Proxemics is the term coined by professor Edward T. Hall, author of such well
known works as The Silent Language (1959), The Hidden Dimension (1969), and Beyond
culture (1977), to refer to 'the study of how man uses space - the space that
he maintains between himself and his fellows and which he builds around him in
his home and office'. It is the study of the ways in which individuals use physical
space in their interactions with others and how this use of physical space influences
behaviour of all concerned. In the words of Professor Hall, proxemics studies
'how man unconsicously structures microspace - the distance between men in the
conduct of daily transactions, the organization of space in his houses and building,
and ultimately the layout of his towns'.
Proxemic research is based on the concept of territoriality. Territoriality is
a basic concept in the study of animal behaviour. It is defined as behaviour by
which an organism characteristically lays claim to an area and defends it against
members of its own and other species. Occupation, cultivation, preservation and
utilization of space in transactions between members of a species and across species,
plays a crucial role in the preservations, growth and development of the species.
Occupation, cultivation, preservation and utilization of space is an intergral
part of the culture of the species. The manner of occupation, cultivation, preservation
and utilization of space between members of a group and across groups in humans
is transmitted through culture. Culture transmission thus determines the nuances
of space through generations. Since 'most of culture lies hidden and is outside
voluntary control, making up the warp and weft of human existence', proxemics
is also hidden and is unconsciously practised. In addition, there is also the
dimension of ontogeny of proxemics in young members of a group which closely has
links with physical, cognitive and linguistic maturational milestones of development
undergone by children.
Since proxemics is part of culture and is guided and influenced by culture transmission,
anthropologists like Hall have investigated occupation, cultivation, preservation
and utilization of space by humans from the anthropological view points, and linked
the same with art, literature, architecture, etc. Within a culture,a nd as intercultural
communication, occupation, cultivation, preservation and utilization of space
is also investigated in social psychological terms. Research on personal space
deals with the meaning of space to the individual in terms of the effects of crowding
territoriality, architectural design, etc. Both the approaches, the anthropological
approach taking proxemic behaviour as embedded in and instigated and guided by
culture, and as behaviour determined by cultural factors and applicable to groups
professing the culture, and the social-psychological approach taking proxemic
behaviour essentially as an interpersonal communication, generally without reference
to cultural factors but having them as background for investigation, have contributed
a lot for an understanding and description of proxemic behaviour. Hall (1969)
recognizes that although research in proxemics has been restricted to culturally
specific behaviour and although it does not encompass other environmental or personality
variables, the latter are important for an understanding and description of nonverbal
These two approaches are reflected in the manner in which investigation of nonverbal
behaviour is carried out. The culture approach to the study of proxemic behaviour
generally adopts naturalistic observation as the major technique whereas the investigation
following the social-psychological approach to the study of proxemic behaviour
generally adopts laboratory experimentation. Harper et al (1978) classifies the
empirical research conducted on proxemics into (i) individual and group differences
in personal space where personality, demographic, and cultural variables are the
primary focus, (ii) studies focusing on interpersonal variables such as interpersonal
attraction, interpersonal distance and arousal and responses to invasions and
variations in physical setting on touch. Most of these empirical studies are made
with experimental designs, and only a few follow the course of naturalistic observation.
Hall suggests that proxemics is the hidden dimension of human culture which we
practise unconsciously all the time. He argues that it is impossible for man to
divest himself of his own culture. Culture has penetrated to the roots of man's
nervous system and it determines how he perceives the world. Hall argues that
by examining proxemic patterns we will be able to reveal hidden cultural frames
that determine the structure of a given people's perceptual world. Proxemic research
looks for patterned distinctions while studying individual differences; it aims
to identify the role of proxemic behaviour is an unconscious behaviour, it resembles
the phenomena akin to tone of voice, or even stress and pitch in a human language.
Being built into the language, these features are hard for the speakers to consciously
manipulate. Likewise proxemic behaviour, born of culture and built into social
matrix, is an unconscious behavior, and is hard to manipulate consciously.
Based on observation of human beings in social situations, Hall (1969) classifies
the distances maintained by humans into intimate, personal, social and public
distances. Each of these distances has a range from a close phase to far phase.
At intimate distance, the presence of the other person is unmistakable and my
at times be overwhelming because of the greatly stepped up sensory inputs. Sight
(often distorted), olfaction, heat from the other person's body. Personal distance
designates the distance consistently separating the members of noncontact species.
It might be thought of as a small protective sphere or bubble that an organism
maintains between itself and others. In the social distance, intimate visual details
in the face are not perceived, intimate nobody touches or expects to touch another
person unless there is some special effort. The boundary line between the far
phase of personal distance and the close phase of social diatance marks the limit
of domination. People who work together tend to use close social distance. It
is also a very common distance for people who are attending a casual social gathering.
Impersonal business occurs at this distance. Public distance is well outside the
circle of involvement. Several important sensory shifts occur in the transition
from the personal and social distances to public distance.
The hypothesis behind the proxemic classification system is this: it is in the
nature of animals, including man, to exhibit behaviour which we call territoriality.
In so doing, they use the senses to distinguish between one space or distance
and another. The specific distance chosen depends on the transaction, the relationship
of interacting individuals, how they feel and what they are doing. Proxemic patterns
simultaneously consolidate the group and isolate it from others by reinforcing
intragroup identity and making intergroup communication more difficult. Also proxemic
patterns differ indifferent cultures. Space perception is not only a matter of
what can be perceived but what can be viewed as having visual, kinesthetic, tactile,
and thermal aspects of his self which may be either inhibited or encouraged to
Hall identifies eight dimensions of proxemic behaviour. These are (i) postural-sex
identifiers (sex and postural status of the interactants), (ii) sociofugal-sociopetal
axis (face to face Vs. back to back positioning of shoulders), (iii) kinesthetic
factor (the different distances between persons that provide a capability for
touching one another), (iv) touch code, (v) voice loudness, (vii) thermal code
(the heat transmitted by a human body), (viii) olfaction code (the presence and
degree of undifferentiated breath and body odours). Many of these dimensions encompass
some aspects of the other nonverbal behaviours considered separately, namely,
the voice, kinesics, and visual behaviour. However, underlying all of these dimensions
is the factor of physical distance which, other things being held constant, will
determine how much we hear, see, feel, smell, etc. Indeed, distance, that is,
manipulation of distance, can be considered a necessary (but not a sufficient)
condition for nonverbal communication itself.
Proxemic behaviour is seen by Hall (1969) as a function of eight different dimensions
listed above. He considered this total of eight classes of events as sufficient
to describe the distances and the means determining distances employed by man.
