeit unconsciously so. Consequently, he had nothing
to report. Had his methods been employed in 1500 A.D. to discover the effects of
the printed book in the lives of children or adults, he could have found out nothing
of the changes in human and social psychology resulting from typography. Print
created individualism and nationalism in the sixteenth century. Program and “con-
tent” analysis offer no clues to the magic of these media or to their subliminal
Leonard Doob, in his report Communication in Africa, tells of one African
who took great pains to listen each evening to the BBC news, even though he
could understand nothing of it. Just to be in the presence of those sounds at 7 P.M.
each day was important for him. His attitude to speech was like ours to melody—
the resonant intonation was meaning enough. In the seventeenth century our ances-
tors still shared this native’s attitude to the forms of media, as is plain in the fol-


lowing sentiment of the Frenchman Bernard Lam expressed in The Art of Speaking
(London, 1696):

‘Tis an effect of the Wisdom of God, who created Man to be happy, that
whatever is useful to his conversation (way of life) is agreeable to him . . .
because all victual that conduces to nourishment is relishable, whereas
other things that cannot be assimulated and be turned into our substance
are insipid. A Discourse cannot be pleasant to the Hearer that is not easie
to the Speaker; nor can it be easily pronounced unless it be heard with de-

Here is an equilibrium theory of human diet and expression such as even now
we are only striving to work out again for media after centuries of fragmentation
and specialism.
Pope Pius XII was deeply concerned that there be serious study of the media
today. On February 17, 1950, he said:

It is not an exaggeration to say that the future of modern society and the
stability of its inner life depend in large part on the maintenance of an
equilibrium between the strength of the techniques of communication and
the capacity of the individual’s own reaction.

Failure in this respect has for centuries been typical and total for mankind.
Subliminal and docile acceptance of media impact has made them prisons without
walls for their human users. As A. J. Liebling remarked in his book The Press, a
man is not free if he cannot see where he is going, even if he has a gun to help him
get there. For each of the media is also a powerful weapon with which to clobber
other media and other groups. The result is that the present age has been one of
multiple civil wars that are not limited to the world of art and entertainment. In
War and Human Progress, Professor J. U. Nef declared: “The total wars of our
time have been the result of a series of intellectual mistakes . . .”
If the formative power in the media are the media themselves, that raises a host
of large matters that can only be mentioned here, although they deserve volumes.
Namely’ that technological media are staples or natural resources, exactly as are
coal and cotton and oil. Anybody will concede that society whose economy is de-
pendent upon one or two major staples like cotton, or grain, or lumber, or fish, or
cattle is going to have some obvious social patterns of organization as a result.
Stress on a few major staples creates extreme instability in the economy but great
endurance in the population. The pathos and humor of the American South are em-
bedded in such an economy of limited staples. For a society configured by reliance
on a few commodities accepts them as a social bond quite as much as the metropo-
lis does the press. Cotton and oil, like radio and TV, become “fixed charges” on
the entire psychic life of the community. And this pervasive fact creates the unique
cultural flavor of any society. It pays through the nose and all its other senses for
each staple that shapes its life.


That our human senses, of which all media are extensions are also fixed
charges on our personal energies, and that they also configure the awareness and
experience of each one of us may be perceived in another connection mentioned by
the psychologist C. G. Jung:

Every Roman was surrounded by slaves. The slave and his psychology
flooded ancient Italy, and every Roman became inwardly, and of course
unwittingly, a slave. Because living constantly in the atmosphere of slaves,
he became infected through the unconscious with their psychology. No
one can shield himself from such an influence (Contributions to Analytical
Psychology, London, 1928).


Challenge and Collapse

The Nemesis of Creativity

It was Bertrand Russell who declared that the great discovery of the twentieth cen-
tury was the technique of the suspended judgment. A. N. Whitehead, on the other
hand, explained how the great discovery of the nineteenth century was the discov-
ery of the technique of discovery. Namely, the technique of starting with the thing
to be discovered and working back, step by step, as on an assembly line, to the
point at which it is necessary to start in order to reach the desired object. In the arts
this meant starting with the effect and then inventing a poem, painting, or building
that would have just that effect and no other.
But the “technique of the suspended judgment” goes further. It anticipates the
effect of, say, an unhappy childhood on an adult, and offsets the effect before it
happens. In psychiatry it is the technique of total permissiveness extended as an
anesthetic for the mind, while various adhesions and moral effects of false judg-
ments are systematically eliminated.
This is a very different thing from the numbing or narcotic effect of new tech-
nology that lulls attention while the new form slams the gates of judgment and per-
ception. For massive social surgery is needed to insert new technology into the
group mind, and this is achieved by the built-in numbing apparatus discussed ear-
lier. Now the “technique of the suspended judgment” presents the possibility of
rejecting the narcotic and of postponing indefinitely the operation of inserting the
new technology in the social psyche. A new stasis is in prospect.
Werner Heisenberg, in The Physicist’s Conception of Nature, is an example of
the new quantum physicist whose over-all awareness of forms suggests to him that
we would do well to stand aside from most of them. He points out that technical


change alters not only habits of life, but patterns of thought and valuation, citing
with approval the outlook of the Chinese sage:

As Tzu-Gung was traveling through the regions north of the river Han, he
saw an old man working in his vegetable garden. He had dug an irrigation
ditch. The man would descend into a well, fetch up a vessel of water in his
arms and pour it out into the ditch. While his efforts were tremendous the
results appeared to be very meager.
Tzu-Gung said, “There is a way whereby you can irrigate a hundred
ditches in one day, and whereby you can do much with little effort. Would
you not like to hear of it?”
Then the gardener stood up, looked at him and said, “And what would
that be?”
Tzu-Gung replied, “You take a wooden lever, weighted at the back
and light in front. In this way you can bring up water so quickly that it just
gushes out. This is called a draw-well.”
Then anger rose up in the old man’s face, and he said “I have heard
my teacher say that whoever uses machines does all his work like a ma-
chine. He who does his work like a machine grows a heart like a machine,
and he who carries the heart of a machine in his breast loses his simplicity.
He who has lost his simplicity becomes unsure in the strivings of his soul.
Uncertainty in the strivings of the soul is something which does not agree
with honest sense. It is not that I do not know of such things; I am
ashamed to use them.”

Perhaps the most interesting point about this anecdote is that it appeals to a
modern physicist. It would not have appealed to Newton or to Adam Smith, for
they were great experts and advocates of the fragmentary and the specialist ap-
proaches. It is by means quite in accord with the outlook of the Chinese sage that
Hans Selye works at his “stress” idea of illness. In the 1 920s he had been baffled
at why physicians always seemed to concentrate on the recognition of individual
diseases and specific remedies for such isolated causes, while never paying any
attention to the “syndrome of just being sick.” Those who are concerned with the
program “content” of media and not with the medium proper, appear to be in the
position of physicians who ignore the “syndrome of just being sick.” Hans Selye,
in tackling a total, inclusive approach to the field of sickness, began what Adolphe
Jonas has continued in Irritation and Counter-irritation; namely, a quest for the
response to injury as such, or to novel impact of any kind. Today we have anes-
thetics that enable us to perform the most frightful physical operations on one an-
The new media and technologies by which we amplify and extend ourselves
constitute huge collective surgery carried out on the social body with complete
disregard for antiseptics. If the operations are needed, the inevitability of infecting
the whole system during the operation has to be considered. For in operating on


society with a new technology, it is not the incised area that is most affected. The
area of impact and incision is numb. It is the entire system that is changed. The
effect of radio is visual, the effect of the photo is auditory. Each new impact shifts
the ratios among all the senses. What we seek today is either a means of control-
ling these shifts in the sense-ratios of the psychic and social outlook, or a means of
avoiding them altogether. To have a disease without its symptoms is to be immune.
No society has ever known enough about its actions to have developed immunity
to its new extensions or technologies. Today we have begun to sense that art may
be able to provide such immunity.
In the history of human culture there is no example of a conscious adjustment
of the various factors of personal and social life to new extensions except in the
puny and peripheral efforts of artists. The artist picks up the message of cultural
and technological challenge decades before its transforming impact occurs. He,
then, builds models or Noah’s arks for facing the change that is at hand. “The war
of 1870 need never have been fought had people read my Sentimental Education,”
said Gustave Haubert.
It is this aspect of new art that Kenneth Galbraith recommends to the careful
study of businessmen who want to stay in business. For in the electric age there is
no longer any sense in talking about the artist’s being ahead of his time. Our tech-
nology is, also, ahead of its time, if we reckon by the ability to recognize it for
what it is. To prevent undue wreckage in society, the artist tends now to move
from the ivory tower to the control tower of society. Just as higher education is no
longer a frill or luxury but a stark need of production and operational design in the
electric age, so the artist is indispensable in the shaping and analysis and under-
standing of the life of forms, and structures created by electric technology.
The percussed victims of the new technology have invariably muttered clichés
about the impracticality of artists and their fanciful preferences. But in the past
century it has come to be generally acknowledged that, in the words of Wyndham
Lewis, “The artist is always engaged in writing a detailed history of the future be-
cause he is the only person aware of the nature of the present.” Knowledge of this
simple fact is now needed for human survival. The ability of the artist to sidestep
the bully blow of new technology of any age, and to parry such violence with full
awareness, is age-old. Equally age-old is the inability of the percussed victims,
who cannot sidestep the new violence, to recognize their need of the artist. To re-
ward and to make celebrities of artists can, also, be a way of ignoring their pro-
phetic work, and preventing its timely use for survival. The artist is the man in any
field, scientific or humanistic, who grasps the implications of his actions and of
new knowledge in his own time. He is the man of integral awareness.
The artist can correct the sense ratios before the blow of new technology has
numbed conscious procedures. He can correct them before numbness and sublimi-
nal groping and reaction begin. If this is true, how is it possible to present the mat-
ter to those who are in a position to do something about it? If there were even a
remote likelihood of this analysis being true, it would warrant a global armistice


and period of stocktaking. If it is true that the artist possesses the means of antici-
pating and avoiding the consequences of technological trauma, then what are we to
think of the world and bureaucracy of “art appreciation”? Would it not seem sud-
denly to be a conspiracy to make the artist a frill, a fribble, or a Milltown? If men
were able to be convinced that art is precise advance knowledge of how to cope
with the psychic and social consequences of the next technology, would they all
become artists? Or would they begin a careful translation of new art forms into
social navigation charts? I am curious to know what would happen if art were sud-
denly seen for what it is, namely, exact information of how to rearrange one’s psy-
che in order to anticipate the next blow from our own extended faculties. Would
we, then, cease to look at works of art as an explorer might regard the gold and
gems used as the ornaments of simple nonliterates?
At any rate, in experimental art, men are given the exact specifications of com-
ing violence to their own psyches from their own counter-irritants or technology.
For those parts of ourselves that we thrust out in the form of new invention are at-
tempts to counter or neutralize collective pressures and irritations. But the counter-
irritant usually proves a greater plague than the initial irritant, like a drug habit.
And it is here that the artist can show us how to “ride with the punch,” instead of
“taking it on the chin.” It can only be repeated that human history is a record of
“taking it on the chin.”
Emile Durkheim long ago expressed the idea that the specialized task always
escaped the action of the social conscience. In this regard, it would appear that the
artist is the social conscience and is treated accordingly! “We have no art,” say the
Balinese; “we do everything as well as possible.”
The modern metropolis is now sprawling helplessly after the impact of the mo-
torcar. As a response to the challenge of railway speeds the suburb and the garden
city arrived too late, or just in time to become a motorcar disaster. For an arrange-
ment of functions adjusted to one set of intensities becomes unbearable at another
intensity. And a technological extension of our bodies designed to alleviate physi-
cal stress can bring on psychic stress that may be much worse. Western specialist
technology transferred to the Arab world in late Roman times released a furious
discharge of tribal energy.
The somewhat devious means of diagnosis that have to be used to pin down
the actual form and impact of a new medium are not unlike those indicated in de-
tective fiction by Peter Cheyney. In You Can’t Keep the Change (Collins, London,
1956) he wrote:
A case to Callaghan was merely a collection of people, some of whom,—all of
whom—were giving incorrect information, or telling lies, because circumstances
either forced them or led them into the process.
But the fact that they had to tell lies; had to give false impressions, necessi-
tated a reorientation of their own viewpoints and their own lives. Sooner or later
they became exhausted or careless. Then, and not until then, was an investigator


able to put his finger on the one fact that would lead lead him to a possible logical
It is interesting to note that success in keeping up a respectable front of the
customary kind can only be done by a frantic scramble back of the façade. After
the crime, after the blow has fallen, the facade of custom can only be held up by
swift rearrangement of the props. So it is in our social lives when a new technol-
ogy strikes, or in our private life when some intense and, therefore, indigestible
experience occurs, and the censor acts at once to numb us from the blow and to
ready the faculties to assimilate the intruder. Peter Cheyney’s observations of a
mode of detective fiction is another instance of a popular form of entertainment
functioning as mimic model of the real thing.
Perhaps the most obvious “closure” or psychic consequence of any new tech-
nology is just the demand for it. Nobody wants a motorcar till there are motorcars,
and nobody is interested in TV until there are TV programs. This power of tech-
nology to create its own world of demand is not independent of technology being
first an extension of our own bodies and senses. When we are deprived of our
sense of sight, the other senses take up the role of sight in some degree. But the
need to use the senses that are available is as insistent as breathing—a fact that
makes sense of the urge to keep radio and TV going more or less continuously.
The urge to continuous use is quite independent of the “content” of public pro-
grams or of the private sense life, being testimony to the fact that technology is
part of our bodies. Electric technology is directly related to our central nervous
systems, so it is ridiculous to talk of “what the public wants” played over its own
nerves. This question would be like asking people what sort of sights and sounds
they would prefer around them in an urban metropolis! Once we have surrendered
our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try
to benefit from taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don’t really have
any rights left. Leasing our eyes and ears and nerves to commercial interests is like
handing over the common speech to a private corporation, or like giving the earth’s
atmosphere to a company as a monopoly. Something like this has already hap-
pened with outer space, for the same reasons that we have leased our central nerv-
ous systems to various corporations. As long as we adopt the Narcissus attitude of
regarding the extensions of our own bodies as really out there and really independ-
ent of us, we will meet all technological challenges with the same sort of banana-
skin pirouette and collapse.
Archimedes once said, “Give me a place to stand and I will move the world.”
Today he would have pointed to our electric media and said, “I will stand on your
eyes, your ears, your nerves, and your brain, and the world will move in any tempo
or pattern I choose.” We have leased these “places to stand” to private corpora-
Arnold Toynbee has devoted much of his A Study of History to analyzing the
kinds of challenge faced by a variety of cultures during many centuries. Highly
relevant to Western man is Toynbee’s explanation of how the lame and the crip-


pled respond to their handicaps in a society of active warriors. They become spe-
cialists like Vulcan, the smith and armorer. And how do whole communities act
when conquered and enslaved? The same strategy serves them as it does the lame
individual in a society of warriors. They specialize and become indispensable to
their masters. It is probably the long human history of enslavement, and the col-
lapse into specialism as a counterirritant, that have put the stigma of servitude and
pusillanimity on the figure of the specialist, even in modern times. The capitulation
of Western man to his technology, with its crescendo of specilized demands, has
always appeared to many observers of our world as a kind of enslavement. But the
resulting fragmentation has been voluntary and enthusiastic, unlike the conscious
strategy of specialism on the part of the captives of military conquest.
It is plain that fragmentation or specialism as a technique of achieving security
under tyranny and oppression of any kind has an attendant danger. Perfect adapta-
tion to any environment is achieved by a total channeling of energies and vital
force that amounts to a kind of static terminus for a creature. Even slight changes
in the environment of the very well adjusted find them without any resource to
meet new challenge. Such is the plight of the representatives of “conventional wis-
dom” in any society. Their entire stake of security and status is in a single form of
acquired knowledge, so that innovation is for them not novelty but annihilation.
A related form of challenge that has always faced cultures is the simple fact of
a frontier or a wall, on the other side of which exists another kind of society. Mere
existence side by side of any two forms of organization generates a great deal of
tension. Such, indeed, has been the principle of symbolist artistic structures in the
past century. Toynbee observes that the challenge of a civilization set side by side
with a tribal society has over and over demonstrated that the simpler society finds
its integral economy and institutions “disintegrated by a rain of psychic energy
generated by the civilization” of the more complex culture. When two societies
exist side by side, the psychic challenge of the more complex one acts as an explo-
sive release of energy in the simpler one. For prolific evidence of this kind of prob-
lem it is not necessary to look beyond the life of the teenager lived daily in the
midst of a complex urban center. As the barbarian was driven to furious restless-
ness by the civilized contact, collapsing into mass migration, so the teenager, com-
pelled to share the life of a city that cannot accept him as an adult, collapses into
“rebellion without a cause.” Earlier the adolescent had been provided with a rain
check. He was prepared to wait it out. But since TV, the drive to participation has
ended adolescence, and every American home has its Berlin wall.
Toynbee is very generous in providing examples of widely varied challenge
and collapse, and is especially apt in pointing to the frequent and futile resort to
futurism and archaism as strategies of encountering radical change. But to point
back to the day of the horse or to look forward to the coming of antigravitational
vehicles is not an adequate response to the challenge of the motorcar. Yet these
two uniform ways of backward and forward looking are habitual ways of avoiding
the discontinuities of present experience with their demand for sensitive inspection


and appraisal. Only the dedicated artist seems to have the power for encountering
the present actuality.
Toynbee urges again and again the cultural strategy of the imitation of the ex-
ample of great men. This, of course, is to locate cultural safety in the power of the
will, rather than in the power of adequate perception of situations. Anybody could
quip that this is the British trust in character as opposed to intellect. In view of the
endless power of men to hypnotize themselves into unawareness in the presence of
challenge, it may be argued that will-power is as useful as intelligence for survival.
Today we need also the will to be exceedingly informed and aware.
Arnold Toynbee gives an example of Renaissance technology being effectively
encountered and creatively controlled when he shows how the revival of the decen-
tralized medieval parliament saved English society from the monopoly of central-
ism that seized the continent. Lewis Mumford in The City in History tells the
strange tale of how the New England town was able to carry out the pattern of the
medieval ideal city because it was able to dispense with walls and to mix town and
country. When the technology of a time is powerfully thrusting in one direction,
wisdom may well call for a countervailing thrust. The implosion of electric energy
in our century cannot be met by explosion or expansion, but it can be met by de-
centralism and the flexibility of multiple small centers. For example, the rush of
students into our universities is not explosion but implosion. And the needful strat-
egy to encounter this force is not to enlarge the university, but to create numerous
groups of autonomous colleges in place of our centralized university plant that
grew up on the lines of European government and nineteenth-century industry.
In the same way the excessive tactile effects of the TV image cannot be met by
mere program changes. Imaginative strategy based on adequate diagnosis would
prescribe a corresponding depth or structural approach to the existing literary and
visual world. If we persist in a conventional approach to these developments our
traditional culture will be swept aside as scholasticism was in the sixteenth cen-
tury. Had the Schoolmen with their complex oral culture understood the Gutenberg
technology, they could have created a new synthesis of written and oral education,
instead of bowing out of the picture and allowing the merely visual page to take
over the educational enterprise. The oral Schoolmen did not meet the new visual
challenge of print, and the resulting expansion or explosion of Gutenberg technol-
ogy was in many respects an impoverishment of the culture, as historians like
Mumford are now beginning to explain. Arnold Toynbee, in A Study of History, in
considering “the nature of growths of civilizations,” not only abandons the concept
of enlargement as a criterion of real growth of society, but states: “More often
geographical expansion is a concomitant of real decline and coincides with a ‘time
of troubles’ or a universal state—both of them stages of decline and disintegra-
Toynbee expounds the principle that times of trouble or rapid change produce
militarism, and it is militarism that produces empire and expansion. The old Greek
myth which taught that the alphabet produced militarism (“King Cadmus sowed


the dragon’s teeth, and they sprang up armed men”) really goes much deeper than
Toynbee’s story. In fact, “militarism” is just vague description, not analysis of cau-
sality at all. Militarism is a kind of visual organization of social energies that is
both specialist and explosive, so that it is merely repetitive to say, as Toynbee
does, that it both creates large empires and causes social breakdown. But milita-
rism is a form of industrialism or the concentration of large amounts of homoge-
nized energies into a few kinds of production. The Roman soldier was a man with
a spade. He was an expert workman and builder who processed and packaged the
resources of many societies and sent them home. Before machinery, the only mas-
sive work forces available for processing material were soldiers or slaves. As the
Greek myth of Cadmus points out, the phonetic alphabet was the greatest processer
of men for homogenized military life that was known to antiquity. The age of
Greek society that Herodotus acknowledges to have been “overwhelmed by more
troubles than in the twenty preceding generations” was the time that to our literary
retrospect appears as one of the greatest of human centuries. It was Macaulay who
remarked that it was not pleasant to live in times about which it was exciting to
read. The succeeding age of Alexander saw Hellenism expand into Asia and pre-
pare the course of the later Roman expansion. These, however were the very centu-
ries in which Greek civilization obviously fell apart.
Toynbee points to the strange falsification of history by archeology, insofar as
the survival of many material objects of the past does not indicate the quality of
ordinary life and experience at any particular time. Continuous technical improve-
ment in the means of warfare occurs over the entire period of Hellenic and Roman
decline. Toynbee checks out his hypothesis by testing it with the developments in
Greek agriculture. When the enterprise of Solon weaned the Greeks from mixed
farming to a program of specialized products for export, there were happy conse-
quences and a glorious manifestation of energy in Greek life. When the next phase
of the same specialist stress involved much reliance on slave labor there was spec-
tacular increase of production. But the armies of technologically specialized slaves
working the land blighted the social existence of the independent yeomen and
small farmers, and led to the strange world of the Roman towns and cities crowded
with rootless parasites.
To a much greater degree than Roman slavery, the specialism of mechanized
industry and market organization has faced Western man with the challenge of
manufacture by mono-fracture, or the tackling of all things and operations one-bit-
at-a-time. This is the challenge that has permeated all aspects of our lives and en-
abled us to expand so triumphantly in all directions and in all spheres.

The theory of cognitive dissonance

By Adam Kowol


1. INTRODUCTION………………………………………………………………………………………. 2





REFERENCES ………………………………………………………………………………………………… 11

1. Introduction

The aim of the present paper is to provide a general overview of cognitive dissonance

theory. We begin by defining the basic concepts and summarizing the principal postulates of

the theory. We point to possible classifications of the theory in terms of different forms of

scholarship and types of theory by considering relevant philosophical and methodological

assumptions. We go on to discuss the main areas of research focusing on dissonance

phenomena. In addition, we present major revisions and alternative interpretations of the

theory. We conclude by attempting to assess the theory on the basis of generally accepted


The theory of cognitive dissonance is one of the most significant and influential theories

in the history of social psychology. Suffice it to mention that only five years after its

introduction, Brehm and Cohen (1962, as cited in Bem, 1967, p. 183) could review over fifty

studies conducted within the framework the theory. In the following five years, every major

social-psychological journal averaged at least one article per issue probing some prediction

derived from its basic propositions. In the course of five decades that have passed since it was

formulated by Leon Festinger, it has found widespread applications in various fields of

scientific investigation, including communication studies (e.g., Griffin, 2006; Littlejohn &

Foss, 2005), marketing (e.g., Rice, 1997), economic theory (James & Gutkind, 1985), and

behavioral finance (Ricciardi & Simon, 2000).

2. Fundamental concepts and principles

The central proposition of Festinger’s theory is that if a person holds two cognitions that

are inconsistent with one another, he will experience the pressure of an aversive motivational

state called cognitive dissonance, a pressure which he will seek to remove, among other ways,

by altering one of the two dissonant cognitions (Bem, 1967, p. 183). If we wish to analyze the

hypothesis stated above in detail, it is essential to define several basic concepts. A cognition

(also called a cognitive element) may be broadly defined as any belief, opinion, attitude,

perception, or piece of knowledge about anything – about other persons, objects, issues,

oneself, and so on (Aronson, 2004, p. 146; Littlejohn & Foss, 2005, p. 77; O’Keefe, 2002, p.

78). Littlejohn and Foss (2005) define a cognitive system as “a complex, interacting set of

beliefs, attitudes, and values that affect and are affected by behavior” (p. 81). Festinger


considered the need to avoid dissonance to be just as basic as the need for safety or the need

to satisfy hunger (Griffin, 2006, p. 228). Psychologists define a drive as any internal source of

motivation that impels an organism to pursue a goal or to satisfy a need, such as sex, hunger,

or self-preservation. The distressing (aversive) mental state termed cognitive dissonance is

therefore conceptualized as an aversive drive.

In this paper, we are primarily interested in Festinger’s theory as one of a diverse range of

theories of human communication. Bormann (1989, as cited in Griffin, 2006) refers to

communication theory as an “umbrella term for all careful, systematic and self-conscious

discussion and analysis of communication phenomena” (p. 6). Scholars have made many

attempts to define communication but establishing a single definition has proved impossible

(Littlejohn & Foss, 2005, p. 12). For the purposes of the present discussion, communication

will be taken to mean “all those processes by which people influence one another” (Ruesh &

Bateson, 1951, as cited in Watson & Hill, 1989, p. 41). Inasmuch as Festinger’s theory is

concerned with attitude change and attempts to discern how persuasive messages are

processed in the minds of listeners, there is no doubt that it may be regarded as a

communication theory.

