Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 1–27 | Cite as

Cultural Similarities and Differences in Emblematic Gestures

  • David Matsumoto
  • Hyisung C. Hwang
Original Paper


Despite longstanding interest in cultural differences in emblems, there have only been a few systematic investigations of those differences, and to date there is no study that catalogues and compares emblems across different cultural groups to a standard list of verbal messages. This study does so. Encoders from six world regions produced potential emblems from a standard verbal message list. Gestures that were encoded by at least 70% of the encoders in a region were shown to observers from the same regions, and gestures that were judged correctly as the message intended by at least 70% of the decoders in that region were considered emblems. These procedures resulted in the cataloguing of cultural differences in emblems to the same verbal message list. Surprisingly, the results also indicated a small group of emblems that were similarly encoded and decoded across cultures.


Gestures Emblems Culture Cross-cultural 



Portions of this report were prepared with the support of research grant W91WAW-08-C-0024 from the Army Research Institute, and FA9550-09-1-0281 from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. The authors thank Jeffrey A. LeRoux for his assistance in this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologySan Francisco State UniversitySan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Humintell, LLCSan FranciscoUSA

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