The systems are biobasic, rooted in the physiology of the organism. Not all of
the eight factors are of equal complexity, nor do all of them function at all
times. The thermal and olfaction inputs are present only at close distances. Vision
is more complex than either of these, and it is normally screened out only at
very close distances.
The postural-sex identifiers determine the sex and basic posture of the two individuals
- whether they are standing, sitting, squatting or prone. These are the minimum
distinctions. The sociofugal-sociopetal axis describes the spatial arrangements
or orientations that push people apart and pull them in - orientations that separate
and combine people, that increase interaction or decrease it. The kinesthetic
factors revolve around the potential to strike, hold, caress or groom.
In essence, Hall's proxemics studies types of distance (intimate, personal, social
and public), features of space (fixed feature space, such as buildings, semi-fixed
feature space wherein activities are organized and objects manipulated, and informal
space, such as space maintained between interactants without being aware of it),
identifies the means (media) that are exploited for proxemic communication (postural-sex
identifiers, sociofugal-sociopetal axis, kinesthetic factors, touch code, visual
code, voice loudness, thermal code and olfaction code), discusses the relationship
between distances and media, and the biological bases of media. It studies also
the hierarchy of media and their functions in communication, based on the phylogeny
of media. How the types of distances, various types of media and the interrelationships
between the two are exploited in a culture and across cultures is also focused
upon. Other areas of investigation covered are as to whether there are universals
in patterns of proxemic communication, whether such universals are conditioned
by biological bases, the role of language in proxemic behaviour, the function
of language-like utterances vis-a-vis socialization processes. Hall's proxemics
is based on the assumption that in spite of the fact that cultural systems pattern
proxemic behaviour in radically different ways, the proxemic behaviours are deeply
rooted in biology and physiology. Secondly, proxemic behaviour is patterned and
we seek the patterns and not individual differences in the study of proxemic behaviour.
Thirdly, communication occurs simultaneously on different levels of consciousness
ranging from full awareness to out of awareness. Fourthly, by making observations
of the way animals handle space, it is possible to learn an amazing amount that
is translatable to human terms.
Empirical Research on Proxemic Behaviour
As already pointed out, empirical research on proxemic behaviour has been conducted
generally under three areas (Harper, et al 1978): individual differences in proxemic
behaviour, interpersonal relationships revealed through proxemic behaviour and
environmental factors that influence proxemic behaviour. In addition, touch as
a proxemic behaviour has also received elaborate attention in empirical researches
on proxemic behaviour. The studies on individual differences in proxemic behaviour
focus on sex differeces in proxemic behaviour age in relation to developmental
aspects of personal space as well as differences, proxemic behaviour due to age
differences, proxemic behaviour variations due to cultural and ethnic differences,
differences in proxemic behaviour due to differences in factors, and proxemic
behaviour of psychiatric population. The studies on proxemic behaviour of interpersonal
relationships focus on familiarity and liking, intimacy, arousal and interpersonal
distance, interpersonal similarity, influence of proxemic behaviour on interpersonal
perception interpersonal distance and negative social experience, interpersonal
task orientation, seating arrangements and interpersonal interaction, and territorial
invasion of personal space. The empirical studies of environmental factors impinging
on proxemic behaviour focus on distance and behaiour in shrinking/ shrunken space,
crowding, competitive and cooperative situations, large and small groups, influence
of task and sex differences in the effect of crowding, social isolation and stress,
behaviour differences among unacquainted individuals, the effect of different
architectural designs on individuals, reactions to various fixed spaces, and study
of prison setting. Empirical studies on touching behaviour have focused upon body
accessibility, the conditions under which a person will permit another to touch
him, the meanings people attach to touching and being touched, the loci of acceptable
The present trend in the study of proxemic behaviour is governed and guided by
trends of studies mainly in psychology. Experimental investigation holds the day;
naturalistic observation is kept to the level required for formulating initial
hypotheses and is reluctantly used in aid of experimental investigations. However,
this author finds that naturalistic observation in proxemic behaviour studies
has to play a greater role than in grudgingly assigned to it by psychologically
oriented studied for the following reasons. The role of experimentation in research
on proxemic behaviour is also stated below:
Naturalistic observation and experimental investigation are not contradictory
to each other.
Naturalistic observation can easily and profitably precede experimental investigation.
(3) Naturalistic observation supplies relevant and essential variable for experimentation.
(4) Naturalistic observation sets the realistic setting for experimental investigation.
(5) Naturalistic observation is adequate in many cases; cases in which the findings
could be based only on intelligent observations of patterns and their networks
(6) Naturalistic observation is most appropriate if the subjects are too individualistic.
(7) Experimentation clarifies the situation.
(8) Experimentation brings out the hierarchy.
Experimentation brings out matter not observed in naturalistic observation,
(10) Within group, comparison is facilitated by experimental findings in a more
(11) Dividing points/features between items observed other wise as continuous
is facilitated by experimentation.
(12) Most of the experimental investigations ignore culture and the biobasic rootedness
of nonverbal behaviour.
(13) Experimentations in one system of nonverbal behaviour ignores nonverbal behaviour
in other system of nonverbal behaviour.
other words, study of proxemic behaviour, in the nature of things, demands that
both naturalistic observation and experimental investigation are employed.
In addition to the above, study of proxemic behaviour would do well if a three
dimensional approach is adopted. Proxemic behaviour used for communication can
be looked at from the point of view of proxemic communication in and with of view
of proxemic communication in and with culture artifiacts, proxemic communication
in social groups or proxemic communication predominantly governed by and for social
group axioms/dicta, and proxemic communication between individuals. While the
proxemic communication between individuals is also guided by social group axioms/dicta,
individuals can and do relax the conditions imposed by the dicta, in their interpersonal
transactions. As a result the proxemic behaviour dictated by social norms get
modulated at the encounters between individuals. Proxemic communication in and
with cultural artifiacts also modulate the proxemic behaviour generally prescribed
by social dicta in the sense that the former reflects not only the social dicta
but also the ideals of the social dicta, along with varying values attached to
adherence to social dicta as well as deviation from them. It provides a window
for viewing what is hidden, what is intended, and what the aspirations are. It
provides for the imaginary. All the above three dimensions are anchored on to
the biological and environmental constraints and potentialities on the one hand
for their existence, and on the other hand these dimensions in their turn modulate
the values/interpretation and exploitation of biological and environmental constraints
Cultural Artifacts and Proxemic Behaviour
Of the artifacts societies/humans have created, we devote our attention to the
study of proxemic communication in and through the cultural artifacts of dance,
music, theatre, sculpture and temple organization in the Indian context. A chief
characteristic feature of these artifacts is one of replication of social organization
and environmental factors. The replication is necessary to bridge the gap that
is inevitable between artifacts and actual environment. The function of authenticity
is to bridge the gap between and artifacts and the actual environment, primarily.