That brings us to the next point, namely the categorization of cognitive dissonance

theory. As has been noted above, it is firmly planted in the sociopsychological tradition,

which focuses on individual social behavior, psychological variables, perception, and

cognition. At the same time, however, it is so infused with system thinking that it must be

included in the cybernetic tradition as well. Festinger’s theory is one of a group of cybernetic

theories known as consistency theories, all of which begin with the same premise: people are

more comfortable with consistency than inconsistency. In cybernetic language, people seek

homeostasis, or balance, and the cognitive system is a primary tool by which this balance is

achieved. The mind is imagined as a system that takes inputs from the environment in the

form of information, processes it, and then creates behavioral outputs (Littlejohn & Foss,


There are two distinct perspectives within the field of communication theory: objective

and interpretive (Griffin, 2006). Festinger’s theory, belonging to the sociopsychological

tradition, epitomizes the scientific (objective) perspective. Scholars in this tradition believe

there are communication truths that can be discovered by careful, systematic observation. The

objective approach of the theory manifests itself in its epistemological assumptions: there is

one reality, waiting to be discovered by employing quantitative research methods such as


experiments and surveys. In contrast to interpretive scholars, social scientists work to pin

down universal laws of human behavior that cover a variety of situations. They consider good

theories to be mirrors of nature. It can thus be concluded that the theory of cognitive

dissonance is a nomothetic theory – one that seeks universal and general laws. This approach

is based on the hypothetico-deductive method, which involves the following processes: (1)

developing questions, (2) forming hypotheses, (3) testing the hypotheses, and (4) formulating

theory. Festinger’s theory appears to make certain philosophical assumptions that are typical

of nomothetic theories. In epistemology, the theory espouses empiricist and rationalist ideas.

In terms of axiology, the theory takes a value-neutral stance. In terms of ontology, the theory

assumes that behavior is basically determined by and responsive to biology and the

environment (Littlejohn & Foss, 2005, pp. 23-24).

Three possible relations might exist between any two cognitive elements. The first type

of relationship is irrelevant (neither affects the other), the second is consonant (consistent),

and the third kind is dissonant (inconsistent). Two elements are said to be in a dissonant

relation if the opposite of one element follows from the other. The degree of dissonance

experienced is a function of two factors: (1) the relative proportions of consonant and

dissonant elements and (2) the importance of the elements or issue (Littlejohn & Foss, 2005,

p. 77; O’Keefe, 2002, p. 78). Festinger imagined a number of methods for dealing with

cognitive dissonance: (1) altering the importance of the issue or the elements involved, (2)

changing one or more of the cognitive elements, (3) adding new elements to one side of the

tension or the other, (4) seeking consonant information, and (5) distorting or misinterpreting

dissonant evidence (Littlejohn & Foss, 2005, p. 78; O’Keefe, 2002, p. 79).

3. Major cognitive dissonance phenomena

Let us now turn to a brief discussion of major cognitive dissonance phenomena. Most of

them can generally be arranged into four groups: (1) selective exposure to information, (2)

postdecision dissonance, (3) minimal justification (induced compliance), and (4) hypocrisy


The first area of dissonance theory research concerns people’s propensity to expose

themselves selectively to information. As has been indicated, dissonance is an aversive

motivational state, therefore people naturally attempt to avoid dissonance-arousing situations.

That is to say, persons prefer to be exposed to information that is supportive of their current

beliefs rather than to nonsupportive information, which presumably could arouse dissonance.


Interestingly enough, dissonance theory’s selective exposure hypothesis calls into

question the purported significant and far-reaching impacts of the mass media on the

audience. If people generally seek out only media sources that confirm or reinforce their prior

beliefs, then the powerful effects of the mass media are blunted (O’Keefe, 2002, p. 85).

As will be argued below, people are adept at justifying their behavior. An example that

suggests itself is that of smokers who cognitively minimize the danger of smoking. This

involves the dismissal of a large body of evidence regarding the illnesses that cigarettes can

cause, and the rejection of all negative aspects of smoking. By the same token, some

theologians claim that science cannot settle the issue of God’s possible superintendence of

nature because scientific evidence is completely irrelevant to theological questions. Dawkins

(2007, p. 78) suggests that religious apologists would eagerly embrace any scientific evidence

in favor of religious belief. Though arguably irrational, their behavior may at least in part be

explained in terms of the selective exposure hypothesis.

Although there may be some preference for supportive information, O’Keefe (2002, p.

86) emphasizes the fact that this preference is only one of many influences on information

exposure, and hence it may be overridden by other considerations, such as the perceived

utility of the information, curiosity, and fairness.

The second research area we would like to discuss is postdecision dissonance.

Undoubtedly, close-call decisions can generate huge amounts of internal tension after the

decision has been made. Following a decision, people agonize over whether they made the

right choice. The magnitude of this dissonance depends on the following factors: (1)

importance of the issue, (2) delays in choosing between two equally attractive options, (3)

difficulty involved in reversing the decision, (4) attractiveness of the chosen alternative, (5)

attractiveness of the rejected alternative, (6) the degree of similarity or overlap between the

alternatives, and (7) the number of options considered (Griffin, 2006, p. 231; Littlejohn &

Foss, 2005, p. 78; Rice, 1997, p. 114). Being plagued with regrets and second thoughts after a

tough choice, people automatically seek information that vindicates their decision and allays

nagging doubts.

This kind of dissonance, called “buyer’s remorse” by salespeople (Littlejohn & Foss,

2005, p. 78), arises after buying something valuable, such as a car or a house. Obviously, the

chosen alternative is seldom entirely positive and the rejected alternatives are seldom entirely

negative. A good way to reduce such dissonance is to seek out exclusively positive

information about the car you chose and avoid negative information about it (Aronson, 2004,


p.155). According to Smith (1993, p. 71), sellers should address postpurchase dissonance by

reassuring the buyer with a congratulatory note, additional advertising, after-sales service and,

most of all, a product or service that lives up to the promise made in the advertising.

An experiment by Brehm (1956, as cited in Aronson, 2004, p. 155) clearly demonstrates

people’s capability of reassuring themselves. Several women were given eight different

appliances and asked to rate them in terms of attractiveness. Each woman was told she could

have one of the appliances as a gift and given a choice between two of the products she had

rated as being equally attractive. Several minutes later, she was asked to rate the products

again. The results were as follows: women rated the attractiveness of their chosen appliances

somewhat higher and decreased the rating of the rejected appliances. In other words, they

spread apart the alternatives to reduce dissonance.

An experiment by Mills (1958, as cited in Aronson, 2004, p. 161) demonstrated how

moral attitudes may change drastically as a consequence of decisions taken. Mills first

measured 6th-graders’ attitudes about cheating. Then, they participated in a competitive exam

with prizes offered to the winners. As expected, some students cheated and others did not.

When asked again to indicate their feelings about cheating, those who had cheated showed

more lenient attitudes toward cheating, and those who resisted the temptation to cheat became

even more strict about cheating.

Freedman and Fraser (1966, as cited in Argyle, 1994, p. 138; see also Aronson, 2004, p.

158) have demonstrated that when individuals commit themselves in a small way, the

likelihood that they will commit themselves further in that direction is increased. The process

of using small favors to encourage people to accede to larger requests is called the foot-in-the-

door technique.

Another research area in the study of persuasive communication is termed minimal

justification. The theory predicts that counter-attitudinal action, freely chosen with little

incentive or justification, leads to a change in attitude. If we are to fully understand this

principle, it is necessary to distinguish between external and internal justification. External

justification is a person’s reason or explanation for his or her dissonant behavior that resides

not in the individual but rather in the situation (such as politeness, drunkenness, praise, or

reward), whereas internal justification is the reduction of dissonance by changing something

about oneself (e.g., one’s attitude or behavior). If an individual states a belief that is difficult

to justify externally, that person will attempt to justify it internally by making his or her

attitudes more consistent with the statement (Aronson, 2004, p. 164).


Surprising as it may seem, dissonance theory predicts that we begin to believe our own

lies – but only if there is not abundant external justification for making the statements that go

against our original attitudes. This powerful form of permanent attitude change has been

called the “saying is believing” paradigm. We are modifying our attitudes because we have

succeeded in convincing ourselves that our previous attitudes were incorrect. These

speculations have been investigated scientifically in a number of experiments. The best

known and most widely quoted forced-compliance study was conducted by Festinger and

Carlsmith (1959). They asked college students to perform a very boring and repetitive series

of tasks and then induced them to tell a potential female subject that the activities were

interesting and enjoyable. Some of the men were promised $20 to express enthusiasm about

the task, whereas others were offered only $1. After the experiment was over, those students

who had been paid $20 for lying rated the activity as dull, while those who lied for $1

maintained that it was much more enjoyable. Festinger said that $1 was just barely enough to

induce compliance to the experimenter’s request, hence the students had to create another

justification. They changed their attitudes toward the task to bring it into line with their


In an important set of experiments, Leippe and Eisenstadt (1994, as cited in Aronson,

2004, p. 166) induced white college students to write an essay demonstrating counter-

attitudinal advocacy: publicly endorsing a proposal to increase the amount of scholarship

funds for African-American students, which meant cutting the scholarship amounts for white

students. In order to reduce the high dissonance evoked by the situation, the students

convinced themselves that they really believed deeply in that policy. Moreover, they adopted

a more favorable and supportive attitude toward African-Americans. It is important to realize

that external justification may come in a variety of forms other than monetary gain, such as

the willingness to do something unpleasant as a favor to a friendly person (Zimbardo,

Weisenberg, Firestone, & Levy, 1965, as cited in Aronson, 2004, p. 167).

The mechanism in question has important practical implications for parents and

educators. As has been shown in a number of experiments (Aronson & Carlsmith, 1963;

Freedman, 1965, as cited in Aronson, 2004, p. 174), excessive punishment might produce

short-term obedience but not underlying change. Similarly, in trying to encourage children to

do their homework, parents ought to think carefully about offering extremely large rewards

for compliance, since such rewards can undermine the development of positive attitudes

toward homework. In other words, smaller incentives for freely chosen counter-attitudinal


behavior are more likely to produce underlying favorable attitudes toward that behavior

(O’Keefe, 2002, p. 93). Furthermore, Deci (1971, as cited in Aronson, 2004, p. 166)

demonstrated that offering rewards to people for performing a pleasant activity actually

decreases the intrinsic attractiveness of that activity.

It should be noted that researchers have not always obtained the induced-compliance

effects predicted by dissonance theory. Two important limiting conditions have been

identified. The predicted dissonance effects in induced-compliance situations are obtained

only (1) when the participants feel that they had a choice about whether to comply, and (2)

when there is no obvious alternative cause to which the feelings of dissonance can be

attributed (O’Keefe, 2002, p. 92).

The last main group of phenomena we would like to discuss is known as hypocrisy

induction. Sometimes a persuader’s task is not so much to encourage people to have the

desired attitudes as it is to encourage people to act on existing attitudes. The basic idea is that

calling attention to the inconsistency of a person’s attitudes and actions – that is, the person’s

hypocrisy – can arouse dissonance, which then is reduced through behavioral change (altering

the behavior to make it consistent with the existing attitude). In an experiment by Stone et al.

(1994, as cited in O’Keefe, 2002, p. 94; see also Aronson, 2004, p. 174) college students were

confronted with their own hypocrisy. The participants were asked to compose and recite a

speech advocating the use of condoms. In addition, they were made mindful of their past

failures to use condoms, which resulted in a state of high dissonance. As expected, those

students were far more likely to purchase condoms after the experiment.

Dissonance theory leads to the prediction that, if a person goes through a difficult or a

painful experience in order to attain some goal or object, that goal or object becomes more

attractive to the individual than to someone who achieves the same goal with little or no

effort. This process, called justification of effort, was demonstrated in an experiment by

Aronson and Mills (1959, as cited in Aronson, 2004, p. 176). Various groups, such as cults or

college fraternities, commonly exploit this phenomenon by imposing severe initiation rituals,

which serve to create commitment and value for those joining the group. The importance of

volunteering to go through the unpleasant experience was demonstrated experimentally by

Cooper (1980, as cited in Aronson, 2004, p. 177).

The theory of cognitive dissonance may shed light on the enormous power of cult

leaders. A classic participant observation study by Festinger, Riecken, and Schachter (1956,

as cited in Tumminia, 2005, p. 33; see also Huegler, 2006, p. 13; Spilka et al., 2003, p. 356)


involved a cult in a small American town. The study confirmed Festinger’s prediction that

when the group’s prophecy of the world’s destruction failed, the group would both continue in

its beliefs and attempt even greater proselytization. After major disconfirming events, groups

will presumably seek new converts, the inference being that if newcomers believe then so too

can the people whose beliefs have just been shaken.

Many people find themselves participating in religious rituals even though they have no

personal commitments to the ideas behind them. Festinger’s theory suggests that this can

cause individuals to adjust previous beliefs. Acting as if we believe something promotes

belief itself. As people invest greater levels of time and resources into religious practices –

regular attendance, personal relationships, mission work, financial support, and so on – their

commitment to the gods that motivate such behaviors is proportionately reinforced and

strengthened (Tremlin, 2006, p. 131).

4. Revisions and alternative interpretations

A number of revisions to dissonance theory have been suggested, and several competing

explanations have also been proposed. According to Aronson, people experience cognitive

dissonance as a result of psychological inconsistency rather than logical inconsistency

between attitude and behavior. He interprets the $1/$20 experiment as a study of self-esteem

maintenance (Aronson, 2004, p. 169; Griffin, 2006, p. 234). Aronson (1992, as cited in

O’Keefe, 2002, p. 96) has suggested that dissonance arises most plainly from inconsistencies

that specifically involve the self. That is, dissonance is greatest and clearest when it involves

not just any two cognitions but, rather, a cognition about the self and a piece of our behavior

that violates that self-concept. Dissonance-reducing behavior is ego-defensive behavior. By

reducing dissonance, we maintain a positive image of ourselves – an image that depicts us as

good, or smart, or worthwhile. Aronson claims that people are not rational beings, but rather

rationalizing beings. Humans are motivated not so much to be right as to believe they are right

and to justify their own actions, beliefs, and feelings. When they do something, they will try

to convince themselves (and others) that it was a logical, reasonable thing to do.

An experiment by Cialdini and Schroeder (1976, as cited in Aronson, 2004, p. 170)

demonstrated interesting practical implications arising from Aronson’s formulation of

dissonance theory. Students acting as fundraisers went door to door, sometimes just asking for

donations and sometimes adding that “even a penny will help”. As conjectured, the residents

who were approached with the even-a-penny request gave contributions more often.


Furthermore, the even-a-penny contributors were likely to give as much money as the others.

Once people reach into their pockets, emerging with a mere penny is self-demeaning. A larger

donation is consistent with their self-perception of being reasonably kind and generous.

Another major revision to Festinger’s original theory was proposed by Bem (1967),

whose theory of self-perception has provided an alternative interpretation of cognitive

dissonance phenomena. He challenged the assumption that it is the discomfort caused by a

threat to the self-concept that motivates people to change their beliefs or behavior. He

developed the notion of self-perception and applied it to some of the research on dissonance

theory. For example, he conducted his own $1/$20 study to test his hypothesis. According to

Bem (1967), “the attitude statements which comprise the major dependent variables in

dissonance experiments may be regarded as interpersonal judgments in which the observer

and the observed happen to be the same individual and that it is unnecessary to postulate an

aversive motivational drive toward consistency to account for the attitude change phenomena

observed” (p. 183). In other words, the people may not be experiencing discomfort and may

not be motivated to justify themselves. Rather, they may simply be observing their own

behavior in a calm and dispassionate way, and drawing conclusions from their observations.

5. Tentative assessment of the theory

Griffin (2006, p. 39) proposed a set of criteria for assessing objective theories: (1)

explanation of the data, (2) prediction of future events, (3) relative simplicity, (4) testability,

and (5) practical utility. As has been argued above, the theory of cognitive dissonance is

reasonably effective in explaining and predicting human behavior, although its expectations

have sometimes received only weak confirmation and unanticipated findings have emerged

(O’Keefe, 2002). The foregoing discussion provides ample evidence of the theory’s practical

utility. However, reservations have been expressed about its simplicity. Furthermore,

Festinger’s theory contains a serious flaw: it is not falsifiable. There is no way it could be

proved wrong because Festinger never specified a reliable way to detect the degree of

dissonance a person experiences (Griffin, 2006, p. 238). Nevertheless, cognitive dissonance

theory has yielded a number of useful and interesting findings. Moreover, it has served as a

fruitful source of ideas and stimulated substantial relevant research.



Argyle, M. (1994). The psychology of interpersonal behaviour (5th ed.). London: Penguin


Aronson, E. (2004). The social animal (9th ed.). New York: Worth Publishers.

Bem, D. J. (1967). Self-perception: An alternative interpretation of cognitive dissonance

phenomena. Psychological Review, 74, 183-200.

Dawkins, R. (2007). The God delusion. London: Black Swan.

Festinger, L., & Carlsmith, J. M. (1959). Cognitive consequences of forced compliance.

Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 58, 203-210.

Griffin, E. (2006). A first look at communication theory (6th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Huegler, S. (2006). Purple shoes or blue? Scientific American Mind, 17(1), 12-13.

James, J., & Gutkind, E. (1985). Attitude change revisited: Cognitive dissonance theory and

development policy. World Development, 13, 1139-1149.

Littlejohn, S. W., & Foss, K. A. (2005). Theories of human communication (8th ed.).

Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

O’Keefe, D. J. (2002). Persuasion: Theory and research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Ricciardi, V., & Simon, H. K. (2000). What is Behavioral Finance? Business, Education and

Technology, 2(2), 1-9. Retrieved January 17, 2008, from

Rice, C. (1997). Understanding customers (2nd ed.). Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Smith, P. R. (1993). Marketing communications: An integrated approach. London: Kogan


Spilka, B., Hood, R. W., Jr., Hunsberger, B., & Gorsuch, R. (2003). The psychology of

religion: An empirical approach (3rd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.

Tremlin, T. (2006). Minds and gods: The cognitive foundations of religion. New York:

Oxford University Press.

Tumminia, D. G. (2005). When prophecy never fails: Myth and reality in a flying-saucer

group. New York: Oxford University Press.

Watson, J., & Hill, A. (1989). A dictionary of communication and media studies (2nd ed.).

London: Edward Arnold.


  • Introduction
  • Fundamental concepts and principles
  • Major cognitive dissonance phenomena
  • Revisions and alternative interpretations
  • Tentative assessment of the theory
  • References

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1 Introduction: What is language?

Key terms


Language community


Language conventions

Arbitrary sign

Iconic sign


Communicative competence

Critical period

Universal grammar


Descriptive linguistics


In this chapter you’ll learn about the complex relationship between

language and identity. Language reflects both the individual characteristics of

a person, as well as the beliefs and practices of his or her community. You’ll

also learn that languages are rule-governed systems made up of signs, so for an

outsider to learn the language of a community, he or she must learn which signs

are meaningful and which are not. The chapter will introduce you to the study of

language and communication, as well as the methods of analysis used by those

who work in this field. It also considers the complexity of language by examin-

ing various theories about how children acquire language. The fact that small

children learn language in a relatively short period of time indicates that people

may have innate language capabilities.


How much time do you spend thinking about the language you

speak? If you’re like most people, you probably don’t consider it much at all.

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For many of us, speaking is as natural as waking up each day: it’s an uncon-

scious action that we rarely notice we’re even doing. And as a result, we usually

don’t imagine our language as something that might wield power, fuel debate,

or even cause conflict. In truth, however, language can operate in all of these

ways. The recent news stories in Box 1.1 above illustrate how language plays

a significant role in people’s lives.

As these stories illustrate, language affects many facets of human culture:

religious, political, social, and economic. Many of these situations described are

provocative. The banning of certain languages or mandating the use of one over

another have produced tension and anxiety, charges of isolationism, and even

allegations of racism and discrimination. Why do these attempts to control

language produce such strong reactions? Throughout this textbook, as you

explore further the connections between people and their language, you’ll find

answers to this question.

Language and communication

Language is foremost a means of communication, and communication

almost always takes place within some sort of social context. This is why

effective communication requires an understanding and recognition of the

connections between a language and the people who use it. These connections

Box 1.1 The power of language

� Former Russian satellite countries Estonia and Latvia have made

fluency in Estonian and Latvian, respectively, a requirement of

citizenship, thus creating a potential problem for millions of

Russian-speaking citizens who have lived in these countries for


� An Amsterdam city councilor proposed a law mandating that Dutch

be spoken in Islamic mosques in his city, even though the traditional

language of Islam is Arabic.
� Members of the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) boycotted a speech given

in German by former German President Köhler, insisting that German

should not be spoken in the Knesset as long as there are Holocaust

survivors living.

� The European Esperanto Union has indicated a new trend in the

international labor market: advertisements for many jobs in Europe seek

only applicants whose mother tongue is English.

� The Executive Branch of the US government has directed all federal

departments and agencies to use “plain language” to make the

government more accessible and understandable in its communications

with the public.

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are complex: for example, they tell you when to use slang with a friend or

formal language with a boss, how to judge a candidate’s campaign speeches,

and whether to abbreviate an email. All of these acts require knowledge of

the language, as well as the cultural and social forces acting on that language.

As you work through this textbook, you will study these various forces, espe-

cially as they function within the United States.

Social context is a major factor that drives our language choices. For

example, consider the language you might have used in an interview situation,

perhaps with a prospective employer or college admissions officer. If you are

like many other people, in the interview you probably were as much concerned

with how you spoke as with what you actually said. You may have even

practiced sounding confident, for instance, or intelligent, so that you would

make a good impression during the interview. We make decisions every

day, or have decisions made about us by other people, based on the language

we use. We frequently evaluate a person’s education, socioeconomic level,

background, honesty, friendliness, and numerous other qualities by how that

person speaks. And when we want to make a particular impression on someone

else, we consciously choose our language, just as we choose our hair styles

or clothing.

Exercise 1.1

The term idiolect refers to a person’s use of language within a particular context. Think

about your own idiolect and consider the ways in which it changes over the course of your day,

depending on the needs of your communication contexts. Have you talked on the phone?

Helped a friend study? Ordered in a restaurant? Participated in class discussion? Note in writing

the similarities and the differences among several moments of communication you have had

in the past four hours. Then imagine that you couldn’t vary your language from one context to

the next, from informal to formal, from personal to impersonal, from home to chemistry class,

and so on. Would this hinder your communication or not? Be prepared to share your thoughts

with the class.

Language is integrally intertwined with our notions of who we are on both the

personal and the broader, societal levels. When we use language, we communi-

cate our individual thoughts, as well as the cultural beliefs and practices of

the communities of which we are a part: our families, social groups, and other


Language and identity

Each community, just like each individual, has its own language that

expresses the ideas, values, and attitudes of its members. A particular group

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of language users who share the use of a specific

language adapted to fit their needs is called a language

community. Your language communities may be

created by your interests, say a sports team or a school

club you belong to, by your age group, by your gender,

and so on (see Figure 1.1).

Language communities are often identified by geo-

graphical region as well. In the southwestern United

States, for example, in some towns along the Mexican

border, Spanish is the dominant language, not English.

In other towns in this region, English dominates.

In each geographical area, the relationship between

the two languages reflects the history, politics, and

unique identity of its population. Study of diverse

language communities across the United States con-

tributes to our understanding of what it means to

be American, a complex notion. Awareness of the

nature of language communities provides insight into

a population and will help you be more effective in

using language and in understanding the language used

by others.

Exercise 1.2

Work with two or three peers to identify a particular language community you all recognize, such

as restaurant servers, college professors, parents, etc. Then write a dialogue for two or more of you

Figure 1.1 A language community at work

The work of New York conceptual

artist Nikki S. Lee illustrates the

fundamental human ability to

consciously transform one’s self.

Lee’s acclaimed projects document

her successful transformation and

assimilation into a wide range of

subcultures and social and ethnic

groups, from sophisticated yuppies to

trailer park residents, a hip-hop crowd,

skateboarders, swingers, and tourists.

Lee fits into these various groups by

putting on the characteristics of that

group’s identity: its fashions, its

gestures, and, of course, its language.

Her project reveals the variability of

individual identity – we can slip in and

out of various identities, if we choose,

by simply changing our language and

dress. If you want to see photographs of

Lee’s transformations, visit the website

of the Museum of Contemporary



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to read to your classmates illustrating the language of this community. Do not identify the

community by name for the other students in the class but instead focus on the vocabulary,

pronunciation, sentence structure, and style of dialogue to convey the community’s identity. After

you’ve written the dialogue, list its distinctive characteristics and speculate on how this particular

language community might have acquired these characteristics. Be prepared to discuss how these

language characteristics differ from the language of your classmates’ dialogues.

How we define language

Although those who study language may

disagree over a precise definition because they dispute

some concepts, such as whether or not language must

have a written and/or oral component, they agree that

language is a rule-based system of signs. Saying that

language is rule-based usually makes people think

of other kinds of situations where rules are enforced

by a particular authority. For example, think about

classroom behavior. Students are expected to sit still,

be quiet, pay attention, and so on; typically, there

are consequences if they don’t follow these rules.

Language rules, however, are not enforced by any

authority figure; language police do not exist. Instead,

language rules are conventions. This means that they

come into existence through common practice by users

of the language rather than through the imposition of

an authority figure. As a result, members who use the

language conventions of their particular community

may not even be conscious of following them.

We talk about language as a system of rules or

conventions because a single language convention, for

example, a single word, a pause, or an alphabet letter, does not tell us much

beyond its immediate meaning. Thus, we usually combine these conventions

together to convey larger meanings.

Language signs

The most basic convention of any language community is the

acceptance of a set of signs that convey meaning. These signs could be sounds

or words or punctuation marks on a page or even silence in a conversation; any

of these things is able to carry meaning. To be successful, signs work on two

different levels. First, signs indicate the phonic or graphic or visual elements,

the physical medium that gives a language form, and then on the second level

Conventions are the unspoken,

unofficial rules within a particular

community that are accepted and

followed by members who may not

even be aware of them. The word

convention originated in the Latin verb

convenı̄re, meaning to come together,

a meaning still reflected in usage

today. If we look at the individuals

following a particular convention,

we see a community coming together

through making the same choices in

their actions, which includes their

use of language. If you drink a soda,

you probably live in a different

geographical region of the United

States from someone who drinks pop.

