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Haptics and Gender Differences
Welcome dear participants to the 2nd module of the 2nd week.In the previous module we had looked at haptics and it is role in the workplace, we had lookedat different types of handshakes, different types of greetings as well as cultural variations.In today’s module we would discuss the role of Haptics particularly at the workplace.We would also analyze what is the significance of haptics in establishing appropriate andacceptable gender relationship in a multicultural setting.When we touch other persons, we find that the technological barriers are absolutelyabsent, we have to move close to a person and establish a touch.Therefore, this proximity sometimes may be questioned in the workplace.However, we find that in the workplace touch is always related to a goal or it is a partof a routine professional interaction.And this context makes this touch less threatening and sometimes an enabling aspect of interpersonalrelationships also.Socially sanctioned polite touch behaviors help us to initiate interaction with others,help us to overcome our hesitations and at the same time it shows us that we are includedin our team and that we are respected by others.Sometimes we find that a single touch on the forearm tells us that our efforts are movingin the correct direction.However, particularly when we look at the role of touch in interpersonal skills, particularlywithin intercultural situations and in across gender situations we have to understand thatthe set and unset boundaries are important and they have to be kept intact.In any type of friendship or in any type of office environment, too much touch can alsocreate certain doubts in the minds of the people and at the same time an absence oftouch can also signal in aloofness which is not conducive to a work atmosphere.Human touch always intensifies experiences.When another person touches us in a professional setting, it validates a positive feeling inmost of the situations.However, as we have commented in our previous module also, the cultural as well as institutionalpractices are significant and these differences should be understood by the interactants.We have discussed two different types of cultures which are the contact culture as well as thenon contact culture.A contact culture is one where as it is considered to be normal to touch other people; it isconsidered to be normal to move closer to other people while communicating and at thesame time to have a more direct eye contact while touching other people.People in such cultures for example, people in the Middle East or in the Mediterraneanregion of Europe are comfortable with high levels of sensory inputs from touch or alsofrom a smell.In comparison to that in the non-contact culture for example, people in the Northern Europeas well as in many Asian countries there is a tendency to touch less often, there is atendency to stand further apart and in most of our communication we try to rely on visualcommunication.There are several societal practices in non contact cultures which allow us to greet otherpeople without having a physical contact with others.These differences alert us to this idea that touching other human beings in a workplaceis a fuzzy as well as a complex area.And in this area interpretation has to be contextualized, these context maybe individualthey may be cultural as well as they may be institutional.For example, many institutions prefer a ‘no touch norm’ where employees are alertedto this idea that they should not normally touch another human being and even a politehandshake is considered to be enough.When used properly human touch can corroborate a positive feeling an assertive associationamongst the colleagues, on the other hand when it is used in a negative sense it canbreak the trust and cause difficulties.These cultural differences of contact and non-contact cultures and environments conditionour responses when other people touch us, whether or not somebody would be offendedby our touch depends on so many factors simultaneously.It depends on individual psyche it depends on the immediate context within which thetouch is being offered and at the same time it also depends on the cultural conditioningof an employee.For example, the French and the Italian people are comfortable if somebody else touches themduring the dialogue, they feel comfortable about this idea.Whereas people in the Britain feel very uncomfortable if somebody touches them in public and thistouch is absolutely avoided except perhaps on the sports field and that too in frontof a large audience.Cultures in which a touch is easily more accepted are considered to be the Indian society, thesocieties in turkey France Italy Greece Spain the Middle East parts of Asia as well as Russia.However, where is in Russia people are comfortable as far as physical touch is concerned peopleof other far Eastern countries have a different cultural mindset.Cultures where touch is not encouraged include several Asian and European countries includingGermany, Japan, England, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Estonia, Portugal, Northern Europeand Scandinavia.There are certain other cultures in which because of the gradual social changes towardsa westernized education pattern norms about touching others are also changing gradually.Our understanding of contact and non-contact cultures tells us that in comparison to Easterncountries and Eastern cultures touching is relatively scarce in the Western cultures.And the scarcity of public touch makes this touch much more significant whenever it occurs.In a non-contact culture if a manager gives a pat on the shoulder of