Thus, the most important communicative processes of cultural artifacts should
be sought in the deliberate attempts to create distance where some distance is
Take, for instance, the use of curtain in a Tamil streetplay or
in kathaka½i. It creates distance between the actors and the audience,
where there is practically no distance involved. It creates distance between actors
on the 'stage' when different actors are involved in different functions within
the same scene. Its removal suddenly closes the gap between the two and serves
the function of uniting the characters to bring a unity of purpose to the scene.
Thus the device has two broad functions - one, separating the entire artifact
from the audience, creating and distance between the audience and the artifact,
and second, creating distance between characters, pursuits, etc., within the scene.
Classification of ragas based on spatio-temporal assignation for every one of
them in Carnatic music is another to bridge the distance between different media.
At the same time, the ragas are employed as symbols of the mood intended to be
conjured. Where there is distance, where there is difference between actual condition
and intended condition, the distance is eliminated and the intended condition
is brought in through playing a raga which is appropriate for what is intended
to come/occur. Temple organization is an area which fully exploits proxemic behavioural
patterns. Take, for example, the placement of an elitist Hindu temple (Thirumalai,
1983) in a small town in Tamilnadu. The elitist Hindu temple is located generally
in a place which is the middle of the original town, with Brahmin streets on the
bank of the river, close to the temple. The other Hindu castes are generally indicated
their ranking on the basis of the distance of their settlements from the temple,
proximity indicating a higher rank. This neat geographic representation of castes
is largely watered down these days and yet the original scheme of things can be
easily retrieved. Also that geographical distance plays a great role in maintaining
social distance is attested in the fact that the habitats can be divided into
three kinds and placed in geographic contiguity, with distance between the three.
The Brahmin hamlet is closest to the temple and is located on the river bank or
near the water source. The non-Brahmin caste Hindu streets have a socio-petal
distribution surrounding the temple, in an order of progressive reduction in closeness
to temple, corresponding to reduction in ranking. The lowest of the social strata
occupy the periphery or may occupy space outside the periphery. The distinction
between major and minor deities is also well attested via their placements in
the town. The non-vegetarian minor deities also find their temples placed not
in the centre of the town but in its periphery. The minor deities within an elitist
temple are also governed through geographic distance depicting their social status/proximity
to the presiding deity of the elitist temple. The mischievous ones among the minor
deities are at a distance and require special supplication.
The proximity between the central deity of the temple and others is also easily
demonstrated by their placement, at least in bronzes. The sanctity of the main
idol clubbed with social distance is maintained through an organization of chambers
leading on to sanctum sanctorum. A distance is maintained between the deity and
the devotee through various means; one such means is that admission is prohibited
to anyone, except the priest, to enter the sanctum sanctorum. And the sanctum
sanctorum is approachable only through various chambers placed before it. This
established distance is broken and closeness is created when the ustav murti is
taken on a ritual procession periodically around the temple on a fixed route.
God, thus, closes the distance between himself and the devotee. Note that distance
is created for one purpose and that the same is closed for another purpose. Both
are maintained, both coexist through the innovation of the institution of utsav
murti. The institution of archaka in elitist temples, in comparison to its nonexistence
or its existence with lesser functions in folk temples, coupled with the institution
of worship through a language (Sanskrit) not comprehended by most devotees, is
yet another device of creating distance between the deity and the devotee, which
is again closed by ascribing some function to native language in worship.
The temple sculpture is another cultural artifact in which distance is deliberately
created and closed. Concretization of gods and goddesses in the form of idols
is a process of distance between humans and the deities. The idols are given the
from of humans and this is also a major step towards bridging the distance between
the gods and humans. There is also the creation of a society of gods and goddesses
and this society is governed generally by the social norms of humans. However,
in order to maintain the distance between the gods and humans, certain special
features are also introduced in the society of gods and goddesses. For example,
the gods and goddesses can take different forms and can appear in different places
simultaneously, can fly in the air on their own, and can walk on water, and on
the land without their feet touching the land. The gods and goddesses are also
governed through human kinship. This is another device to bridge the gap between
the human and gods. Each god or goddess is also assigned his/her own vehicle,
personal transportation, and the gods and goddesses have many limbs and heads.
While the distance between the gods and goddesses on the one hand and humans on
the other is narrowed by adopting human social forms, the distance between the
two is created by the special features listed above. Here the distance is meant
for creating identities and distinctions. In addition to these physical features
of idols, there are also other devices by which distance between the devotee and
the gods is created as well as bridged. For example, the devotees themselves are
elevated, to the status of deities and given a place of worship within the temple
complex. Another feature is that some of the devotees in bronzes become a regular
feature of attachment to the major deity. For example, the idol of Patanjali always
has a place along with Nataraja. Likewise some Tamil Saivite human saints in their
bronzes are attached to the major deity. This phenomenon is a process of bridging
the distance between the humans and the gods. However none of these humans would
be depicted with divine features attached to the idols of actual gods and goddesses.
This characteristic of idols depicting humans creates and maintains the distance
between the deities. Also, there is a compresion of events portrayed in a sculpture
panel. For example, on the panel of Mamallapuram, one finds a combination of several
features, some from the animal kingdom, some from humans, some from the deities
and some from natural phenomena, in a compressed form, giving a totality of the
event taking place all at a time. Once this portrayal is attempted there is always
compression taking place and as a result the distance between the levels gets
Another cultural artifact that creates distance as well as closeness, is the naming
processes of places. For example, consider the case of Uttara Kasi and Southern
Benares. The original kasi is replicated in a town in Tamilnadu, called Tenkasi,
meaning Southern Benares. This is an attempt to being the sanctity of the original
Benares closer home. The cultural artifact is a very common feature in India.
This phenomenon acts as a unifying force. Another cultural institution relates
to construction and maintenance of latrines only outside the house. The older
houses with huge compounds even today have the latrines built away from the main
places of residence, since keeping this facility within a residential part is
considered an impure act. It is so much so that the student hostels of Annamalai
University built in early 1930's did not have latrines in their main building.
The toilets and the bath rooms were built away from the hostel.
