A Comparative Study of Native and Non-native Body Language: The Case of Americans’ Kinesics vs. Persian English Speakers

Masoud Raee Sharifabad & Sara Vali

Payarn Noor University of Teheran - Iran


Body language is considered as one of the most fundamental components of communication. Many factors including culture, gender, age, and psyche can affect the use of body language among different people. However, related literature shows that culture and gender are more effective in causing variability of kinesics. This study is an attempt to examine the effect of these two factors on the nonverbal behavior of Persian EFL learners. In other words, the research investigates the differences between Persian students and native speakers of English in using body language. A total of 80 (40 males/40 females) Persian students of English (from Payame Noor University of Tehran) participated in this study. The subjects were observed against a checklist by two trained raters on different body language instances. Three Chi-square analyses were employed to analyze the results. The findings of the study revealed that there was no significant difference between Persian EFL students and American native speakers of English in terms of using kinesics. Moreover, it was found that there was no significant difference between Persian male and female students of English in using body language. However, it was observed that Persian EFL learners use more facial expressions than gestures in their communications.

Key words: kinesics, English native speakers, EFL learners

1. Introduction

Many EFL learners study English in order to be able to communicate it. The ability to communicate well in a second or foreign language is multifaceted when we study the processes involved. As stated by Roy (2008), we have two types of communication: nonverbal communication, and verbal communication. Nonverbal communication refers to those skills through which we can express our ideas and feelings without using any words; whereas verbal communication purports to those abilities which we use in spoken interactions for different purposes.

Many scholars believe that a greater portion of our everyday communication is nonverbal (Guruvayurappa 2008; Lee 2007; Reiman 2008; Redhead 2003). A number of factors may have a hand in this phenomenon, such as simplicity and universality of this kind of communication. There is also another set of factors that are crucial in more localized kinesics and in shaping the body language of different people living in different countries. These include culture, gender, psyche, communication style, age, etc. Among these factors, culture is of utmost importance. Brown (1994:241) states that "there is tremendous variation cross-culturally … in the specific interpretations of gestures and body language." Different cultural assumptions about the intentions behind particular interactions can also influence communication. Consequently, due to minimal exposure to the target language and contact with native speakers, EFL learners in general are relatively poor at spoken English, especially in view of fluency, command of idiomatic expressions, and understanding cultural pragmatism (Shumin n.d.).

The motivation for this study came from the fact that cultural differences, at least in the case of American English and Persian, cause EFL learners to misinterpret the kinesics of the target language. The process of communication is, or should be, an ever-present concern in oral discourse, and when representatives of two cultures come together to converse, this concern becomes crucial for a satisfactory denouement of both parties. Generally speaking, most of our messages in face to face interaction are transmitted through body language instances. Except for a small set, such communication techniques are highly culture-bound (Fay, 1997).

The primary purpose of this study was to investigate whether there is any significant difference between Persian EFL learners and English native speakers in terms of body language. A secondary purpose was to explore whether there was any significant difference between the body language of Persian male and female EFL learners.

2. Background

To better understand the concept of kinesics upon which the current work is based, a short review of the related literature is in order.

Scholars may vary over the specifics of the key terms in this study. However, they have consensus over a number of issues. For instance, they all consider body language as a kind of nonverbal communication, which includes how people greet each other, how they sit or stand, what their facial expressions, clothes, hair style, tone of voice, and eye movements are like, how they listen, how close they stand to others while conversing, and how they touch, tap and pat each other (Rugsaken 2006). It is the language of emotions, space, time, and tacit knowledge. It is also a way of communication (Building 2008). Samovar (1981) believes that nonverbal communication involves those unspoken stimuli in a communication situation that are produced by both the speaker and his/her use of the environment, and have potential message values for both the speaker and the addressee. In an article on body language, Simmons (2007) states that one of the most influential modes of communication we use in our day to day interactions is our nonverbal, or body language side. He believes that it is this mode of communication that ignites our emotions and responses. Research has shown that acquiring and understanding body language increases one’s ability to communicate successfully in a conversational situation.