a subordinate employee,for the employee it is an encouragement which would always be remembered.However, within the same broad cultural umbrella we find that variations may exist, we cantake the example of Europe and we find that even within European culture these culturalvariations do exist.We have already looked at the situation of the British people who do not prefer touchand we find that in the British corporate setting very small amount of touch is permissible.In the British society touch is permissible only at the sporting events and in celebrationof victory or success, such as a scoring a goal or a point and in these situations stretchingamong athletes is permitted.However, in the dressing room it is still normally a hands off policy.Allen Pease has commented that intimate embracing by British Australian and New Zealand sportsperson has been copied from the sports persons of South American and continental countries.In these countries sportsmen of an embrace and kiss each other after a goal has beenscored and they continue this intimate behavior even in the dressing room.We have commented on the behavior which is normally acceptable in France as well as inItaly.Similarly, we find that in Latin American countries it is common for men to hug eachother or grab the arm of a friend or place their hand on the shoulder of a friend duringtheir communication.Similarly we find that in Spain we may notice men clasping each other’s arm or placinga hand on another person’s shoulder during conversations and during semiofficial dialogues.In the same way we find that in Middle East in Latin American countries and in SouthernEuropean countries also a lot more physical contact during normal conversations is perfectlypermissible.Sometimes it may generate confusions among people in cross cultural situations.For example if an Englishman who is not aware of these cultural differences has to interactwith a Latin American colleague or a team-mate then the Englishman may feel very uncomfortableby the level of touch the Latin American friend can initiate at his end.He may find it crowd or disturbing or even threatening at moments.Similarly the Latin American friend may feel the absence of touch by the British as somewhatcold or unfriendly or unconcerned or an example of a smug attitude.The presence or absence of touch the extent to which it is acceptable in a society dependson various sociological and cultural developments.We find that in Northern Europe and Far East cultures are relatively non-contact to theextent that one may have to apologize even if we accidentally brush against somebodyin these societies.How human touch can initiate international confusions can be understood by this interestingevent which made a headline in 2009, when Americas first lady Michelle Obama broke royalprotocol on a visit to Britain and hug the Queen.This hug which was so much against the British norm of behavior, so much against the royalprotocol made the global headlines.So, we find that in various countries it is not only the frequency of touch, but alsothe position of touch, the point of the body where a human touch has been exercised alsomatters a lot.For example, in the Arab world it is comfortable for men to hold the hands of each other orto kiss them in public a cross gender touch is absolutely prohibited.In Thailand and Laos it is a taboo to touch somebody on head particularly the young childrenbecause it is considered to be inauspicious.In South Korea, elders can touch younger people particularly when they are trying to get througha crowd etcetera, however it is considered to be very crowd if a younger person touchesan elderly person in the same manner.These cultural differences are also exhibited in international situations.We have referred to the global headline when the USA first lady Michelle Obama hug theQueen, the similar situation is exhibited in this photograph where the Pakistani presidentmister Asif Ali Zardari is holding hands with the Iranian president mister Mahmoud madinejad.It is understood as a sign of mutual respect because this is a commonly shared culturalbelief; however, one cannot expect the same reaction in an American or a British society.So, these cultural differences do exist and they mainly exist in relation to territorialspace, eye contact the frequency of touch as well as the insulting gestures which aredifferent in different societies.In most of the western world we find that some type of a touch has become permissiblenow particularly the handshake.However, we find that there are still certain traditional pockets in certain societies andcultures where this is a still avoided.It is interesting to refer to the Japanese and the Chinese societies, various authorswho have worked in the area of nonverbal aspects of communication have referred to these societalnorms.The Japanese in general are considered to be opposed to the touch of a stranger andbodily contact with a stranger is considered to be impolite in the Japanese culture andtherefore they avoid kisses, the beer hugs as well as even intimate handshakes with others.Their culture allows them to bow to each other, and the person with the higher status bowsthe least and the one with the least status bows the most.The same cultural norms are witnessed in the Chinese societies also.Chinese also do not like to be touched by the strangers at least in the conventionalChinese social pockets.And introductions in the Chinese convention involved a nod or a slight power.Touch is not welcome in the Chinese society.Though we find that those business houses and those work areas where the Chinese andJapanese people have to interact with the western culture, there is a closeness