TM: Tahmina Inoyatova
Word Count: 2459
In the primary decade of the twentieth century, a stallion named Hans attracted overall consideration in Berlin as the first and most popular “talking” and thinking creature. Hans settled estimations by tapping numbers or letters with his foot keeping in mind the end goal to answer questions. Later on, it worked out that the stallion could give the right answer by perusing the minute flags despite the scrutinizing individual. This perception brought about an upheaval and as a result, experimenters kept away from entirely any eye to eye contact to learn about intellectual capacities of creatures, a basic lesson that is as yet not connected thoroughly. The horse could count the number of persons in the audience, perform arithmetic operations, read the clock, recognize and identify playing cards, and knew the calendar of the whole year. In response to a question he would tap with his hooves either to indicate a number or the right option among many given. While exploring the story of Clever Hans, it is arguable that interpersonal communication can take place below the threshold of awareness by using all of our other senses to communicate as well.
Furthermore, The Clever Hans story shows us how telling and informative nonverbal and barely noticeable actions can be in communication. Hans noticed non-verbal cues from the people around him and it gave him the correct answer to the questions being asked of him. None of the people who addressed Hans the horse realized they were essentially giving Hans the answer, as many of us don’t realize how many non-verbal clues and signals we give out in the presence of others. Our group discussed how you can’t control the clues you give off – you might think your expression is “blank” or a “poker face” but that even says something about how you’re feeling. We can’t control very subtle twitches or expressions, especially when nervous, under stress or lying.
In connection to this people, are often unaware of the signals they are picking up from other people. Take, for example, the experiment mentioned in the reading modules about the pupil size adjustments – many men who viewed the image of the woman with the larger pupils could tell they felt different about her, but they didn’t know why. These cues are passed back and forth “below the threshold of awareness”. Our brain works like a powerful computer, picking up cues and processing them unconsciously. If we had to specifically analyze every part of a conversation, conversations would be full of awkward silences and be quite lengthy. We touched on intuition: how sometimes you have a good or bad feeling about something but you’re not sure why. We’ve all met someone before and disliked them, despite them not having done anything wrong.
Non-verbal cues are prominent in face-to-face communications. For example, if you’re speaking with someone and they keep yawning or blinking, you may realize they’re tired or bored of this conversation. Facial expression and body language are also examples of non-verbal cues. Texting and phone calls, don’t provide as many opportunities for non-verbal cues to take place, non verbal communication explores the idea of emojis and the use of grammar to give hints at how someone is feeling or the intention beyond their words. Animals and humans alike use these non-verbal cues in communication, perhaps animals more so than humans since animals lack verbal skills. Furthermore, how some animals predict and assist when there owners are about to have a stroke or heart attack – surely some non-verbal cue alerted them.
Further support of my argument concerning face-to-face interaction and communication comes from Erving Goffman’s book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Goffman argues, that people, as they interact together in social settings, are constantly engaged in the process of “impression management,” wherein each tries to present themselves and behave in a way that will prevent theembarrassment of themselves or others. This is primarily done by each person that is part of the interaction working to ensure that all parties have the same “definition of the situation,” meaning that all understand what is meant to happen in that situation, what to expect from the others involved, and thus how they themselves should behave.
Goffman organizes his claims into what he calls a Dramaturgical Framework. He begins with the idea of Performance. Goffman uses the term performance’ to refer to all the activity of an individual in front of a particular set of observers, or audience. Through this performance, the individual, or actor, gives meaning to themselves, to others, and to their situation. These performances deliver impressions to others, which communicatesinformation that confirms the identity of the actor in that situation. The actor may or may not be aware of their performance or have an objective for their performance; however, the audience is constantly attributing meaning to it and to the actor.
Next he discusses, manner which refers to how the individual plays the role and functions to warn the audience of how the performer will act or seek to act in arole (for example, dominant, aggressive, receptive, etc.) Inconsistency and contradiction between appearance and manner may occur and will confuse and upset an audience. This can happen, for example, when one does not present himself or behave in accordance with his perceived social status or position.
When discussing using different senses for these non-verbal cues, when describing the use of scent (for example, by wearing a specific perfume or cologne, you’re not only saying something about yourself non-verbally, but others might make judgments or have certain feelings about you because of the scent) and hearing (like encoding hidden messages in music, using certain tempos and frequencies to elicit a response and liking a song in a different language even if you can’t understand the words). Furthermore, there are numerous other senses that can be used during interpersonal communication.