For the purpose of this study, it is important to make a distinction between gestures and facial expressions. Throughout this work, movement of a part of the body, especially the hand or head, intended to suggest a certain meaning or feeling is known as gesture (Hornby 2002). However, facial expressions are defined as the form of kinesics in which the face is second only to the eyes in the amount of information conveyed about a person (Rodrigues, 2005). This is to say in gestures, face has little, if any, significance, while as far as facial expressions are concerned, face and its most important component-eyes- are the most crucial elements in nonverbal communication.

Eyes "are the windows of heart" (Zhu 2006: 80). This may be one of the reasons why some of the interlocutors concentrate so much on the eyes during interaction. Eyes are expressive by nature, and can send and receive different messages during a face-to-face conversation. Simmel believes that the eye is a unique "sociological achievement" since looking at one another is what affects the connections and interactions of individuals (as cited in Frisby & Featherstone 1997: 111).

Posture is another aspect of nonverbal communication. The way we sit or stand in a conversational situation may affect our communication. Posture can convey a great deal of information. Different postures such as bowing, slouching, sitting with legs crossed, leaning, standing with arms crossed, and showing soles of feet may have different meanings and convey different messages in an intercultural situation (Ardila & Neville 2002).

For body language to occur, proximity of the interlocutors is also a factor (Reiman 2008). According to Argyle and Dean (1965), physical proximity-or ‘exposure’ (Zajonc 1968)- determines the ‘level of intimacy’. Felipe and Sommer (1966) warn that over-friendly attitudes are distrusted immediately; Gross (1972) advises that "sometimes mere physical closeness (especially if accompanied by body contact) can be unpleasant and cause us to dislike the person concerned" (p. 14).

Paralanguage is also of significance to the study of kinesics. It may be expressed consciously or unconsciously, and includes the pitch, volume, and in some cases, the intonation of the speaker. Of other nonlinguistic factors, one can name appearance; as this can also change physiological reactions, judgments, and interpretations (Van Wagner 2003). Through your choice of clothing, hairstyle, glasses, accessories etc., you can communicate a strong message.

In a kinesics study, one must also not lose sight of gender differences as men and women differ greatly in their use of body language. For example, generally speaking, women are much more bodily expressive, and as such, require a greater amount of movement in order to make a significant impact while speaking, as opposed to men (Livingston 2007). Tannen (1990) lists sex differences between the two. In American culture, men have a tendency to sit or stand with legs apart and hands outward, whereas women tend to keep legs together and hands at their sides. Women are apt to have better posture than men, and usually sit still more. Women are also better than men at interpreting nonverbal gestures. However, in a study carried out by MacGeorge (2004), it was found that there is only a 2% difference in the conversational styles of men and women. In their study on male and female non-verbal communication, Briton and Hall (1995), found:

Women are believed to use more expressive and involving nonverbal behaviors than

men, and to be more skilled at sending and receiving nonverbal messages. Men are

believed to be louder and more interruptive, and to display more nervous, disfluent

behaviors. Thus, perceived gender differences correlated positively with differences

reported in observational studies, indicating that beliefs about nonverbal gender

differences are generally accurate (p.79).

In a study by Tiljander (2008) on the analysis of leg postures in relation to the gender and communication situation, the results indicated that women tend to sit in closed postures or with their legs crossed, which is regarded feminine, while men sit in wide positions with their legs spread, which is regarded masculine. However, leg positions alone were not found to be decisive in the messages communicated. Instead, leg positions remained gender-stereotypical regardless of the message communicated. Men and women seem to use different leg positions when communicating the same message. In his study on the effect of gender differences on detecting deception through non-verbal cues, Fatt (1998) found that men hold back leg and foot movements when lying, while women do not. Moreover, investigating the lateralization of processing positive facial emotions in a group of right-handed individuals, Bourne (2005) found that males are more strongly lateralized than women in the perception of facial expressions.