And if you drink a coke, you live in yet

another region (see Figure 1.2). All

three words refer to the same thing,

a sugary, carbonated drink, but users

are influenced in their word choice by

the preference of their community.

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the signs portray the message itself, which indicates a

particular meaning. To give a quick illustration of this

duality inherent in language signs, consider the word

goose. The alphabet letters represent particular sounds

within the American English language system. Then,

for the second level, the letters work together to create

the word goose, which represents the meaning the

sign conveys, the concept of a certain kind of bird.

The signs of language can come through almost any

sensory channel: sounds, like words or music; sights, like a page of text; or even

physical movements, like dance. Braille provides an example of signs conveyed

through touch.

Types of signs

The signs within a language that convey meaning can be either

arbitrary or iconic. An arbitrary sign doesn’t possess any inherent connection

with its meaning. For example, in American English, the word for the object

that can open or close a large opening in a wall is door. The fact that this word
varies from one language to another shows that it is arbitrary: nothing in the word

door indicates an intrinsic “doorness,” or the state of being a door. We only learn


0 500 1000 km

500 miles250

250 750

Generic names for soft drinks



Figure 1.2 Do you use pop or soda or . . . ? (After M.T. Campbell 2003, Generic Names for

Soft Drinks by County,

Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913)

was a Swiss linguist. His theories were

fundamental in defining the study of

language as a science. Saussure’s

work led to the twentieth-century

development of the important

linguistic subfield of semiotics, or the

study of signs. We’ll explore the field

of semiotics in Chapter 7.

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what this word means through our own individual experiences with other

speakers, through reading the word, or through being taught a particular language.

Even words that we consider onomatapoeic, or imitations of the actual sounds,

like the crash of a box hitting the floor or the ding of a bell, are arbitrary within a
culture, though we might at first expect them to be the same across all cultures.

This illustrates just how closely a culture and its language are linked. What seems

to be an objective and literal recording of sound is really the representation of

a cultural perspective. For instance, the sound a turkey makes is gobble gobble
when represented in American English, glugluglugluglu in Portuguese, and krrull
krrull in Albanian. Or think about the caw of a crow heard in the United States. In

France the same bird would make a croa-croa sound and in Sweden a krax-krax.
The other type of sign, an iconic sign, works on a visual or auditory level

to convey its meaning immediately; for example, the picture of a mouse

conveys the concept of mouse to anyone who looks at it, no matter if the person

uses the English name mouse or the French la souris (see Figure 1.3). No matter

what the native language, anyone who hears a rooster crowing will immediately

associate the concept rooster with that sound. We don’t have to learn an

arbitrary connection between these iconic signs and the concepts they represent.

Table 1.1 illustrates the differences between arbitrary and iconic signs.

Figure 1.3 An iconic sign meaning wheelchair accessible

Table 1.1 Arbitrary signs vs. iconic signs

Arbitrary sign Iconic sign

Culture-specific meaning Universal meaning

Learned meaning Obvious meaning




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Exercise 1.3

Identify four iconic and four arbitrary signs from your own experience. Think and write about

why each is effective in communicating an idea. Then consider if your process of reading an

arbitrary sign, of determining the meaning that it conveys, is different from the process of reading

an iconic one.

Remember that arbitrary signs carry meaning through convention, through

habit or accepted usage. That is, a group of individuals who regularly communi-

cate with each other, a language community, will begin using a particular sign to

represent a particular concept and then continue to use the sign consistently

to convey that particular meaning. Recognizing the role that conventions play

within a language is crucial; without conventions, language wouldn’t exist.

Let’s now explore more fully some of the conventions one has to know in order

to be an effective language user.

Fluency in language

When you were a child, you might have had fun with your friends or

family inventing a special language to be used just by your circle. Maybe it was

a code – signs or made-up words that you substituted for real words. Or maybe

you created a made-up language by transposing sounds in some way: idday
ouyay vereay seuay igpay atinlay? No matter what the structure of your

language, it probably took a lot of work for you to produce it, remembering

those words or sounds that substituted for others and the special flourishes that

made it unique. To have any kind of conversation, you’d have had to really

think before you spoke and then wait a while for your friend to formulate his or

her answer.

We bring up these childhood games to contrast this scenario with what we

usually do when we use our native languages. If you’re like most people, you

probably never even think about how you produce language, but merely accept

as a given that you know it. But what does it really mean to “know” a language?

In fact, most of us have very little knowledge about the complex processes we

go through just to produce sound and construct meaningful sentences. Do we

think about, for instance, how air must leave our diaphragms, enter our mouths,

and vibrate behind our closed lips to produce the sound “m”? Do most of us

know that when we state a sentence, such as “I gave her the book,” that “her” is

the indirect object and in this sentence must occupy the position following the

verb and no other? In actuality, very few people have this kind of language

knowledge, and yet they possess fluency. They are able to comprehend and to

produce language easily, aware of the many subtleties of its use. So “knowing”

a language or being fluent in a language is very different from “having know-

ledge” of a language, as Figure 1.4 illustrates.

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Word systems

Knowing a language means knowing its word structures and meanings.

Native speakers of English know the meanings of many words and know how

to combine these words together. They also know how to coin new words in

English. For instance, if someone gave you something and called it a krip, even
though you might not know the word’s meaning, you could ask for two of them

by adding -s to krip, creating krips; in addition, you could also use the word

in sentences: Do you have any krips today? Where are my krips? and so on. The
ability to use language includes knowledge of the ways in which words are

formed. We will discuss word formation in Chapter 3.

Sentence structures

Native speakers also know how to construct sentences. And they

intuitively know when a sentence sounds “wrong.” Note that constructing

sentences goes beyond just putting strings of words together. As one famous

linguist pointed out with his example sentence, Colorless green ideas sleep
furiously, a sentence may be grammatically correct, but that does not mean that

it is well-formed, or meaningful. Sentences must conform to certain rules of

language, including rules about meanings. Chapters 5 and 7 will explore in more

detail sentence structures and their meanings.

Sound systems

Knowing a language means that speakers know how to produce

sounds in their native languages and that they understand which sounds are

meaningful and which are not. So, for instance, while guttural sounds made in

the throat area are common to many languages, including French, Arabic, and

German, American English speakers know they are not a part of the American

English sound corpus. In addition to intuitively knowing the sounds that com-

prise their language, speakers also know the ways in which sounds can be

combined. For example, words in English cannot begin with the consecutive

Knowing a language

My favorite
color is green.

“Favorite” is
an adjective.

Having knowledge of a language

Figure 1.4 Knowing a language isn’t the same as having knowledge of a language

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sounds represented by the two letters ts, so native speakers of English would not
expect these two sounds together at the beginning of words. Initial ts does occur,
however, in other languages, like Japanese. This is why English speakers have

trouble pronouncing a word like the Japanese tsunami because they are not used
to this initial sound combination. In Chapter 6 we’ll be discussing more of the

sounds and sound patterns of American English.


Finally, being fluent means being able to use language in appropriate

ways within particular social contexts. Our ability to use language in this way

is called our communicative competence. When we respond appropriately

to questions, tell jokes, use polite forms, give directions, and so on, we reveal

our competence in language. Chapters 7 and 8 discuss language use in context.

Exercise 1.4

To test your inherent knowledge of well-formed English words, sentences, sounds, and

communicative responses, look at the following list of words and phrases. Decide if each item

conforms to your idea of what is appropriate or well-formed language. Explain why you find

some items inappropriate.

1. The lawyer had went to Albany before.

2. He slept through the night.

3. He slept the airplane for ten hours.

4. A new product name: Sbaxn.

5. Will you sleep over at my house?

6. Will you drive over at my house?

7. Will at my house you come?

8. Singular: shelf; plural: shelfs.

9. A woman asks a man, “Do you know Mayor Smith?” The man replies, “I just moved

to the city last month.”

10. A woman asks a man, “Where do you live?” The man answers, “More than

50 percent of the time.”

Considering the complexity of language systems, you can see that being

fluent is an amazing ability; even more amazing is the speed and age at which

we acquire this ability. If you have ever been around young children, you

probably will have noted that they gain communicative competence in their

native languages quite early, long before their brains and bodies mature, and do

so without making a conscious effort. The fact that we become fluent within the

first few years of our lives seems remarkable given the many, many elements

and nuances of language use. What can account for our acquiring this broad

knowledge in such a short space of time?

10 introduction© in this web service Cambridge University Press

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Inside: Defining Intelligence Interpersonal Intelligence The Triune Brain The protection
of ‘Innocence’ in Infants and Toddlers Children’s Houses – Learning that others have

needs too The concept of Right and Wrong in Primary Becoming a Productive Member
of Society Be aware of the ‘Tragedy of Entitlement’


International Montessori Schools and Child Development Centres
Brussels, Belgium

Author: Annie R. Hoekstra – de Roos Layout: Tuuli Sauren, Inspirit International Communications


Defining Intelligence

All intelligences are important! When an
individual has access to and uses the appropriate
intelligence in accordance to the situation, he/
she is a flexible person who can adapt easily and
successfully to different circumstances.

Maria Montessori already described in 1952 in her
book From Childhood to Adolescence,“ Society
has developed to a state of utmost complication
and extreme contrasts…it is necessary that the
human personality should be prepared for the
unforeseen, not only for the conditions that can be
anticipated by prudence and foresight. Nor should
it be strictly conditioned by one specialisation,
but should develop at the same time the power
of adapting itself quickly and easily.”

We are assisting young people to be able to
function in the world of 2030. Since ‘progress’ is
so fast, what parents and educators can provide
is a wide and thorough education that stimulates
the development of different characteristics. The
International Baccalaureate Organisation calls

this the Learner Profile. The programme aims for
learners to become:

• Inquirers

• Knowledgeable

• Thinkers

• Communicators

• Principled

• Open-minded

• Caring

• Risk-takers

• Balanced

• Reflective

In order to achieve this, the development of the
total personality of the child is important. At
any age, opportunities should be given to the
development of all eight intelligences, and this
with age-appropriate activities, freedoms and
boundaries. Through an integrated approach,
the above characteristics have the possibility to

2 3 Interpersonal Intelligence

tested in these abstract and paper related situations
as they become only apparent in real life situations.

90% of the intellect deals with:

• Self Awareness: Knowing oneself, what I stand
for, what drives me, what my passions are, what
my emotions are and what effect I have on

• Self regulation: Being aware of the mood I am
in, being able to direct my feelings according to
the circumstances and the people I deal with,
being able to assess how I function, and if this is
appropriate for the situation I am in

• Motivation: A passion for what I do, intrinsic
motivation that goes far beyond extrinsic factors
such as wages, appraisal and status

• Empathy: Feeling for and with people, being
able to set my own mode and purpose aside
whilst being in tune with the ones around
me. Being able to adapt to their situation and
function from the appropriate intelligence that
will contribute to the situation

• Social skills: Proficiency in working with others,
building constructive relationships, feeling what
role is needed at this point in time, building

When employers are looking for additional staff
in both leadership roles and as team members,
they prefer people with this 90% of the intellect
functioning well. Higher performance at all fronts
will be a consequence.

Interpersonal intelligence is very much part of the
emotional intellect.

The focus within this publication is on

interpersonal intelligence, or in other words

developing the characteristics necessary for

constructive communication, interaction, positive

relationships, genuine empathy to other people’s

feelings and emotions, and knowing oneself.

Daniel Goleman, with his books on emotional
intelligence (EQ), has put a lot of emphasis on
what intelligence actually is. He compares it to
an iceberg and says that approximately 10%
of our intellect is what educational bodies and
psychologists traditionally test when wanting to
know the IQ. The rest of the intellect cannot be

Interpersonal Intelligence


Those who have strong interpersonal intelligence
are good at understanding other people and
gauging their emotions, motivations and intentions.
This makes them very flexible in their approach and
can therefore interact well with others. They are
respected by others because they listen, which is
followed up by acting upon the information that is
to the advantage of both ‘parties’.

Specific characteristics are:

• Good verbal communicators

• Skilled nonverbal communicators; they are aware
of the nonverbal message they give

• Good listeners to both verbal and non-verbal

• Have the capacity to understand the intentions,
motivations and desires of other people

• Empathetic

• React appropriately to other people’s needs

• Confident

• Extroverted

• Enjoy social events

• Enjoy teaching and helping others

• Learn best by working with others

• Have the capacity to understand oneself

• Can appreciate another person’s feelings, fears
and motivations

• Are good at discussions and debate

• Create positive relationships with others

• See situations from different points of view

• Good at resolving conflict in groups

These characteristics have a great effect on the
relationships both social and professional:

• The interpersonally strong intellect has a good
self-image, knows what he/she is good at and
feels confident. This state of mind allows for a
state of peace

• Has the ability to establish rapport with others
quickly and easily

• The ability to read other people’s reactions and
feel empathy. This allows the other party to feel
understood, to relax and to move onto a more
constructive level.

• This process allows people to work effectively
with others.

• Due to a strong social sensitivity, the person
is liked by others and has a healthy social

• He/she is socially influential and can persuade

• They usually choose a profession that requires a
high interpersonal skill.

Daniel Goleman refers to EQ as being able “to
perceive, control, and evaluate emotions”. Howard
Gardner says that having developed aspects of all
intelligences, “involves having an effective working
model of ourselves, and to be able to use such
information to regulate our lives.”

Analysing the different intelligences as such, gives a
clear impression on the importance of the different
characteristics needed in a life of change with lots
of interrelations, problem solving and decision
making situations.

Potential Career
Interpersonal intelligence is needed for nearly all
career paths. To name a few:

Health Industry Clergy
Counselor Receptionist
Social Worker Tradespeople
Coach Sales Representative
Diplomat Education
Politician Child Care
Manager Law

4 5 Interpersonal Intelligence

People with a strong interpersonal intellect know
themselves well and can adjust their behaviour
and communication strategies to influence the
world around them. This is a natural quality for
them. Since they are in tune with other people,
listen well, feel emotions and motivations and
can consequently adapt to that.

What happens in the brain at
that point in time?
The neuroscientist, Paul D. MacLean (1913-2007),
has developed an interesting model on the
functioning of the brain. He says that our modern
brain has three levels. There is the neocortex which
consists of left and right hemisphere. MacLean
points out the importance of two, deeper lying,
layers to this. The three layers, and how, if and
when we use them and switch between them,
influence our total functioning.

This theory can help us understand why and how
we react to certain situations, how we can recognize
this and how we can influence our own thinking.

The brain has three layers that were formed over

1) Reptilian brain including basal ganglia, mid-
brain, and brainstem. This is the first layer of

The Triune Brain

the brain developed evolutionary during the
Carboniferous period, being the time when the
reptiles arose. In this part of the brain our basic
instincts are situated and its related primitive
survival issues such as:

a. Survival: feeding, avoidance of pain, repetition
of what works

b. Exploration: knowing and protecting ones
territory, fight and flight

c. Aggression: anger, verbal and physical

d. Dominance: suppression, power, strict male/
female roles, discrimination, preconceived
ideas, entitlement, pride

e. Sexuality: roles male/female, reproduction.

Apart from the above, this brain also controls
muscles, balance and involuntary functions, such
as breathing and heartbeat. This is intertwined
with the basic instincts. 

2) Paleomammalian Brain/Limbic system
including the middle part of the brain being
the amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus
and other structures in the limbic system: this
second layer evolved with the mammals. This is
the time when animals started to look after their
young, maternal feelings and nurturing evolved.


Attention, affection, love, friendship, emotionally
charged long term memories, desires and values
are all seated in this section of the brain.

This paleomammalian brain is not a separate
system. It is strongly connected to the third layer
being the neocortex as it decides whether our
higher brain has a “good” idea or not, whether
it feels true and right. It also communicates to
our basic instincts seated in the reptilian brain.

3) Neocortex comprises of the right and the left
hemisphere. It is the third and latest addition to
our modern brain and very present in the human
species. It allows for higher cognitive functioning
and deals with knowledge derived from the
senses especially from sight, sound and touch.
It enables abstract thought, communication by
means of language, creative thinking and much
more. The left half of the cortex controls the
right side of the body and the right side of the
brain controls the left side of the body. The right
brain is more spatial, musical and artistic, while
the left-brain more abstract, linear, rational, and

When one is angry or irritated, one functions from
the reptilian brain. Then the mode of ‘protection
of territory’ through fight (e.g. verbal outrage,
anger related behaviour, running off) or flight
(shoulder shuddering, disinterest, passiveness) is

predominant. Consequently no solutions can be

The skill is to stand still, make eye contact and
learn to listen. By becoming in tune with the other
party, empathy can develop. Then the other will feel
respected and heard. This state of mind makes it
possible to move to the third layer.

Once both parties function from the neocortex,
appropriate language is possible and the mode
of thinking changes, now both parties are looking
at issues from different points of view. Only
here creativity takes place, solutions are found,
processes and strategies are made. It is the only
layer that takes the other two layers in consideration
and incorporates feelings and emotions into the
decision making process in a balanced manner.

A recognisable
An interpersonally strong adult (A) needs to
communicate with an unhappy client (B): Anger and
irritation (Reptilian Brain) is produced on both sides.
A recognizes this and knows that if the response will
include these emotions, no positive result will come
from that. So A switches to the Paleomammalian
level, tries to understand, utters words of empathy
that soften the other person. B knows someone
is actively listening. By doing so A pulls the other
person to the neocortex by focusing on solutions.
“What can we do about it?” This then pulls B also
to the neocortex and subsequently constructive
communication takes place.

Now this is a professional example, where many of
us use it. But now take this scenario to private life

People strong in interpersonal
intelligence recognise from which

layer of the brain they function
and can switch according to what

the situation requires.

6 7 Interpersonal Intelligence

problems’. This is where they need to learn and
practice. The adults are the guides to help them
every time again. One does not want them to move
to the ‘big children – big problems’ phase! Also to
become responsible for ones own actions is totally
related to this ability. Only those who can move to
the neocortex can see things from different points
of view, also from other people’s point of view and
become responsible for their own actions. That
is why the parent needs to say, “What can we do
about it”; this includes the child.

Children go though a series of developmental
planes and at each stage they need age
appropriate opportunities to practice this awareness
and switch between layers of the brain. This is also
true for those children who are born as an extrovert.
In their case, when appropriate limits are not set,
they might become overconfident. Overconfidence
can relate back to the reptilian brain and can
develop into power related behaviour, feelings of
entitlement and lack of empathy.

In the following sections we will have a look at how
to assist children of different ages.

and think about how to interact with growing and
forever evolving children.

It helps the parent enormously to recognise from
what ‘brain’ he/she and the child are functioning
at a particular moment. During a conflict, one
helps children and teenagers by pulling them
(and ourselves) to the neocortex. Squabbling
and debating belongs to the reptilian brain. It is
a mechanism of defense. By listening actively
the parent can get the gist of the conflict and
show empathy “I am sorry you feel that way, what
can we do about it?” Thus moving through the
paleomammalian level towards the neocortex.

This is of course easier said than done in some
situations. However, due to its ability to abstract
thought and interrelating knowledge, solutions to
conflicts can only be found in the neocortex. Every
time a person slips back to the reptilian brain or
functions predominantly from the paleomammalian
brain (feelings only) no constructive and all-inclusive
solution can be found.

It takes time to become aware of one’s thoughts
and origins of these thoughts. However, practicing
this move between layers makes a person more
interpersonally intelligent. This is also why one
should not avoid conflict. Nor should one always
distract young children when a conflict is about
to appear. As they say ‘small children – small


The human being takes time to develop. Since
the brain has the potential to become a very
complex organ that can perform many abstract
functions, the personality opens up slowly like a

It is as if the development of the human being
simulates evolution. The child goes through the
different stages and has full brain capacities only
by the age of 24. Taking that line of thought and
applying it to the triune brain, we see that infants
and toddlers predominantly function from the
reptilian state of mind.

This is logical since they still are so close to their
process of birth, which was a process of survival.
The baby acts on instincts and the basics such as
sleep, food and love are of primal importance. They
grow, slowly start to slither on the floor, then crawl

and practice coming upright and walk. They are
egocentric out of necessity, since the main mode is
self-development. They will scream when someone
takes their toys away and are not able to be socially
engaged yet, except when it meets their needs. It is
all on their terms!

Isn’t this very recognizable? Unfortunately, in our
culture, once they are becoming verbal this is
named the ‘terrible twos’. However, this negative
connotation is not right, it is a period that needs
protection. When the infant is allowed to develop
him/herself unhindered, then TRUST develops;
trust in the world and trust in the self. Both
being the base for all intelligences, especially for
interpersonal intelligence

What kind of protection is needed here? The child
should be able to move freely in accordance to

The protection of
‘Innocence’ in Infants and


8 9 Interpersonal Intelligence

his/her physical abilities. Once they slither, they
need a large mattress on the floor. Once they
walk, they need the whole living room, garden and
playground. Containers of various sizes in the shape
of preformed mattresses, high chairs, strapped in
seats (Maxicosi), and swings should be used on a
very limited basis. Trust in the world and trust in the
self stems from being able to move, explore, touch
and interact with the environment and the people.
An active baby environment with adults that
engage with the child stimulates the development
of the whole personality.

Slowly logical boundaries are being indicated:

• “No, baby can not bite mum when feeding”,

• Baby sits in the high chair, and dad will pick up
toys as long as it is a game for both. But as soon
as it becomes ‘manipulation’, dad indicates that
he has had enough, says “now we stop” and will
stop picking up the toy.

• A self-feeding baby is stopped when hands
smear food on the table.

• Objects in the environment can be touched
except a few that is special to mum/dad.

Logical messages
give eventual rise
to logical thinking.
Toddlers slowly move to the concept that mum
and self are not one being and that actually mum
is a separate person. For awhile parents cannot do

anything right. The toddler goes from a state of
oneness (mum hold me and do it for me) to a state
of separateness (I do not want to be carried, but run
around in the supermarket). Parents, do not despair,
this is a stage and will end when mum and dad
give consistent messages! A beautiful book named
Oneness and Separateness, written by Louise
Kaplan is a ‘must-have’.

Within the right physical and psychological
environment, toddlers integrate their personality.
Language, movement and will integrate to such a
degree that they start saying “I” and realize they
are a separate human being. On that base social
awareness and development can start.

At Montessori, the Parent Infant Group is an
environment with appropriate toys and furniture
that stimulate infants and help towards developing
trust. This is important at such a young age. Future
characteristics such as the ability to concentrate,
motivation, urge to learn and many more relate
back to the level of trust in self and in world.

The Toddler Community offers an ideal environment
to children from walking age to three. Activities
that mum and dad do, such as preparing food,
setting the table, doing the dishes, working in
the garden are so important because the parents
are so important! So being able to do these
with adapted tools and furniture stimulate the
development of trust enormously. Interaction with
caring adults, slow movements, speech adjusted
to the age, simple ground ‘rules’ help towards the
development of a confident young child.


The ‘no’ message can be hidden in the required
way of doing things and in the activities itself.

To give some examples on how this is done in the
Montessori classroom:

• There is, in most cases, only one of each piece
of material in the classroom. This material
‘belongs’ temporarily to the one who took it off
the shelf. Should another child want to do it as
well, he/she cannot grab it (reptilian mind) but
will need to ask the other child, “Can I do the
activity with you?” (neocortex)

• A child who chooses to do their activity on the
floor will roll out a mat to establish their work
space. This indicates the ‘territory’ and therefore
does not need to establish this with reptilian
mind behaviour.

From approximately 2 ½ to 3 years old onwards
the child becomes interested in others around
him. Now that they start to integrate mind,
body and will, the very strong period of self-
construction has been completed and social
development starts. Interpersonally strong
children will join in immediately with songs,
music and games. They love talking and trying
things out. Without hesitation, they will use
newly learned vocabulary in their mother tongue
and in the second language(s) they are exposed

At this age, they are of course only just leaving
the ‘reptilian brain period’. So this mode of action
is still very close at hand. Therefore appropriate
boundaries are necessary. At this stage, one must
be careful not to refer to the word ‘no’ too often.

In the Children’s House:
Learning that others

have needs too

10 11 Interpersonal Intelligence

• Another child can come and say, “I like your
work”! This limbic state of mind ensures that the
child practices empathy.

Children perform many activities that are for the
good of the group. These built in activities help
children develop respect for others and say “thank
you” to those who did something for the group.
Some examples are:

• Children are encouraged to donate their piece
of fruit to the classroom basket. They do not eat
their own fruit, but cut it and put it on the snack
table for everyone to eat.

• Children chop vegetables for the soup

• Set the table for all

• Clean the easel after use

These built-in limits ensure that the teacher
does not need to intervene every time. The
teaching is actually done by the environment and
gives therefore a logical message. This creates
logical thinking, so in other words, it helps the
development of the neocortex. Should the teacher
have said, “no, do not do that” in all above
examples, the child would have happily worked
away on refining his/her reptilian brain.

Of course interaction is also important. There are
the observing eyes of the adult and the intervention
when needed, thus ensuring that children learn
something from every interaction.

In order to develop the potential of the brain, it
is obvious that children need to live in a real life
environment, this opposed to a virtual environment.
There is a big push to give even young children
iPads, computers and so on. But what they really
need are life experiences. As mentioned earlier,

the neocortex develops by means of using all
senses and the hands. Without enough logical
experiences, a logical mind cannot develop.

As they become older, they collect more life
experience and simultaneously develop appropriate
language skills. With these factors they are moving
towards using the neocortex to its full capacity.

It is now clear why the neocortex is needed for
social development. Effective relationships, logical
thinking, problem solving are all intertwined and
only possible when the individual can switch quickly
between the layers of the brain and relate to others
predominantly through the neocortex.