For instance, in Diane Ackerman’s book A Natural History of the Senses, she discussesthe way humans and other animals use their senses to interact with the environment. Ackerman states, “What is most amazing is not how our senses span distance or cultures, but how they span time. Our senses connect us intimately to the past, connect us in ways that most of our cherished ideas never could.” (Ackerman, 1990) Ackerman examines both the science of how the differentsenseswork, and the varied means by which different cultures have sought to stimulate the senses.
Diane explains how our sense of smell can also effect communication she provides an example of, Alexander the Great, the lavish user of perfumes who soaked his tunics in the essence of saffron; Louis XIV, who insisted that a new perfume be invented for him every day; and Napoleon, who ordered his Empress Josephine not to bathe for two weeks so that he might return to enjoy her smell. “Smelling good”, which Ackerman explains, is a notion that varies from culture to culture. After all, Masai women use excrement as a hair dressing, and Elizabethan women kept peeled apples in their armpits for days until they were drenched with sweat, whereupon they gave them to their lovers to inhale. This example shows how smell can be used to communicate in both positive and negative ways.
In interpersonal communication, communication can also occur in conjunction with our other senses. Ackerman discusses how our sense of taste can be used to communicate emotions and feelings. For example, as mentioned in her book, in Japan Ackerman observed the deft work of a chef preparing fugu, a ferociously poisonous puffer fish containing tetrodotoxin, and commented on the diners who renew with exhilarating frequency their flirtation with mortality. She attributed the eating of fugu, and the almost systemic modern recklessness it represents, to an ancient longing for excitement. She analyzed horror films like “Cat People” and “Wolfen” stating how such films rekindle our predatory fears about lions, sharks, and snakes. Ackerman argued, that it is rather precarious to be at the top of the food chain.
Additionally, for example is Koko, a lowland gorilla who was taught a variant of American Sign Language (ASL) in a home-like environment, made use of all pragmatic functions describefor holophrastic children: labeling, practicing, repeating, requesting action, protesting, answering, requesting an answer, greeting, and calling.Koko used sign language primarily for labeling, practicing, repeating, requesting action, and answering. She used vocalizations and some signs for protesting, greeting, and calling. The development of the signoutis detailed in order to demonstrate the infant Koko’s use of a variety of different pragmatic functions for one sign.
Koko also used vocalizations observed in wild gorillas, such as the annoyance bark to signal protest and the purr or belch vocalization to express contentment or assent. She has consistently used other vocalizations, which are apparently not natural sounds in particular, situations to signify a certain function. For example, Koko used a kissing sound to obtain the attention of her caretakers.
In conjunction with the concept of vocalizations, sound can also be used as a way to communicate between both humans and animals. Physical movement creates sound, from the crunch of leaves underfoot, to the vibrations of vocal cords and violin strings. The ability to make sense of sound helps us to construct accurate representations of our world, based on what we know about how sounds are produced. Just as a movie sound engineer will use sound effects to inform us about what is happening off camera (e.g., the wail of a siren or the door-slam of a departing lover), the sounds we hear as we navigate our daily lives create a dynamic map of objects around us and how they are moving in space.Furthermore for example, leaves crunching with regularity and increasing volume may signal the approach of an animate leaf-crunching entity, such as a predator. The combination of loudness and rate of leaf crunching tells us about the size of the potential predator, how fast it is approaching, and, ultimately, which way to run.
Touch can also be used to communicate emotions both good and bad. In recent studies by Hertenstein, Keltner, App, Bulleit, and Jaskolka (2006) and Hertenstein, Holmes, McCullough, and Keltner (2009)exploring non verbal communication of emotion discovered that people could identify anger, disgust, fear, gratitude, happiness, love, sadness and sympathy from the experience of being touched on either the arm or body by a stranger without seeing the touch.
The study showed that strangers were unable to communicate the self-focused emotionsembarrassment,envyandpride, or the universal emotionsurprise. Literature relating to touch indicates that the interpretation of a tactile experience is significantly influenced by the relationship between the touchers (Coan, Schaefer, & Davidson, 2006).
When analyzing our sense of vision in terms of a communication technique, Vision, is distinctive in that signal detection relies on the relative contrast between a figure and its background, rather than the absolute brightness of the figure. Since the perception of visual signals depends on detecting background contrast, an object outside an observer’s range of spectral sensitivity will appear black, which may be highly detectable against many natural backgrounds. Increasing the apparent size of the object will result in a larger, and therefore more detectable, black object. “There are few ways in which a visual signal can, like a “private” acoustic signal, be rendered completely undetectable to potential enemies while remaining conspicuous to intended receivers. One strategy is to minimize the internal contrast of ornaments with background body colouration” (Endler 1991).
