A vietnamese – american cross cultural study of touching behaviour

I. Rationale Touch, known as haptics or tactile communication, is often considered to be the most basic form of communication that each of us experiences from birth. As well, it is a fundamental aspect of nonverbal communication in general and of self-presentation in particular. To some extent, body contact is related to proximity – one can only touch if one is within close range of the other person. The closer we stand to one another, the more we increase the likelihood of our touching. Touch is also a crucial aspect of most human relationships. It plays a part in giving encouragement, expressing tenderness, showing emotional support, and many other things. Some say it reflects a yearning for human contact and a desire to restore some unfilled tactile needs. The act of touching is like any other message we communicate – it may elicit negative reactions as well as positive ones depending on the configuration of people and circumstances. In addition, how we feel about touch usually depends on the meanings of touch we perceived. For example, our meanings are affected by the part of the body that is touched, the duration of the touch, the amount of pressure that is applied, and the amount of movement after absence of another person, the importance of any other person who is present, the situation in which the touch occurs, the mood created by the situation, and the relationship between the people involved. Moreover, some research reports that boys and girls get differential early experiences with touch from parents, but most agree that early experiences with touch are crucial for later adjustment. In this thesis, we will discuss touching behaviours and its effects on human communication. Additionally, we will compare and contrast the way Vietnamese and American informants apply touching with certain subjects. Hence, we will draw out some similarities and differences with the view to suggesting solutions to cultural shock and communication breakdown. II. Aims of the study The aims of the study are:  To investigate touchable areas on human body.  To compare and contrast areas of touching on human body and the influence of the informants’ parameters on touching in the two cultures in order to clarify similarities and differences in the way the Vietnamese and the American apply touching.  To contribute to raising cross-cultural awareness of the potential culture shock in touching behaviours, thus avoiding communication breakdown. III. Scope of the study The study stresses upon the nonverbal communication. Extralinguistically, the study especially discusses the touching behaviours in the two cultures: Vietnamese and American. IV. Methods of the study In order to achieve the objectives of a cross-cultural research mentioned above, the major method to be employed is quantitative. Besides, contrastive analysis is also used. Therefore, all the considerations, comments and conclusions in this thesis are largely based on:  Reference to relevant home and foreign publication in both primary and secondary research.  Survey questionnaires.  Statistics, descriptions and analysis of the collected and selected data.  Personal observations and experience.  Consultations with supervisor.  Discussions with Vietnamese and foreign colleagues. V. Comments on the survey questionaire The survey questionaire is designed to investigate the cross-cultural simmilarities and differences in touching behaviour between the Vietnemese and American culture. In order to collect sufficient data for contrastive analysis, the author designed two types of survey questionaires: one in English and the other in Vietnamese. The survey was conducted with both Vietnamese and American informants. The author has recived answers from 60 Vietnamese and 60 American informants. They were required to tick the appropriate boxes, corresponding to where they applied touching, what types of touching behaviours they employed and they also provided some personal information to help produce a more precise result (such as age, gender, marital status, etc.) The data was then analyzed from a cross-cultural perspective, in the light of nonverbal communication. The survey questionaire contained the following situation: (1) After one week out of touch with the following people, identify who touched you where. (2) Identify how often you get touched by the following people. (3) What would be your reaction if one of the following people touch you, after one week out of touch with him/her? (4) Identify what kind of touching behaviour you apply on different body regions for the following people after one week out of touch with him/her. In these situations, informants had to choose who they would apply certain type of touching behaviour. The informants’ communicating partners were people in family, social and business relations:  Mother  Father  Brother  Sister  Close same-sex friend  Close opposite-sex friend  Same-sex acquaintance  Opposite-sex acquaintance  Same-sex colleague

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Part a: introduction Rationale Touch, known as haptics or tactile communication, is often considered to be the most basic form of communication that each of us experiences from birth. As well, it is a fundamental aspect of nonverbal communication in general and of self-presentation in particular. To some extent, body contact is related to proximity – one can only touch if one is within close range of the other person. The closer we stand to one another, the more we increase the likelihood of our touching. Touch is also a crucial aspect of most human relationships. It plays a part in giving encouragement, expressing tenderness, showing emotional support, and many other things. Some say it reflects a yearning for human contact and a desire to restore some unfilled tactile needs. The act of touching is like any other message we communicate – it may elicit negative reactions as well as positive ones depending on the configuration of people and circumstances. In addition, how we feel about touch usually depends on the meanings of touch we perceived. For example, our meanings are affected by the part of the