The reptilian mind only has two modes being
defense or attack. It is a black and white state
of mind that cannot lead to conflict resolution.
Empathy is the characteristic needed to help
oneself and one’s communication partner to move
from the reptilian brain to the neocortex.

Empathy stems from the middle layer and has a
strong developmental stage during the Primary
ages. The ability to be empathetic is related to
one’s concept of right and wrong. This moral
development is a main developmental area
between the ages 6 to 12.

Earlier they could not be interested in this,
because they did not have enough life experiences
to ponder upon yet. Due to the era of self-
construction, they had a limited exposure to others
and a limited awareness beyond family life. Now
the human being can have developed a level of
trust and continue to build upon that by becoming

interested in group settings outside the family. This
is the pre-teen stage, which, after the Primary years,
leads to practicing in becoming part of society.

Primary children become more able at a verbal
level and in order to develop their moral sense and
related empathy, actually need little conflicts to
practice upon. By means of experiencing and then
talking, discussing, highlighting the different points
of view, the child can adapt and learn.

Now the child can expand his/her experience base.
It is nice for children to visit other families, have
sleepovers and see how other people relate to each
other. They become deeply interested in moral
issues. One regularly hears a six-year-old (boy) say:
“He did this and this to me and it is not fair”! (So
consequently I gave him a kick = reptilian brain
behaviour). Or girls that say, “She said that and
therefore can not come to my birthday party!” (This
is again an example of reptilian behaviour). The

The concept of Right and
Wrong in Primary

12 13 Interpersonal Intelligence

• They work with children of different ages and
therefore different level of abilities. They learn to
‘walk in someone else’s shoes”. They develop
their ability to help, explain, show empathy, and
differentiate their interaction

• They take part in a variety of group activities
and contribute to the outcome. Therefore
responsibility for the process develops.

• Children are asked to become producers instead
of consumers. They do not sit in rows, but can
move and need to look for the tools required for
an activity, gather them, perform and pack away
so that others can use them in the future

• Self-thinking is required in many activities.
Interest and motivation have a place in the
classroom. Instead of doing exactly the same to
all other students, different children do different
work. Through this higher level of thinking, the
neocortex develops and comes into a more
efficient mode!

The emotional quotient receives a lot of attention in
a multi-aged, individualised education programme.
Children cannot develop EQ when sitting in rows
all doing the same thing. Preconceived ideas and
prejudice develops when children are compared to
each other and when given the idea they should be
‘the same’. These are reptilian brain characteristics.
Montessori took the concept still much further. She
said, “Peace is much more than absence of war”.
It can only be achieved when human beings have
developed themselves completely. When they can
realise what they feel, where it stems from and what
they can do about it. This is achieved when one
can switch between the three layers quickly and

adults can assist by talking matters through without
blaming anyone. When the adult takes sides, he/
she role models the reptilian brain with a defense

We are talking here about small children with
small problems. These problems have a purpose:
the children can practice switching between the
reptilian brain via the paleomammalian level to
the neocortex. The adults are there to guide the
discussion: “What happened to you? Why, How,
When, What could you have done about it?” Thus
helping the child to formulate his/her thought.

Children need to practice seeing events from
different points of view. Since they come from the
self-construction stage, they initially see everything
from their point of view. This was necessary in the
early years to develop and integrate the personality.
Now these children need a different psychological
environment. Appropriate boundaries, vocabulary,
and protectiveness versus letting go needs to be
examined and adjusted to the new developmental
needs. What was right when the child was
preschool age is not necessarily right anymore.

At school, besides all the interaction that is going
on, the Primary children develop interpersonal
intelligence by means of many small details. Some

• The didactic materials now enthuse children to
work together. For example, they will perform a
physical addition with beads, but need at least
three people that add the quantity up.

• In groups, they listen to the Great Stories and
can ask questions, thereby learning how to
respect others by taking turns, waiting when
others speak


Teenagers enter the third plane of development.
This lasts to about 18 years of age. At Primary
level, children increased their life experiences
by being exposed to groups outside the family
structure, developing a sense of right and
wrong and consequently feelings of empathy.
Development builds upon what was achieved
earlier and the child becomes ready for the
next level of separation. The next main guiding
question is “how will I fit into society?”

Teenagers need independence at a different level:
going to school by public transport, joining a sport
that takes them to different places for competitions,
having a Saturday job, going on a holiday with
a group rather than with your family and so on.
It is the time when parents need to set different
boundaries and allow the child to become an
independent and self-managing member of a larger

Becoming a Productive
Member of Society

At the older Primary level, one normally sees less
reptilian behaviour, while at the teenage-level it
re-surfaces. We all expect this, but why is this?
At this age there is a physical re-birth which goes
together with renewed insecurities and hesitation.
Please have a look again on page 5 describing the
characteristics of the reptilian brain, as the same five
points are applicable to this stage of development.
However, it should now all develop to a more
advanced level:

a) Survival is related to the individual finding a
place in society at large.

b) Exploration is related to getting to know how
society functions but, whilst feeling insecure,
they protect their own perceived territory

c) The above can go hand in hand with aggression;
verbal abuse, swearwords, actions against
‘society’ such as damage to public property,

14 15 Interpersonal Intelligence

d) Dominance might happen within peer
structures. This can be aimed at the same or
the other sex. When allowed, deviations such as
discrimination, preconceived judgments can be
the consequence.

e) Sexuality develops properly with the right
information, role models and boundaries
into a healthy mature self-image and sound

Looking at this list, one can see why reptilian brain
behaviour is rather easy to refer to when one is a
teenager. What they need is an emotionally safe
environment. This does not mean with all the
freedom in the world, but with people they can
count on.

They also need a protected learning environment.
In traditional education this is the age where
suddenly everything changes and the expectations
are plentiful. They often find themselves in large
and anonymous groups, in which reptilian related
behaviour could be rampant.

Better is to have them surrounded by caring adults,
who grow with them and change the boundaries
as their development progresses. Limits can
never be stagnant, nor can they be the same for

everybody as this creates resentment amongst
those who do not need them. Appropriate limits
are necessary so that the young adolescent learns
to own the problem and become responsible for
the consequences. In the book Tickets to Success,
written by Jim Fay, it is said very clearly, “solutions
need to be found that do not create a problem
for someone else”. When this is the base line,
neocortex thinking will evolve!

Adolescent students need a learning environment
where expectations increase proportionately and
parents help by creating an attractive homework
environment and peaceful surrounding that
stimulates concentration and interest. Also a next
level of separation is required. When students are
given a new level of independence and appropriate
conflict resolution mechanisms are practiced,
teenagers become responsible for their own
actions. This will happen when the adults allow for
appropriate opportunities and provide a parenting
style that matches the age and personality.

To allow related characteristics to evolve, the
Montessori secondary section is not separated into
small classrooms separated by walls and subject
content. How can one develop empathy for others


you rarely see? How can one develop conflict
resolution when you all face the same blackboard?
How can one learn to see items from different
points of view, when all is divided into strict subject
matter? An open-space learning environment allows
for all the intelligences to evolve. It is especially
important for Interpersonal Intelligence, since it
offers real-life opportunities to practice awareness
of one’s own functioning in different circumstances,
switching between brain layers as the situation
requires, learning to see items from different points
of view and eventually function more and more
from the neocortex.

The open-space classroom setting has many
ingredients that allow students to practice
Interpersonal Intelligence:

• Real life situations are interwoven with the
– Cooking for the class
– Preparation of lunch settings
– Eating lunch together
– Hosting students from other schools
– Giving tours to new students
– Organising events for the retirement home


– Renting out Christmas trees, organizing
transport, payments, making related
colouring books for their young customers

– Car washes
– Expositions
– Catering at concerts, windows into the class,

dinners for parents
– Catering at Christmas markets
– Making small theatre productions
– Entertaining others by means of music

– Collaborating in theatre – designing props,

costumes, work in team to organise music,
light, dances

– Giving presentations
– Groups discussions
– Experiments
– Conflict resolution
– Debating
– And many more opportunities

Edward de Bono in his book Intelligence is Not
Enough compares IQ with a high-speed computer.
He states things simply: “If you do not have
adequate software, then the processing speed
is not going to get you anywhere. The tools and

16 17 Interpersonal Intelligence

Having the interpersonal intellect developed means
a lot. It helps students to feel free in a group,
instigate effective collaboration, see things from
different points of view, become adaptable and
consequently come to successful products and/or

framework of thinking are the software needed for

performance. IQ is not enough”.

The world these students grow into is complex.

Education is not a means in itself, it is to actually

prepare them for when they get out of school.


One needs to be careful in not giving everything to
children even though one can afford it money wise.
This is where a feeling of entitlement is born. Those
children think that they are entitled to everything
and nothing makes them happy anymore. Worst-
case scenario is a chronic state of unhappiness
whilst having everything.

Why is this so? With the knowledge of the triune
brain we have a way to explain it. When a child
receives everything automatically, without effort
and on demand, it fulfills basic needs situated
in the reptilian brain. It is about defending one’s

The human brain is wonderful; it has so much
potential! It is the most complex organ we have
and to get to its full ability, it needs nurturing
from birth onwards. We are all ‘children of our
times’, and the times change constantly.

Will they name this the Electronic Era or the Virtual
Era in future history books? What about the Era of

Why could it become the Era of Entitlement? As
the western societies have so many material goods
readily available to them, our children receive the
message that they ‘need’ these many goods and
services. The economic model dictates that growth
is essential, stagnation is negative, and production
(driven by consumption) is what counts.

Within family life, over the past 40 years, childhood
has changed enormously. We came from Dr.
Spock and have moved from autocratic fathers
to multifunctional couples that cater to all the
needs of their children. Punishment has become
encouragement, orders have become choice and
rules have become propositions. Children have a lot
of freedom that is given to them in the hope that
this will not restrain them and that it will allow them
to make successful decisions in the future.

Together with the above, the economy has
prospered elaborately and children can have
what they want! There do not need to be any
inconveniences, disappointments and unhappy
situations. No need to save patiently to get that
fabulous toy and no need for a Saturday job to buy
that piece of electronic equipment. Is it a recipe for

The book From Innocence to Entitlement, by Jim
Fay and Dawn Billings is a very interesting read. It
confirms doubts on the eventual outcome of giving
children what they want, avoiding conflict situations
and keeping children happy at all times. It seems
that individuals who receive all, want more. Those
who cannot have all are happy with less.

Be aware of the ‘Tragedy
of Entitlement’

18 19 Interpersonal Intelligence

living communities where everybody has an aim and
a purpose. Parents are in charge as they have most
life experiences and wisdom. With the appropriate
level of decision-making, choice and responsibilities
children can become wise as well. Wisdom, in the
context of the triune brain, means one is aware
of the origin of ones thought, can feel empathy
towards others and function predominantly from
the neocortex, thus making wise decisions and

territory and feeling this is
mine! Not needing to say
thank you or needing to do
something for it prevents
the child from switching to
the paleomammalian level.
Not needing to research,
plan, work and then choose
and buy prevents again
from switching to the
neocortex level. Children
who get things on demand
stay at the reptilian level
and therefore will forever be
busy with fight (or flight into

Happiness does not
depend on what we have.
Happiness depends on
what we do. It is the hands
that need to be active as
they form the patterns in
the brain. And this is where
the cure to entitlement
lies. We as adults need
to demand and expect
children to participate,
according to their age
appropriate abilities. Effort
ensures satisfaction. Action
ensures empowerment.
Result out of action
provides happiness:

• A toddler can set the
table, eat with a fork

• A preschooler can get
dressed and put the dirty
washing in a basket,
can clear the table and
sweep the garden path

• A Primary child can solve conflicts he/she was
part of, can learn to cook, mow the lawn, cycle
to music lessons by him/herself

• A Secondary student can help clear the snow,
cook the dinner, clean the room, complete their
homework, earn some money

Family homes are not hotels. As Jim Fay says, “
Parents are not ‘Service Providers!” Homes are


Good books available
in the schools’ Parent
• From Childhood to Adolescence – by Maria


• Emotional Intelligence – why it can matter more
than IQ – By Howard Goleman

• Working with Emotional Intelligence – By
Howard Goleman

• Your Child’s Growing Mind by Jane M. Healy

• From Innocence to Entitlement – By Jim Fay and
Dawn Billings

• Helicopters, Drill sergeants and Consultants –
Parenting styles and the messages they send –
By Jim Fay

• Tickets to Success – By Jim Fay

• Intelligence is not enough – By Edward De Bono

• Oneness and Separateness – By Louise Kaplan

Good Googles:






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Cultural intelligence

Article · January 2011

DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511977244.030




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Linn NA Van Dyne

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Developing Effective



3 Modes of Listening

4 Levels of Listening

Conversation Prompts & Probes

Issue-Based Listening



Why are effective listening skills important? It’s simple:
most of what we do or don’t do (the way we act and
respond to others) is based on our understanding of the
messages that have been conveyed to us. In practical
terms, misunderstanding can cost us time, money,
credibility, and even relationships. Conversely, accurately
received messages create comfort, confidence, and
appreciation in the minds of our customers.

There are three different modes and four different levels
of Effective Listening Skills. The three modes, or
manners, of listening are Attentive, Responsive, and
Active. The four levels of listening are Factual,
Perceptive, Emotional, and Mixed. We’ll highlight each
area to help increase your listening accuracy and reduce
the opportunity for misunderstanding.

Developing Effective Listening Skills


Most people do not listen with the intent to
understand; they listen with the intent to reply.
– Stephen Covey


ATTENTIVE LISTENERS focus on the speaker and
work hard to eliminate distractions (such as ambient
noise or poor delivery skills).

ATTENTIVE LISTENERS are patient and let the
speaker finish their thoughts without interruption.
This is a difficult, but essential, skill to master in
order to be considered a good listener.

Attentive Listening


1.  Attentive Listening
2.  Responsive Listening
3.  Active Listening 3



RESPONSIVE LISTENING demonstrates to the speaker
that you’re listening and understanding what they’re
saying while encouraging them to continue talking.

Responsive Listening


•  Nervous gestures
•  Yawning
•  Looking at your watch

•  Smiling
•  Appropriate facial expression
•  Affirmative nod of the head
•  Appropriate eye contact
•  Minimizing distractions (turning

off cell phones, etc.)
•  Taking notes (under-utilized way

to broaden the depth of listening)
•  Leaning slightly towards the


•  “Uh huh”
•  “I see”
•  “Yes”
•  “Really?”
•  Occasionally

paraphrasing what
you’ve heard

Use encouraging responses:

Avoid discouraging responses:


ACTIVE LISTENING is probably the most important
listening skill. It is active because it combines the
skills of listening and responding without invalidating
the speaker’s comments, giving the speaker your
personal opinion or advice, or drawing the ownership of
the conversation away from the speaker.

An ACTIVE LISTENER monitors the communication of
a message for both content and feeling. They pay
attention to what people say, how they say it, and why
they’re saying it.

Watch for both nonverbal and verbal indicators:

Active Listening


•  Use of strong or

emotional language
(cursing, derogatory

•  Tone of voice, vocal

inflection, pacing, breathing/
not breathing

•  Body language (hands,
posture, movements)

•  Facial expression
•  Emotion behind the words

Active Listening

Once the listener feels they understand the sender’s
message, they paraphrase it back to the speaker to ensure
understanding prior to responding with their own answer or
message. The listener’s goal is to first understand the
messenger’s thoughts, feelings, and needs and then to send
them back to the messenger for verification of accuracy
before proceeding. When paraphrasing, be sure to use your
own words rather than simply parroting back what the
messenger said. You can begin paraphrase statements with:
•  “It sounds like…”
•  “In other words…”
•  “So…”

It is important to acknowledge or play back both the content
and the feelings behind the words. Otherwise, you’ll miss
critical information that is important to the sender. There’s no
real order for restating what you’ve heard. Often, it is what is
most noticeable (the content or the feeling behind the words).
For example:
•  “As you’ve said, everything is organized and ready

(content), and yet you look somewhat overwhelmed by this

•  “So, you’ve recommended that the product be used for the
next surgery (content), however you don’t seem excited
about this change (feeling).”


Listeners typically pay attention to the area of
communication they think is most important.
However, failure to distinguish between different
levels of communication can result in a lost or
misinterpreted message.

Most conversations cover four primary levels of
•  Factual: conveyed through an accounting of

information and facts
•  Perceptive: a conveyance of beliefs and thoughts,

with or without regard to facts
•  Emotive: feelings and emotions conveyed through

verbal, vocal, or visual channels
•  Mixed: conveyed through sarcasm, cliché, or humor


Factual, Perceptive, Emotive, Mixed 4 LEVELS OF LISTENING

It is important to identify the level of
communication in order to accurately assess the
issue and respond to the messenger. Inaccurate
assessment of the communication level will lead to
a misinterpretation of what is being conveyed,
resulting in ineffective communication.



What are the different needs or issues to pay
attention to in each of the following?

•  Your kids just dropped a vase that your wife

received as a gift.
•  You are lost in New York City.
•  Your friend just got promoted to the job

you expected.
•  You’re being deposed in a court case.
•  A friend’s father has just passed away.


Once you’ve identified the need or issue being conveyed
to you, it is important to dig a little deeper to make sure
you’ve hit the heart of the issue. While it is easiest to ask
a question, too many questions can begin to feel like an
interrogation. The best way to elicit more info, and
thereby clarify and issue, is to prompt the speaker using
prompts and probes:

Clarifying Content


Used in combination with paraphrasing skills, prompts
and probes create the best-case scenario – a
conversation firmly entrenched in the speaker’s court
with an abundance of information being conveyed,
paraphrased, and clarified.

•  “Tell me more…”
•  “Why do you say that?”
•  “For example?”
•  “How so?”
•  “And?”

•  “Then?”
•  “Such as…”
•  “So?”
•  “Because?”

Amidst the different types of listening and things to
watch for during a conversation, learning to decipher
a message is a critical skill set to develop. Consider
the following, pulled from Microsoft’s Interview
Questions, to illustrate how to identify issues in the
midst of extended conversation:


To the untrained ear this sounds complex, if not
ridiculous. The trained listener, however, has the
capacity to hone in on the issues despite all the
extra verbiage.

“Imagine you are standing in front of a mirror,
facing it. Raise your right hand. Look at your
reflection. When you raise your left hand your
reflection raises what appears to be his right
hand. But when you tilt your head up, your
reflection does too, and does not appear to
tilt his/her head down. Why is it that the
mirror appears to reverse left and right, but
not up and down?”

By simply listening for the specific
helper words, such as who, what,
when, where, why, how, and other
interrogator words such as did, could,
should, can, etc., the listener gains
insight into the true issue and
question behind the issue. In the
previous paragraph, none of the
helper words occur until the last
phrase of the sentence. The word
“why” signals the listener that the
issue immediately follows. (“Why is it
that the mirror reverses left and right,
but not up and down?”) But that is
only part of the skill set.

By synthesizing and briefly conveying
the gist of the entire paragraph, and
then adding the paraphrased
question to the end, the listener
demonstrates the capacity to
understand and define the issue and
question through reflective playback.



Do more than just
listen for specific
helper words.
Synthesize what
was said and
then add a

An example using the previous question, a brief
synthesis of the entire paragraph, could be reduced to:

“When standing in front of a mirror and noticing your

The synthesized paragraph is now followed by the
question, indicated by the word “why.”

“When standing in front of a mirror and noticing your
reflection, why is it that the mirror appears to reverse the
left and right, but not the up and down?”



Three-Step Process for Issue-Based Listening
•  Synthesize the bulk of what you heard
•  Play back the gist of it
•  Paraphrase the question as indicated by the

helper word or interrogator

Benefits of Issue-Based Listening
•  Allows time to think
•  Demonstrates careful listening
•  Conveys understanding of complex


Phone: 973.616.5606
Email: [email protected]

© EDC Communications, LLC

Contact Us

Free Webinar
Learn more about effective
listening by watching our webinar.

If you have questions about listening best practices or
would like to learn more about our communication
training and coaching, contact us through your favorite
communication channel.

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Non-Verbal Communication

Chapter · June 2012




1 author:

Baden Ian Eunson

Monash University (Australia)



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Nonverbal communication


5_60_66172_com21st3e_Ch08.indd 254 15/06/11 1:12 AM


After studying this chapter you should be able to:
■■ Explain the difference between body language and nonverbal communication
■■ Explain the importance of clustering and congruence for understanding —
and avoiding misunderstanding — nonverbal communication

■■ Use a visual model to explain different aspects of nonverbal
communication such as gesture, posture, body movement, touch,
eye contact, paralinguistics, environment and time

5_60_66172_com21st3e_Ch08.indd 255 15/06/11 1:12 AM

Communicating in the 21st Century 256

What is nonverbal communication?
Nonverbal communication can be a very powerful tool in understanding ourselves and
others. Are nonverbal communication and body language the same? No, they are not. Body
language involves the physical behaviour of our bodies — eye contact, posture, gesture,
orientation and so forth — while nonverbal communication embraces all body language
communication, and also includes clothing and adornment, environmental factors and
even the manner in which we use time. Nonverbal communication concepts feature heavily
in other chapters in this book.

So what does nonverbal communication do for us that verbal communication and good
old-fashioned words cannot do? Dickson and Hargie (2003, p. 50) suggest that we use
nonverbal communication in order to:
1. replace verbal communication in situations where it may be impossible or inappropriate

to talk
2. complement verbal communication, thereby enhancing the overall message
3. modify the spoken word
4. contradict, either intentionally or unintentionally, what is said
5. regulate conversation by helping to mark speech turns
6. express emotions and interpersonal attitudes
7. negotiate relationships in respect of, for instance, dominance, control and liking
8. convey personal and social identity through such features as dress and adornments
9. contextualise interaction by creating a particular social setting.

Nonverbal behaviours (e.g. a gesture or eye movements) are sometimes
referred to as tells because they tell us about a person’s true state of mind
(Navarro 2008, 2011).

Nevertheless, nonverbal communication can be very ambiguous: we
should not presume that we can ‘read other people’s minds’ because of
what we think they are ‘saying’ nonverbally. We may be right, but equally
we may be wrong. To be more right than wrong, we should not seize
upon one gesture or posture in isolation; rather, we need to recognise
entire groups or clusters of nonverbal behaviour that suggest the same
internal state of mind.

We should also not presume, as some do, that nonverbal communica-
tion is more important than verbal communication. It has become com-
monplace, for example, to hear that nonverbal communication comprises
70 to 90 per cent of our communication and that spoken words comprise
only a small proportion of the totality of communication. This percentage
approach is generally attributed to Mehrabian (1971), who based it on
word-ambiguity experiments he conducted using US college students
in the late 1960s. From this research he developed the idea that only
about 7 per cent of meaning in communication could be extracted from
the actual words spoken, while tone of voice accounted for about 38 per
cent and body language about 55 per cent of conveyed meaning. This
conjecture, based on experimental data that has often been challenged
(Oestreich 1999), has wrongly been established in some minds as irrefu-
table fact relevant to all situations in all cultures. In some situations, of
course, nonverbal communication comprises 100 per cent of the message
being sent — for example, touching the hand of a grieving relative, or two

lovers gazing into each other’s eyes — but in others it might comprise only 10 per cent or
less. The idea of applying percentages is misguided anyway. Some specialists in nonverbal
communication use the illustration of a television set with the sound turned down: we can
tell what is going on they suggest, merely by observing the nonverbal behaviour. This is

This young businesswoman
is displaying several
different types of nonverbal
behaviours or tells. What
might her nonverbal cues
suggest about her internal
state of mind?

Tell: a nonverbal behaviour
that reveals a person’s true
state of mind
Cluster: in relation to
nonverbal communication,
a group of different types of
nonverbal behaviours or tells.

5_60_66172_com21st3e_Ch08.indd 256 15/06/11 1:12 AM

Chapter 8 Nonverbal communication 257

a dubious proposition: we might be able to work out, in general terms,
what is happening, but we would certainly miss the specifics, and, more
often than not, would get things totally wrong. An overemphasis on the
previous percentages has been a useful corrective to our historical absorp-
tion in the verbal aspects of communication, but it’s time the pendulum
in the debate was wrenched back again.

Figure 8.1 presents a simple ten-part model of nonverbal communication.
In some respects, it is a false dichotomy to separate verbal and

nonverbal communication (Jones & LeBaron 2002). Truly effective com-
munication occurs when the two aspects are in harmony. When they are
not congruent with each other — when, for example, a friend says ‘I’m OK,
really’, but her mournful expression, slumped posture and teary eyes indi-
cate otherwise — then we need to pay attention to the imbalance between
the two channels of communication. Navarro (2008), for example, an FBI
agent skilled in reading nonverbal communication, was interviewing a
suspect in a rape case. The suspect denied involvement, saying that he
had turned left and gone home, but his hand gestured to his right (he
subsequently confessed). In many circumstances, therefore, it sometimes
makes sense to give more credence to the nonverbal message than to the
verbal message.Police officers are trained

to interpret nonverbal cues,
as well as to consider verbal
feedback, in establishing the
credibility of eyewitnesses
and the accuracy of their
*Face of interviewee blurred for
confidentiality reasons.

Congruence: the extent to
which verbal and nonverbal
messages reinforce or
contradict each other

  FIGURE 8.1  A model of
nonverbal communication
Source: Adapted from Eunson

Smell Eyes

3. Gesture

4. Posture

5. Orientation

6. Touching
7. Clothing and adornment

8. Personal space/territoriality

9. Environment
10. Time and cultural context


2. Head







1. Body

5_60_66172_com21st3e_Ch08.indd 257 15/06/11 1:12 AM

Communicating in the 21st Century 258

Body structure and deep behaviour:
the medium is the message?
Some recent biological theories suggest that the body is not merely the medium used to
convey meaning, but in fact may have itself been shaped by deeper forces, and that there-
fore much nonverbal communication can best be understood as the expression of basic
biological drives. These controversial theories build on the pioneering work of Charles
Darwin, who published a study in 1872 on ‘the expression of emotions in man and animals’
(Darwin 2002 [1872]).