andproximity as far as the display of body linguistic norms are concerned.So, these rules basically reflect the conventional makeup of Chinese and Japanese societies.This video interestingly reflects the use of touch in the offices space.In business touch is the quickest way to establish personal approval, a study on handshakes foundthat people are twice as likely to remember you if you shake hands.At this point I would like to refer to a very interesting article by Simon J. Bronner, SimonBronner has written her article with the title of The Haptic Experience of Culture and Iquote from this article “The essential haptic experience in our daily encounters constitutesa cultural principle a basic quality or element influencing the customary processes of cognitionand behavior”.In the course of her argument she has quoted from a particularly sports event, when Indianauniversity had won the 1981 Middle East regional championship and it was shown on the TV toa live audience.The audience witnessed that each player had ritualistically cut a piece of the basketballnet and proudly clutched this symbol of victory.In her idea the haptic experience is not only related with the way we touch each other.But by extension it is also associated with the objects whom we touch and the sense oftouch which is communicated in our association with inanimate objects.And she is commented that “the significance of this traditional right is based on thesubjective power of the haptic experience and the symbolic potency of the visible tactualartifact in behavior”.She has summed up the significance of the tactual artifacts in our day to day behaviors.She has also commented on the reliance on haptic reality which has seeped into our vocabularyand in different aspects of our linguistic usages.It is interesting to note how so many idioms are based on the wider area of haptics.For example we hold on to an idea, we handle a problem, we put a finger on something, wetend to touch all bases, we try our hand maybe at new recipes.In the opinion of Simon Bronner, these tactual metaphors suggest is certain level of truthand a clarity of perception.We may not believe everything we may hear but we realize that hand and use is fatherof learning.If we have actually touched something or we have experienced something with our hands,then this becomes a significant interpretation of the scenario in comparison to various versionswhich we might have heard from others.In almost every language of the world we find that the idioms are based on our haptic associationwith the day to day life and a very interesting example can be found in the way we react todifferent stressful situations.When faced with stressful situations, we wring our hands we nervously ply objects.When we will look at the language of the fingertips then these aspects of our haptic behaviorwould be discussed once again.So, haptic symbols have significant meanings in the world of experience.Human touch is important in every circumstances.It is equally important in our professional settings but it should come with certain moderatorsand we should be aware of certain filters before either extending our touch to otherhuman beings or before looking at a particular interpretation of the touch of another humanbeing.We have referred to the position of touch and how it can have different cultural variations.In the USA and in Northern Europe touch also has a lot to do with his status and this statusrelated hierarchies, people who are older or of higher status can comfortably toucha person who is younger or lower in status, but a younger person or a person who is lowerin status would never initiate this touch.So, the president of the company may touch the office employees, but the employees wouldnever touch the president.Equals may touch each other within the justifiable socially acceptable touch behavior.We have also looked at the cultural differences the differences which exist in different organizations.A particular area which I want to touch upon is related with gender differences as faras our understanding of haptics is concerned.I refer to an interesting article by Brenda Major.this article was published in 2012 and the title is Gender Patterns in Touching Behavior.However, the findings of Brenda Major are valid even in today’s situation.She has suggested that several consistent patterns of gender differences emerged fromresearch on tactile communication.She has also suggested that since their early childhood it is the young female child whois touched more in comparison to a male child, and at the same time because of the socialnorms men normally initiate touch more frequently than women.Gender differences in touching behavior are also closely linked to the socialist stereotypeswhich exist in most of the societies about prefix gender roles.These gender roles and these stereotypes expect that women should be passive they should bedependent emotional, whereas men are expected to be active and independent unemotional andeven aggressive in their day to day behavior.These stereotypes are widely held not only by men, but also interestingly by women andboth react towards others on the basis of these stereotypes.If our behavior is governed by these stereotypes then it not only inhibits our performance,but it also makes us less receptive as far as the other peoples positive intentions areconcerned.So, it constricts not only my performance, but it also puts certain under constraintson the performance of other team members also who may belong to different genders.As far as social stereotypes are concerned, male-roles are associated with proactive behavior,whereas women are normally associated with reactive behaviors.This