body that is touched, the durationa crucial aspect of most human relationships. f-presentation in particular. e communication, is often considered to be the most basic form of communication that each of us experien of the touch, the amount of pressure that is applied, and the amount of movement after absence of another person, the importance of any other person who is present, the situation in which the touch occurs, the mood created by the situation, and the relationship between the people involved. Moreover, some research reports that boys and girls get differential early experiences with touch from parents, but most agree that early experiences with touch are crucial for later adjustment. In this thesis, we will discuss touching behaviours and its effects on human communication. Additionally, we will compare and contrast the way Vietnamese and American informants apply touching with certain subjects. Hence, we will draw out some similarities and differences with the view to suggesting solutions to cultural shock and communication breakdown. Aims of the study The aims of the study are: To investigate touchable areas on human body. To compare and contrast areas of touching on human body and the influence of the informants’ parameters on touching in the two cultures in order to clarify similarities and differences in the way the Vietnamese heisis article, we will discuss touching behaviour and its effects on human communication. touch from parents \, but most agreeand the American apply touching. To contribute to raising cross-cultural awareness of the potential culture shock in touching behaviours, thus avoiding communication breakdown. Scope of the study The study stresses upon the nonverbal communication. Extralinguistically, the study especially discusses the touching behaviours in the two cultures: Vietnamese and American. Methods of the study In order to achieve the objectives of a cross-cultural research mentioned above, the major method to be employed is quantitative. Besides, contrastive analysis is also used. Therefore, all the considerations, comments and conclusions in this thesis are largely based on: Reference to relevant home and foreign publication in both primary and secondary research. Survey questionnaires. Statistics, descriptions and analysis of the collected and selected data. Personal observations and experience. Consultations with supervisor. Discussions with Vietnamese and foreign colleagues. Comments on the survey questionaire The survey questionaire is designed to investigate the cross-cultural simmilarities and differences in touching behaviour between the Vietnemese and American culture. In order to collect sufficient data for contrastive analysis, the author designed two types of survey questionaires: one in English and the other in Vietnamese. The survey was conducted with both Vietnamese and American informants. The author has recived answers from 60 Vietnamese and 60 American informants. They were required to tick the appropriate boxes, corresponding to where they applied touching, what types of touching behaviours they employed and they also provided some personal information to help produce a more precise result (such as age, gender, marital status, etc.) The data was then analyzed from a cross-cultural perspective, in the light of nonverbal communication. The survey questionaire contained the following situation: After one week out of touch with the following people, identify who touched you where. Identify how often you get touched by the following people. What would be your reaction if one of the following people touch you, after one week out of touch with him/her? Identify what kind of touching behaviour you apply on different body regions for the following people after one week out of touch with him/her. In these situations, informants had to choose who they would apply certain type of touching behaviour. The informants’ communicating partners were people in family, social and business relations: Mother Father Brother Sister Close same-sex friend Close opposite-sex friend Same-sex acquaintance Opposite-sex acquaintance Same-sex colleague Opposite-sex colleague Boss Subordinate The aim of the survey questionaire as stated above is to investigate the similarities and the differences of touching between Vietnamese and American culture. However, the author is well aware that it cannot cover other verbal as well as nonverbal factors used in combination with touching or having certain effect on touching, such as: Intralanguage factors: topic of conversation, Paralanguage factors: vocal characteristics (pitch, volume, intonation,…) Nonverbal factors: eye-contact, gestures, postures… Communicative environment: place, setting, etc Mood of participants: happy, angry, confused,… With respect to these limitation, the thesis is only regarded as a preliminary study and the result is believed to be tentative and suggestive. Comments on the informants To ensure compatibility, the survey questionaires were conducted with two groups of 120 informants. The first group were Vietnamese who are all living in Northern Vietnam. 60 completed questionaires were received. The second group were American who are now living in Boston - the United States. Another 60 questionaires were received from these informants. Since the status parameters of the informants are believed to be useful when considering their role relationship, informants from both groups were requested to provide information about their: Nationality Age Gender Marital status Occupation Areas where they spend most of their time (urban or rural) Acquisition of language(s) other than their mother tongue However, the informants were assured that they would not be identified in any discussion of data. Design of the study The study falls into three main parts: PART A: INTRODUCTION: All the academic routines required for an M.A Thesis are presented PART B: DEVELOPMENT: This is the focus of the study and consisted of 3 chapters Chapter 1: Background Concepts Chapter 2: Touching behaviour as Nonverbal behaviour Chapter 3: Data analysis and discussion PART C: CONCLUSION Part B: development Chapter 1: background concepts What culture? The word 'culture' stems from the Latin "colere", translatable as to build on, to cultivate, to foster. In the early stages of the philosophical debate about what is 'culture', the term often refers to the opposite of 'nature'. 