Evolutionary psychology, for example, suggests that relatively minor characteristics
such as physical attractiveness reveal deeper phenomena, with the ‘survival of the pret-
tiest’ demonstrating that conventional physical attractiveness and symmetry (the tendency
of both sides of the body and face to be balanced) may be adaptive. This implies that it
is associated with physical robustness and thus more likely to lead to genetic survival
and reproduction — not to mention the possibility that more ‘attractive’ people, even in
a variety of human cultures, may be more likely to be successful in job hunting because
of this ‘lookism phenomenon’ (Etcoff 2000; Wright 1995; Buss 2003; Geary 2004; Chiu &
Babcock 2002; Warhurst, Van den Broek & Hall 2009).

Human anatomy itself may have evolved to express behavioural patterns such as
aggression and sexuality. Guthrie (1976) suggests that many of the bodily characteristics
we associate with dominant males — broad shoulders, wide, protuberant chin, heavy eye-
brows and pronounced cheekbones — evolved to attract females (because such features
suggested physical fitness and thus ability to provide and protect), and to dominate other,
competing males. Certainly, the combination of these characteristics, particularly when
associated with tall, heavily muscled males, can seem threatening, even in these ‘civilised’
times. Similarly, beards may have evolved not to keep the male face warm but to extend
the threat potential of the chin. The ‘tingling up the spine’ felt in threatening situations
may be related to the ability of proto-humans to erect hair or hackles on the shoulders,
thereby creating a greater threat profile — a feature retained by many animals, including
domesticated dogs and cats (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 2007). Nowadays males try to enhance this
dominance effect by means of shoulder padding and epaulettes on uniforms (although
shoulder pads for women have come into, and gone out of, fashion in recent decades).

Bodies, biology and society
More controversially, proponents of the connection between body structure and behaviour
argue that similar evolutionary dynamics may have shaped human sexual anatomy,
particularly female anatomy (Morris 2002, 2005; Guthrie 1976). Proponents of this biologi-
cally deterministic view argue that when prehumans walked on all fours, males sexually
penetrated females from behind. When Homo erectus began to walk erect, the visual sexual
stimulus of the female buttocks framing the genitalia was no longer readily available to
males. Thus, according to the genital echo or body self-mimicry theory (Mick and Oswald
2007), female breasts began to mimic the buttocks by becoming much larger than was
necessary for their primary function (lactation and suckling of young). In some cultures,
breasts, cleavage and décolletage thus took on erotic or sexually cueing functions as well
as nurturing functions. This, of course, presupposes that all cultures find female breasts
erotic, which is not necessarily true; see, for example, Lattier (1998). Pursuing the mimicry
theory further, Guthrie and Morris argue that the reddish lips of the female (sometimes
enhanced by culturally specific amplifiers such as lipstick) imitate the labia or outer sexual
organs of the female.

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Chapter 8 Nonverbal communication 259

Obviously, to the extent that these phenomena are real, they would be the result of
hereditary adaptation rather than environmental, socially conditioned behaviour (Pinker
2003). In explaining gender-linked behaviour and communication, such evolutionary
psychology-based ideas are described as essentialist and stand in opposition to the con-
structivist view, which is that much or all sexual/gender behaviour and communication is
influenced or determined by social factors rather than biological factors (see online chapter
‘Gender and communication’).

Some other possible aspects of biological bases of human behaviour are outlined in
table 8.1.

Phenomenon Possible explanation

Contrary to the myth of the wicked stepmother,
many parents invest more resources (e.g. teeth
braces, cars, loans, weddings and homework
help) in adoptive and stepchildren than in their
own genetic children. In spite of this, adoptive
children are far more likely to be assaulted or
killed by a nongenetic parent, and are far less
likely to succeed in academic testing and wealth
accumulation over their lifespan.

Adoptive parents, or step-parents, invest
more resources not because they love them
more but because they need more help (and
possibly because parents do not want to show
the child that she/he is ‘second class’). Poor
life outcomes may be associated with genetic
transmission from birth mothers who place or
surrender their child, as such birth mothers tend
to have higher incidences of addiction, mental
health and domestic problems. Stepchildren
may threaten the resources available to the
genetic children of the step-parent. Canadian
data shows that children living with step-parents
are 40 times more likely to be abused and 120
times more likely to be killed by a live-in parent
than those living with two genetic parents
(Gibson 2008).

Dogs, when defecating, may turn around in
circles, defecate and then kick dirt over their

In prehistoric times (and even today) an animal
is most vulnerable to attack when defecating.
Consequently, animals seek out long grass
for cover, turn around in circles to create a
space, and then kick dirt to cover their scent or
spoor to prevent predators from tracking them
(Morris 1998).

Dancers judged to be excellent also have more
physically symmetrical bodies than other dancers
(i.e. both halves of their bodies and faces are very

Coordinated men and women hold and move
their bodies in rhythmic ways, thus showing
off their strong immune systems and genetic
strength, while bodily and facial symmetry
are associated with reproductive fitness
(Fisher 2009)

Men in high-security hospitals and prisons
were found to be 20 times more likely to have
an XYY chromosomal pattern, as distinct from
the normal XY pattern. XYY-pattern males
were also said to be taller, to have lower
IQs and to suffer from acne and personality

The height–chromosome correlation holds,
but little else: most inmates were there for
nonviolent crime and many XYY males lead
normal, nonviolent lives (Rafter 2008; Malott
2007). Nevertheless, the 20 times factor remains


  TABLE 8.1  Some aspects of
human behaviour that may
have a biological basis

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Communicating in the 21st Century 260

Phenomenon Possible explanation

Some people seem to be able to detect when
someone is staring at them, while some people
claim that they can make people turn around
or pets wake up just by looking at them. Some
detectives are told not to look too long at the back
of a person they are following, as the person may
turn around and discover them. Some paparazzi
and snipers claim that their targets seem to know
when they are being looked at from afar.

Sheldrake (1995) suggests that animals, including
humans, developed this ability through evolution
in the context of predator–prey relationships: prey
animals that could detect when predators were
looking at them would probably stand a better
chance of survival.

In Jane Austen’s novels (and indeed, in much
literature and other arts), females choose male
mates, rather than vice-versa. Females are
often poorer than males, but are often good

Darwinian literary theory (e.g. Barash & Barash
2005; Austin 2011; Boyd, Carroll & Gottschall
2011) explores beyond the socioeconomic
and sex-role conventions of literary works to
detect evolutionary strategies, showing that
Austen’s heroines are often confronted with a
choice of males who have what biologists call
r3- ‘reproductively relevant resources’, which
are usually wealth, health and fidelity, but also
include skill in verbal repartee and mental
agility — a signal of reproductive desirability.

Does this mean, therefore, that we are slaves to unconscious, evolutionary drives; that
our bodies are merely machines driven by ‘selfish genes’ (Dawkins 2006) to create other
bodies; that ‘love’ is merely an evolutionary trick; and that we have no free will? Not at
all; rather, the more we learn about our biological programming, the more we will be in a
position to go with it or challenge it — it is unconscious no more.

There is also the question of the model of reproductive sexuality we are considering
here; namely the heterosexual model. What about homosexuals? Reuter (2002) argues for
the existence of ‘gaydar’: a word formed from radar referring to the ability to pick up
cues — many of which are nonverbal — that another person is homosexual. While the idea
is popular in the gay community, the data backing it is not strong (Shelp 2002). Woolery
(2007) points out that if gaydar exists, then it challenges, if not negates, the notion that
‘you can never know’ (the ‘we are everywhere’ slogan of the movement).

Head movements
Darwin (2002 [1872]) suggested that the ‘yes’ gesture (nodding the head up and down)
derived from a baby moving towards the breast, while the ‘no’ gesture (moving the head
side to side) derived from a baby rejecting the breast after it had drunk its fill. It may
not be as simple as that, however, as we now know such nonverbal communication is
often culture specific. While the positive head nod and negative head shake are com-
monly understood around the world, they are far from universal. In parts of Bulgaria
and Greece, for example, nodding means no, while in parts of the former Yugoslavia and
southern India, shaking the head signifies yes (Axtell 1998). Historically, nodding the
head may be related to bowing, which was — and is — a way of showing submission to
another’s will.

In conversation, when people agree with the speaker, they tend to nod as the other
speaks. If a person doesn’t nod, we may deduce that he or she disagrees with the speaker.
This impression will be borne out if this immobility is followed by a head shake. When

  TABLE 8.1  (continued)

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Chapter 8 Nonverbal communication 261

we are listening effectively, we indulge in backchanneling; that is, we give nonverbal and
paraverbal feedback by nodding, smiling and emitting ‘friendly grunts’ (e.g. ‘Uh huh . . .’,
‘mmm . . . hmm . . .’) (Kjellmer 2009).

In western cultures, individuals in conversation who wish to take over the speaking role
may increase their rate of head-nods, move forward in their seats, increase the ‘friendly
grunts’ and further ‘bid’ for attention with a raised hand, finger or pen. A tilted head
may mean a number of things, including ‘I am listening’ (with thoughtful expression),
‘I like you a lot’ (with coy, smiling expression) or ‘I am feeling angry’ (with aggressive
expression) (Fast 2002; Krumhuber, Manstead & Kappas 2007).

Facial expressions
The face reveals much of our emotional disposition, and there are strong cultural and
social messages involved in suppressing or expressing those emotions. In Japanese culture,
and to a lesser extent British culture, great value is placed on not revealing emotions,
thereby demonstrating the desired characteristics of self-control (Morris 2002). In cultures
characterised by more mobility of expression, such as the North American or Australian
cultures, facial immobility is a clue to high-status individuals, whose behaviour contrasts

with that of others, who have more plasticity in their expres-
sions (traditionally, this was the case with individuals accorded
lower status, such as children, slaves and women). High-status
people thus rarely smile, but are smiled at by lower-status people
or subordinates; their voices tend to be pitched lower, while
those of their subordinates are pitched higher; they are looked
at by but rarely look at their subordinates; and touch, but are
rarely touched by, their subordinates (Henley 1986, 2002). There
may be some relationship between these behaviours and those,
first noted by Darwin, of apes in the wild: in a confrontation, the
loser tends to smile, to propitiate or appease the winner (Darwin
2002 [1872]).

In the human world, of course, smiling does not necessarily
signify submission, although it can. Smiling in many situations is
a positive and spontaneous response. In the workplace, however,
there is increasing pressure on staff to smile at customers and
clients, whether or not they like those customers or clients. Hoch-
schild (2003) calls this ‘emotional labour’, observing that in modern
post-industrial economies, where the service sector predominates,
such labour can be exhausting and stressful unless managed with
regard to the dignity and stress levels of the workers involved.

A rigid or expressionless face is sometimes known as a ‘poker
face’, after the card game that favours players with the ability
to conceal their responses to the cards they are dealt. The capacity

to void the face of telltale expression, to shut down any form of emotional leakage, can
also be useful in situations involving negotiation, but in the long term such emotional
suppression can lead to serious stress (Navarro 2011).

Eyes, the ‘portals of the soul’, communicate fundamental messages, sometimes consciously,
sometimes unconsciously. There are numerous messages in western culture relating to eye

Backchanneling: in
conversation, responding to
a speaker with nonverbal and
paraverbal feedback, such as
nodding, smiling and ‘friendly

Facial expressions are
an important aspect of
nonverbal communication
and can vary between

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‘Look me in the eye and say that!’
‘It’s rude to stare.’
‘You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes.’

Eye contact, or direct gaze, means different things to different people. Euro-American,
Saudi Arabian, Korean and Thai people tend to regard a direct gaze as a desirable charac-
teristic indicating openness and honesty. Conversely, an averted gaze can be construed as
suggesting dishonesty or shiftiness. In other cultures, however, such as Japanese, Mexican,
West African and Puerto Rican, direct eye contact may be considered rude, while an averted
gaze indicates respect (Morris 2002). There is obvious potential for misunderstanding here.

Gaze behaviour may also be linked to ‘love at first sight’, although Fisher takes a
somewhat unromantic view of this phenomenon:

Could this human ability to adore one another within moments of meeting come out of nature?
I think it does. In fact, love at first sight may have a critical adaptive function among animals.
During the mating season, a female squirrel, for example, needs to breed. It is not to her advan-
tage to copulate with a porcupine. But if she sees a healthy squirrel, she should waste no time.
She should size him up. And if he looks suitable, she should grab her chance to copulate. Per-
haps love at first sight is no more than an inborn tendency in many creatures that evolved to
spur the mating process. Then among our human ancestors, what had been animal attraction
evolved into the human sensation of infatuation at a glance. (Fisher 1992, p. 51)

In many cultures, direct eye contact is the preserve of dominant individuals, while
subordinates tend to avert their gaze and blink more frequently. In western groups eye
contact is used to regulate conversation: a person who is speaking in a group may break
eye contact with others while talking, refocusing on a person making ‘bidding’ signals only
when ready to yield the floor (Argyle 1999). Similarly, listeners tend to look at speakers
more than speakers look at listeners, but speakers will tend to re-establish eye contact at
critical points while talking to seek reinforcement, feedback or approval from listeners;
when each is looking at the other, a ‘gaze window’ is established (Bavalas, Coates &
Johnson 2002).

In some cultures direct eye contact implies the listener is concentrating on what is
being said, while in others (e.g. Japanese) concentration is indicated by an averted gaze,
or closed or half-closed eyes (Axtell 1998). An apparently universal phenomenon is the
‘eyebrow flash’ — a lifting of the eyebrows when meeting or acknowledging someone
(Eibl-Eibesfeldt 2007).

When we are interested in something, our pupils dilate, or expand. Although this is
something western behavioural scientists have discovered only in the past few decades,
elsewhere it has been known for centuries: Chinese and Arab traders have always watched
for telltale dilations to reveal the motivations of their opponents during negotiations.
Wearing dark glasses is a common strategy among modern hagglers.

Voice: it ain’t what you say, but the
way that you say it
The quality of our voices can surprise us. If you hear an audio recording of yourself, or
watch yourself on video, what you hear (and see) may not be what you expect, but it does
give you real feedback on the way you actually behave and how you may come across to
others. Any strangeness you might feel in this self-perception is caused by:

■■ the fact that your voice resonates through your skull before it reaches your ears,
which makes it sound slightly different from what you hear on playback or what
others hear

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Chapter 8 Nonverbal communication 263

■■ the fact that, before the invention of film and video, no-one in history had access to a
moving representation of themselves. A few could afford a portrait, and many had seen
themselves in a mirror, but a mirror is a 180° distortion of how you actually appear:
stand, for example, in front of a mirror with someone you know, and you will see that
their reflection — while accurate as far as it goes — is not what you see when you look
at them directly.

The meaning of the words we use — the words that can be reproduced in text, for
example — can be modified substantially by paralinguistic changes. These changes include
differences in emphasis, volume, pitch, inflection, nasality and articulation. Paralanguage
can also give indications of geographical origins and socioeconomic class.

Silence and interruption behaviour also tell us much about what is going on in
communication between people. We can change the meaning of what we say substantially
by emphasising certain words and de-emphasising others:

‘Who, me? Oh no — never.’
The main thing to be emphasized is that she was nowhere near the area when it happened.

Such emphases, sometimes shown in text by italics, can convey many meanings,
including sarcasm, boredom, sexual suggestiveness or anger, or they may simply be a
means of drawing attention to particular points or interpretations of word clusters.

The volume we use when we speak can indicate boldness, timidity, confidentiality or
other states of mind. We will also change the volume according to the physical distance
we are from others, and whether we are communicating in private or public settings. Voice
volume can have significant cultural variations, as Hall notes:

Personal status modulates voice tone, however, even in the Arab society. The Saudi Arabian
shows respect to his superior — to a Sheikh, say — by lowering his voice and mumbling.
The affluent American may also be addressed in this fashion, making almost impossible an
already difficult situation. Since in American culture one unconsciously ‘asks’ another to raise
his voice by raising his own, the American speaks louder. This lowers the Arab’s tone more
and increases the mumbles. This triggers a shouting response from the American — which cues
the Arab into a frightened ‘I’m not being respectful enough’ tone well below audibility. (Hall
1977, p. 312)

We tend to pitch our voices higher when we are dealing with people we know
(e.g. consider the change in pitch in most people’s voices when they pick up the phone,
say ‘Hello’, and then recognise a friend). We may pitch our voice lower as a warning
signal, or out of defensiveness, when speaking to people we don’t know, although we
sometimes lower the pitch (along with the volume) when we wish to establish more
intimate communication with someone we like (Guthrie 1976). Deception may be
suggested in heightened pitch and in the use of non-word interjections (‘Ah’, ‘uhh’),
repetitions (‘I, I, I mean I really . . .’) and partial words (‘I rea- really liked it’). Generally,
males pitch their voices lower than do females (Puts, Gaulin & Verdolini 2006). Female
newsreaders may tend to pitch their voices lower than normal in order to sound more

Voice inflection is related to pitch. Upward inflection, or rising tone, is used con-
ventionally when we ask questions: we are trying to cue a response. We may upwardly
inflect or downwardly inflect when we are ready to stop talking and yield the floor to
another person. This cue is often accompanied by eye contact. Continual high-rising
tone tends to be associated with immaturity, lack of confidence or tentativeness: Crystal
(1992) notes that Australian television programs such as Neighbours have had such

Paralinguistics: the properties
of voices, separate from the
words being spoken, that can
convey meanings

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Communicating in the 21st Century 264

influence in Britain that a high-rising tone — often used by Neighbours characters — is
starting to be used in Britain as a tentativeness signal (see online chapter ‘Gender and

Nasality has negative connotations and tends to be inversely correlated with perceptions
of persuasiveness. This can work to the detriment of females, who tend to have more nasal
voices than males (Bloom, Zajac & Titus 1999).

Careful or exaggerated articulation can indicate confidence, overconfidence, precision,
formality, pretentiousness or over-punctiliousness. Poor articulation or lack of articulation
can indicate shyness, lack of confidence or sloppiness.

Accents, often in combination with vocabulary, can reveal where a person comes from
geographically, and can also reveal socioeconomic status.

Interruptions can reveal interesting patterns of power and dominance or submission,
and may also reflect on gender roles and listening behaviour — for example, men are more
likely to interrupt women than vice-versa (Scheflen 1972; Dunbar & Burgoon 2005).

Silence can sometimes be more important than sound or words. Silence during conver-
sation can mean many things, including:

■■ punctuating or drawing attention to certain words or ideas
■■ evaluating and judging another’s words or behaviour; showing favour or disfavour,
agreement or disagreement; attacking or ‘freezing out’ someone (e.g. not responding to
a comment or greeting)

■■ disgust, sadness, fear, anger or love (Knapp and Hall 2010).
Bell suggests that silence can often be more effective than words for salespeople:

When asking for a decision, let silence fall after you’ve made your
proposal. Don’t weaken your position by tag-on comments and com-
promising chat. Successful salespeople live by the credo that, after
they give the price of the item, the ‘next one who speaks loses’. (Bell
1999, p. 166)

Paralinguistic behaviour may be influenced by the relative rich-
ness in the vocabulary of a language — we may compensate for
the shortcomings of one channel by the strengths of another.
Physically expressive people tend to rely more on paralinguistic
behaviour, while people who are less physically demonstrative rely
more on linguistic expression, as Poyatos has observed:

peoples who are more expressive kinesically, like Latins, Arabs or
Mediterraneans in general, tend to use paralinguistic imitations in
situations in which, for instance, we see English speakers utilize
with great precision a legitimate onomatopoeic verb or noun from
the particularly rich repertoire of their native tongue . . . When once
at the beginning of my life in North America, I tried to explain
to mechanics what happened to my car by imitating the sound it
made, they would just say: ‘You mean it whirs?’ or ‘It clatters?’
(Poyatos 2002, p. 186)

Smell, too, is a form of nonverbal communication. Smell or olfac-
tory communication is a major mode of communication in the
animal world, and it would be surprising if there were not at least
some residual manifestations in human communication (Hickson

& Stacks 2004). Chemicals known as pheromones appear to be key signals in sexual
behaviour, although the exact workings of such communication in humans is still not

Pheromones are sometimes
expressed through
perspiration. Do you think
that sweat is sexy?

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Chapter 8 Nonverbal communication 265

well understood (Wyatt 2003; Thornhill & Gangestad 1999). Pheromones are sometimes
expressed through perspiration. Sweaty is sexy? In some circumstances, yes, but we must
remember that the cultural inventions of the past few thousand years include clothes and
artificial indoor environments (not to mention perfume and plumbing). There is evidence in
some cultures of courting rituals in which young males wear handkerchiefs in their arm-
pits during a dance, then take out the handkerchief and waft it beneath the noses of female
admirers (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 2007).

In western societies, smell is virtually a taboo topic, because it is bound up with norms
of cleanliness, health and attractiveness. Even those close to us may therefore be loath to
let us know when we violate these norms (‘even your best friends won’t tell you’). Because
it is often difficult to get feedback on our own body smell, many of us are persuaded
to assume the worst and take corrective action. It should be noted that not all cultures
share such norms. In some societies, perfumes and deodorants are frowned on because
they mask the natural odours of the body, which are seen as sending messages about
moods and states of mind. For similar reasons, some people prefer to smell the breath of
the person they are talking to (Hall 1976).

Nonverbal communication is a relatively recent area of scientific study, yet writers have for
centuries recognised its importance. Gesture and other aspects of nonverbal communication
reveal much of our inner motivations without writers having to spell out those motivations
(Portch 1985; Korte 1997; Hazard 2000). Here are some literary samples:

Fie, fie upon her!
There’s language in her eye, her cheek, her lip,
Nay, her foot speaks; her wanton spirits look out
At every joint and motive of her body.

Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida IV, v (1601)

Estella, pausing a moment in her knitting with her eyes upon me, and then going on, I fancied
that I read in the action of her fingers, as plainly as if she had told me in the dumb alphabet, that
she perceived I had discovered my real benefactor . . .

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (1861)

The features of our face are hardly more than gestures which have become permanent.
Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove, Remembrance of Things Past (1919)

In her office, (Phoebe) sat at her desk, an imposing piece of ebony about a tennis-court wide.
Her desk chair built up her height; wing chairs in front put visitors a foot below her head. I opted
for one of the corner couches behind the desk. She swivelled and glared, angry at losing her
barricade . . .
She pounded her right thigh in frustration . . . Phoebe frowned ferociously, her jaw jutting out
far enough to cause permanent damage to her overbite . . . Her skin turned so pale that her
freckles stood out like drops of blood against her skin . . . Tish was still planted at her computer
as I came in. She shot me a resentful glance but closed her file and folded her hands with the
exaggerated patience of one who has little.

Sarah Paretsky, Tunnel Vision (1994)


Research other examples of writers using nonverbal communication to describe characters and
situations in novels, stories, poetry, plays, films and television programs.

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Gestures are movements of the body, especially the hands or arms, that express an idea
or emotion. Again, there is considerable cultural variation in the repertoire, frequency and
expressive range of gestures — some cultures are physically more expressive, while others
are more subdued (Morris 2002; Kendon 2005; Hostetter & Alibali 2007).

Gestures are shorthand ways of communicating a whole range of states of mind or
ideas, such as:

■■ Insecurity. When children are stressed they will often suck a thumb, which may conjure
up for them the security they felt when being suckled on a real or artificial nipple. Later
in life, adults may show insecurity by biting a pencil, the arm of their glasses or their
fingernails, which may perform the same function. A person entering an open area
may perform the barrier cross gesture, which entails crossing the body in some way
(scratching, touching the body or other hand, or moving an object from one hand to the
other). Self-touching, hair-stroking, playing with jewellery are other signs of insecurity.

■■ Deceit. When lying, people can show stress in many different ways, including scratching
or rubbing the face or nose, covering the mouth with a hand, manipulating clothing (but-
toning up a coat or blouse, tugging at a collar); erecting ‘signal blunters’ to hide behind,
such as a purse, briefcase, folder or laptop computer; crossing and uncrossing legs.

■■ Apathy. Shrugging the shoulders, restricting movement and gestures, hands in pockets
■■ Disapproval. Picking off lint from clothing, moving items away, refusing eye contact,
lowering voice

■■ Approval. Thumbs up, ‘A-OK’ finger gestures, ‘you’re the man’ finger pointing, high-fives
■■ Confidence. Hands on hips, thumbs in belt or pockets, swaggering gait, erect posture
■■ Arrogance. Steepling hands (putting fingertips of two hands together in the shape of a
church steeple), feet up on desk, dismissive waving

■■ Despair. Hand wringing, head in hands, head shaking
■■ Hostility. Bunched fists, waving fists, pointing fingers, obscene or taboo gestures
■■ Courtship and affection. People who are romantically interested in one another may
engage in ‘grooming’ behaviour, which entails subtly adjusting one’s appearance so that
one looks better — adjusting and smoothing down clothing (ties, collars) and glasses,
touching the hair, adornments or jewellery. In modern workplaces, suggest Knapp and
Hall (2010), it may be necessary to train males and females in ‘decourting’ behaviour to
shut down courting signals, so that potentially messy sexual entanglements and sexual
harassment situations are less likely to occur.
Gestures are powerful tools of communication. When in conversation we rephrase others’

words, we may find that we are also ‘rephrasing’ their gestures (Tabensky 2002).
Cultural variations on gestures are as great as in other aspects of nonverbal communica-

tion. Where a Vietnamese man might intend to send signals of respect by gazing directly
and folding his arms across his chest, a North American might read the attitude as indi-
cating defiance rather than respect. A perfectly innocent gesture in one culture can be
profoundly insulting in another.