As stated earlier, culture influences all aspects of our lives, and body language is not an exception to that either. It involves subjective attitudes, values, beliefs, opinions, behaviors as well as objective clothes, food, architecture etc. (Triandis 1972). We use culture to explain similarities within and differences between groups of people (Tooby & Cosmides 1992). Culture is communicated across generations. It also empowers and determines behavior, allowing it to be modified or invented, and/ or constrained (Adamopoulous & Lonner 2001).

Communication and culture are strongly intertwined, so much as Fay (1997: 323) suggests, "all cultural activity communicates and all communication is culturally-loaded". As with verbal language, culture influences nonverbal behaviors in profound ways (Matsumoto n.d). Morris et al. (1980) have documented many cultural differences in gestures. Ekman and Friesen (1975), on the other hand, present a list of six emotions that they contend are innate and universal. These include happiness, sadness, fear, anger, disgust, and surprise.

Watson (1970) classified 30 countries as either a "contact" culture (those that facilitate physical touch or contact during interaction) or a "non-contact" culture (those that are more limited in physical touch or contact during interaction), and found that contact cultures engage in more gazing and have more direct orientations, less interpersonal distance, and more touching when interacting with others. Waxer (1985) examined American and Canadian cultural differences in spontaneous emotional expressions by participants in television game shows and found that Americans tend to be judged as more expressive (using more facial expressions) than Canadians despite lack of differences in actual behavior.

As this study was primarily devoted to the study of body language disparities between Americans and Persians, a closer look at each system seems crucial. Generally speaking, Americans are believed not to be touch oriented (Luminita 2002; Imai 2002); they generally stand about 30 inches away from each other in normal social situations. This is considered their personal zone (Imai 2002). They usually slide into a crowded passageway at sporting events or the theater while facing the people forward (ibid). They are offended when not looked directly in the eye while conversing (Hyun 2007), and shake hands when they meet their friends, even when they meet for the first time (Imai 2002). Since the main concern of the present work is the differences and similarities between Persian and American cultures, in the following, we will present some of such congruence and variation between the two cultures. Based on the literature (e.g. Imai 2002; Haynes 2001; Luminita 2002; Imai 2002; Dresser 1996; Hyun 2007; Hayden 2007, Livingston 2007; Lynn 1987; Axtell 1991; Axtell 1993; Olteanu 2007), some include the following:

Table. 2.1. Similarities between Persian and American Body Language



Shaking hands

Greeting one another

Cupping the ear

I can’t hear you

Wrinkling the nose

Disgusting, smelling

Open hand, palm up

Sincere, open

Chewing fingernails

Nervousness. The person is not feeling secure.


Table. 2.2. Dissimilarities between Persian and American Body Language


Persian culture

American culture


Putting Palms on chest




Lifting the hand up, palm out, and extending the thumb, forefinger, and little finger



I love you

Holding thumb and little finger extended

and shaking



Relax or take it easy

Crossing the fingers



Good luck

Holding thumb down



You are a loser


3. This study

This study was an attempt to examine the effect of culture and gender on the nonverbal behavior of Persian EFL learners. To do this, the following null hypotheses were developed:

  1. There is no significant difference between the body language of Persian students and that of native speakers of English.
  2. There is no significant difference between Persian male and female EFL learners in terms of their kinesics.
  3. There is no significant difference in using facial expressions as opposed to gestures among Persian EFL learners.

Out of the initial sample of 200 students, finally 80 (40 male and 40 female) second year B.A. students from Payam Noor University (PNU) of Tehran, Iran in the filed of English translation were taken into this study. PNU is basically a distance education institution. With campuses for troubleshooting classes all over the country, this university is the largest in Iran, enrolling over a 100,000 students per year. All the students study the same textbooks and take the same exams simultaneously nationwide. The role of the teacher is minimized as the textbooks are all self-study material. This creates optimum situation for research as often a lot of variables that can cause a headache to the researcher are already controlled or eliminated in such a milieu.

