In the first experiment I chose to use my dorm roomate as my guinea pig for this experiment. I decided I would begin with using the silent treatment towards one of my roommate to see what her initial reaction would be. When my roommate came back to the dorm from classes I started my experiment, I did a series of unusual expressions and nonverbal cues that I normally would not do. Instead of eating with friends together in the living room area I took my food into the bedroom area and ate at my desk or on my bed. Instead of watching a halloween movie like we have done everyday in the evening I grabbed my laptop, popped in my headphones and watched the movie Grimm. I tried to make sure that I wasn’t looking in her general direction or making any kind of eye contact to see what her reaction to my experiment would be.
For my second experiment I chose to do my research on the city buses, since I’m a college student I ride the buses to get from place to place. Using proxemics on a bus is not tricky at all especially when it’s the middle of the afternoon, when working people are on their lunch breaks. Everyone has a spot they prefer to sit when taking the bus, and lots of people like to sit in the same spot as they had done during their previous trips on the bus. No one takes into account what happens when their favorite seat is taken by someone else. Most people when they get on sit in one of the paired seats next to a window, an action signifying they expect someone will sit next to them at some point. When I got on the bus I noticed some gender proxemics as well. Young males sit with their legs stretched out with their elbows against the chair or window, and females keep their arms tight against their bodies usually clinging on to purses or bags held between their legs. Since I’m a female I first experimented by sitting the way a polite lady would sit, leaving room for another person beside me, sitting with my bag in my lap and my legs close together. Then I situated myself more like a regular male would, stretched out my legs into the aisle, leaning across the seat next to me with my elbow against the middle of the seat, slightly tilting my chin forward onto my chest. People don’t usually sit next to strangers unless all the other seats are full.
The third experiment I tested out was gaze, eye contact or aversion. In a crowded classroom or dining hall, if someone sits in your field of vision, they would have noticed when you came in and will probably look up to see that person or you because that is a natural reflex or reaction. I picked four random people in the dining hall to make eye contact with or a slight gaze for about one minute. An older lady, a tall black male sitting at another table, and a white female eating a bowl of ice cream. First I experimented with gazing toward the female eating ice cream, turned my head in her direction, noticed she was about to look back at me then I looked away. Then I proceeded to stare fixedly into her eyes for about one minute until she looked away, then looked back to check if she was looking at me still. I moved on from her to the tall black male. First making a slight gaze in his direction multiple times each for five seconds then maintaining eye contact for a longer length of time such as one minute. While using the gaze phase of this experiment a woman will meet a male’s gaze, hold it for a few seconds then look away and down. This goes for a male or female of any race, gender or physical characteristics. When glancing in the older ladies direction I turned to face her but this time I started a conversation with her while staring right between her eyes rather then one or both of them. She looked at me, I looked at her almost like I was zoning out in the middle of the conversation. It’s looks like someone is still paying attention to what you are saying but at the same time the person has already gone off into space.
Results of natural experiments: During my experiment on the city bus using proxemics I found that when people get on the bus, pay and then sit down, they won’t usually get back up because either you or them feel awkward by what someone might look at you and say. Rarely have I seen someone get up and move seats when someone else has gotten off. Another thing I noticed was how gender biased people are if you sit in anyway that is unnatural of your particular gender. For instance when sitting like a lady people who glanced in my direction or looked at me just smiled or looked at me in a satisfied way. However, when I took up all the room and slouched across the pair of two seats I was in and leaned my elbow against the seat, I had more people stare at me with grins on their faces or just unhappy looks on their face. To better explain it, it was as if I had just yelled rudely at someone or caused a scene in some way. And sometimes people on the bus would try and almost hug the wall next to them if the person next to them smelled funny or looked like they had been homeless for a while. We are all quick to make judgments based off someone’s appearance and how we think they should and should not act. Essentially anytime you take the bus no matter how close you are to someone or how far away from them you will always feel uncomfortable and awkward because they are strangers.
Much of our interaction with other humans is face to face, and the signals they send out express their thoughts and attitudes. Eye contact is another way we regulate conversation and some people know how to use their eyes to deliver certain messages. For instance when I was experimenting with the tall black guy, I was making multiple glances toward him then looking down and away from him. In my experience this meant that I was being flirtatious with him and trying to send the message that I was interested. He smiled, tilted his chin upwards like when guys say “what’s up” to each other to let me know he was interested and flattered. However, when I experimented with the girl eating the ice cream, she looked embarrassed as though I was judging her. She bent almost in half, moving the top of her chest down towards her knees in the chair and used her right arm to cover her stomach, her cheeks turned a light shade of pink. Then when I continuously stared at her for a whole minute it only took about five to ten seconds till she turned away and consistently checked to see if I was still looking at her. With the older woman she looked more annoyed than anything that I wasn’t paying much attention to her, but not so much that it ruined her whole day. She tilted her back and gave me a long look, I could almost see down her nose, she had a stern look with her eyes squished towards the middle of her face and her right eyebrow raised. She was not amused in anyway but once I looked away from her and stopped the conversation not having any eye contact was no longer a problem.
