Nonverbal Behavior: Barrier or Agent for Sex Role Change?
In the study of human behavior, we commonly deal with factors of fairly narrow scope and limited effects. This is not the case with research on gender and nonverbal behavior. Sex as signaled by cues of appearance is a powerful force in human interaction; “sex” is highly visible and often the first aspect of another to which we respond. It appears to have great stability, in the sense that biological characteristics and major life events are keyed to one’s (perceived) sex. Yet it appears also to be amenable to changes personal, developmental, and sociocultural. At the personal level, individuals make choices to heighten or lower the display of their gender. Developmentally, the clarity or specificity of gender display follows a course that some see as curvilinear, with a peak of sexual differentiation in the early adult years (Birdwhistell, 1970). Socioculturally, what it means to be, or be seen as, male or female has varied considerably across time and place.
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