Another cultural artifact is the use of distance for purificatory processes at
the time of menstrual period of women in some Tamil communities (applicable to
many other Indian communities as well). The women during their menstrual period
are expected to sit outside the main place of residence in traditional Brahmin
households. The compound of a Brahmin household has specific space/facilities
for such purposes. In case such facilities are lacking the women are asked to
sit inside the house in one corner and are not allowed to do household work. In
non-Brahmin Tamil homes of some communities, when the households do not have much
rooming facility the women are asked to sit in a corner of the same room with
a husking stick between her and the rest. The husking stick thus creates distance
between her and others where there is practically no distance involved. Yet another
process of creation of distance where there is no distance in reality is the institution
of wearing a veil/covering the face with the palleu of the saree. Another cultural
artifact is the distance dept between various cremation grounds of different communities
reflecting the social distances/distinctions among the communities involved.
Social Group and Proxemic Communication
Proxemic communication governed by social group identities is demonstrated in
the influences of caste in proxemic communication. Distance and touching play
a crucial role in the proxemic communication influenced by caste. While caste
can be viewed as a cultural artifact as well, there is a difference between cultural
artifacts of the class, consisting of items, such as dance, music, etc., and the
social institution of caste. Caste manifests in behaviour and permeates all behaviour.
Whereas cultural artifacts have concrete existence outside human, caste has its
existence within humans and regulates all their behaviour.
Caste regulates the proxemic patterns between members of different castes and
among members of the same caste. It also regulates proxemic patterns for various
kinds of pursuits and contexts. Caste regulates proxemic patterns of geographic
settlement as well. In a typical Tamil village, caste distribution and ranking
is reflected also in the geographical contiguity of the habitats of individual
castes. While there is a settlement called agraharam for Brahmins, generally located
closer to a water source, such as a river, away from the terukka½ 'streets'
in which the non-Brahmin, the so-called touchable Hindu castes live, and the members
of the so-called untouchable castes live further away from the 'streets' in another
direction. Thus, a geographic distance is maintained between Brahmins, non-Brahmins
touchable caste Hindus, and the so-called untouchables. As already pointed out
in an earlier section, caste ranking is closely linked with geographical distribution
of the castes within a village, or a small town. The ranking of a caste in terms
of other castes may be judged based on the geographical distance the caste occupies
form the elitist temple in the village or town. It can also be judged in terms
of its distance from the water source, in particular from the river bed. Closer
the caste settlement to the water source and elitist temple, higher is its ranking
in the caste hierarch.
Each individual carries his caste within him, although many may deny it. The socialization
processes an individual undergoes in the Tamil society are caste-based, even though
the schooling processes may regulate the exhibition of such influences. These
caste-based socialization processes also inculcate in the nonschooled certain
processes of adjustment and behavioural norms in interpersonal communication,
among members of different castes. These processes include both linguistic and
nonverbal patterns. We argue that caste is omnipresent in all social behaviour
and suggest caste memory as a factor guiding interpersonal and intrapersonal relationship.
This caste memory is acquired through interpersonal contacts and experience. Caste
memory has several consequences for the choice and partaking of food, participation
in public activities, and for interpersonal interaction both at verbal and nonverbal
Touch and distance play a crucial role in caste organization among Tamils. We
find that a three-tier caste organization is prevalent based on distance; the
habitats are organized employing distance as a deciding/manifest variable. Touch
and distance also play a crucial role in regulating the behaviour of members of
a caste among themselves as well as between members of different castes. While
untouchability is a crime as per law, it is still practised in many parts of India.
Members of the so-called touchable caste Hindu communities in many parts of India
have a great aversion towards sitting and eating together with members of the
so-called untouchable castes. That they have an aversion is revealed in the efforts
of official agencies that aim at promoting functions in which members of different
communities including the so-called untouchable communities would sit together
and eat. Touching in social level does not include only direct bodily contact
but also use of the same object, such as vessels used by members of both touchable
and untouchable castes. Direct bodily contact as well as use of the same space
and objects are prohibited. Also proximity is to be avoided; always a distance
should be maintained between members of the so-called touchable and untouchable
castes. The touchability/untouchability phenomenon has its own history in Tamil
society. Communities were divided as right-handed and left-handed and certain
proximity as right-handed and left-handed and certain proximity and touchability
codes were prescribed centuries ago. Proximity and touchability codes are also
found within the interpersonal plane. Wife is to walk behind her husband; the
spouses are not expected to be seen together, to be holding hands or have any
physical contact in public, or in the presence of others in the family. While
Brahmin castes practise untouchability towards all non-Brahmin castes, the non-Brahmin
towards all non-Brahmin castes, the non-Brahmin castes practise untouchability
as a social phenonmenon towards members of the so-called untouchable or lower
castes. Again, members of the non-Brahmin castes including the so-called untouchable
castes refrain from touching the members of Brahmin castes, even when necessity
Touchability is closely associated with the phenomenon of pollution. If the members
of untouchable castes entered temples, pollution was assumed to have been caused.
Touchability as a social institution functioned to create distance between various
social groups. While untouchability as a social act is prohibited by law, creating
distance between members of different castes through the phenomenon of untouchability
still continues in novel ways. The phenomenon of silver cups or china is an illustration
of the practice of untouchability. When guests belonging to non-Brahmin communities
visit a very or orthodox Brahmin household, an entirely different set of vessels
in silver or china may be used to serve food or drinks. While some households
may serve food or drink in the same set of vessels to both the members of their
own family and the guests, some households may retain their regular vessels for
their members and use a different set for the guests. In both cases, however,
while the distance is bridged at one level by eating/drinking together using similar
vessels on the occasion, distance is maintained at another level in the sense
that when the family members eat and drink within the family, another set of vessels
is used: touchability at one level and untouchability or retention of one's way
of life at another level. The use of dialects in Tamil is another level. The use
of dialects in Tamil is another clear case of creating and closing distances between
social groups. There is a clear distinction between social groups. There is a
clear distinction between the Brahmin dialect of Tamil and the non-Brahmin dialects
of Tamil. A Tamil Brahmin is capable, generally, of using both his own dialect
of Tamil as well as the non-Brahmin dialect of Tamil. In his use of the non-Brahmin
dialect of Tamil he closes the distance between him and the non-Brahmin, whereas
the use of his own dialect enables him to maintain the distance between him and
the non-Brahmin. Certain vocabulary items, phonological variables, and syntactic
and semantic nuances are exploited in maintaining the distance between the two.
This is almost like the silver cup phenomenon described above.