'Culture' was referring to something constructed willingly by men, while 'nature' was given in itself. No one can say for sure how many definitions of “culture” there are, but one obvious thing is that these definitions are all proposed in order to orient and set target for the researches. There are and have been many ways to approach the definitions of ‘culture’. Nguyen Quang has defined culture by contrasting culture and nature, asociating the “being” part of men with “nature”, the “human” part with “culture”. Culture is non-natural Nature is the extension of being and culture of human (Nature-Culture and Human-Being) (Nguyen Quang, 2005) culture Human Being Nature Nguyen Quang From another aspect, Levine and Adelman define culture by examining the visible and invisible nature of the constituents of culture. Culture is like an iceberg, much of the influence of culture on an individual can hardly be seen but strongly be felt. The visible part of culture does not always create cross-cultural difficulties. The hidden aspects of culture exercise a strong influence on behaviour and interactions with others. (Levine and Adelman, 1993) Food Appearance Language Values Beliefs Customs Perceptions Attitudes Communication style Traditions Taboos Levine and Adelman's iceburg of culture Examining the nature of “having, thinking and doing” of human beings, Ferrando claims that: “Culture is everything that people have, think and do as a member of a society.” (Ferrando, 1996) Ideas, values, attitudes (think) Behavior pattern (do) Material objects (Have) Ferrando. G. Culture Ferrando's diagrams of culture What communication? Definition of communication. Like culture, there have been many definitions of “communication” with various emphasis on different factors. According to Nguyen Quang (F: 27), they can be classified with: Emphasis on the hearer. Ronald. B. Alder & George Rodman (1998): Communication refers to the process of man being responding to the face-to-face symbolic behaviour of other persons Emphasis on both the speaker and the hearer. Ronald. B. Alder & George Rodman (1998): Communication refers to the process of man being responding to the face-to-face symbolic behaviour of other persons Levine and Adelman (1993) The process of sharing meaning through verbal and nonverbal behaviour. Emphasis on the meaning of the intended message. Zimmerman et al. (1991: 4): The process in which persons assign meanings to events and especially to the behaviour of other persons. Verderber (1989: 4): Communication may be defined as the transactional process of creating meaning. A transactional process is one in which those persons communicating are mutually responsible for what occurs. Emphasis on the message conveyed. Saville-Troike (1986): Communication is [...] considered the process of sharing and exchanging information between people both verbally and nonverbally. Emphasis on the information, concept, attitude and emotion of the message conveyed. Hybels, S. and Weaver, R. (1992: 5): Communication is any process in which people share information, ideas and feelings that involve not only the spoken and written words but also body language, personal mannerisms and style, the surrounding and things that add meaning to a message. Among the definitions above-mentioned, the one proposed by Hybels & Weaver (1992) is the most sufficient and convincing since they have, according to Nguyen Quang (F: 29), pointed out the action, interation and transaction nature of communication. specified the characteristics of communication. specified the means to carry out communication specified different levels of communication The elements of communication. Communication is made up of various elements. According to Hybels and Weaver (1992: 6) they are: senders and receivers, messages, channels, noise, feedback, and setting. Senders and Receivers People get involved in communication because they have information, ideas and feelings they want to share. This sharing, however, is not a one-way process, where one person sends ideas and the other receives them, and then the process is reversed. In most communicative situations, people are sender-receivers – both sending and receiving at the same time. Messages The message is made up of the ideas and feelings that a sender-receiver wants to share. Ideas and feelings can be communicated only if they are represented by symbols. All our communication messages are made up of two kinds of symbols: verbal and nonverbal. Channels The channel is the route travelled by a message; the means it uses to reach the sender-receivers. In face-to-face communication, the primary channels are sound and sight. Other channels communicate nonverbal message. Feedback Feedback is the response of the receiver-senders to each other. Feedback is vital to communication because it lets the participants in the communication see whether ideas and feelings have been shared in the way they were intended. Noise Noise is inteference that keeps a message from being understood or accurately interpreted. Noise occurs betwwen the sender-receivers, and it comes in three forms: external, internal, and semantic. External noise comes from the environment and keeps the message from being heard or understood. Internal noise occurs in the minds of the sender-receivers when their thoughts or feelings are focused on something other than the communication at hand. Semantic noise is caused by people’s emotional reactions to words. Setting Setting is where the communication occurs. Settings can be a significant influence on communication. Setting is made up of several components, which can range from the way a place is lighted to the colours used for decoration. Types of communication Hybels, S. and Weaver, R II (1992: 14) explain that there are different kinds of communication, among which most often used kinds are: intrapersonal, interpersonal, interviews, small group, and public. Intrapersonal communication Intrapersonal communication is communication that occurs