Journal of Consciousness Studies 15 (10-11):159-183 (2008)

Gesture and elaborate forms of nonverbal behaviour have been posited as necessary antecedents to language and shared conceptual understanding. Here we argue that subtle and largely unintentional nonverbal behaviours play a key role in building consensual beliefs within culture. We propose a model that focuses on the subtle and automatic nonverbal transmission of attitudes, beliefs and cultural ideals. Specifically, people extract attitudes and beliefs from nonverbal behaviour-- such extraction is both ubiquitous and efficient. The extracted attitudes and beliefs become individual beliefs if encountered frequently enough. Consequently, people may come to adopt the same attitudes, beliefs and behaviours in the absence of verbal communication. Finally, one's own nonverbal behaviour reflects the extracted attitudes, beliefs and ideals of those of one's group, serving as a means for transmitting culture. The implication is that subtle nonverbal behaviour is important for the creation and maintenance of culture.
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