Visual systems tend to be adapted to environmental light characteristics (Lythgoe 1979), suggesting that animals in similar habitats will often share similar visual perception. “Due to the physical properties of light, moreover, visual perception is confined to a narrow range of wavelengths, between 300-700 nm.” (Lythgoe 1979) Most animals, even those adapted to low-light, restricted-bandwidth conditions are sensitive over at least half this range; “with acoustic signals, sensitivity ranges vary overwhelmingly within mammals alone: consider the “subsonic” world of elephants, the “sonic” world of humans, and the “ultrasonic” world of bats” (Heffner and Heffner 1980; Fay and Popper 1994).
The term “below the threshold of awareness” speaks to the subtle and not consciously noticeable clues that our brain picks up and digests during a conversation, very quickly. We don’t have to ask ourselves why we think the conversation is going a certain way, we just know. We aren’t aware that we’re picking up on these clues, so it’s beyond our threshold of awareness. Furthermore, “below the threshold or awareness” refers to a sub conscious level of awareness. An example of this is encoding messages in music to help persuade people. This is using our auditory senses to help us pick up information. Images can also be used as visual cues, in the sense that seeing the same image repeatedly over a period of time can affect our awareness. Causing our sub conscience to react in a positive or negative way.
Personally, most communication takes place below the threshold of awareness. As mentioned, often times we are not aware of the things we are doing and saying as a result of or subconscious being totally aware already. When discussing our senses, I think its possible even probable that we regularly use other senses such as hearing and smell unconsciously in conversations. Maybe if someone is wearing a cologne or perfume that triggers your brain to a happy memory or person you like, that might affect how you feel about that person. By wearing that perfume or cologne and you smelling it, it communicates something from them to you.
Overall, The Clever Hans story tells us, among other things, that a good deal of interpersonal communication takes place below the threshold of conscious awareness. However we learn from Diane Ackerman and Erving Goffman that we can also use many different types of senses to evoke communication between both humans and animals. We learn that our sense of smell can be as a way to communicate our emotions. As well as, how non-verbal and verbal cues can be used as a tool to communicate. Furthermore, those visual systems are based upon light and the environment. Although animals can use vision to communicate it is often difficult for them to do so because of their narrow range of sight. I also explore how sound can be used to communicate. Contemplating that the vibration of objects help us distinguish the world around us. Finally, humans and animals can use their sense of touch as a way to communicate with the world around them. Touch can be used to communicate emotions such as anger, disgust, fear, gratitude, happiness, love, sadness and sympathy. In closing I contemplate the argument that interpersonal communication can occur across all five of our senses.
1. Ackerman, Diane.A Natural History of the Senses. New York: Random House, 1990. Print.
2. Patterson Francine, Tanner Joanne, Mayer Nancy. Pragmatic analysis of gorilla utterances, Journal of Pragmatics, Volume 12, Issue 1, 1988, Pages 35-54
3. Samhita, Laasya, and Hans J Gross. “The Clever Hans Phenomenon’ Revisited.”Communicative ; Integrative Biology6.6 (2013): e27122.PMC. Web. 6 July 2017.
4. Gil G. Rosenthal,Michael J. Ryan. Visual and acoustic communication in non-human animals: a comparison 2000, Volume 25, Number 3, Page 285.
5. Thompson Erin, Hampton James. The effect of relationship status on communicating emotions through touch, Volume 25 Issue 2, 2011, Pages 295-306
6. Nina Kraus, Jessica Slater, Beyond Words: How Humans Communicate Through Sound, Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 67:83-103.
7. Goffman, Erving. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1959. Print.
8. Hertenstein,M.J.,Holmes,R.,McCullough,M.andKeltner,D.2009.The communication of emotion via touch.Emotion, 9:566-573.
9. Hertenstein,M. J.,Keltner,D.,App,B.,Bulleit,B. A.andJaskolka,A. R.2006.Touch communicates distinct emotions.Emotion, 6:528-533.
10. Lythgoe, J. N. The ecology of vision / J. N. LythgoeClarendon Press ; Oxford University Press Oxford : New York 1979.
11. Fay R.R. (1994) Comparative Auditory Research. In: Fay R.R., Popper A.N. (eds) Comparative Hearing: Mammals. Springer Handbook of Auditory Research, vol 4. Springer, New York, NY.
12. Endler J A. (1991) Variation in the appearance of guppy color patterns to guppies and their predators under different visual conditions; Vis. Res. 31 587-608