Attire, odour of perspiration and caste marks are some of the other nonverbal
communication variables exploited in the social level. Whereas caste memory regulates
the proxemic behaviour directly through conceptual processes, attire, odour and
caste marks go to the aid of caste memory in its operation. Odour of perspiration
is not a product of caste organization but is a direct consequence of incessant
labour which even the members of the upper castes would acquire if they are also
subjected to hard manual labour all through. Odour of perspiration generally ascribed
to the so-called lower castes is accentuated also by the settlements of these
lower castes being further away from the water source. Even attempts at having
regular baths by them are sneered at and discouraged. Caste marks such as the
Vaishnavite forehead marks, Brahmin's sacred thread, sacred thread worn by members
of other castes all act as communicating symbols for others to regulate their
behaviour towards those who wear and exhibit such marks. Attire is a clear, distinct
mark of identity which also regulates the behaviour of others. The manner in which
the saree is worn by a Brahmin woman in her household. and in the river while
having a bath, is different from the manner in which it is worn by non-Brahmin
women, in the same contexts. In several cases, however, attire and caste marks
have been reduced to the function only of identity, whereas odour has a consequence
directly for proxemic behaviour. Attire and caste marks when worn on certain occasions
do also become a reason for proxemic behaviour. While returning from the bath
in the river, Brahmin men and women generally adopt a course of distance from
others so that no pollution is caused. Also for religious ceremonies as well as
for morning worship inside the house, distance is maintained even between the
members of the same household. In essence, proxemic behaviour on the social plane
has the function of maintaining the caste organization and hierarchy. It helps
the maintenance of identity as well. A proxemic behaviour at the social level
of a caste is applicable not only in its transaction with member of another caste,
but it may also be applicable to members of the same caste and household on certain
occasions. Again, the mode of treatment by proxemic behaviour meted out by members
of a particular caste towards members of another caste may be applied to it by
another set of castes and/or certain classes of people, as in the case of proxemic
behaviour towards recognized Acharyas. The proxemic behaviour prescribed for interactions
between members of Brahmin and non-Brahmin castes is practised between the members
of Brahmin castes on the one hand and the Acharyas on the other. Note also that
where prescribed proxemic behaviour has come to be questioned at the secular as
well as religious levels, adherents to tradition may find an opening to retain
the proxemic behaviour at some not so manifest level while adopting methods of
closing the distance at other manifest levels.
Proxemic Communication in Interpersonal Contexts
difference between proxemic behaviour at the social level and the proxemic behaviour
at the purely interpersonal level is the potential the proxemic behaviour at the
interpersonal level has for relaxation of what is prescribed as the right proxemic
behaviour at the social level. Only to provide for this potential and need, perhaps
the Hindu ritual codes prescribe praya¿cittam. Individual compulsions in
interpersonal transactions have always been a source of modification in social
codes prescribed by caste institutions. Caste memory does regulate nonverbal behaviour,
but, as stated, compulsions of the context along with compulsions of schooling
could relax what is dictated by caste memory. At the interpersonal level, proxemic
behaviour is guided mostly by perceptual features including manner of speech.
is an important guide for the use of space between individuals. It is an important
means by which communication of the intended message is carried out. It is also
used to signal status and power. It is exploited to identify the ranking of the
individual encountered and to regulate one's own behaviour towards that individual.
Three variables seem to influence the operation of olfaction in interpersonal
communication. The quality of olfaction is decided upon by the distance between
the individuals, strength of olfaction and the medium by which olfaction is carried
out. When individuals encounter one another they are either repelled from one
another and they (or at least one of them ) try to be as far away as possible
from one another, or the maintain the distance they are in. If bad odour is smelt,
attempts to be away from one another are instantaneous. Strength of the scent
used or the strength of the scented hair oil used also indicates the finesse of
the individual using the scent. Rural (and lower class?) people prefer strong
scents, whereas the upper class and the educated prefer soft smelling scents,
hair oil and soaps.
is suppressed in the upper classes as well as among the educated, whereas olfaction
is ignored in others. Using scents in the lower classes is not for the suppression
of body odour, but is treated as yet another ornament meant for the occasion.
There are scents prescribed as part of worship. For example, an essential item
used in prayer/puja is frankincense and /or scented stick, which is invariable
used both in marriage and death ceremonies, and in worship of deities. Note also
that odour is communicative of one's own identity of professions, etc., and that
there is practically no attempt at suppressing information on this count. Farmers,
fishermen, domestic servants, scavengers, all have their own specific odour derived
from their avocation and this odour communicates their identity and regulates
the behaviour of those who encounter them, many a time creating a distance between
individuals. Many a time the same odour also acts as a unifying force among members
practising the same profession, thus closing the distance between members of the
same group. Suppression, reduction or elimination of odour is not, however, absent.
Suppression is resorted to as part of purificatory processes for an auspicious
occasion, through baths, wearing fresh washed or new clothes, etc. But using a
scent is not generally visualized as a mechanism for suppression.
investigators of olfaction as a means of nonverbal communication, we have to look
for 'boundaries and whether they have been crossed or not. Everyone is surrounded
by a small cloud or haze of smell, varying in size according to physical setting,
varying in size according to prescribed norms. The investigator must determine
at what point the smell is unmistakable and whether this fits into the total proxemic
posture. Usually there is little ambiguity. Most transactions occur either inside
or outside these boundaries' (Hall, 1969).
loudness is another interpersonal nonverbal communication variable. Voice loudness
is controlled by distance, relationship between the parties involved and the situation
or subject being discussed. With voice level we judge distance. We will whisper
in close quarters and shout when the addressee is not at a distance. The manipulation
of voice loudness is also a socially prescribed code for women, servants and inferiors.
Socialization processes control the way we view voice loudness indifferent situations
and for different purposes. Children are taught how to modulate voice loudness.
voice loudness clearly reveals the distance involved is obvious in many cultures.
That voice loudness is also perceived as a cultural trait is seen in most Indian
communities. Speakers of most Indian languages have a tendency to term speakers
of a language other than their own as noisy people, speaking in great volume which
also includes harshness. Some language communities pride themselves in being given
to the habit of speaking with voice loudness; here such loudness is related to
some virtue, such as being always happy, open and frank, etc. Within a single
language community also, members of one caste may call members of another caste
as noisy people. Within and across language groups, there are always occasions
wherein loudness is not only allowed is a sure variable to reveal distance involved
between individuals engaged in communication with one another, is also an important
nonverbal variable to communicate the mood of the speaker. While in natural contexts
voice loudness is resorted to in distance, in conditions of closeness where distance
is to be created between individuals, one of the individuals may resort to voice
loudness. Where voice loudness is demanded in natural circumstances, distance
may be closed by resorting to soft voice (or distance may be pretended to be not
in existence and soft voice may be resorted to). Slow and soft voice is always
related to dignity in behaviour. Also not that reduction in loudness of voice
coupled with a rigidly formal disposition, sometimes reduced to mumbling, can
create distance between individuals when there is no real physical distance involved.
