Interested in NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION? This page introduces the topic, gives you a chance to try to guess the meaning of some REAL nonverbal communication, and describes a new video series on NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION available from the University of California.

NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION includes facial expressions, tones of voice, gestures, eye contact, spatial arrangements, patterns of touch, expressive movement, cultural differences, and other "nonverbal" acts. Research suggests that nonverbal communication is more important in understanding human behavior than words alone--the nonverbal "channels" seem to be more powerful than what people say.

INTERESTED? SEE IF YOU CAN "READ" NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION. This page includes sample pictures of different sorts of nonverbal communication, and you can try to guess what each picture shows.

A new University of California videotape series explores different types of NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION. There are several different videos in this series. Each video is about 30 minutes in length and comes with an Instructor's Guide. This University of California video series on NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION is produced by Dane Archer, a Professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz (E-mail: archer@cats.ucsc.edu). Information about how to obtain these videos from the University of California is at the end of this page.

One of the videos in this series is "A WORLD OF DIFFERENCES: Understanding Cross-Cultural Communication". This video is dedicated to the proposition that cross-cultural communication can be successful -- IF we strive to recognize and understand the powerful differences that separate people from two cultures. When we encounter people from other cultures, we may fail to understand them because of differences in language, values, gestures, emotional expression, norms, rituals, rules, expectations, family background, and life experiences.

The video A WORLD OF DIFFERENCES can serve as an important sentitizing device, and people who see the video will emerge with a greatly enhanced awareness of the importance, nature and power of culture. The video examines 14 different facets -- both verbal and nonverbal -- of cross-cultural misunderstanding. In each case, the power and subtlety of cultural differences is explored and illustrated. As the video demonstrates, culture can be like a veil that prevents us from understanding people from other societies, and also prevents them from understanding us.

As shown in A WORLD OF DIFFERENCES, one important cross-cultural difference involves food. Each culture has unique ideas about what's edible, what's delicious, and what's disgusting. In the video the woman on the left describes her reaction when her Vietnamese hosts served her a local delicacy; a bowl of congealed chicken's blood. In the video, we also see the Iranian-American man on the right tell about the time his father served him a dish without telling him what it was. After the meal was consumed, his father revealed that the dish was bull's testicles.


Cultures also differ in the meaning of slang, even if people think they're speaking the same language. The young man on the left is from Ireland. In A WORLD OF DIFFERENCES, he describes his confusion when American friends misunderstood him. In Ireland, when people say "I was pissed", it means "I was drunk" -- not "I was mad". In the video, he explains that Irish people say "Where's the crack in this town?" to refer to parties and fun -- not drugs. Sometimes understanding vocabulary is not enough. In A WORLD OF DIFFERENCES, we see the man on the right from Japan trying (unsuccessfully) to guess the meaning of the American idiom "I'll Eat My Hat".


In A WORLD OF DIFFERENCES, we explore subtle differences that affect our ability to understand people from different cultures. For example, the woman on the left explains that Chinese young people tend not to display male-female contact in public -- no holding hands, no kissing, etc. In the video, the woman on the right explains that Americans visiting a Japanese home should politely decline an offer of food the first two times it's offered, but then should always accept the food when it is offered a third time. These cultural etiquette rules are never taught to visitors, but visitors will be seen as very rude if they behave in culturally inappropriate ways.


Another video in this series is "THE HUMAN FACE: Emotions, Identities and Masks." This video explores the role of the human face in emotions, cultural differences, attractiveness, identity, facial mythology, cosmetic surgery, pupil size changes, aging, law enforcement, etc.

In the following picture, can you guess whether this smiling face shows genuine warmth or merely concealed irritation?

Airline Stewardess Picture


Another video, "THE HUMAN VOICE: Exploring Vocal Paralanguage, " focuses on the power of the voice (verbal + nonverbal) in interpersonal communication. The emphasis is on the way we interpret a speaker's voice in terms of accent, pronunciation, emotions, honesty, sarcasm, charisma, uniqueness, lifestyle, and geographic origin.

Can you guess where the person in the following picture was born?


This guess is extremely difficult from a picture alone. But if you heard his VOICE, you would probably be certain he was born in New York City. The video THE HUMAN VOICE shows that people get the correct answer easily when they hear his voice.

The video "A WORLD OF GESTURES: Culture and Nonverbal Communication" focuses on international differences in gestures, and cultural differences in nonverbal communication generally. As might be expected, this video is fascinating, provocative, and even outrageous. This video examines angry gestures, obscene gestures, friendly gestures, warning gestures, the development of gestures in children, gang gestures, secret gestures, and embarrassing gestures. Throughout, the emphasis is on how this powerful form of nonverbal communication varies across cultural and national boundaries.

Can you guess what the following gesture from Japan means?


Can you guess what the following gesture from France means?


Can you guess what the following gesture from Iran means?


ANSWERS: The Japanese gesture means "angry." The French gesture means "I don't believe you." The Iran gesture is extremely obscene, and means roughly "screw you." The video A WORLD OF GESTURES captures and explains a huge variety of gestures from many different cultures.

The two remaining videos in the series ("THE INTERPERSONAL PERCEPTION TASK," or IPT, and the IPT-15) are "self-tests" that give viewers a chance to interpret verbal and nonverbal behaviors. There is an objectively correct answer for each of the inferences tested, and viewers can see how accurate their own inferences are. For example, one IPT scene shows two people who have just played basketball, and viewers can try to guess who won the game. Another IPT scene shows a person talking on the phone, and viewers try to guess whether she is talking with a man or a woman.

In this photo from the IPT video, can you guess which man won the basketball game?


In this photo from the IPT video, can you guess whether the woman is talking to a female friend or a male friend?


ANSWERS: In the actual IPT video, you have available a sequence of behavior, including verbal and nonverbal clues. The winner of the basketball game is the man on the right; the woman is talking to a female friend.

If you would like to see a more detailed description (including REVIEWS) of the tapes in this series, click on one of the following video names:

bulletA WORLD OF DIFFERENCES: Understanding Cross-Cultural Communication

bulletTHE HUMAN BODY: Appearance, Shape and Self-Image

bulletTHE HUMAN FACE: Emotions, Identities and Masks

bulletTHE HUMAN VOICE: Exploring Vocal Paralanguage

bulletA WORLD OF GESTURES: Culture and Nonverbal Communication



OR: For further information on ordering any of the tapes from the entire University of California NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION video series, follow this link.

Web page designed by Zach Archer. Digitized pictures captured by Nate Archer.