Gender Differences Essay, Research Paper
A study was conducted at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia, during Fall Semester, 1998, to determine students perceptions of gender differences in several areas of nonverbal communication. Specifically, the areas of eye contact, gestures, smiles, personal space, touch, and interpretation of nonverbal cues were examined.
To collect data, a survey instrument was administered to 387 undergraduate students in 18 sections of classes. In addition to demographic information, the students responded to 28 items. Data were analyzed using the SPSS statistical package.
Who established more eye contact? The females surveyed thought they do; 67.5 percent agreed that females typically establish more eye contact than men do. Burgoon, Buller, and Woodall (1996) concluded that North American women engage in more eye contact during conversations than men. Ivy and Backlund (1994) suggested that women (more often in a subordinate role) make more eye contact than a person in a dominant position. In addition, Ivy and Backlund found that women were more comfortable giving eye contact than men (1994).
Who used more gestures? The majority of the females surveyed (74.5 percent) felt that they typically use more gestures than a male. However, the opinions of experts in literature were mixed. For instance, Hanna and Wilson (1998) felt that women used fewer gestures than men. These authors also stated that women use fewer gestures when they are with other women but more gestures with men. However, Burgoon, Buller, and Woodall (1996) felt that the difference was in the types of gestures used rather than in the frequency of use.
A very large majority of the female respondents (83.7 percent) felt that they typically smile more often than a male does. However, almost everyone surveyed said they would automatically return a smile if someone smiled at them first. Our experts agreed with the survey findings. Hanna and Wilson (1998) not only said women smile more than males, but they were also more attracted to others who smiled.
Who required more personal space? Fifty-six percent of the female respondents felt they require more personal space than a male. However, all the experts in literature agreed that males used more personal space than females.
When asked who touches more, 57.8 percent of our female respondents agreed that they touch others more than a male does. However, the experts had mixed opinions on the subject. Hanna and Wilson (1998) felt that women touch others less than men do. But Burgoon, Buller, and Woodall (1996) conclude that women give and receive more touches than men (except when initiating courtship). They explain how touch is considered a feminine-appropriate behavior and a masculine-inappropriate one. Mothers touch female infants more than male infants, and female children desire and offer more nonaggressive touch than male children. Another important point made by Burgoon, Buller, and Woodall is that touch initiation may depend not on gender alone but also on the intentionality of the touch, the age and relationship of the participants, and the setting where the touch occurs. Of course, teachers must be very careful about touching students in today s school environment.
Which gender was able to interpret nonverbal cues better? Of the female respondents, 73.7 percent agreed that they can interpret another person s nonverbals better than a male. From the review of literature, all experts agreed that, in fact, females are better interpreters of nonverbals. Burgoon, Buller, and Woodall (1996) described women as being more sensitive communicators. And Ivy and Backlund (1994) conclude that women more actively communicate the importance of relationships by using a number of verbal and nonverbal channels.
Teachers should be aware of gender differences in the classroom to help students develop an awareness of nonverbal communication particularly what is appropriate nonverbal behavior in the workplace