In essence, loudness in voice creates distance and softness in voice closes distance;
the reversal of this phenomenon is resorted to, to create distance where there
is no physical distance involved. At another level, combination of softness with
other variables, such as a formal disposition does create distance where there
is in reality no distance involved.
of language style also is resorted to in creating and closing distances. This
is different from the voice loudness. Here use of language style means the use
of certain styles in which the actual content of the message may not directly
influence the creation and closing down of distances, but the manner of speaking
may reveal the distance or closeness between individuals engaged in communication.
What one talks about and the manner of talking are linked with distance and situation.
Joos (1962) lists five styles, each used for a different situation. They are:
intimate, casual, consultative, formal and frozen. Intimate style is generally
adopted when distance is closed, whereas the formal and frozen styles are resorted
to, to create distance even where there is no distance in reality involved. The
formal and frozen styles can be adopted even when there is actual distance involved
so that further distance can be created. In Tamil, there is a clear distinction
between written and colloquial Tamil. To what extent the use of one or the other
decides/influences proxemic behaviour is not clear in face to face communication.
However in written communication where the parties engaged in communication are
not physically present simultaneously in the same place, use of the colloquial
style communicates several types of information: the background of the correspondents
as regards education, status of the correspondents, and the level of intimacy
between the correspondents. In the last case, there is some consequence to proxemic
behaviour. The distance in reality is closed between the correspondents by a resort
to colloquial style in the last case. Likewise adopting a very formal and frozen
style of presenting matter in writing creates distance between the correspondents.
deal with eye and its use in nonverbal communication in a separate chapter. We
shall see briefly here only those salient features of vision that have a direct
bearing on proxemic behaviour between individuals. Vision is a primary means of
judging distance in interpersonal communication. 'How the eye is used is a function
of one's culture. The culture specifies at what, at whom and how one looks as
well as the amount of communication that takes place via the eye'. There are at
least three strategies adopted in creating and closing distance using the vision
medium. Even when a person is close and is right before one's vision, one could
pretend not to have seen the individual and carry on one's duties and/or proceed
further away from that individual. This shutting up of one's eyes, revealed in
not recognizing the individual encountered, is a deliberate act of creating distance.
Likewise even when an individual is further away and is in a crowd, one may recognize
the individual and manifestly exhibit this recognition of the individual. This
is closing the distance gap where there is in reality physical distance involved.
A politician or a swamiji or any public figure may see the people around with
a survey look keeping his palms folded to greet the people to bridge the distance
between him and the people. The distance between him and the people is due not
because of real space but because of his inability to mingle with people for various
reasons. Even when he is close to the people in physical distance, his status
creates a distance between him and the people, and this distance is sought to
be bridged by the survey look, and other accompanying devices. In the interpersonal
communication, a proper blend of looking at the individual and looking away from
the individual is demanded. Turning away for most of the time from the individual,
who is before one, in face to communication, would mean creating distance between
the individuals engaged in communication. There is yet another interesting phenomenon
which clearly reveals the dynamics of vision in seeing things for away as close
and in treating things which are close as things far away or nonexistent even.
One recognizes an individual or object at a distance and rushes to the individual
or object recognized, in the process tripping over thing or stepping on individuals
in the way. What is perceived and recognized at a distance comes closer to the
individual than what is actually close to the individual in reality - the individual
does not see the object he trips over or the individual he steps on, although
the individual or the object may be in reality very much closer to him than the
object/individual recognized further away.
(1963) has included under thermal factors mainly heat gain and loss which influence
the sensing of heat from another body can result in a movement either towards
or away from the source, the cultural factors in Indian societies do permit such
closeness only in crowded places and transport vehicles. Both males and females
always try to avoid such heat flow from one to another, if space could be created
between those who are close to one another. Where no space could be created, there
is always an attempt to adjust the position even while maintaining the same distance
in space. Perspiration is another factor that is caused quite frequently in Indian
contexts when individuals are close to one another in crowded places including
transport vehicles. The behaviour noted above, namely, changing position/shifting
position while retaining the same amount of space between the individuals is often
resorted to. Hence, the communicative potential of thermal factors is limited
in Indian contexts.
as a proxemic behaviour in social groups is already discussed. In interpersonal
communication, touching as a proxemic behaviour differs from sex to sex. Generally
speaking, heterosexual touch is prohibited among strangers. And among those related
and/or familiar with one another also, heterosexual touching behaviour is admissible
only among certain categories of kinship under certain age group and across certain
age groups. Even among members of the same sex, touching behaviour is governed
by social status, attire, age, and familiarity. Touching is generally resorted
to for calling the attention of the individual who is beckoned through touch.
It is also resorted to as a form of worship and of begging the pardon when one
steps on the other unawares. Touching is also employed for comforting, to show
the closeness of relationship between individuals. One also pushes the other forcefully
to make way for oneself. While bodily contact in the crowd is tolerated, the general
tendency is towards avoidance of touching behaviour between both members of the
same sex and across sexes. Thus touching as a nonverbal mode of communication
has certain limitations and is restricted to certain specified spheres only in
the general Indian context.
the interpersonal level, touching behaviour appears to have the following consequences:
(i) Touching, in a positive and permissible sense, appears to be restricted to
communication in family setting; (ii) Touching in the public setting among private
citizens, not familiar with one another, is generally associated with offence,
and is considered an act to be avoided; and (iii) Touching behaviour in the public
is also considered in a positive view when the touching is committed by and/or
oriented towards public figures, generally the venerable individuals of religious
and/or secular pursuits, for whom both the private and public spheres of activity
communicational contexts, in Tamil society, may be broadly classified into types,
family and extended family setting, and public places (Thirumalai, 1983). While
touching as a nonverbal behaviour in public setting, as already pointed out, is
to be generally avoided, and is tolerated because of necessities and compulsions,
touching as a nonverbal communication behaviour is regulated in certain ways within
the family and extended family setting. The regulation is generally based on the
placement of the individual on the martial line, actual and potential, or on the
non-martial line (Thirumalai, 1983). The kinship line from which the speaker (communicator),
his own brothers and sisters have or can have or could have had their spouses
is viewed as the marital line. The relatives or potential relatives with whom
and/or with whose families exchange of brides and grooms is possible are viewed
as belonging to the marital line. Note that marriage is permissible only within
the caste and that marriage takes place generally between members of families
already related to one another. Members of the same caste, but not related to
one another, are placed on the marital or non-marital line through intermediary
families. Touching as a nonverbal communicative behaviour is permissible across
sexes of members of non-marital line only. This touching behaviour is also generally
avoided among adults. Thus, touching as a communicative behaviour is allowed neither
in public places setting nor in family setting, across sexes, generally speaking.