Posture relates to body movements and to height. Height, or tallness, still carries powerful
messages of dominance. There is some evidence of height being positively correlated with
success in leadership positions (Knapp & Hall 2010). Just as people are often unhappy with
their overall body image, some are unhappy with their height and may try to compensate
(very tall people may stoop, while short people may hold their bodies more erect to appear
taller). To lower the body towards someone else — as in a shallow or deep bow — is

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Chapter 8 Nonverbal communication 267

a universal sign of respect and sometimes even defeat. Aggression can be shown by a
rigid body, with shoulders raised, both signals of readiness for physical combat. Defeat or
depression are indicated by a slumped posture, representing both humility and retreat to
the helplessness but recalled security of the foetus.

Admiration for another person can be manifested in a postural echo, or a mirroring of the
admired person’s posture. Indeed, other aspects of the admired person’s nonverbal com-
munication, such as gestural and vocal patterns, may also be knowingly or unknowingly
copied. You can create empathy with another person by mirroring, but you can also create
disquiet and even anger if the person perceives that you are mimicking or attempting to
manipulate them. Mimicry, or the ‘chameleon effect’, may have evolved as a mechanism
in early human groups to increase affiliation and build relationships with others (Lakin,
Jefferis, Cheng & Chartrand 2003).

Body movement
The study of nonlinguistic body movement, or kinesics, is concerned with the way humans
move their bodies in relation to communication. This involves processes such as orienta-
tion and synchronisation.

Orientation, or the attitude, inclination or body angle we adopt in relation to others, can
send powerful nonverbal messages. If we are interested in someone, we tend to face him
or her squarely. The less interested we are, whether through hostility or indifference, the
more we tend to orientate ourselves away from the person. When males and females are
in confined situations — for example, when brushing past each other — males will tend to
face towards females, while females will tend to face away (Scheflen 1972).

Synchronisation, similar to postural echo, mirroring or mimicking is an interactive
process that helps define relationships between individuals: the greater the rapport between
them, the greater their synchronisation. It plays a critical part in courting rituals, and is
in fact a form of dance, wherein females may be testing males for compatibility. Synchro-
nisation is an important part of animal mating rituals (Remland 2000). Some synchro-
nisation researchers have concluded that ‘men typically don’t realize that they are even
involved in a courtship dance, or that they are typically very poor dancers’ (Grammer,
Kruck & Magnusson 1998, p. 23). Interpersonal conflicts can ensue when individuals are
out of synchrony with one another — physically bumping into each other may sometimes
be the nonverbal equivalent of verbal misunderstanding.

The study of touch, or haptics, reveals much about human behaviour. It links gesture,
posture and territory, or personal space. Touch is recognised as a basic human need, but the
degree to which individuals touch one another varies considerably from culture to culture,
as well as within cultures. Touch is critically allied to sensory integration and perhaps
even psychological wellbeing: we probably need some degree of touching to survive and
thrive, but for a variety of reasons we may not get enough of it (Field 2002). For example,
displays of maternal warmth (touching, gaze) towards children may make those children
develop a greater sense of internal control — that is, feelings that they can influence their
surroundings and destiny, rather than feel powerless (Carton & Carton 1998). The touching
involved in the grooming rituals of our prehuman ancestors may have been instrumental
in developing conversation (in particular, gossip) and language (Dunbar 1998).

Touch can be usefully classified into five types (Johnson 1998):
1. Functional/professional
2. Social/polite

Mirroring: consciously or
unconsciously copying the
nonverbal behaviour of
someone admired

Kinesics: the study of
nonlinguistic body movement
in relation to communication

Haptics: the study of touch as
a form of communication

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Communicating in the 21st Century 268

3. Friendship/warmth
4. Love/intimacy
5. Sexual/arousal.

In workplaces, most touching is of type 1 or type 2. Professional touchers include
doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, masseurs, manicurists, hairdressers, dentists, priests and —
occasionally — politicians. While there are strong taboos on various types of touching in
different cultures, some people unconsciously or consciously feel deprived of types 2, 3, 4
and 5, and thus may seek out type 1 interactions at work (Montagu 1986). Professionals
should not feel uneasy about this, as they are almost certainly performing a vital social-
therapeutic role with some customers. Therapeutic touch from nurses in nursing homes
has been associated with decreases in pain, increases in haemoglobin levels, decreases
in sensory deprivation, increases in reality orientation and ‘almost instantaneous calm’
in aged persons (Simington 1993).

When cultural taboos on touching are strong — for example, male–male touching in
Australia or England — then some may try to compensate by seeking touch through
sporting rituals, immersion in crowds or violence (Kneidinger, Maple & Tross 2001; Canetti
2000 [1960]).

Perhaps the most common form of professional touching is the handshake. Darwin
speculated that the handshake is in fact a ‘relic gesture’, an echo of a time when two
men meeting for the first time would grasp each other’s right forearm to prevent swords
being drawn (2002 [1872]). The ritual is thus bound up with male dominance and may
indicate that the initiator of the gesture is on home territory. (This may also help to
explain the deeply rooted ambivalence towards left-handed people prevalent in some

The western habit of shaking hands has been broadly adopted internationally, but any
more demonstrative gesture — embracing or kissing, for example — needs to be approached
with caution. High-contact cultures include Arab peoples, Latin Americans, Russians,
most South-East Asians and southern Europeans. Low-contact cultures include people of
Anglo-Saxon origin, Scandinavians, Japanese, Koreans and Chinese (Hall 1977).

Clothing and adornment
Clothes and bodily adornment are used primarily to protect us from the elements and to
send social and sexual messages. ‘Adornment’ in this sense includes both physical decora-
tion (hair styling, make-up, jewellery, wigs, suntans, shaving/not shaving, tattoos, body
piercing) and body modification (plastic surgery, foot-binding), all social inventions by
different cultures whose broad purpose is to emit messages of attractiveness, submission
or dominance.

The ways we dress and adorn ourselves tell others whether we belong to a particular
group, or which group or high-status individual we imitate out of admiration; they also
carry messages about wealth, rank or class. Some clothing has a primarily functional
purpose — say, to protect the wearer (e.g. a welder’s gloves, apron and goggles; a
mechanic’s overalls; a diver’s suit; underwear) or to protect the environment from the
wearer (e.g. clean-room uniforms in computer chip manufacture; a surgeon’s gown and
gloves; cellophane gloves, hair covering and apron worn by delicatessen assistant). In
other cases, clothing and adornment send nonverbal messages by performing functions
such as:

■■ an indication of sexual modesty or purity: a nun’s habit; concealing clothing (high necks
and low hemlines); veils, burkas, chadors, hijabs (Killian 2003; McLarney 2009)

■■ a display of sexual immodesty: codpieces, figure-hugging or revealing clothing (low
necks and high hemlines); transparent materials

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Chapter 8 Nonverbal communication 269

■■ an indication of leisurely life (without need to work): delicate, light-coloured fabrics;
long fingernails; suntan; tracksuits; sunglasses

■■ a display of group identification: uniforms; common clothing styles or bodily adorn-
ments; judges’ gowns and wigs; sporting team insignia

■■ a display of wealth/status: brand-name clothes, jewellery; accessories; rank insignia
■■ displays of dominance/threat/physical toughness: shoulder pads, body piercing, tattoos,
leather clothing, tight clothing, sunglasses, heavy boots, chewing gum, smoking

■■ displays of compensation: elevator/platform shoes, hair transplants, cosmetic surgery
■■ displays of religious affiliation: yarmulkes, crosses, clerical collars, turbans, beards.

Uniforms and nonuniforms
Some organisations require employees to wear a specific uniform, while in others uniforms
are perceived as ‘too military’. In those organisations that require uniforms to be worn, the
shared identity they provide can lead to a more positive emotional response in customers
and clients. Uniforms often convey powerful status and sex-role messages, too; as it is
females and lower-status males who are most often required to wear uniforms, such dress
codes may signal enforced conformity in less powerful people.

Of course, if we define the term more broadly, high-status people also often wear
‘uniform’: powerful dynamics of conformity ensure that executives dress and adorn them-
selves in narrowly prescribed ways (e.g. the traditional business suit). In this sense, well-
paid executives wear uniforms just as surely as uniformed service staff in organisations
or members of a street gang: they are all conforming to powerful norms, the violation of
which will attract disapproval within the group.

Dressing down, dressing up
Some interesting debate on the question of uniform has emerged in the past few years.
It has been traditional in the United States for schoolchildren not to wear uniforms, but
there are now increasing demands for uniforms to be worn. Positions on the issue tend
to gravitate to freedom of expression on the one hand and, on the other, to the per-
ceived advantages of cheaper clothing (and less wealth display), the desirability of shutting
down sexual and courting signals so that students can concentrate on their work, and
the discouragement of too much individuality or too great a challenge to social norms
(Remland 2000).

A similar debate is occurring in many workplaces, with the advent of ‘dress-down
Friday’ or ‘pre-weekend casual’ initiatives, which allow many staff to avoid business
dress for at least one day of the week. As with the school uniform debate, the arguments
centre on issues of self-expression, freedom from conformity and a more relaxed work
environment versus questions of whether ‘casual clothes mean casual attitudes’ and how
such nonconformity affects the organisation’s image of professionalism (McPherson 1997;
Smith 1998; ‘US companies averse to “dress down” Friday’ 1995). Further debate rages
about the acceptability of body adornment such as tattoos and body piercing (Smith 2003).
There may be a correlation between the tendency of an individual to undergo tattooing
and body piercing and the tendencies of that individual towards high levels of anxiety,
self-mutilation, dysfunctional or violent social behaviour, suicide and risk-taking (Carroll,
Riffenburgh, Roberts & Myhre 2002).

Fashionable dress, body piercing — for that matter most clothing and adornment
phenomena — can be broadly seen as parts of a uniform. Indeed, all fashion can be seen as
the ongoing creation and adaptation of uniforms for us all (Barnard 2001; Crane 2001). In
counselling teenagers (a group that could well resist the idea of wearing business suits, in
male or female versions) on survival in the real world, Brain has this to say: ‘Many people
ask, “But why? Why have people chosen this ridiculous outfit as the outward symbol of

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Communicating in the 21st Century 270

success, goals and intentions? It is expensive, cumbersome and absolutely worthless in any
sort of inclement weather. Why? What possible purpose does a tie serve, for example?” The
answer is simply BECAUSE. It is completely random. It makes no sense. But that is how it
is. You can accept it and take advantage of the effect suits have, or you can reject it. By
accepting it, you tend to accelerate your development’ (Brain 1997, p. 34).

Personal space/territoriality
Proxemics is the study of personal space or territoriality, or the way we create and cross
spaces between ourselves and others.

Like animals, human beings exist within an invisible ‘bubble’ of personal space or
territory, where we feel secure. We tend to feel anxious if others invade this space; for
example, by standing too close or by touching us. Figure 8.2 illustrates this phenomenon.
The four zones identified are:
1. the intimate. Within this zone we will be comfortable only with people we like and

know very well — for example, family members and lovers.
2. the personal. Within this zone we will also be comfortable with people we know quite

well — for example, friends and close colleagues.
3. the social–consultative. Within this zone we will also be comfortable with people we

know only moderately well — for example, work colleagues in a meeting.
4. the public. Within this zone we will also be comfortable with people we know only

slightly or not at all — for example, people in public places.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Intimate Personal Social–consultative Public



Personal Social–consultative



1 2 3 4

1 m

2 m

3 m

Note, however, that this personal space bubble is relevant only to a middle-class North
American of northern European heritage. Personal space varies between cultures and
classes, and even between the sexes. For example, researchers have reached the following

■■ Many males demand more personal space than many females.
■■ People from rural areas may have higher personal space needs than people from city

■■ Intercultural conflict can arise if norms about space and touch are not understood. For
example, if a British negotiator (high space needs, low touch norms) meets a Saudi
Arabian negotiator (low space needs, high touch norms), the Saudi may advance ‘into’
the British person’s zone, and that person may step back; the Saudi may perceive this
as coldness, or as a meaningless accident, and step forward again . . . and so on (Morris
2002; Pease & Pease 2006).

Proxemics: the study of the
spatial relationships between

  FIGURE 8.2  Personal space
zones for a middle-class
North American of northern
European heritage
Source: Adapted from Hall

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Chapter 8 Nonverbal communication 271

Personal space, unsurprisingly, is related to touching behaviour. People with lower space
needs are more likely to use touch as a normal mode of communication; people with
higher space needs are likely to practise social touching less. Having said this, it is often
true that high-power, high-prestige people — who are rarely closely approached or touched
by subordinates — will often assert their power by invading the personal space of

subordinates and by touching them (Henley 1986).
Personal space can be communicated by such means as a jacket

left over a chair back, a cup left on a table, photographs and other
personal items left on a desk, bumper stickers on cars (‘Not so
close — I hardly know you’) or, more overtly, a ‘Private’ sign on a
door. In extreme cases, violence may result from space violations in
human encounters, but we are more likely to express anxiety and
erect barriers in subtle, nonverbal ways — face rubbing, breaking
eye contact, making the face expressionless, turning away, sur-
rounding ourselves with objects, and so on. This happens when
we are forced into close proximity in busy stores, in elevators, on
public transport, at sporting events and in similar public situations.
Road rage and parking rage may also be connected to territorial
behaviour (Remland 2000).

Personal space can interact with orientation in interesting ways.
Standing opposite someone can reinforce the idea that you are ‘in
opposition’: meetings, negotiations and brainstorming can perhaps
be facilitated if different parties sit side by side rather than face
to face. Any controversy about who occupies a ‘power seat’ — for
example, at the head of the table — is thus avoided. North Amer-
ican and North Vietnamese negotiators meeting in Paris in 1968 to
negotiate an end to the Vietnam War spent several weeks arguing
over the shape of the table before the two sides got down to more
substantive matters (see ‘Please be seated: chairs, tables and the
curious habits of human beings’ in chapter 19).

The physical environment in which we find ourselves can itself be a powerful mode of
communication. As Winston Churchill said, ‘We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape
us’. A North American football coach understood the value of manipulating the environ-
ment to maximise his team’s performance: at half-time players would rest in blue-painted
rooms, but the coach would give his last-minute pep-talks in a smaller room painted
in bright colours. The British Labour politician Aneurin Bevan observed that party con-
ferences held in cheerful, bright-coloured rooms were significantly more successful than
those held in dingy, depressing rooms. Building architecture, room size and shape, furni-
ture, interior decoration and climate can all communicate strong messages to those who
use or visit them.

Time and cultural context
Time and cultural context can also help us to understand nonverbal communication. The
study of time use as a form of communication is called chronemics (Ballard & Seibold 2006;
Turner & Reinsch 2007). Anthropologist Edward T Hall has made a useful distinction between
‘high context’ and ‘low context’ cultures. The high-context/low-context model incorporates
variables such as chronemics (or the study of time use behaviour), the degree of sensory

Personal space needs may
not be met when people are
forced into close proximity,
such as when business
colleagues share a lift with a

Chronemics: the study of time
use behaviour in relation to

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Communicating in the 21st Century 272

involvement in a situation, the nature of messages sent and how they are sent or concealed
in a given situation, and the extent to which identity is formed by affinity with individuals
or groups. The context model thus has implications for intercultural communication and
intra- and inter-group communication. The chief differences are shown in table 8.2.

High context Low context

Identification Group Individual

Sensory involvement High (low personal space
needs, high-contact touch

Low (high personal space
needs, low-contact touch

Messages Implicit: embedded in social
context: ritual, personal
relationships, personal word as

Explicit: words carry most
information (emphasis on legal
documents etc.)

Time sense/chronicity Polychronic: multiple times.
Time is circular. Events proceed
at their own pace. Multiple
events occur simultaneously
(e.g. different people in room
working on different tasks)

Monochronic. One time only.
Time is linear. Events happen
Punctuality, scheduling,
planning very important

Source: Adapted from Hall (1977).

As Hall (1977) explains:

In some cultures, messages are explicit; the words carry most of the information. In other
cultures, such as China or Japan or the Arab cultures, less information is contained in the verbal
part of the message, since more is in the context. That’s why American businessmen often com-
plain that their Japanese counterparts never get to the point. The Japanese wouldn’t dream of
spelling the whole thing out . . . in general, high-context people can get by with less of the legal
paperwork that is deemed essential in America. A man’s word is his bond, and you need not
spell out the details to make him behave . . .

The German-Swiss are low-context, falling somewhere near the bottom of the scale. Next,
the Germans, then the Scandinavians, as we move up. These cultures are all lower in context
than the U.S. Above the Americans come the French, the English, the Italians, the Spanish, the
Greeks, and the Arabs. In other words, as you move from Northern to Southern Europe, you will
find that people move towards more involvement with each other. (p. 4)

Thus, for example, a German businessman trying to negotiate with a Latin American
may not understand why the other person does not ascribe to the same sense of urgency
to matters as he has (or indeed why there are other people in the room at the same time,
apparently transacting other business). The differences between them are thus not purely a
matter of language, but of culture; in particular, they experience quite different senses of
time, or chronicity.

People from low-context cultures who want to understand high-context cultures
probably need go no further than to talk to their grandparents or to relatives and friends
living in country areas. Cultures that are low context now were once quite different: tra-
ditionally these communities were more oriented towards groups such as the family, the
neighbourhood, the local church; the pace of life was more relaxed and commercial agree-
ments were often based on verbal understandings — that is, they were (apart from factors
relating to territorial and touching behaviour) classic high-context cultures. ‘Low context’

  TABLE 8.2  High context and
low context cultures

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Chapter 8 Nonverbal communication 273

here is almost a code for ‘modern urban’, and even rural areas of low-context cultures tend
to be relatively high-context in a number of ways.

Examples of new insights into context and chronemics are:
■■ It may be useful to distinguish between monochrons (people who prefer work to be
structured in linear flows, with a minimum of interruptions) and polychrons (people who
are happy to work on multiple projects at the same time and who don’t get thrown by

■■ Women may be more polychronic than men.
■■ Monochronic behaviour may be linked to stress-prone Type A behaviour.
■■ Vietnamese migrants to the United States may be more encouraged to use North
American hospitals if a no-appointment, drop-in time zone is set up and if family
members are encouraged to attend consultations.

■■ Chinese managers may make remarkably limited direct use of low-context tools, such
as computer-based information systems, and western managers may need to bear this
in mind.

■■ Within broad ethnic groupings, such as ‘Asians’, there may be significant variations: for
example, Koreans may be considerably more low-context than Japanese.

■■ Southern European polychrons are under pressure to conform to Northern European
mono-chronic time usage.
(Hall 1977; Houston 2002; Kaufman-Scarborough & Lindquist 1999; Martinsons &
Westwood 1997; Frei, Racicot & Travagline 1999; Thomas 1998; Cunha & Cunha 2004)

Nonverbal applications A: applying
the model
Figure 8.1 presented a model of nonverbal communication. Now let’s try to apply that
model to understanding different situations we might find ourselves in. We will ignore
the physiological constant of body structure and use the remaining categories to analyse
five behavioural states: respect, liking, hostility, distress and deceit. The brief analysis
given in table 8.3 cannot, of course, hope to capture the full complexity of an individual’s
nonverbal behaviour, and its cultural bias is primarily Euro-American. Nevertheless, you
may find it useful to analyse situations you have experienced and will find yourself in.
Remember not to jump to conclusions with nonverbal communication: a gesture or posture
or other manifestation in isolation may mean nothing. Groups or clusters of behaviours
or tells may build up a more predictable picture. If, for example, you find yourself dealing
with an individual exhibiting virtually every behaviour in one column of the table, then
you can be reasonably sure that you would need no further words to identify and confirm
the operation of that unique behavioural state.


Expression Respect Liking Hostility Distress Deceit

Head movements ■■ Head bow ■■ Rapid nodding
■■ Tilt

■■ Jaw thrust

■■ Tilt
■■ Shaking of head

(in disapproval)

■■ Shaking of head

■■ Nodding when
saying ‘no’,
shaking when
saying ‘yes’


  TABLE 8.3  Nonverbal characteristics of five behavioural states

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Communicating in the 21st Century 274


Expression Respect Liking Hostility Distress Deceit

Facial expression ■■ Open expression
■■ Mild smile

■■ Smiling
■■ Moistening lips

■■ Scowling
■■ Glaring
■■ Bared teeth
■■ Clenched teeth

■■ Anguished

■■ Rapid swallowing
■■ Rapid biting,

wetting of lips

■■ Asymmetrical

Eyes ■■ Averted gaze ■■ Pupil dilation
■■ Wide
■■ Narrowing

■■ Narrowing
■■ Glaring
■■ Rolling in disgust
■■ Averted gaze

■■ Rapid blinking
■■ Darting
■■ Downcast gaze

■■ Rapid blinking
■■ Pupil dilation
■■ Averted gaze

Voice ■■ Deferential tone
■■ Silence

■■ Higher pitch
■■ Deeper pitch
■■ Warmer tone

■■ Deeper pitch
■■ Loud

■■ Shaking voice
■■ Non-words,

repetitions, partial

■■ Stumbling over

■■ Higher pitch
■■ Sighs often

■■ Shaking voice
■■ Non-words,

repetitions, partial

■■ Stumbling over

■■ Higher pitch

Gesture ■■ Palms out ■■ Grooming,

■■ Mirroring

■■ Shaking fist
■■ Obscene gestures
■■ Crossed arms
■■ Hands on hips
■■ Pointing finger
■■ Picking lint from

own clothing

■■ Hands around

■■ Wringing hands
■■ Jiggling legs
■■ Feet turned in
■■ Crossed arms
■■ Fidgeting with


■■ Scratching
■■ Finger under

■■ Rapid crossing

of legs

Posture ■■ Bow
■■ Standing at


■■ Relaxed
■■ Mirroring

■■ Rigid
■■ Shoulders raised

■■ Slumped over
■■ Rocking body

■■ Nothing

Body movement ■■ Sometimes
oriented away

■■ Synchronised

■■ Oriented towards
■■ Synchronised

■■ Oriented away in

■■ Oriented towards
in confronta tion

■■ Unsynchro nised

■■ Oriented away
■■ Unsynchron ised

■■ Oriented away
■■ Nothing


Touching ■■ Touching clothing,
feet, hands

■■ Allowing oneself
to be touched

■■ Handshake
■■ Hand-holding
■■ Caress
■■ Patting
■■ Embrace
■■ Kiss

■■ Push
■■ Elbow
■■ Punch
■■ Kick

■■ Hand-holding
■■ Self-touching

■■ Nothing

■■ Feigned liking

Clothing and 

■■ Imitation ■■ Imitation
■■ Sexually revealing

■■ Rank display
■■ Wealth display

■■ Disorgan ised,

■■ Uncharacter istic
clothing, display

personal space

■■ Maintain distance
■■ Patient waiting


■■ Come closer ■■ Keep distance

■■ Invasive

■■ Keep distance

■■ Invasive
(seeking solace)

■■ Nothing

■■ Feigned liking

  TABLE 8.3  (continued)

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Chapter 8 Nonverbal communication 275


Expression Respect Liking Hostility Distress Deceit

Environment ■■ Subdued colours
■■ Lack of noise

■■ Warm colours
■■ Quiet
■■ Soft furnishings
■■ Attention to

physical needs
(food, drink)

■■ Harsh colours
■■ Noise
■■ Uncomfort able

■■ Lack of atten tion

to physi cal needs

■■ Disorganisa tion,

■■ Nothing

Time and cultural 

■■ Observing
local chronicity

■■ Matching time-
use style to that
of others

■■ Observing
local chronicity

■■ Generosity with

■■ Matching time-
use style to that
of others

■■ Ignoring local

■■ Being late
■■ Making people

■■ Stinginess with

■■ Forcing others to

adopt alien time

■■ Confusion about
local chronicity

■■ Lateness
■■ Procrastina tion
■■ ’Hurry sickness’

■■ Nothing

Nonverbal applications B: becoming
less dyssemic
According to Nowicki and Duke (2002), many people have difficulty fitting into social and
professional situations because they are in fact ‘dyssemic’— that is, they experience diffi-
culties in understanding or sending nonverbal information.

Dyssemic people, they suggest, tend to behave inappropriately in social situations. For
example, they may:

■■ avoid eye contact when walking past people
■■ stare excessively at others
■■ stand too close to people when interacting
■■ spread their materials beyond their personal area when working
■■ speak in a monotone
■■ fail to alter their speech volume to suit the situation they are in
■■ maintain an expressionless face when discussing emotional topics
■■ not smile back when smiled at
■■ not care about their clothing or grooming
■■ persevere in actions or comments regardless of their adverse impact
■■ not check their appearance in mirrors or window reflections
■■ start talking before others have finished
■■ not listen to what others say
■■ arrive late for meetings
■■ finish eating long before or long after others (Nowicki & Duke 2002).
Exhibiting one or two of these behaviour patterns is unlikely to present overwhelming

problems, but more than this may indicate that such individuals are socially ‘out of synch’
(Kranowitz & Silver 1998). If they were to study nonverbal communication in some depth
and then try to apply what they have learned, such dyssemic people might find they
fit in better with those around them, and experience fewer communication breakdowns,
misunderstandings and conflicts (Wocadlo & Rieger 2006).

