The research question examined in this study poses the following question: "How does one person's behavior affect another person's behavior?" Specifically, this study is intended to assess the various mechanisms through which people communicate, both verbally and non-verbally. The study is intended to examine the different methods in which males vs. females communicate, and explore whether a difference in gender correlates with a different approach to communicate. Also examined is whether or not males or females are likely to be influenced by each others communication cues, and whether one gender is more influenced by certain settings/cues than the other.
Non-participant observation was the methodology selected for this study. Specifically, in order to best assess and observe gender relationships, our group decided to split the observations between two social settings: bars where people might "hang out" casually and the student center. Four members of our group went to Pete's Bar/Scarlet Pub in New Brunswick on Thursday, January 29, 2004 at eleven o'clock p.m., and three members of the group went to the College Avenue Student Center at one o'clock in the afternoon on Friday, January 30th. Each group member at the bar dispersed into separate sections of the bar in order to allow observation of various aspects of gender relationships. Observers either focused on specific people and relationships occurring in the bar, or the entire bar as a social setting. At the student center, three group members dispersed themselves about the food court to observe specific gender relationshiops.
The non-participant observational methodology was appropriate for use in this study for several reasons. As Herbert Spiegelberg described observations and demonstrations, reflections acquired through observation "produce reflections through which the strangeness of an obstinately familiar world can be detected" (Source 2: 38). The purpose of non-participant observation is to entitle the persons being observed the right to "conduct their common conversational affairs without interference" (Source 2: 42).
A departure from this methodology might elicit an attempt by an observer to "restore a right state of affairs" or engage observers in a manner that would disrupt the normal course of events. Participation by observers might in fact result in "skewed" results, and the participant is likely to inflict some of his or her own insights regarding the potential outcome of observations whether intentionally or unintentionally amongst group members or individuals being observed.
The two patterns that emerged from the data collected by observers are as follows:
1. Nonverbal communication such as touch and eye contact is the factor that traditionally initiates a conversation between males and females.
2. Individuals are heavily influenced by the behavior of their friends and the reactions of friends when they are in the presence of the other gender.
Several examples of communication initiation via non-verbal cues were evident throughout the observational period. This was most apparent in observations gained from strangers in a bar setting. The observations made in the bar are most appropriate to this theme, because the majority of individuals of opposite genders interacting in the bar were strangers at first. When observing males and females that were not together in the bar, including those sitting at opposite ends of the bar, it became immediately apparent that eye contact and other non-verbal cues were traditionally the first point of contact. Conversation between males and females often seemed to start with a touch, gaze or smile which was subsequently followed by verbal communication of some sort.
Perhaps the best example of this is perhaps made by observing the bartender at the bar, who required eye contact as the initiating factor before serving a customer, regardless of whether that customer was male or female.
One observation noticed that supports the premise of non-verbal cues as the initiator of conversation between the sexes is a situation where males consistently "accidentally" or "innocently" touched the bodies of females passing by in an attempt to engage them in conversation. Case in point: in one instance, a group of three males were waiting to be served some drinks at the bar. One of the men was ordering and paying for drinks, and serving them to friends who all drank simultaneously. A woman was attempting to push her way through the crowd to the bar, and had to pass by this group of men. One of the guys had mentioned to his friends that he found her attractive. This individual, when noticing that the attractive woman was trying to move past him, only moved just enough for her to squeeze by while he rubbed up against her slightly. This while initially might appear to be an accident, was staged, as the man then smiled at the woman to show his interest in her. (Victor, D.)
In this situation, the non-verbal cue of touch resulted in a favorable response, as the woman smiled back at the man and mumbled something about how crowded the bar was. Conversation had thus been initiated, strictly starting from a non-verbal cue.
There were also several examples present in the study that indicated that a group of friends were often influenced by the behaviors and attitudes of their peers. The theme that became apparent was that individuals are heavily influenced by friend's behaviors and reactions when they are in the presence of people of the opposite gender. For example, in one observation a male and female couple were having a drink together at the bar, seemingly enjoying each others company. The two were actively engaged in a conversation. At one point however, some of the male's buddies entered the bar and approached the couple. The male with the female immediately removed himself from close contact with the woman; he moved his chair away from her, and then took his arm (which was around her initially) and put it at his side. One might infer from this example that perhaps the male was attempting to be cool, single and disinterested because his friends came in the bar (Carter, K.M.).
Another interesting pattern observed was that females typically stood together in close groups of two or more whereas males typically hung around the bar or observed groups of women while holding their drinks (Carter, K.M.).
This study indicates that gendered male/female relationships are influenced to some degree by nonverbal communication including eye contact and touch. Establishing non-verbal comfort and communication is critical to the continuance of relationships between males and females. This study clearly verified that the non-verbal cues presented by males and females clearly influence the other genders behavior, whether or not the individual is in a group setting or not. Men were typically more aggressive in their efforts to attract the opposite sex via non-verbal cues. The men typically attempted to engage females by touch or eye contact. Women on the other hand, tended to use their bodies more in non-verbal ways to attract the opposite sex.
Other observations of gender collected included the following:
Females stood in close groups of two or plus Males were alone or encircled by females
Males observed the females why holding their drinks
Males hung around the bar
Females walked to the bathroom together
Males went alone to the bathroom
Males drank beer
Females had mixed drinks
Males and females walked in separately or in the same sex groups and left with the opposite sex
Males are typically overprotective of females, as evidenced by excessive touching to show possessiveness
Females threw their bodies all over their males counterparts to initiate further groping and touching
Females responded to males gestures of affection by offering kisses
These patterns are important in the context of initiating contact between males and females and subsequently forming male/female relationships. These observations help clarify the idea that behavior is affected by gender. Specifically, the study observations revealed that though men are often more individual and less likely to form animated groups and participate in activities together, they are just as likely as females to demonstrate interest and communicate using non-verbal cues. Men are perhaps even more aggressive than females in displaying their interest as evidenced by the excessive groping and touching that was initiated by men.
A expected to find that non-verbal cues were important in initiating contact, but surprised by how differently men and women acted in a group setting. Men seemed to be more influenced by the opinions and reactions of other men. They seem to be more competitive and aggressive and sensitive to appearing too committed or emotional by their peers. Women on the other hand, seem perfectly comfortable showering men with non-verbal affectionate cues. All of the women in the study initiated kisses and touches when they were interested in men.
The question: "How does one persons behavior affect another persons behavior" can be answered as follows: when an individual offers non-verbal cues that are indicative of interest and affection, the object of interest, typically someone of the opposite sex, generally responds favorably. Surprisingly the women in the study seemed more selective than the men related to non-verbal cues. For…