within us. It involves thoughts, feelings, and the way we look at ourselves. Because intrapersonal communication is centered in the self, you are the only sender-receiver. The message is made up of your thoughts and feelings. The channel is your brain, which processes what you are thinking and feeling. There is feedback in the sense that as you talk to yourself, you discard certain ideas and replace them with others. Interpersonal communication Interpersonal communication occurs when we communicate on a one-to-one basis – usually in an informal, unstructured setting. This kind of communication occurs mostly between two people, though it may include more than two. Interpersonal communication uses all the elements of the communication process. In a conversation between friends, for example, each brings his or her background and experience to the conversation. During the conversation each functions as sender-receiver. Their messages consist of both verbal and nonverbal symbols. The channels they use the most are sight and sound. Because interpersonal communication is between two (or a few) people, it offers the greatest opportunities for feedback. The persons involved in the conversation have many chances to check that the message is being perceived correctly. Interpersonal communication usually takes place in informal and comfortable settings. Interview An interview is a series of questions and answers, usually involving two people whose primary purpose is to obtain information on particular subject. One common type is the job interview, in which the employer asks the job candidate questions to determine whether he or she is suitable for the job. Another type is an information interview where the interviewer tries to get information about a particular subject. In interviewing, the sender-receivers take turns talking – one person asks a question and the other responds. Both persons, however, are continously and simultaneously sending nonverbal messages. Because interviews usually take place face to face, a lot of nonverbal information is exchanged. Feedback is very high in an interview. Since the interview has a specific purpose, the communication setting is usually quite formal. Small group communication Small group communication occurs when a small number of people meet to solve a problem. The group must be small enough so that each member in the group has a chance to interact with all other members. Because small groups are made up of several sender-receivers, the communication process is more complicated than in interpersonal communication. With so many more people sending messages, there are more chances for confusion. Messages are also more structured in small group because the group is meeting together for a specific purpose. Small groups use the same channels as interpersonal communication, however, and there is also a good deal of opportunity for feedback, and the settings are also more formal. Public communication In public communication the sender-receiver (the speaker) sends a message (the speech) to an audience. The speaker usually delivers a highly-structured message, using the same channels as interpersonal communication and small-group communication. In public communication, however, the channels are more exaggerated than in interpersonal communication. The voice is louder and the gestures are more expansive because the audience is bigger. Generally, the opportunity for verbal feedback in public communication is limited. In most public communication the setting is formal. What nonverbal communication? Definition of nonverbal communication. Language studies traditionally have emphasized verbal and written language, but recently have begun to consider communication that takes place without words. In some types of communication people express more nonverbally than verbally. Today, many researchers are concerned with the information sent by communication that is independent of and different from verbal information; namely, the non-verbal communication. Verbal communication is organized by language; non-verbal communication is not. Communication is the transfer of information from one person to another. Most of us spend about 75 percent of our waking hours communicating our knowledge, thoughts, and ideas to others. However, most of us fail to realize that a great deal of our communication is of a non-verbal form as opposed to the oral and written forms. Non-verbal communication includes facial expressions, eye contact, tone of voice, body posture and motions, and positioning within groups. It may also include the way we wear our clothes or the silence we keep. One study done by Albert Mehrabian (1972) in the United States showed that in the communication of attitude, 93 percent of the message was transmitted by the tone of the voice and by facial expressions, whereas only 7 percent of the speaker's attitude was transmitted by words. Apparently, we express our emotions and attitudes more nonverbally than verbally. Thus the way a person uses voice, body movement (for example eye contact, facial expression, gesture, and posture), clothing and body appearance, space, touch and time is an essential part of every message that he or she sends. Nonverbal communication expresses meaning or feeling without words. Universal emotions, such as happiness, fear, and sadness are expressed in a similar nonverbal way throughout the world. There are, however, nonverbal differences across cultures that may be a source of confusion for foreigners. For example, feelings of friendship exist everywhere but their expression varies. It may be acceptable in some countries for men to embrace each other and for women to hold hands; in other countries these displays of affection may be shocking. What is acceptable in one culture may be completely unacceptable in another. One culture may determine that snapping fingers to call a waiter is appropriate; another may consider this gesture rude. We are often not aware of how gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, and the use of space affect communication. In order to correctly interpret another culture's style of communication, it

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