Dyssemia: the condition
of having difficulties in
understanding or sending
nonverbal information

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Communicating in the 21st Century 276

In this chapter we considered different aspects of nonverbal communication. Isolated non-
verbal behaviours are not necessarily significant, but we may be able to make reasoned
inferences about another person’s behaviour or state of mind from consistent clusters of
such behaviours. Nonverbal communication that is congruent with verbal communication
suggests that the two channels of communication are reinforcing each other; where they
are not congruent, we may be able to use that incongruence to make inferences about
another person’s behaviour and state of mind. Nonverbal communication and body lan-
guage are not the same: body language is an element of nonverbal communication, but it
has other aspects. We examined a visual model of nonverbal communication, looking at a
number of (not mutually exclusive) categories, such as gesture, posture, body movement,
touch, eye contact, paralinguistics, environment and time. We concluded that an under-
standing of the dynamics of nonverbal communication might offer us useful insights into
our own behaviour.


backchanneling p. 261 kinesics p. 267
chronemics p. 271 mirroring p. 267
cluster p. 256 paralinguistics p. 263
congruence p. 257 proxemics p. 270
dyssemia p. 275 tell p. 256
haptics p. 267

1. What is a cluster, and why is it important for understanding nonverbal

2. What is congruence, and why is it important for understanding nonverbal

3. Define ‘backchanneling’.
4. What is meant by a poker face?
5. What is the relationship between synchronisation and mirroring?
6. List and explain three types of nonverbal communication that might suggest a person

is lying or being deceitful.
7. List three ways in which a person might assert dominance over others.
8. What is a monochron?

1. A friend of yours is about to give a presentation but has not spent much time on

researching the content. ‘I’m not too worried about facts — a friend told me that people
give only about 7 per cent of their attention to any words you use. So I’m spending
most of my time in front of a mirror, working on my gestures and delivery.’ Write a
brief (100-word) memo or email in response to your friend’s strategy.

2. Use the recording function on a smartphone or hire/use a traditional video camera for
this activity: Working by yourself or with a partner, record (at least ten minutes) of
yourself talking, walking, sitting, gesturing. If you are working with a partner, return
the favour. If this is difficult, perhaps you can get access to some home movie video
footage of yourself. Observe yourself on screen: is the sound and the image what you


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Chapter 8 Nonverbal communication 277

expected? If not, why not? Might your observations cause you to change the way you
behave? If so, why? If not, why not?

3. Conduct a debate on the topic ‘Everyone wears a uniform’.
4. Create a list of at least six other aspects of nonverbal communication that could be

perceived to be examples of dyssemia.
5. Select one scene, or several pages of dialogue, from a play script or screenplay. Write

two sets of stage directions, specifying two completely different sets of nonverbal
communication. Discuss the result with a partner.

6. The federal government has hired your advertising agency to create a television, radio
and print advertising campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to sensitise people to
becoming more polite in public spaces. Write a television or radio script, or copy for
a newspaper/magazine advertisement, trying to persuade people not to conduct loud
conversations in public: on mobile or cell phones; in native or non-native languages;
in foreign countries using languages not native to those countries.

Luis has transferred to your branch from the South American office,
and is now manager of floor operations. He is strikingly handsome
and tall, and is athletic in build. He moves quickly and has a deep,
resonant voice. To make matters worse, as some of your male friends
joke, he is both exceptionally intelligent and highly competent. He is
also motivated and has excellent technical skills. You might expect,
jokes aside, that many of the males in the building are envious of him.

He has a few personal habits, however, that are beginning to
irritate people. He stands very close when talking, and when making
a point he will often tap an index finger on the listener’s forearm,
irrespective of gender. His booming voice makes everyone turn
around and look, which can embarrass the person he is talking to.

He often simply bursts into people’s offices and will go around to their side of the desk, sit
on the desk and look intently at them while he is talking. He is also in the habit of making
mock bows to a number of the female staff. In talking with staff members about problems,
he will sometimes put his arm around their shoulder — again, irrespective of gender — and
gesture strongly with his other hand. Your personal assistant, Marie, who is finely tuned at
the best of times, has just come into your office and said this to you: ‘Look, I’m sure he’s
well-intentioned, and he has really kicked the productivity figures up, but unless he lays off
the touchy-feely stuff, Jen and Lisa and I will make a sexual harassment claim against him!’

What should you do about the situation?

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Friedrich Nieu;sche’ ‘is the wild man, the self-proclaimed anti-Christ,cif Western
thought. A brilliant polemicist, he champions energy over reason and’art over sdenc¢
while contemptuous of the quiet, “timid” virtues of domestiCity, democracy, ‘arid
peace. His extravagances not only remind us ofmodernism:’s persistent desii’etoshOi!k
the staid middle classes but also recall the . many twentieth-century figures-‘-frofll
W. B. Yeats and Ezra Pound to MARTIN HEIDEGGER arid PAUL DE MAN-‘-whose seniui
is ‘inextricably mixed with dubious political views. But Nietzsche, .aninvetemteJottQf
Christianity and of Platonic philosophy, is absolutely central to modem and p,ostr
modem attempts to rethink the Western tradition’s most fundamentalas~umptio~!

Nietzsche was born in Rocken, a small villag~ jn; Prussian Saxony. He.w!l$ !~,
son and grandson (on both sides of the family) of Lutheran._ministers. His faili,er
diedwhen he was four and his younger brother died the next ‘year, leaving him tt~
only male in a household with five women. Nietzsche’s subsequent infatuations Wit1i
the work of Gennan philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) and WltH ‘the
Work, theories, and wife of Gernian composer Richard Wagner, followe8 bf fiis
equ’ally violent rejectiohs of the tWo men; are sometimes explained in terms;(jf “sur­
rogatefather figures” and Oedipal rebellion. Certainly, Wagnet and his wife Cosima
dominated Nietzsche’s life in the early 1870s.’ Having received his doctorate aulit
University of Leipzig, Nietzsche wa~ appointedprofessor.of philology at theUni~rf
sity.of Basel in Switzerland in 1.869; He met Wagner and Cosima von Billow ~ilAAe
1868, and his first book, The Birth of Tragedy (1872), combines. a new theorx .9f
Greek tragedy with an extended argument. that Wagner’s work constitutes a German
rebirth of that ancient fonn . By 1876, however, Nietzsche h!ld broken complei~iy
with Wagner, repelled ‘by Wagner’s tum to Christianity aild his intreiising i!htl’
Seinitism. That Same ,year, ill health forced Nietzsche to stop~eaching. In 1879’lie
offiCially resigned his university post, receiving a small dis;ability penslon’~ Hesp~
the next ten years writing the bodks that present his ambitious attempt ‘to ‘()veithp~
Christianity andpost~Socratic philosophy through a radical “revaluation of all vIll.
ues.” The last ten years of Nietzsche’s life were lost to incoh~rent madness. After …
mental breakdown in 1889, he returned to RockelJ to live with his mother;whett
she died, in .1897, he came u~der the care of his sister Elisabeth, which continued
until his death. , ‘ . . ‘ . . ‘. ‘ . .~ ,,:

Even before Nietzsche’s death, his sister wrote a biography to publicize his wor~
and she published her own editions of his writings. She stressed those elements di~t
accorded with her own anti-Semitic and pro-Aryan views and is often blamed ftir th~
Nazis’ later appropriation of Nietzsche as a philosopher sympathetic to their policies.
But blaming his sister does not absolve Nietzsche. Some aspects of his thought chime
with National Socialism, while others contradict it. Those who read andinterp’ret
Nietzsche’s challenging work must grapple with his relation to the Nazis, just as they
must take into account his tremendous influence on modernism, existentialism, and

Our first selection, the essay “On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense” (written
1873), was not published during Nietzsche’s lifetime. It articulates a number of Nietz·
sche’s major themes and became a favorite reference point for poststructuralists such
as JACQUES DERRIDA and Paul de Man during the 1970s. Nietzsche’s target here is
nothing less than the epistemological foundations of Western philosophy. From
PLATO on, Western philosophy has been committed (with a few exceptions) to ascer­
taining the fixed and solid truth that exists independently of human minds. Nietzsche
simply denies tpat we can ever know anything except through the lens . of humall
perception. We cannot put that lens aside in order to judge which perceptions accu­

lWtelypOttray the world ‘and which do not. Given this impossibility, why are humans
committed to the search for “truth”? Because, Nietzsche answers, truth is a useful
iIlusion, .one.that serves a fundamental drive to survive. Truth is a comfortable lie; it
.uggest that “the world [is] something which is similar in kind to humanity,” and it
bOosts self-confidence, the untroubled conviction of being right. While Nietzsche is
tcOtnful;of !:his-.smUg; “anthroponiQrphism,” he does underline its utility,
VFheessay~s, occoul’ltof language’s role in human cognition has been especially

lnfluentiIiIamong literarytheorists, Nietzsche accepts that the outer world impinges
on the human·.perci:eiver, but·we ·translate· that experience intohuman;tenns by. nam­
mg’it. This ‘~first metaphor.” introdutes an unbridgeable gap, which leads Nietzsche
il’cOildtide that “subject. and object”.are “absolutely different spheres.” Nor do the
nonrepRsentatiOl’lal additions (“supplements”) supplied by language stop there. We
.lsoLuseithe·same lname to designate separate experiences of nerve stimulation. We
..n toliay’s “leafloy the”Same word used to Iabelyestenlay’s. This substitution of one
‘oJt~pt” in the ‘place of multiple experienceS·is the “second metaphor” that Nietz­
acftelldentifies””””‘”and his account of how· concepts erase’ awareness of differences
~.uknater:<echo throughout .poststructuralism. “Every concept;” he writes, “comes
latO~beiJ!J~ by :miOOng .eqUivalent that which is non~equivaJent[,J … by forgetting
these features ‘ which differentiate one thirig from another.”
t Om:e Nietzsche pulls tire veikofiUusion from our eyes and shows-that ti-uth is a

1!in00ile .anny of metaphors; metonymies, anthropomorphisms,” what next? One pos­
Illile responseis.stoicism,described in the essay’s last paragraph. Alone in an alien
worldj ‘humaris could just endure, preserving a “dignified equilibrium”in the face of
~ingtowhichlifesubject$ them. More eXtreme is the “nihilistic” denial of this
World ·as”fallen” or “evil,” a position that Nietzsche associates with Christianity:
Against stoicism and nihilism, Nietzsche calls on humans to forcefully and joyfully
ttep into the vacuum created by the death of truth; of God, and of the other meta­
phYsi&al guarantees on which the West has traditionally relied: We must learn not
jIIstito’acceJit but to proudly affirm that “humanity” is a “mightyarchitecturalgenius
who ‘suci!eeds in erecting the infinitely complicated cathedral of concepts on moving
foundations; , or even, one might say, on flOwing water.” Nietzsche celebrates the
ere.tivity and .the wiH that ‘buildsaworld for humans to inhabit-and he takes the
~stBs his. ‘prime example of an individual responding joyfully to the challenge of
tlieddih~ the illusion of truth.

‘ ;6ur .selectionsfrom The Birth ‘of Tragedy (I872) show how Nietzsche returns to
G!eek’thought before Plato to discover the artistic form and worldview that he prefers
tbthe Platonic and Christian traditions. (MAlTHEW ARNOLD in the nineteenth century
antI ‘MARTlN HEIDEGGER and Erich Auerbach in the twentieth also return to the pre­
Socratic ‘Greeks for principles to counter modernity.) Nietzsche’s mantra in this text
fsthat-“only as 1m ·aesthetic pheriomenondo existence and the world appear justified.”
‘I’IW formula draws on. the Toot meaning of aesthetic as -“pertaining to sense percep­
tiop.” Nietzsche says that’.Hfe is worthwhile only if we experience strong feelings or
l8nI8tions. M WALTERl’A1l!R, who was writing at almost exactly the same ·time, would
put it, !theqtiality and intensity of our sensations indicates the quality of our lives.
&,defor Niewlche;’ as for Pater, the step from the ;’aesthetic”.as sensation to the
llabsthetic” as art is a short one. Art is the realm of heightened sensation. But whereas
Pater-stresses the experience of the spectator, Nietzsche focuses on the exuberant joy
felt ,by the arlist/creator in the struggle to bend recalcitrant materials to his or her

;ij Nietisbhe thus appears to promote heroicindividualisrn and transcendent genius .
He h8S’often ~been read tFiis way; not leastlJycountless modernist artists, who also
ies(iorided to,his diatribes against the confomiist “herds” that try to·curb the strong,
lDIoral artist.’ Much in Nietzsche celebrates the “will”. of the “overman” (supennan)
.nd”denigrates·e’Verything (from conventional morality to democracy) that would
mike~tHe genius answerable to any authority outside of his self. “His” is used -advis­

ofletters. Ecce Homo: i,s iNietzsche’s_half-mad and fascinating-autobiography; the most
readable, biography is Rorrald Hayman1s Nidzsche: A Critical Life (.1980).

Arthur Danto’s Nietzsche as Philosop1ter(I965) remains a superb overview: it can
be supplemented with Richard Schaeht’~ Nietzsche (1983-) and Alexander Nehamas’s
irilluential Nietzsche: Life as LitflrratUr:e (.1985). The_Ca’nabridge Companion to Niett­
sche, edited by Beind Magnus and Kathleen M. Higgins (996), collectS essays that
address a wide range of issues connected to Nietzsche’s life” work, andinfluencel
Martin Heidegger’s Nietzsche ~2 vols., 1961; trans. in 4 vols., -1979~87) is a major
document ‘-of twentieth-century philosophy’ as well as a powerful, if idiosyncratic;
interpretation of. Nietzsche. Many poststructuralist’s have written extensively on
Nietzsche, A partial list includes Michel Foucault,hnguage, Caunter-Memory, PraC­
tice (1977); Paul de Man, Allegories ofReading (1979):Jacques Derrida, Spurs: Niet%~.
sche’s Styles (1978; ‘trans. ‘1979); Gilles Deleuze, NietzSche and Philosophy (1962;
tnms. 1983); and Sarah Kofman; Nietzsche ana Metaplwr (,1>972: trans. 1993). FOur
studies of particular relevance to literary critics .are Alan D. Schrift, Nietzsche “nat.he
Question of Interpretation (1990); H~nry Staten, Nietzsthe’sVoice (1990): Ernst Beh­
ler; Confrontations: Derrida, -f-I’eidegger; -Nidzsche, (1-991 ): and John Sallis, CmssingSi
Nietzsche ana ,he·Space ofTTIlgeay (1991 ).. the reader who.wantS a sense of the ways
that· literary theorists (especially) have approached Nietzsche’s work in recent decades
can-start with the many fine collectiensof–essays ‘on his work: -The New NietzscW,
edited by David ,B. Allison (I977h Why Niemche Now?, -editedby Daniel O’H~
(985): Friedrich Nietrs~, edited’by.Harold·Bloom(l987); Niet’i:.sche as Postmotl.
emist: ESSRysPro_ana Contra; edited,by Clayton Koelb ( 1990 hFeminist Intef’ptettUiorts
of Friedrich Nietzsche, edited byKeHyOliveI’ and Marilyn Pearsall (l99S); -a:ndWhy
NietzsChe Still?; edited by Alan D. 8chrift (2000). The most usefulbibliogtaph¥ call
be found in-The Cambridge Comptm«m to Nietzsche (cited above), .’ ”(



On Truth and Lying in a NOri-MoraISense l


In some remote comer of the universe,. JIkkeringin ‘the light ofthe CQuqt~
less solar systems into which it had been poured, there ,was once:a planec
on which clever animals invented cognition. It was the most ar:rogant and
most mendacious minute-ih the ‘history of the-world’; but a minute WasoH
It Was. After nat1:trf! had drawn just a few more-breaths the planet froze and
the clever animals had to-die. Somedne could invent a fable like thill and
yet they wou:td-stifhibt have given a satisfactory illustration of just ht)w
pitiful, how insubstaritialand transitory, how purposeless and aroitraty t’H~
human intellect . looks within nature; there were eternities: during it
did_ not eXist;: and when. it has disappeared again, nothing . will havehllPr
pened~ For this .intellect has n£) further. mission that might , extend beyon.d
the bounds .of human life. Rather, the:i~telle<;t is human, and only itso!VJl
pOssessor: and J1i”ogenit6r· regards it with such pathos, as if it housed·:the
axi·saround.which the ‘entire world revolved. But if we could communicate
with a midge ‘we wduld ‘ hear that it too floats through the air With the vel”f
same pa:thos’~”feeling that inoo contains within itself the flying centrlH)f
this world. THere is nothing Hi rtatUre so despitable and Ttlean that would
not immedi’ilttHy . swell up like a baUo6n from just one little . puff of that
force o~cognition; and just as every bearer of burdens wants to be admired,

1_ Translated by Ronald Speirs. Except as indicated. all notes are the translator’s.

sO.the proudest man of all, the philosopher, wants to see, on all sides, the
eyes of the universe trained, as through telescopes, on his thoughts and

deedsi ,
“It-is odd that the intellect can produce this effect, since it is nothing other

tMn”anaid supplied to. the most unfortunate, most delicate and most tran­
sientofbeings so as to detain them for a minute within.existence; otherwise,
Without this supplement, theywould have every reason to flee existence as
~ickly : as; did Lessing’s· infant son.2 The arrogance inherent in cognition
~d feeling casts a blinding fog over the eyes and senses of human beings,
and.because it contains within itself the most flattering evaluation of cog­
nitionrit deceives thein about the value of existence. Its most· general effect
is;deception~but each of its separate effects also has something of the same


1-As a means for the preservation of the individual, the intellect shows its

gJ:’Utest strengths in dissimulation, since this is the means to preserve those

‘(I!eaker,Jess robust individuals who, by nature; are denied horns or the sharp
fangs bf a.beast of prey with which towage the struggle for existence. This,d bfdissimulatibn reaches its peak in humankind, where deception, flattery,
lying’.ahdcheating, speaking behind the backs of others, keeping up appear­
!lirees’,3 living in borrowed finery, wearing masks, the drapery of convention,
play-actirig for the benefit of others and oneself-in short, the constant flut­
teringof human beings around the one flame of vanity is so much the rule
and,tbe,law that there is virtually nothing which defies understanding so
rnde-h as the fact that an honest and pure drive towards truth should ever
have emerged in thein. They are deeply immersed in’ illusions and dream­
im’agesj their eyes merely glide across the surface of things and see ‘fonns’;
nowhere does their perception lead into truth; instead it is content to receive
stimuli and, as it were, to play with its fingers on the back of things. What
iamore, .human beings allow themselves: to be lied to in dreams every night
ofLtheir lives, without their moral sense ever seeking to prevent this happen­
,mg,whereas it is said that some people have even eliminated snoring by will­
pi:JWer~ What do human beings really know about themselves? Are they even
eapable of perceiving themselves in their entirety just once, stretched out as
in:an illuminated glass case? Does nature not remain silent about almost
everything, even about our bodies, banishing and enclosing us within a
proud, illusory consciousness, far away from the twists and turns of the bow­
ets”the’rapid flow of the blood stream and thecomplicatedtremblings of the
rienie-.fibres? Nature has thrown away the key, and woe betide fateful curi­
osity should it ever succeed in peering through a crack in the chamber of
ooJriciousness, out and down into the depths, and thus gain an intimation
oF’lhe fact that humanity, in the indifference of its ignorance, rests on the
pitiless; the greedy, the insatiable, the murderous~linging indreams,as it
were; to the back of a tiger. Given this constellation, where on earth can the truth possibly have come from?

!_ Insofar as the individual wishes to preserve himself in relation to other

January 1778). [GOTHOLD EPHRAIM LESSING2. Lessing’s first and only son died immediately
(1729-178 I), Gennan dramatist and critic—edi­~e.r: birth, followed soon after by his mother. This
tor’s note.] ,arew fro-m Lessing the comment: “Was it . good
3. The verb ‘Nietische use~ is reprilsentieret1- Thissense that they had to pull him into the worM with
means keeping up a show in public, representing irili-. tongs, 6r that he noticed the filth so quickly? one’s family, country, or social group before the Was it not good sense that he took the first oppor­
eyes of the world . tunity to leave it again?” (Letter to Eschenburg, 10

individuals, in the state of nature he mostly used his intellect for conceal­
ment and dissimulation; however, because necessity and boredom also le~d
men to want to live in societies and herds, they need a peace treaty, and
so they endeavour to eliminate from their world at least the crudest forms
of the ‘ bellum omnium contra omnes. 4 In the wake of this peace treaty;
however, comes something which looks like the first step towards the acqui­
sition of that mysterious drive for truth. For that which is to count as ‘truth’
from this point onwards now becomes fixed, i.e. a way.of designating things
is invented which has the same validity and force everywhere, and the leg­
islation of language also produces the first laws of truth, for the contrast
between truth and lying comes into existence here for the first time: the
liar uses the valid tokens of designation~words-to make the unreal appear
to be real; he says, for example, ‘I am rich’, whereas the correct designation
for this condition would be, precisely, ‘poor’. He misuses the established
conventions by arbitrarily switching or even inverting the names for things.
If he does this in a manner that is selfish and otherwise harmful, society
will no longer trust him and therefore exclude him from its ranks. Human
beings do not so much flee from being tricked as from being harmedhy
being tricked. Even on this level they do not hate deception but rather the
damaging, inimical consequences · of certain species of deception. Truthj
too, is only desired by human beings in a similarly limited sense. They des~
the pleasant, life-preserving consequences of truth; they are indifferenho
pure knowledge if it has no consequences, but they are actually hostile
towards truths which may be harmful and destructive. And, besides, what
is the status of those conventions of language? Are they perhaps products
of knowledge, of the sense of truth? Is there a perfect match between thingS
and their designations? Is language the full and adequate expression of all

Only through forgetfulness could human beings ever entertain the illusion
that they possess truth to the degree described above. If they will not content
themselves with truth in the form of tautology, i.e. with empty husks, they
will for ever exchange illusions for truth. What is a word? The copy of a
nervous stimulation in sounds. To infer from the fact of the nervous stimu.
lation that there exists a cause outside us is already the result of applying
the principle of sufficient reason wrongly. If truth alone had been decisive
in the genesis .of language, if the viewpoint of certainty had been decisive in
creating deSignations, how could we possibly be permitted to say, ‘The stone
is hard’, as if ‘hard’ were something known to us in some other way, and not
merelr as an entirely subjective stimulus? We divide things up by gender,
descrihing a tree as masculine and a plant as feminine5-how arbitrary these
translations are! How far they have flown beyond the canon of certaintyrWe
speak of a snake; the designati.on captures only its twisting movements and
thus couId equally well apply to a worm. How arbitrarily these borders are
drawn, how one-sided the preference for this or that property of a thing!
When different languages are set alongside one another it becomes clear
that, where words are concerned, what matters is never truth, never the fuU

4. ‘War of all against all” [Latin): phrase associ. XIII). [Hobbes (I 588-1679), EngliSh poiiticalphi­
ated with Thomas Hobbes’ description ·of the state loso,!!her-editor’s note.]
of nature before the institution of political author· 5. ‘Tree” is masculine in German (tier Baum) and
ity (cf. Hobbes, De cive 1.12 and Leviathan, chapter “plant” (die Pjlam;e) is feminine. g- 7Z-b,


and adequate expression;6 otherwise there would not be so many languages.
The ‘thing-in-itself7 (which would be, precisely, pure truth, truth without
consequences) is impossible for even the creator of language to grasp, and
indeed this is not at all desirable. He designates only the relations of things
to human beings, and in order to express them he avails himself of the
bOldest metaphors. The stimulation of a nerve is first translated into an
image: first metaphor! The image is then imitated by a sound: second meta­
phorl And each time there is a complete leap from one sphere into the
heart of another, new sphere. One can conceive of a profoundly deaf
human being who has never experienced sound or music; just as such a
person will gaze in astonishment at the Chladnian sound-figures in sand,8
find their cause in the vibration of a string, and swear that he must now
know what men call sound-this is precisely what happens to all of us with
lan-guage. We believe that when we speak of trees, colours, snow, and flow­
en,we have knowledge of the things themselves, and yet we possess only
metaphors of things which in no way correspond to the original entities.
:fi.istas the musical sound appears as a figure in the sand, so the mysterious
‘XI .of the thing-in-itself appears first as a nervous stimulus, then as an
Image, .and finally as an articulated sound. At all events, things do not
plTOCeed logically when language comes into being, and the entire material
.in~ and with which the man of truth, the researcher, the philosopher, works
and builds; stems, if not from cloud-cuckoo land, then certainly not from
the ‘tIS’Sence of things.

_:Letus consider in particular how concepts are formed; each word imme­
diately becomes a concept, not by virtue of the fact that it is intended to
Serve as a ‘memory (say) of the unique, utterly individualized, primary expe­
rience to which it owes its existence, but because at the same time it must
fit .countless other, more or less similar cases, i.e. cases which, strictly speak­
lng; .are never equivalent, and thus nothing other than non-equivalent cases.
Every concept comes into being by making equivalent that which is non­
equivalent. Just as it is certain that no leaf is ever exactly the same as any
other leaf, it is equally certain that the concept ‘leaf is formed by dropping
,these individual differences arbitrarily, by forgetting those features which
differentiate one thing from another, so that the concept then gives rise to
the ITotion that something other than leaves exists in nature, something
whith would be ‘leaf’, a primal form, say, from which all leaves were woven;
drawn, delineated, dyed, curled, painted-but by a clumsy pair of hands, so
that no single example turned out to be a faithful, correct, and reliable copy
ofthe primal form. We call a man honest; we ask, ‘Why did he act so honestly
today?’ Our answer is usually: ‘Because of his honesty.’ Honesty!-yet again,
this-means that the leaf is the cause of the leaves. We have no kn.owledge of
an essential quality which might be called honesty, but we do know of numer­
ous individualized and hence non-equivalent actions which we equate with

6. Nietzsche uses the term adiiqual which indi­ not of what we observe [editor’s note} .

cates that the meaning of something is fully con­ 8. The vibration of a string can create figures in

veyed by a word or expression; English “adequate” the sand (in an appropriately constructed sand­

alone. does not convey this sense completely. box) which give a visual representation of that

7. Term used by the German philosopher IMMAN­ which the human ear perceives as a tone. The term

UEL KANT (1724-1804) for the real object inde­ comes from the name of the physicist Ernst

pendent of our awareness of it. Kant argues that Chladni [1756-1827]’ whose experiments dem­

luch categories as time and space, mentioned later onstrated the effect.

by Nietzsche, are part of our own form of thought,



each other by omitting what is unlike, and which we now designate as bonest
actions; finally we formulate from them a q,ualitas occulta9 with the name

Like form, a concept is produced by overlooking what .is individual and
real, whereas nature knows neither forms nor concepts and hence no species,
but only an ‘X’ which is inaccessible to us and indefinable by us. Fot the
opposition we make between individual and species is also anthropemowhi€
and does not stem from the essence of things, although we equally do not
dare to say that it does not correspond to the essence of things, since that
would be a dogmatic assertion and, as such, just as incapable of being proved
as its opposite.