As already referred to, normal touching by hand/finger while exchanging things,
in talking, etc., is admissible between spouses, but touching behaviour, such
as embrace, kissing, etc., are in the realm of taboo both in the family setting
and public places setting where others are present. The communicative status of
touching, thus, is to be explored in the purely intimate personal plane, both
among the members of the same sex and across sexes. Touching, rather avoidance
of it as a communicative behaviour, is to be seen at the plane of societally prescribed
behaviour, more as behaviour guided and regulated by caste institution.
clear case of touching as a communicative behaviour in its ontogenetic base is
seen in the use of the same by mothers in Tamil society. The alienation process
between mother and offspring as biological organisms commences with the progressive
lessening and loss of physical contact between the two, with emergence of language
playing a more important link in the social relationship between the two.
just born child does not respond physically to the utterances of the mother in
the initial stages. The physical contact between the two carries a greater load
of communication between them. The utterances of the mother are more or less one
way communication at least for a brief period. Soon, even at the babbling stage,
mother's utterances come to have a communicative role and content. There is syncretic
understanding of the content and paralinguistic features; verbal utterances come
to communicate with children. The functions of mother's utterances are manifold,
but in essence they appear to hve a catalytic, instigating and supporting role
for physical, mental, social and linguistic maturation. One of the important factors
that not only influence the speed and manner of language acquisition but also
the content and result of socialization processes is the linguistic and nonlinguistic
(nonverbal) behaviour of mother. The influence is better understood by a study
of mother's endearments and other utterances, not for their role in the nonlinguistic
behaviour (including nonverbal behaviour) of child in current as well as latter
endearments and related utterances have to be studied under three periods: the
first period in which the child has no or very little language; the second period
in which the child engages herself in the acquisition of language and a syncretic
understanding of both linguistic and nonlinguistic behaviour; and the third behaviour
in which the child has mastered language and has some explicit but not complete
understanding of the environment. The first period is characterized of the environment.
The first period is characterized by four elements on the part of the mother:
(i) the frequent physical contact leading to caressing and fondling, (ii) along
with caressing and fondling, utterance of single syllables and combination of
syllables with no apparent relationship to words in language, and in repetitive
succession, (iii) vocative utterances with no apparent vocative function, and
(iv) sentences indicating/identifying the objects and the events around (most
of these being hypocristics). All these utterances function as endearments and
all these generally accompany or are accompanied by physical contact between mother
and child. The second period is characterized by the processes which should be
considered an extension of the fourth characteristic of the first period. Still
vocative expressions with no apparent vocative function are employed. The third
period marks the lessor even the loss of physical content with mother and this
comes to be regarded as the proper behaviour in later life - in intense moments
of agony and suffering only, one regains this tender touch and not otherwise.
The all pervasive endearment function of physical contact in early childhood is
slowly replaced by linguistic utterances, and physical contact takes on a specialized
function in Tamil society. The alienation process between mother and offspring
as biological organisms commences with the progressive lessening and loss of physical
contact between the two with language coming to play a more important link in
the social relationship between the two.
as a deliberate medium of communication is employed in certain commercial activities
also. In these contexts, touch of fingers of individuals is used as a secret code
of communication. For example, the brokers in the cattle fairs in Tamilnadu negotiate
the prices of various heads of cattle using this secret code.
another variable is the distance normally maintained and/or appropriate, for a
transaction, between individuals. Hall (1963) identifies the following positions
in this regard: (i) within body contact distance, (ii) just outside body contact
distance, (iii) within easy touching distance with only forearm extended, (iv)
just outside forearm distance (elbow room), within touching or grasping distance
with arms fully extended, (v) just outside this distance, (vi) within reaching
distance, and (vii) just outside reaching distance. In the Indian context, the
distance maintained between two individuals in public places setting clearly reveals
the status and extent of intimacy between the individuals. There is a clearcut
difference in the use of postures and positions adopted by individuals belonging
to rural and urban settings. While the last three positions are generally found
and expected in the rural areas for public places setting in transactions between
different sexes, positions just outside body contact distance, within easy touching
distance with only forearm extended, and just outside forearm distance (elbow
room), within touching or grasping distance with arms fully extended are all allowed,
with varying communicative intent in the urban setting. Status and intimacy act
in opposite directions as regards distance, generally speaking. This is valid
both in rural and urban contexts, as regards public places setting. A position
within body contact distance certainly reveals a greater intimacy between the
individuals; the position just outside body contact distance also reveals closer
intimacy between individuals if such a position is not warranted by the task on
hand, such as looking into a document or object closely; the position within easy
touching distance with only forearm extended shows the familiarity that exists
between individuals while at the same time showing the narrowing status difference
between these individuals; the position just outside the forearm distance also
reveals familiarity and closeness in work; the positions within reaching distance
and just outside reaching distance indicate that the relationship involved is
generally of a formal nature and that there is indeed much status difference between
the individuals involved in the communicative act. Note that the distance maintained
is a consequence of underlying relationships and purpose of transactions. Also
it is influenced by seating arrangements, whether one person is sitting and another
standing, and the environment (open space, games, office, etc.). In other words,
while the distance maintained between two individuals in the communicative act
may communicate on its own, certain values held between the individuals, the distance
itself could be dictated by necessities which in their turn may obliterate the
of the other features of nonverbal communication through proxemic behaviour at
the interpersonal level are as follows:
Although the space is more sociofugal than sociopetal in Tamil and many other
Indian societies, there are restraints imposed by caste institution. These restraints
imposed by the caste institution are found, as situation and sex bound behaviour,
not only in the transactions between members of different castes but also among
the members of the same caste.
'In America, as soon as a person stops or is seated in a public place, there balloons
around him a small sphere of privacy which is considered inviolate. The size of
the sphere varies with the degree of crowding, the age, sex and the importance
of the person, as well as the general surroundings. For the Arab, there is no
such thing as an intrusion in public. Public means public', (Hall, 1969). Likewise
in India also, public means public, if this constraint is not modulated by (the
known) influence/status one bears and is able to exhibit with impunity and support.