dichotomy is similar to other distinctions which have been made between the behaviorpatterns of men and women.For example, agency versus communion, instrumental versus explicit, status asserting versus astatus neutralizing, where is in all these dyads we find that men have been given therole of being an active agency whereas, women are supposed to be associated with passivityand less agency.So, gender is stereotypes about touch leave women of higher status in a dilemma.It is only recent that women have started to wield positions of authority at a muchhigher level; they do not have any role models from whom they can learn skills in body language.So, they are often unsure whether they are touch to their junior male employees may beinterpreted as an indication of power and support or it may be misconstrued as an indicationof either weakness or even of flirtatious attitudes.The idea whether it touches appropriate or not is very interestingly displayed in thisvideo.Try increasing your communication impact by adding a touch now and again.If I remember to use your common sense about proper behavior in a professional setting,here are a few things to keep in mind.Make the touch light and short only long enough to establish a positive nonverbal signal,limit contact to the hands, arms, shoulder and back.And be aware that touching bear shoulders are back switch female summer attire may exposecan be perceived as a personal rather than a business gesture.Try touching someone when requesting assistance.Can you get me that report; research shows that touch as short as 140 of a second willincrease that other person’s willingness to help it is called the compliance effect.Lastly use touching as a communication technique, for example touch the listener on the forearmto add emphasis to key parts of what you are saying.Because touch is used most often when we believe strongly in what we are saying touching cansubconsciously enhance your credibility.Start paying attention to the amount of touching that is acceptable in your organizations culture,notice who the touches are and the positive or negative responses they.On the basis of this discussion we can easily make out the haptics is pretty significantin the workplace.Examining touch in a workplace is challenging as touch is a complex as well as fuzzy aspectrelated with our communication.In any interpretation of touch context is critically important and the workplace isa somewhat unique setting for tactile interaction, because of harassment concerns which havecaused many managers to fear any type of touch with their subordinates.This climate of fear has forced many organizations to prohibit the use of touch in the workplace.We know that there are certain types of touches which can be used appropriately in the workplace,for example, an encouraging pat on the back a handshake but at the same time there maybe an unwanted touch or a touch which is deliberately intimidating which is not only unprofessional,but can also be criminal.At the same time researchers in this area tell us that both these interpretations areequally applicable and available.Researchers suggest that touch may be used to positive outcomes in the workplace, thisis particularly supported by a very interesting study which was done by Fuller and othersand this study had supported the notion that managers may use touch to influence the perceptionsof employees.In the findings they had suggested that managers who used touch is a strategy, more frequentlywere more socially effective.In terms of subordinate’s perceptions of their likeability apparent sincerity, interpersonalinfluence and perceptions of supervisor support.At the same time there have been many other instances supported by research and documentedby various agencies in which touch has led to a negative impact on the employees.Nowadays we find that touch is not only related to human beings only, it has got a technologicalextension also.And utility of the term haptics now lies more in scientific psychological and engineeringconcerns about embodied tactile or somatic perceptions.A very interesting article by Mandayam A. Srinivasan has referred to white varietiesof applications which have emerged to spend many areas of human needs which include productdesign medical trainers and rehabilitation.He has also referred to three different types of haptics.The term haptics is deployed in various contexts for example in art history in aesthetics andarchitecture, and more frequently in the psychology of perception and engineering in man managementin human resources.But now we find that the increasingly multidisciplinary research has made it possible to look at thisparticular art of touching in its technological dimensions.So, he has subdivided haptics into three subcategories- Human Haptics, Machine Haptics and ComputerHaptics.Human haptics is what we have been discussing in the last two modules, the study of humansensing and if I can use this word manipulation of their ideas and emotions through touch.Machine Haptics is the design construction and use of machines either to replace or toaugment human touch, artificial intelligence is working in this direction.Then we have computer haptics which is based on algorithms and software’s associatedwith generating and rendering the touch and feel of virtual objects.So, this discussion of haptics tells us of it is significance in the workplace, in ourpersonal life also.The cultural variations which exist in it is interpretation as well as certain otherdimensions which have become possible because of technological development.In our next module we would look at kinesics as an independent part of nonverbal aspectsof communication.Thank you.