What, then, is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonymies; anthro­
pomorphisms, in short a sum of human relations which have been subjected
to poetic and rhetorical intensification, translation, and decoration, !lnd
which, after they have been in use for a long time, strike a people as fir~y
established, canonical, and binding; truths are illusions of which we .have
forgotten that they Are illusions, metaphors which have become worn ·by
frequent use and have lost all sensuous vigour, coins which, having losttheiI’
stamp, are now regarded as metal and no longer as coins. Yet we still do not
know where the drive to truth comes from, for so far we have only .heant
about the obligatiQn to be truthful which society imposes in order to ,exist;
i.e. the obligation to use the customary metaphors, or, to put it in moral
terms, the obligation to lie in accordance with firmly established convention;
to lie en masse and in a style that is binding for all. Now, it is true that human
beings forget that this is how things are; thus they lie unconsciously in the
way we have described, .and in accordance with centuries-old habits-and
precisely because of this uncansciousness, precisely because of this forgetting,
they arrive at the feeling of truth. The Jeeling that one. is obliged to describe
one thing as red,. another as cold, and a third as dumb, .prompts amQraJ
impulse which pertains to truth; from its opposite, .the liar whom nooni
trusts and all exclude, human. beings demonstrate to themselves just how
honourable, confidence-inspiring and useful truth is. As creatures of reasOn,
human beings now make their actions subject to the rule of abstractions;
they no longer tolerate being swept away by sudden impressions andsefu
suous perceptions; they now generalize all these impressions first, turnmg
them into cooler, less colourful concepts in orderto harness the vehicle of
their lives and actions to them. Everything which distinguishes human.beingS
from animals depends on this ability to sublimate sensuous met!lphol’S intO
a schema, in other words, to dissolve an image into a concept. This is because
something becomes possible ‘in the realm of these schemata which could
never be achieved in the realm of those sensuous first impressions, namely
the construction of a pyramidal order based on castes and degrees, the
creation of a .new world of laws, privileges, subordinations, definitions of
borders, which now confronts the other, sensuously perceived world as
something firmer, more general, more familiar, more human, and hence as
something regulatory and imperative. Whereas every metaphor standing for.
a sensuous perception is individual and unique and is therefore always able
to escape classification, the great edifice of concepts exhibits the rigid reg-

Q Hitl,.l,pn nrn.nprh.! fl !lIti … ‘


ularity of a Roman columbarium, I while logic breathes out that air of severity
and coolness which is peculiar to mathematics. Anyone who has been
touched by that cool breath will scarcely believe that concepts too, which are
8S bony and’ eight-cornered as a dice and just as capable of being shIfted
‘around, ate only the left-over residue ofa metaphor, and that the illusion pro­
du€ed by the artistic translation of a nervous stimulus into images is, if not
the mother, then at least the grandmother of each and every concept. Within
this conceptual game of dice, however, ‘truth’ means using each die in accor­
dance with its designation, counting its spots precisely, forming correct clas­
sifications, and never offending against the order of castes nor against the
sequence of classes of rank. Just as the Romans and the Etruscans divided up
the sky with rigid mathematical lines and confined a god in a space which
they had thus delimited as in a templum,2 all peoples have just such a math­
ematically divided firmament of concepts above them, and they understand
the demand of truth to mean that the god of every concept is to be sought
onl,. in his sphere. Here one can certainly admire humanity as a mighty archi­
tectural genius Wh9 succeeds in erecting the infinitely complicated cathedral
of concepts on moving foundations, or even, one might say, on flowing water;
admittedly, in order to rest on such foundations, it has to be like a thing con­
‘Strutted from cobwebs, so delicate that it can be carried off on the waves and
yet sO firm as not to be blown apart by the wind. By these standards the
human being is an architectural genius who is far superior to the bee; the lat­
ter bqilds with wax which she gathers from nature, whereas the human being
builds with the far more delicate material of concepts which he must first
manufacture from himself. In this he is to be much admired-but just not for
his impulse to truth, to the pure cognition of things. If someone hides some­
thing behind a bush, looks for it in the same place and then finds it there, his
‘Seeking and finding is nothing much to boast about; but this is exactly how
dUngs ‘are as far as the seeking and finding of ‘truth’ within the territory of
reason is concerned. If I create the definition of a mammal and then, having
inspected a camel, declare, ‘Behold, a mammal’, then a truth has certainly
Men brought to light, but it is of limited value, by which I mean that iUs
anthropomorphic through and through and contains not a single point which
Gould ‘be said to be ‘true in itself, really and in a generally valid sense, regard­
less of mankind. Anyone who researches for truths of that kind is basically
only seeking the metamorphosis of the world in human beings; he strives for
an understanding of the world as something which is similar in kind to
hurn’anity, and what he gains by his efforts is at best a feeling of assimilation.
~her as the astrologer studies the stars in the service of human beings and
in relation to humanity’s happiness and suffering, this type of researcher
MgardS the whole world as linked to humankind, as the infinitely refracted
echo. of an original sound, that of humanity, and as the multiple copy of a
single, original image, that of humanity. His procedure is to measure all
things against man, and in doing so he takes as his point of departure the
erroneous belief · that he has these things directly before him, as pure
objects. Thus, forgetting that the original metaphors of perception were
indeed metaphors, he takes them for the things themselves.

I. Originally a dovecote, then a catacomb with 2. literally, a space marked out; the space of the
niches at regular intervals for urns containing the heavens ; sanctuary, temple (Latin) [editor’s notel ·
……”‘ ….. _t.L… ,.1….. ..1

Only by forgetting this primitive world of metaphor, only by virtue of the
fact that a mass of images. which· originally flowed in Q. hot, liquid. stream &’80
from the primal power of the human imagination, has become hard and rigid,
only.because of the invincible faith that this sun, this window; this . table :is a
tru~h in.itself~in.shOl’tonly· because man forgets . himself as a subject, and
indeed as an artis:tically creative subject, does he live with some degree ·of
peace; security; and consistency; if he could escapeJorjust.amome.nt.from
the prison walls .of this faith; it would mean the end,of his ‘consciousness of
self’.3 He even has to make an effort to admit to ,himself that insects or birds
perceive a quite different world from.. that of human· beings, and that the
question as to which of these two perceptions of the world is the more correct
is quite meaningless; since this would require them to be measured by the
criterion of the correct perception, i;e. by a non-existent criterion. But gen.
erally it seems to me that the correct perception-which would m~an the
full and adequate expression o[a11 .objectin the subject””‘”‘”:”is something con”
tradictoryand impossible; for between two absolutely.different spheres, such
as· subject and object are, there is no causality, no correctness, no exptessiolt
but at most an aestheticway .of relating, by which I mean an allusive traris.
ference, a stammering translation into a quite different language. For:whinh
purpose a middle sphere and mediating ‘force is cei1:ainly required which,ean
freely invent and .freely .create poetry. The word appearance (Erscheinung~
contains many seductions;, -and fm this reason J avoid using it as far as pos~
sible; for it is not true ·that the essence of things appears in the empiricaJ
world. A .painterwho has no hands· and who wished to express in song the
image hovering before him will still reveal more through this substitution-of
one sphere for another than the empirical world .betrays of the essence of
things. Even the relation of a nervous stimulus to the image produced
thereby is inherently not a necessary relationship; but wherithat same image
has been produced millions of times and has been . passed down through
many generations of humanity, indeed eventually appears in the whole of
humanity as a consequence of the same occasion, it finally acquires the’same
significance foral! human beings, as if it were the .only necessary image and
as if that relation of the original nervous stimulus to theitnage .produced
were a relation of strict causality-in exactly the ·same way as a dream, if
repeated eternally, would be felt and judged entirely as reality . . But the fact
that a metaphor becomes hard and rigid is · absolutely no guarantee of the
necessity and exclusive justification of that metaphor.
. Anyone who is at home in such considerations will certainly have felt a

deep mistrust of this kind of idealism when once he has become clearly
convinced of the eternal consistency, ubiquitou-sness.·andinfal!ibility bf the
laws of nature; he will then conclude that everything, as far as we can’pen­
etrate, wheth~r to the heights of the telescopic world or the depths· of the
microscopic world, is so sure, so elaborated; so endless, so much in conform­
ity to laws, and so free of lacunae, that science will be able to mine ,t,hese
shafts successfully for ever, and that everything. found there will be in agree.
ment and without self-contradiction. How little ·all of this resembles a prod­
uct of the imagination~ for if it were such a thing, the illusion and the
unreality would be bound to be detectable somewhere. The first thing to be

g~o3. The word Nietzsche uses here-SelbstbewuJltsein-eould also mean “self-confidence.”

~ B-(
said against this view is this: if each of us still had a different kind of sensuOus
perception, if we ourselves could only perceive things as,variously, a bird, a
worm, or a plant does, or if one of us were to see a stimulus as red, a second
‘person were to see -the’same stimulus as blue, while a third were even to hear
it as a sourid; nobody would ever ‘speak of nature as something conforming
to laws; rather they wouldotake it to be nothing other than a highly subjective
formation. Consequently, what is a law of nature for us at all? It is not known
to us in itself but orily in its effects, i.e. in its relations to other laws of nature
which are in tum known to us only as relations. Thus; all these relations
rilfer only to one another. and they are utterly incomprehensible to us in
their essential nature; the only things we really know about them are things
whiCh we bring to bear on. them: time and space, in other words, relations
of succession and number. But everything which is wonderful and which
elicits our astonishment at precisely these laws of nature, everything which
demands explanation : of us and could seduce us into being suspicious of
idealism, is attributa.l>le precisely and exclusively to the rigour and universal
validity of the representations of time ‘ and space. But these we produce
Within ourselves and from ourselves with the same necessity as a spider spins;
if.we are forced, to- comprehend all things under these ·formsalone, then it
is no longer wonderful that what we comprehend i1’lall these things is actu­
ally nothing other than these very forms; for all of them must exhibit the
laws of number, and number is · precisely that which is . most astonishing
about things. All the conformity to laws which we find so imposing in the
.orbitS of the stars and chemical . processes is basically identical with those
qualities which we ourselves bring to bear on things, so that what we find
imposing is our own activity. Of course the consequence of this is that the
artistic production of metaphor, with which every sensation begins within
us, already presupposes those forms, and is thus executed in them; only from
the stability of these original forms can one explain how it is possible for an
edifice ‘of I!oncepts to be constituted in its turn from the metaphors them­
selves. For this ,coriceptual edifice is an imitation of the relations of time.
space, and nember on the foundations of metaphor.

2 ~~ l

Originally, as we have seen,it is language which works ·on building the edifice
.of concepts; later it is science. Just as the bee simultaneously builds t’he cells
of its comb’and fills them with honey, so science works unceasingly at that
great columbarium of concepts, the burial site of perceptions, · builds ever­
new,ever-higher tiers, supports; cleans,. renews the old cells, and . strives
lIbove all to fill that framework which ‘ towers up to vast heights. and. to fit
into itin an orderly way the whole empirical world, i.e. the anthropomorphic
.world. If even the man of action binds his life to reason and its concepts. so
as not to be swept away and lose himself, the researcher builds his hut close
by the tower of science so that he can lend a hand with the building and find
protection for himself beneath its already existing bulwarks. And he has need
of protection, for there exist fearful powers which constantly press in on him
and which confront scientific truth with ‘truths’ of quite another kind, on
shields emblazoned with the most multifarious emblems.

That drive to form metaphors; ‘that fundamental human drive which can­

not be left out of consideration for even a second without also leaving out
human beings themselves, is in truth not defeated, indeed hardly even tamed,
by the process whereby a regular and rigid new world is built from its own
sublimated products—-<:oncepts-in order to imprison it in a fortress. The
drive seeks out a c’hannel and a new area for its activity, and finds it in myth
and in art generally. It constantly confuses the cells and the classifications
of concepts by setting up new translations, metaphors, metonymies; it con;
stantly manifests the desire to shape the given world of the waking human
being in ways which are just as multiform, irregular; inconsequential, inco’
herent, charming and ever-new, as things are in the world of dream. Actually
the waking human being is only clear about the fact that he is awake thanks
to the rigid and regular web of concepts, and for that reasbn he sometimes
comes to believe that he is dreaming if once that web of concepts is toin
apart by ·art. ‘Pascal is right to maintain that if the same dream were to come
to us every night we would occupy ourselves with it just as much as we do
with the things we see every day: ‘If an artisan could be sure to dream each
night for a full twelve hours that he was a king,’ says Pascal, ‘I believe he
would be just as happy as a king who dreamt for twelve hours each night
that he was an artisan.’4 Thanks to the constantly effective miracle assumed
by myth, the waking day of a people ‘ who are stimulated by myth, as the
ancient Greeks were, does indeed resemble dream more than it does the day
of a thinker whose mind has been sobered by sCience. If, one day, any tree
may speak as a nymph, or if a god can carry off virgins in the guise of a bull,
if the goddess Athene herself is suddenly seen riding on a beautiful chariot
in the company of Pisistratus through the market-places of Athens5~and ‘
that was what the honest Athenian believed-then anything is possible at
any time, as it is ‘in dream, and the whole of nature cavorts around men as
if it were just a masquerade of the gods who are merely having fun by deceiv­
ing men in every shape and form .

But human beings themselves have an unconquerable urge to let them­
selves be deceived, and they are as if enchanted with happiness when the
bard recites epic fairy-tales as if they were true, or when the actor in a play
acts the king more regally than reality shows him to be. The intellect, that
master of pretence, is free and absolved of its usual slavery for as long as it
can deceive without doing harm, and it celebrates its Saturnalian festivrus6
when it does so; at no time is it richer, more luxuriant, more proud, skilful,
and bold. Full of creative contentment, it jumbles up metaphors and shifts
the boundary stones of abstraction, describing a river, for example, as a mov­
ing road that carries men to destinations to which they normally walk. The
intellect has now cast off the mark of servitude; whereas it normally labours;
with dull-spirited industry, to show to some poor individual who lusts after
life the road and the tools he needs, and rides out in search of spoils and
booty for its master, here the intellect has become the master itself and is

~. Pensks V1.386, [Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), war and wisdom and the patron ofAthens,.was he!’
French mathematician, theologian, and philoso­ self restoring him to power, ‘The guise of a bulr:
,her-edttor’s note,] Zeus, the Greek king of the gods, took the fonn of
5. Herodotus 1.60. [The Greek historian (ca, a bull when he abducted Europa, a Phoenician
~84-<a . 425 B.e.E,) describes in the passage cited princess-editor’s note.]
I ruse of the Athenian ruler Pisistratus (d. 527 6. Roman holidays at the winter solstice during
l .e,E,) after he was forced out of the city in 566: which no business was conducted, slaves were
Ie dressed a tall , handsome woman in armor and tempornrily freed , and the normal rules of propri­
ed the people to believe that Athena, goddess <>f ety were suspended [editnr’s note] , & ~ 2

permitted to wipe the expression of neediness from its face. Whatever the
intellect now does, all of it, compared with what it did before, bears the mark
ofpretence, just as what it did before bore the mark of distortion. It copies
human life, but it takes it to be something good and appears to be fairly
content with it. That vast assembly of beams and boards to which needy man
clings, thereby saving himself on his journey through life, is used by the
liberated intellect as a mere climbing frame and plaything on which to per­
form its most reckless tricks; and when it smashes this framework, jumbles
it up and ironically re-assembles it, pairing the most unlike things and divid­
ing those things which are closest to one another, it reveals the fact that it
does not require those makeshift aids of neediness, and that it is now guided,
not by concepts but by intuitions. No regular way leads from these intuitions
into the land of the ghostly schemata and abstractions; words are not made
for them; man is struck dumb when he sees them, or he will speak only in
forbidden metaphors and unheard-of combinations of concepts so that, by
at least demolishing and deriding the old conceptual barriers, he may do
creative justice to the impression made on him by the mighty, present intu­

There are epochs in which the man of reason and the man of intuition
stand side by side, the one fearful of intuition, the other filled with scorn for
abstraction, the latter as unreasonable as the former is unartistic. They both
desire to rule over life; the one by his knowledge of how to cope with the
chief calamities of life by providing for the future, by prudence and regular­
ity; the other by being an ‘exuberant hero’7 who does not see those calamities
and who only acknowledges life as real when it is disguised as beauty and
appearance. Where the man of intuition, as was once the case in ancient
Greece, wields his weapons more mightily and victoriously than his contrary,
a culture can take shape, given favourable conditions, and the rule of art
over life can become established; all the expressions of a life lived thus are
accompanied by pretence, by the denial of neediness, by the radiance of
metaphorical visions, and indeed generally by the immediacy of deception.
Neither the house, nor the gait, nor the clothing, nor the pitcher of clay gives
any hint that these things were invented by neediness; it seems as if all of
them were intended to express sublime happiness and OlympianS cloudless­
ness and, as it were, a playing with earnest things. Whereas the man who is
guided by concepts and abstractions only succeeds thereby in warding off
misfortune, is unable to compel the abstractions themselves to yield him
happiness, and strives merely to be as free as possible of pain, the man of
intuition, standing in the midst of a culture, reaps directly from his intuitions
not just protection from harm but also a constant stream of brightness, a
lightening of the spirit, redemption, and release , Of course, when he suffers,
he suffers more severely; indeed he suffers more frequently because he does
‘not know how to learn from experience and keeps on falling into the very
same trap time after time. When he is suffering he is just as unreasonable
as he is when happy, he shouts out loudly and knows no solace, How differ-

S 8’3
7. Phrase used to describe Siegfried in Wagner’s ner’s Ring cycle, was IIrst produced in 1876…..,di ·
GDttenliImmerung (Act 111) . [Richard Wagner tor’s note.]

(1813-1883), German composer who was Nietz­ 8, That is, characteristic of Mount Olympus, the

sche’s friend and mentor until their falling out in home of the Greek gods [editor’s nole] ,

1876, GlJtterdiimmenmg, the conclusion of Wag­

endy the same misfortune’ isendured ‘by the stoic wh.o -has learned ~
experience and who governs himself by means ofcconcepts! This·man),wlliJ
otherwise seeks :oniy,honesty; truth;:freedom from ‘iIIusions, and pl’oteGtiOo
from the onslaughts of ‘things which :might ‘distract him/ now perfornnsi in
the ‘midst of misfortune, a masterpiece of pretence, just as the othel”,did in
the midst of happiness: ·he does nnt- wear a twitching, mobile, human face,
but rather a mask, as it were, with its features in’ dignified equilibrium,’].
does not ·shout; nor does he even change his tone of voice. If a v6Titabl,
storm-cloud empties itselfon his head, he wraps himself in his cloak and
slowly walks away from under it.

1’873 r90~

From The ‘Birth of Tragedyl .

1 ..

We shall have gained much for the science of aesthetics when we have~~~
to realize, not just through logical insight but also with the certainty,of s~ine­
thing directly apprehepded (Ansr;/uluung), that the continuous evolu,tjoA.rP’f
art is bound up with the duality of the Apolline and the Dionysiac in rJu~a .

. . . . ). ‘ I ‘!J I’

thesame way as reproduction depends on there being two sexes whicK8Q­
exist in a state of perpetual conflict il)terrupted only occasionally by periq~~
of reconciliation. We have borrowed these names from the Greeks who reve3I
the p~ofound ~yst~ries of their view of art to those with insight, n~t’iri~~h~
cepts, admittedly, hut through the penetratingly vivid figures of th~ir g;;cls,

.Their two deities of art, Apollo and Dionysos,2 proVide the staI1ing~poi~t.M’
our recognition that there exists in the world Of the Gr~eks anenorr4<?¥’s
opposition, both in origin and goals, between the Apolline art ofth~ , ~mag.~­
maker or s<;ulptor (Bildner) and the imageless art of music, which is !i:haf)~t
Dionysos. These two very different drives (Triebe) exist side by sid~, rhos~
in open confliCt, stimulating and provoking (reizen) one another to give J>lrlh
to ever-new, more vigorous offspring in whom they perpetuate the cO!lflih
inherent in theoppositlon ‘ betWeen th~m, an opposition only appa;~~tly
bridged by the common term ‘art’-until eventually, by a metaphysic.aLmii:~
acle of the Hellenic ‘Will’, they appear paired and, in this pairing, fiijaliy
engender a work of art which is Dionysiac and Apolline in equal measl,1re:
Attic tragedy.3 . .’ ‘. …. . . .. I; ~~

In order to gain a closer understanding of these two drives, let us thin of
them in the first place as the separate art-worlds of dream and in~xic~uo”
(Rausch). Between these two physioJqgical phenomena an oppos,it’ion,clm ‘)e
observed which corresponds to that between the Apolline and the Dionysiac,
As Lucretius’ envisages it, it was in dream that the magnincent fig’:lie,~.~r

I ~.’>
I. Translated by Ronald Speirs . Except as indi­ civilization; as Phoebus Apollo, he is god of light
cated, all subsequent notes are the translator’s; in [editor’s note).

the text, he occasionally retains the original 3: Plays performed at the festival .of Plol)~II.S if’

German in parelitheses. The full title is the Birth Athens ‘during the 5th century B,C,E. : [&litot~

of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music ,
note]. .. . :_ .::. r ,. Q-.1
2. Greek god of wine, the object of frenzied cult 4, Roman. poet and philosopher’ , (ca .., 94,’.5
worship (somewhat muted in its official forms). B.C.E .); see De Rerum Natura (On the Nafure OJ
Apollo: Greek god of music, prophecy, and medi­ Things) 5. l 169-82 [editor’s note1. . .
cine, associated with the higher developments of

.the gOGkfirst appeared before the souls of men; in dream the great image­

. maker sawthe delightfully proportioned bodies’of super-human beings; and
tHe Hellenic paet, if asked about the secrets of poetic procreation, would
likewise have reminded uS0fdreamand would have given an account much
IikeJthat,gi:ven by Hans Sachsin the Meistersinger:

My friend, it is the poet’s task

To mar’khis dreams, their meaning ask.

. Trust me, the truest phantom man doth know
Hath meaningorily dreams may show:
The arts of verse and poetry .’

. Tell nought but dreaming’s prophecy.s
r l , . ‘.’ . . .

E,yery ~.uman~eing is fully an artist when creating the worlds of dream, and
the lovely semblance of dream is the .precondition of all the arts of image­, including, as we shall see,an impo-rtant half of poetry. We take
pleasure in dreaming, understanding its figu1’es without-mediation; all forms
j~ak to us; nothing is indifferent or unnecessary. Yet even while this dream­
.reality is m~st alive, we nevertheless retain a pervasive sense thaUt is sem­
bla~e; at least this is my experience, and I could adduce a good deal of
iVidenc’e and the statements ofpoets to attest to the frequency, indeed nor­
i{alW; ‘pf my experience. Philosophical natures even have a presentiment

,tlilit ‘hiaa’en .beneath the reality in which We live and have our being there
ilso1lies’ a second, quite different reality; in other words, this reality too is a

‘~b1ance. IndeedSchopenhauer actually states that the mark af a person ‘s
capacity for philosophy is the gift for feeling occasionally as if people and all
tru.niS were mere phantoms or dream”images.6A person with artistic sensi­
bi,litnelates to the reality of dream in the same way as a philosopher relates
~:thl: realitypf existel1ce: he attends to it closely and with pleasure. using
~ese images to interpret life! and practising for life with the help of these
~ts, Not that it is .only the pleasant and friendly images which give him
this feeling of complete intelligibility; he also sees passing before him things
phich,are grave,gloomy, sad, dark, sudden blocks, teasings of chanoe, anx­
~!.s expectations, in short the entire ‘Divine Comedy” of life, including the
~f~o’r qut not like som,emere shadow”play-for he, too, lives in these
~q~s ~nd shares in the suffering-and yet never without that fleeting sense
Q~ i~..~aracter as semblance. Perhaps others will recall, as I do, shouting
q&.t~! ljometimes successfully, words of encouragement in the midst of the

.pepls.and, terrors of a dream: ‘It is a dream!. I will dream on!’ I have even
~~r6 of people,who were capable of continuil1g the causality of one and the
~1Dft dr~am through three and more successive nights. All of these facts are
GtfMl eviden~e that our innermost being; the deep ground (Untergrund) com­
~9P tp all OiJr Iiyes, experiences the state of dreaming with profound plea-
J …r~ (,LwtJ and joyous necessity. , .. . .

:The ‘Greeks also expressed the joyol..s necessity of dream-experience in
rlJ /, : t . .

f r ~ •

~.;CWailnb, me Meistersinger, Act in, s~. i. [Rich; ed. J. Fr8’~~nstlidt (Leipzig 1874) ~ p , 295 , [Arthur
itt Wagner (1813.,.1883), German composer Schopenhauer 0788-1860), German philoso­
.mOle music and aesthetic theories greatly influ· pher, a major influence on Nietzsche—editor’s
‘fIPCI!CI Nietzsche’s argument in The Birth of Trag­ note.)
;.!y. Hans Sachs (149~1576) , German poet and 7. Epic poem by the ltali~n poet DAN-rEAL,’GHIERI
dremalist who has a niajorrole in Wagner’s 1868 (1265- 1321); in the Srst part of the Inferno, the
opera-editor’s note.) poet narrates a passage through hell [editor’s note ].
6. Au.! Schopenhauers handschriftlichem Nachlass,

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