The subjects were at similar English levels because, as mentioned earlier, they were junior students at this university, and were studying the same text books and passing the same tests. Based on what is stated above, we claim that our sample is relatively homogeneous in terms of proficiency as PNU is a curriculum based distant education university where teacher's role (and thereby their variability) is minimized. There are no plenary sessions held, and the students may drop in at certain predetermined times for troubleshooting purposes only. Under such circumstances it would be sufficient to establish homogeneity based on the students’ average, which is what we actually did.

The subjects’ age ranged between 20 to 23, and it was ensured that they were more or less from the same economic class of the society.

Our research design was quasi-experimental. Thus, the subjects were naturally selected from the oral reproduction classes held by the English translation department. This is to say a whole class was taken into consideration, and we did not pull out students from the classes to which they were accustomed as we feared doing so and changing the environment could negatively affect the kinesic performance of the subjects, thereby rendering it unnatural. Thus, all the students who had taken the undergraduate course "Oral Reproduction of Short Stories II" at the university in that semester were taken into our study as participants.

One important point deserves attention here: Because of the requirements of the present study, and on the basis of our objectives, only oral story reproduction classes were selected from the English courses available at PNU. This is because, as will be explained below, chances of using body language are maximized in this course. The subjects were chosen in their intact groups rather than as individuals to ensure that a change in the classroom atmosphere will not impact their kinesic performance. Thus, our sample was chosen using the cluster random sampling approach, which is "the selection of groups (e.g., intact second language classes) rather than individuals as the objects of study" (Mackay & Gass 2005: 120).

Based on our research questions, and the quasi-experimental structure of the study, certain instruments were used to collect the data. These included: (1) performance observation sheets and (2) body language checklists. A copy of these is provided in the appendix.

Performance observations sheets were those marked based on the students’ presentations in the Oral Reproduction of Short Stories II course. In this course, the students should present two or three stories before classes of 30 to 40 people using their own words and gestures as naturally as possible (this and language lab courses, in which students need to perform to be marked, are the only courses in which class attendance is obligatory). Thus, these classes provide optimum conditions for the students to act naturally during their presentations such that the probability of using body language in this course is higher than in any other.

The subjects were not informed of the objectives of the study beforehand, and they thought that the raters were two students just like themselves as they were sitting among them. Therefore, their performance could not have been affected by the presence of intimidating examiners. Hiding the raters’ identities helped us reduce the Hawthorne effect, thereby increasing the participants’ productivity in the absence of undue attention from the observer (Brown 1988). However, after their presentations, the goals of the study were disclosed to the subjects by the raters in a private meeting, and they were told why such information was denied to them prior to their performance. Only when the subjects ultimately approved the observations were their data included in this study.

The raters were two trained English teachers studying M.A. in Teaching English as a Foreign Language at PNU. They were qualified enough to recognize the gestures and body language instances of the subjects in this study. Our checklist consisted of instances of kinesics. The raters were to record the presence or absence of the body language instances identified on the checklist. The checklist had already been piloted for reliability. Inter-rater reliability was also measured to make sure the raters judge the same set of data similarly. This was done via SPSS version 17.0. We calculated the interclass correlation as an index for measuring the degree of consistency between the raters. As displayed in Table 3.1, the inter-rater reliability for the two raters who rated the body language features is .90, which is a very high inter-rater reliability index.

Table 3.1 The Inter-Rater Reliability


Inter-Rater Reliability


95% Confidence Interval

Lower Bound

Upper Bound

Single Measures




Average Measures





Since this inter-rater reliability index falls within the 95% confidence interval of .86 and .93, it can be claimed that the two raters judged the body language features similarly.

During the study, 200 students were initially observed on 2 checklists, which were filled out by our two raters, at two PNU campuses every day. Those participants who used no body language or did not want their observations to be included in the study for whatever reason, were eliminated from the final sample of 80 people. Since our subjects knew nothing about the aims of this study (prior to their performance), we are certain that their performances have been authentic.

The subjects acted out the stories which had already been assigned to them by their instructors in about 10 to 15 minutes without any interruptions. The raters sat in such a position that they could see the performer’s entire body to ensure nothing would slip their attention. In all sessions, both male and female subjects were present; therefore, our sample was not divided sex-wise during the study, so the subjects could not have been sensitized to the aims of this research as far as this variable is concerned.

