Ray birdwhistell kinesics and context essays on body motion communication

In the late Sixties, psychologist Paul Ekman, who like Birdwhistell had a Ph. D. from the University of Chicago, but who had a behaviorist background and had worked as a psychologist for the military, challenged Birdwhistell’s work. Ekman objected that humanistic sciences such as anthropology did not use scientific controls, and he had a particular animus toward Margaret Mead, whom he attacked in print. Ekman’s own experimental research, conducted world wide, showed the existence of inborn and cross-culturally universal facial micro-expressions of emotion, as had been suggested by Darwin. Ekman did not deny that bodily communication was culturally learned, nevertheless he believed his results definitively refuted Birdwhistell, who according to him, “cannot admit the possibility of universals and maintains his major central claim that facial and body behavior is a language.” For his part, Birdwhistell continued to insist that meanings in kinetic communication could only be explained in the context of communication between two or more people, not as absolutes. Looking back, the intensity of the debate is puzzling: the two researchers were focused on different, arguably complementary, rather than contradictory aspects of human behavior, which could both have been integrated into a larger system. (Starting in the early sixties the topic of universals also began to be studied extensively by linguists). The real issue was that Ekman’s research had obvious practical implications in police and defense work and Birdwhistell’s did not. Moreover, the direction of linguistics was temporarily shifting, under the influence of Noam Chomsky, away from structuralism to the study of language acquisition in children and the interior workings of the brain. Martha Davis sees the controversy as part of a much larger debate. “Ekman replaced Birdwhistell in the important role of arbiter of NIMH grants for non-verbal communication research, and by the 1980s the golden era of ‘naturalistic observation’ of films and tapes ended” (Davis p. 46). Thus, at the end of his career, Birdwhistell found himself and his field marginalized and under attack.

Ray birdwhistell kinesics and context essays on body motion communication

ray birdwhistell kinesics and context essays on body motion communication

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ray birdwhistell kinesics and context essays on body motion communicationray birdwhistell kinesics and context essays on body motion communicationray birdwhistell kinesics and context essays on body motion communicationray birdwhistell kinesics and context essays on body motion communication