If there is no supporting structure behind the individual, the individual will
have to put up with the "violation" of his space. In other words, public
space means really public and is to be shared by all. There is also the phenomenon
of no one taking the responsibility for the disorder (of various things) found
in public; since it is a public place, it is for the institutions of governance
to assume responsibility for removal of disorder/for the betterment of conditions.
Public means that it does not belong to any one in particular and hence one could
treat it the way one likes, so long as one is not caught red-handed.
(3) Females require less personal space than men, with members of their own sex.
They deliberately create greater distance between them and members of the opposite
sex purely as a social code of behavioural norms between sexes, in contrast to
man who create deliberate distance between them and members of their own sex on
grounds such as status and power.
(4) Personal space is expected to be increased by individuals as their age increases.
(5) There is a direct relationship between age and distance when we compare children,
adolescents, and adults conversing in natural settings.
(6) Touching while conversing is generally frowned upon among adults of both the
(7) Perception of real, physical space, its patterns of use, consequences of failures
to appreciate the dimensions of space appropriately, assessment of space in terms
of depth of distance between the physical position one occupies and the ground
below or above and perception of the real spatial distance are matters of ontogeny.
There appears to be a hierarchy in the acquisition of apperception processes of
real space. The transfer of these perceptual processes from real space experience
to its use in interpersonal, societal, and cultural artifacts levels of communication
is a slow process. It is through imitation of adult behaviour, instruction given
by adults and by personal experience that the socialization processes instill
in individuals the appropriate proxemic behaviour.
(8) Touching behaviour is found among children more commonly if the children belong
to lower economic classes.
(9) Touching behaviour is found among children more commonly if the children involved
belong to same age group and profess familiarity and/or intimacy.
(10) Females have more physical contact on different areas of the body among themselves.
Males do not touch one another as often as the females do.
(11) Touching behaviour could differ from one individual to another and thus could
be related to personality factors.
(12) Several categories of touching are
found in Tamil and several other Indian societies. (a) Use of touch on women by
males is treated as an impersonal act in certain professional contexts as during
a physician's examination. The male bangle seller, salesmen of shoes and jeweller
for certain ornaments also come under the same category. However, while the main
physician is allowed to touch of intimate parts of the female body by a male bangle
seller or salesman of shoes is considered a violation of personal space. (b) Touches,
such as handshakes, are modern social acts, (where physical contact may occur
on a very restricted socially prescribed level between members of different sexes).
Touching the feet and touching the forearms come under this category. Touching
is brief and is intended to communicate reverence, submission, humility, in essence,
the inferior status of the individual who touches the feet or forearm. Also the
elders/priests/gurus are allowed to touch the head of the worshippers to signify
their giving blessing. The touching behaviour in this category is a sure sign
of status of individuals involved. (c) Beyond these two categories is the category
of touching for calling the attention of the individual who is being addressed.
This is generally resorted to among members of the same group and if there is
wide disparity in age between members of different sexes. (d) Another category
of touching has something to do with the personality of individuals. Some are
given to touching behaviour when they engage themselves in conversation. This
is generally frowned upon. The function of this touch is to deep the addressed
attentive to what the speaker says. It also carries the value of familiarity and/or
intimacy. Note that in all the above touching behaviour, touching is carried out
by the fingers and palm, generally of the right hand. Touching by other parts
of the body is not admissible. In extreme contempt or extreme intimacy, touching
by toes is resorted to for all the above functions. (e) The touches for sexual
arousal are many, varied, intense and somewhat idiosyncratic among partners. (f)
Touch on cheek to show the affection one has for another. This is usually done
between opposite sexes; also among the members of the female sex.
relaxation denotes status or power in a relationship
(14) A person having
a more positive attitude toward another does not assume a posture of relaxation
while in conversation with another.
(15) Communication of respect and of positive
attitude exhibits some similarity in the nonverbal cues of proxemic behaviour.
(16) Communication of liking is more by variations in immediacy, whereas the communication
of respect is both by variations in immediacy and relaxation.
toward an addressee is greater when one is truthful than deceitful.
is inferred through immediacy, particularly when a communicator does not, or cannot,
express his positive-negative emotions in the more readily recognized verbalizations
or facial movements.
(19) Immediate postures and positions are associated
with greater liking.
(20) Violation of distance limits elicits negative feelings.
Violation of implicit norms regarding permissible physical closeness generally
leads to subsequent avoidance of the communicator.
(21) A forward lean conveys
greater liking whereas a backward lean or turning away shows a more negative attitude.
For women, forward leaning towards other men is generally associated with intimacy
(22) Arrogance, high status and slight dislike are associated
with postures such as extending legs and hands, yawning and unresponsiveness to
(23) The body orientation of communicators with or without the distances
between them, is an important variable for the communication of status. For example,
the inferiors are expected to assume not an erect posture gut one of bending the
body before the superiors.
(24) People of equal status sit closer to one another
than do people of unequal status.
(25) Since the Tamil culture does not have
preference for physical closeness, a greater preference for more eye contact is
not found between the superior and the inferior. However, availability of the
individual in proxemity to the communicator is always preferred - just being around
is demanded for status purposes. Only infrequent eye contact is maintained, since
infrequent eye contact reveals the higher status of the communicator (and/or his
(26) Body relaxation, such as the side ways lean or reclining
angle of a seated communicator, is a more prominent indicator of addressee status.
(27) Well defined movements (for example, the degree to which a person bows)
may be an important variable in communicating status differences. Some will not
lift their hands, fold them and greet others while others lift their hands, fold
them and greet. Some will raise their hand and keep their palms in a blessing
posture when greeted with folded hands. Some will only nod recognition when greeted
with folded hands. Some will even rush by without acknowledging the greeting -
all revealing status (and /or arrogance).
(28) Body orientation or the degree
to which a communicator's shoulders and legs are turned in the direction of, rather
away from, his addressee, can also serve as a measure of his status or of his
liking of the addressee.
(29) Distance and forward lean cues when used for
indicating status appear to be similar in significance. The furniture in a room
or hall may be fixed but a person can still decrease or increase his distance
from another by assuming either a reclining or a forward leaning position. Even
when he has a choice about where to sit, a communicator can lean forward or recline
o emphasize his desire to be closer or farther away from another. Thus, touching,
distance, and forward lean are easily related conceptual as variations in the
degree of physical proximity between communicator and addressee (Mehrabian, 1972).
(30) There are infrequent social situations involving threat or even bizarre invasions
of privacy (that is, high degrees of immediacy with unfamiliar persons) in which
the relationships are considerably more complex. Increasing immediacy in a threatening
relationship tends to reverse the significance of proxemic conditions.