The ultimate sample of 80 participants was analyzed in terms of body language instances. Such instances included hand movements, gazing, frowning, head movements, gap filling, rocking, etc. Their individual checklist demonstrated how and how much they used their body to communicate with the audience. 3 Chi-squares were run to examine the differences between our independent variables, i.e., nationality (i.e., culture) and gender and our dependent variable, i.e., body language, including facial expressions and gestures. In other words, Chi-squares were used to compare the body language features of:

(1) Persian EFL speakers vs. American native speakers (different cultures)

(2) Persian male vs. Persian female EFL learners (different genders)

(3) Persian EFL learners in terms of their use of facial expressions as opposed to gestures (types of body language, an additional inquiry added after the data collection)

As for the first hypothesis, the disparity between Persian EFL students’ and (American) English native speakers’ body language, the Chi-square analysis revealed no significant differences between the two variables (.80 at 1 degree of freedom). In other words, (1, N= 80) = .80, p < .05 is less than the corresponding critical which is 3.84. Thus, there is no significant difference between the body language of Persian and native speakers of American English. The results indicated that from the 44 kinesics features present in the American body language, 36 instances are common to both Persian and American paralinguism. Therefore, roughly speaking, Persian students and native speakers of American English behave alike as far as body language is concerned. This finding suggests that Persian students and native speakers of American English may figure out the body language of each other with no difficulty. In other words, although there are certain differences between the body language of Persian and that of American English, these differences, according to the findings of the present work, are insignificant and negligible. The following table represents more details:

Table 3.2. Frequencies of body language features in Persian and English


Observed N Expected N Residual


44 40.0 4.0


36 40.0 -4.0



For the second hypothesis, which was concerned with the differences between the body language of Persian male and female EFL learners, the Chi-square again indicated no significant relationship. There was no conspicuous difference between male and female EFL learners who participated in our study (1.99, which is lower than the critical value of 3.84). This is to say that although there are small differences in the use of body language between male and female subjects in the Persian sample; these variations are not found to be statistically important gender-wise.

Two fundamental components of body language were used in the investigation of the above hypotheses. These included facial expressions and gestures. Using these crucial components of kinesics, we can obtain a tangible image of the overall status quo in the rate of kinesics among the two sexes in our sample.

Table 3.3. Frequencies and percentages of facial expressions and gestures used by male and female EFL learners


  Facial Expression Gesture Total
FEMALE Count 307 171 478
  % within Gender 64.2% 35.8% 100.0%
MALE Count 247 160 434
  % within GENDER 63.1% 36.9% 100.0%
Total Count 581 331 912
  % within GENDER 63.7% 36.3% 100.0%


As shown in this table, male and female EFL learners used facial expressions and gestures almost equally. The male subjects used (64.2%) facial expressions and (35.8%) gestures in their presentations whereas female subjects used (63.1%) facial expressions and (36.9%) gestures in their performances. These percentages show that there was no considerable disparity between men and women in view of facial expressions and gestures.

For the last hypothesis, which was concerned with the differences in using facial expressions and gestures among Persian EFL learners, however, the Chi-square demonstrated a significant difference between the two variables of facial expressions and gestures (68.53 at 1 df). This is to say Persian students of English use more facial expressions than gestures to express their ideas when presenting something dramatically. Thus, the role of face is slightly pronounced among Persian EFL students of English. This is clear in the pie chart below.

Figure 3.1.Total facial expressions and gestures used by Persian EFL learners

4. Discussion

The results of the present research show that neither our subjects’ nationality (i.e. culture) nor their gender is effective in the use of body language among Persian EFL learners. While studies in the literature indicate that these two factors can affect the use of kinesics in different languages, our study demonstrates that this is not necessarily the case, at least for Persian EFL learners.