Reflection on observed differences in experimental results when interacting with people in different relationships: The minute you step into a room, a bus, or any crowd of people, those people have begun to judge you based off your appearance, your behavior and sometimes where you may have come from. We as human beings make judgments about people before we even meet them and sometimes just looking the wrong way at someone can create a problem because experiments like these have so many meanings. We look at people when they first get on a bus so we can decide if it’s a good or a bad person to be around. You know we ask ourselves “should I let that weird dressed or nasty looking person sit next to me,” “will they try and cause harm to me in some way.” Everyone has expectations about someone else doesn’t matter if your old, young, black, white or asian. The only thing these differences determine is what the person’s response will be based off their previous experiences.
In today’s cultural society people at a young age are encouraged to “speak using our words” not just our actions. Most adults teach their children this from a young age to help them learn how to express themselves. However, it is often not just our words that represent what we are trying to say, but also our nonverbal language that truly gets our message across. While experimenting, I found that the gestures we make, the way we sit, how fast or how loud we talk, how close we stand and how much eye contact we make determine how strong of messages we send out to other people. The nonverbal signals you project onto other people determines how strong of a connection you have with another person, a sense of trust and desire or confusion and distrust. Much of our interaction with other humans is face to face, and the signals we send out express our thoughts and attitudes. Eye contact is another way we regulate conversation and some people use their eyes to deliver many messages, interest, affection, hostility, fear or attraction. For instance when I was experimenting with the tall black guy, I was making multiple glances toward him then looking down and away from him. In my experience this meant that I was being flirtatious with him and trying to send the message that I was interested. However, if I were to repeatedly gaze over like I did with the black male, at a young highschool girl eating ice cream she might think I have a problem with her or that I’m angry with her in some way. Her response may be rude or aggressive because the situation might make her uncomfortable. Different facial expressions mean different things to different people, and when it comes to expressing our emotions it’s important because it allows us to understand each other based off more than just the words that spew out of our mouths.
What is particularly interesting is that nonverbal communication is considered to be one of the most powerful things we humans own, especially when it comes to having relationships in both our personal and professional worlds. The way you carry yourself and the characteristics you show through your gestures, body language and facial expressions give people a sense of who you are as a person. For example, during a job interview you don’t walk in wearing a t-shirt, shorts and flip flops, turn to your interviewer and give them the look like “what’s up dude.” You would give off the personality that is unprofessional and you wouldn’t be hired. The same thing could be said about how you treat your elders. The experiment on the bus when I started a conversation with the older woman and just stared directly between her eyes, it made her feel unimportant and annoyed as if I wasn’t listening to her. From what I could tell she didn’t let it ruin the rest of her day, but it also wasn’t polite or natural for a young person to speak to an elder like that. The sound of silence is another example of nonverbal communication, that we use to help us understand what message someone is trying to get across. In another one of my experiments I used the silent treatment against my roommate while we were hanging out the other night. At some point during the week when we have time we put on a halloween movie and eat popcorn and laugh, and talk together. During this experiment I did everything without talking to her or looking her in the eyes. Instead of watching the halloween movie with her I grabbed my laptop and watched my own movie with my headphones in. Instead of eating together with our group of friends in the living room I ate food on my bed in the other room. I would make face at her instead of replying to a question she asked me verbally. All of these things seemed to make hanging out awkward and uncomfortable because it was basically a one sided conversation.
Experimenting using the method of participant observation has many benefits as well as problems. For instance it allows the researcher to gain insight through personal experience and collect real life data that is accurate and up to date. As a researcher we can take the experiment in many different directions depending on what ideas are being thought of at the time; experience how people react to certain types of nonverbal communication in real life scenarios, and learn something new about how we define ourselves through nonverbal communication. However, even though we may be able to benefit from this method, problems can be created from it as well. Some people we experiment on may not take being deceived to gain information on them very well. There is also a chance that as a researcher we may become more invested or involved in our experiments which creates a bias that could destroy our data if the results aren’t what we originally wanted. While conducting these experiments I found it difficult to begin them because I have a shy nature which means I don’t like being the one to start a conversation with a stranger, even if it’s with someone my own age. Talking to older people was not that difficult though because I didn’t have an expectation for how they might react to one of these social experiments and in a way it felt like talking to my own grandmother.