It has been suggested that in some situations, a similar body language feature can have different meanings across various cultures and societies. Our statistical analysis is further proof for this current view. However, it should be mentioned that most studies in the literature are concerned with male and female differences in terms of native body language when communicating in the first language. Thus our study is one of the few in attempting to compare body language instances inter-culturally. However, in view of the concept of global village, which emanates from the existence of the Internet, satellites etc., it is natural to assume that nationalities may be affected by one another.

One important point that should be considered here is that some of the body language instances which are dominant in American culture have no or a different meaning in Persian. Thus, EFL learners should be careful about using such kinesics when communicating in order to avoid misunderstanding. For example, sitting with crossed legs means dependency on others in American culture, while in Persian culture it just shows politeness. Moreover, standing with crossed arms shows defensiveness in American culture, whereas in Persian it indicates politeness again. If we do not take these semantic differences into account, we may cause communication breakdown.

For the second hypothesis, which focuses on the body language of Persian male and female EFL learners, as mentioned before, no significant relationship or difference was found between men and women in terms of using body language. The first thing that may come to our mind is why our male and female subjects used body language somehow similarly as demonstrated in our work. Most studies in this field, such as Livingston (2007), Briton and Hall (1995), Tannen (1990), and Tiljander (2008) suggest that women significantly use more body language than men. However, in this study although our female subjects had more body movements like frowning, dropping eyes, hand movements and finger movements than males, such differences between the two sexes were not significant.

The results of this study suggest that women surpass men as far as the rate of body language is concerned; nevertheless, the surplus is small and insignificant. The reason for this insignificance may be the culture. In the Persian culture, men are somehow freer than women. This may allow them to use more body language to the extent that they emulate women in nonverbal communication. On the other hand, as women are somehow restricted culturally, they can not use their bodies as overtly as men. This situation results in no significant difference between the two groups.

As our subjects were university students in a co-educational environment, it is possible that men’s and women’s body languages were influenced by each other. However, because of their separate educational circumstances before coming to university, their body language may have become even more different from each other due to the novelty effect of campus co-educational influence.

Nevertheless, certain differences were observed between men and women in the manner of using body language, such as in their sitting or standing posture, their intonation and volume, and their stress, which do not seem to be related to the novelty effect, and seem to be inherently different between the two sexes. For example, we realized that men sat and stood more widely than women. It was also observed that women used a lower volume while men spoke at a higher volume. The men’s body movements were somehow more obvious than women’s. Women were tenser than men while speaking and they did not have much variable intonation in their speech. These differences were obvious among the subjects of the present study; however, as mentioned earlier, they were statistically found to be small and insignificant.

Finally, for the last hypothesis concerning Persian EFL learners’ differences in facial expressions and gestures, the present study suggests that the Persian sample used more facial expressions than gestures in their communications. One of the reasons for encountering such results could be the ease of using facial expressions in comparison to gestures. When we are conversing with each other, using facial expressions may need less energy and effort than using gestures. Facial expressions may even occur subconsciously, whereas gestures occur consciously. These subconscious changes in our face may sometimes reveal our actual feelings and emotions towards other people and situations. However, there are also people who can hide their feelings and maintain a ‘straight face’. Again we cannot ignore the important role of culture and society here. Maybe our culture has us make extensive resort to facial expressions and less use of gestures as the Persian culture is somehow more restricted in using body movements and gestures than making faces.

5. Conclusion

To avoid misinterpretation, different instances of nonverbal behavior should be taught to EFL learners since this aspect of communication is very crucial to learning a foreign language. The more the similarities existing in the nonverbal communication of the two languages, the easier the task of learning would be.

Moreover, the gender of the teachers and learners cannot be influential in the interpretation of the message. Both teachers and students can understand the body language of each other regardless of their gender. The results of our study indicate that Persian EFL learners use facial expressions more than the other aspects of body language such as gestures and postures. This means that we need to expand our learners’ exposure to other body language features in order to help them become more familiar with these aspects of nonverbal behavior.

This study may answer far fewer questions than it raises. Given the entire scope of our research, there is a great deal of room for further investigations. Future research may use a larger number of raters who are skillful enough to recognize different body language features in their subjects’ performance before the study begins. An alternative is to videotape the performance of the subjects-if they consent to it-in order to have a better view of the participants’ body languages. Future research may also consider interview as an alternative method of data collection if the researcher thinks they can elicit more body language instances from the subjects using this technique.

New research may also be carried out on other aspects of body language as the primary concern, such as posture, paralinguistic features (e.g. intonation, pitch) etc. The manner in which Persian men and women sit and stand in interactive situations, such as meetings and conferences can shed more light on the concept of nonverbal behavior in Iran. As nonverbal behaviors are very crucial in our day to day communication, the effect of these behaviors can be examined in the context of teaching English as a foreign language to Persian EFL learners in Iran. This means that new lines of research could be established to find out whether teaching kinesics is influential or useful in learning a foreign language like English. As stated by Zhu (2006), Birdwhistell (1970), Hall (1959), Jamati (1986), Lusting (1995), and Lyons (1989), due to the disadvantages of traditional approaches to teaching English, teachers may try to reform their teaching methods to encourage their students to learn English better. One of the methods which can be useful in attaining this goal is using body language. With the English teaching methods reformed, teachers might pay more attention to the importance of using kinesics in their teaching.


We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Dr. Manouchehr Jafarigohar, for his advice and support throughout this work. Our thanks also go especially to Dr. Iravani, Mr. Abtahi, Mr. Elahinia, and Ms. Sajadi for their generous support and cooperation in this study, as well as to our mutual friend Parnaz Kianiparsa.



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A Sample Checklist

Blank rows were used to check the existence or absence of the above kinesic in a particular participant. Gray areas represent absence of any further subcategory for their above-mentioned rubrics.

Facial expressions



Eye contact


Paralinguistic features


Head movements

Sitting wide



Gap filling








Hand movements

Sitting narrow

Dropping eyes







Lip biting

Finger movements

Standing wide



Fast speed







Body movements

Standing narrow



Slow speed






Holding eyes up and to the left

Arms crossed




High volume







Holding eyes up and to the right

Scratching the head

Legs crossed



Low volume







Clicking the tongue

Scratching the nose




Back channeling







Squeezing the eyes

Scratching the forehead

Moving forward










Clearing throat

Scratching the lips











Looking around

Scratching the chin

Legs entwined










Staring at the ceiling

Scratching the neck











Staring at the floor

Scratching the ears











Holding eyes down to the left

Scratching the eyebrows





Holding eyes down to the right

Scratching the eyes












Scratching the cheek











Eyes closed

Shrugging the shoulders











Raised eyebrows

Holding head to one side when listening


Biting the nails

Holding hand over mouth







Rolling the eyes

Holding hand over chin











Licking the lips













Shaking the head side to side












Folding arms in front of the body











Folding arms at the back












Stroking chin












Playing with something



Tapping the foot on the ground












Tapping the hand on forehead






Holding the hands in one’s pocket





About the Authors

Dr Masoud Raee Sharifabad received his PhD in Teaching English as a Foreign Language in 2004. He has been teaching English for 14 years at both undergraduate and graduate levels at Simon Fraser University, BC-Canada, Allame Tabatabai University, Tehran-Iran, Sharif University of Technology, Tehran-Iran and Eco College of Insurance Tehran-Iran. He is currently a faculty member at Payam Noor University of Tehran- Iran. His areas of interest include phonology, kinesics, discourse analysis and contrastive analysis. He has a number publications in the area of EFL writing, reading and translation as well.

Sara Vali: freelancer
Sara Vali received her M.A. in TEFL from Payam Noor University of Tehran in 2009 and started to work as an instructor lecturer at Payam Noor University. She has published 4 articles in the field of English language teaching on ELTWeekly.com.

Authors’ Address

Prof. Masoud Raee Sharifabad

Department of English
Payam Noor University of Tehran
Corner of Vila and Sepand St.
Telfax: +98-21-88801090
e-mail: mraeesharif@gmail.com

Sara Vali: freelancer (no working address)

Journal of Intercultural Communication, ISSN 1404-1634, issue 26, July 2011.
URL: http://www.immi.se/intercultural/.