A participant's style tends to be persistent and pervasive, characterizing everything he does in a transaction. And it is not likely to be managed consciously. This chapter describes some of the stylistic features in the women's performance. Later I will deal with the exceptions — those transient features of style which were manipulated at phases of the transaction.
These persistent styles, I believe, were reliable indicators of a participant's life situation and his lifelong states and backgrounds. So I will end the chapter by describing how styles provide information about the mediate and remote contexts of a participant's life. These contexts are determinants in a person's performance at a given transaction, and therefore of some predictive value. Hence, they are of communicational importance.
Each of the women presented a behavioral set at Session I which did not change with movement. We usually designate such features as physical appearance.
Attributes Usually Considered Phenotypical
Both women were slightly swarthy, and appeared to be of Mediterranean origin. Mrs. V was pyknic or mesomorphicendomorphic. Marge was mesomorphic, but not obese. These types have been associated with cyclothymic personalities and with southern Italian culture. Both women appeared to be in good health. They were reasonably good-looking and without any evident physical defects. In a Period 2 demeanor Marge impressed us as being sexually attractive.
We tend to attribute the stable features of physical appearance to heredity. I think this is an oversimplification, since posture, facial demeanor, styles of bodily movement and dress, cosmetics, and hairdo are also highly stable and make up part of the Gestalten of physical appearance. In fact, patterns of bodily movement learned early in life may affect the development of the muscloskeletal system (Birdwhistell 1962).
Marge dressed in the manner of American working-class girls, while Mrs. V dressed like any postmenopausal, peasant woman from a central or southern European culture. Her hair was combed back in a knot, and she wore a large, long polka dot dress, cotton hose, and flat shoes. Thus Mrs. V's dress indicated European, peasant background, though not specifically Italian. Her leg posture indicated that she was postmenopausal and somewhat obese — she allowed her knees to drift apart but covered herself by pulling down her dress. Both women showed working-class dress, cosmetic usage, and hairstyles.
In later sessions Marge fingered a Catholic medallion. In some transactions participants wear uniforms, emblems, or other indicators of categorical membership1 (Ekman 1969).
The gender of Mrs. V and of Marge was obvious from their appearance and dress. There was no evidence of gender confusion in the behavior of the women, as is often the case with mental patients. In many cultures postmenopausal women may be afforded male roles. There was no evidence that Mrs. V had taken such roles, a point of possible significance in the problem the two women were having (see Chapter 10) ״
Mrs. V was persistently stolid in Session I. She did not show the presence that some people show — the command of gaze and space and the certainty of behavior that goes with longstanding dominance. Nor did she show signs of habitual submissive behavior — a tendency to avoid the gaze of others or the hunched-down posture which goes with behaving apologetically and hesitantly.
Marge showed a variable presence. In a Period 1 she would look away, mumble, avoid eye engagement, and huddle against her mother. But in Period 2 she sat upright, becoming very assertive and commanding. We could generalize that Marge osciliated in presence as she did in behavioral form in the cycles of Session I.
PERSISTENT BEHAVIORAL STYLES
Vocal Qualifiers of Paralanguage
Collectively the nonlanguage sounds and the vocal qualifiers have been termed paralanguage (Trager 1958). In linguistics these dimensions of speech behavior are distinguished from the structural features and content. Characteristic vocal qualifiers are: rasp, nasality, overloud or oversoft volume, overfast or overslow pace, clipped or drawling intonation.
Mrs. V tended to speak over softly and flatly, using few variations of vocal qualifiers. Psychiatrists abstracted expressive and schizophrenic qualities from Mrs. V's speech (see below).
Marge, on the other hand, showed a wide range of paralinguistic qualities. She would mumble inaudibly one minute and be overloud the next. She changed her rate of speech from overslow to overfast. She sometimes spoke in a sing-song rhythm. Psychiatrists judged Marge's speech to be highly affective or emotional and used these qualities as one basis for diagnosing her ‘schizoaffective-schizophrenia’ (see Chapter 10).
Vocal qualifiers have been of special interest to psychological scientists since they provide indicators of mood and personality (Gottschalk 1961; Eldred and Price 1958; Pittenger, Hockett and Denehy i960).
We should bear in mind, however, that certain patterns of vocal qualifiers are also indicative of dialect, class, and ethnic background. For example, drawl occurs throughout the southern United States, and oversoft is highly valued by middle-class Americans (Trager and Smith 1956). I do not know what the usual paralinguistic patterns are for Sicilian-Americans.
Word choice also varies with regions of the country, social class, and other categorical memberships. The women spoke of ‘mind-pictures,’ for example. Word choice and pronunciations, together with favored paralinguistic qualities, occur together as typical dialectical patterns.
Marge and Mrs. V used a clearly recognizable dialectical pattern which is typical of the large southern Italian-American enclave in South Philadelphia.
Parakinesic Qualities and Regional Uses of Кine sic Styles
As with language, posture and movement can have a variety of qualities. One can move languidly or jerkily, in small or grand excursion, and so forth. Accordingly, we may speak of kinesic and postural styles or of parakinesic qualities (Birdwhistell 1969). As in paralanguage, these features may characterize a dialectic area or institution and are not necessarily an idiosyncratic feature of one individual's behavior.2
A parakinesic quality may pervade all of a participant’s behavior. The parakinesic qualities of Mrs. V and Marge paralleled their paralinguistic traits. Mrs. V was underactive to the point of moving depressively. Her lack of movement was especially noteworthy in view of her Italian background, for members of this culture ordinarily move often and in a wide range of arm and hand excursion.
Marge was overactive. She sat up, sprawled, stood, crossed and uncrossed her legs, and so forth. She also moved rapidly and broadly, throwing her arms and body around in a wide excursion. Although so much movement is abnormal for an adult, it did show the mobility of Italian-American kinesic s more typically than did Mrs. V's behavior.
In southern Italian culture, gesticulation is characteristically carried out from the shoulder. This use of bodily organization contrasts markedly with the mode in old American cultures of British extraction and with the mode in Eastern European Jewish culture. In the latter, for instance, the elbows are held close to the body and the arms are moved from a fulcrum at the elbow. These differences are quite indicative of cultural origin (Efron 1941; Birdwhistell 1963).
Marge varied her demeanor and parakinesic styles with the positions she used. When she was sitting with her mother in a Period 1, she was slow, dissociative, and noncourting in style. During a Period 2, when she was contending, her face and body were animated. She showed a range of styles. Her body came into the hypertonus of the courtship state. She was alert, overfast, and widely excursive in her range of movement. Her demeanor changed kaleidoscopically with facial expressions of anger, depression, dominance, humor, and so forth. Also, Marge used characteristically Italian gestures during periods of sitting with her mother.
I would make the following guess: Marge had learned two paralinguistic and parakinesic styles: one which she used in her family, at least when relating to her mother, and the other which she used in relationships with people outside the family, perhaps with men. Possibly she had learned the second from her father, from some other relatives, or from peers in her neighborhood.
After this I will use the term paracommunicative to refer to the performance styles of any unit of behavior, condensing the current uses of the terms paralanguage and parakinesics.
The Use of Culturally Specific Unit Forms
Many transactions occur in wide distribution across ethnic and class lines. So the same basic activity is carried out by many peoples, but the people of a given cultural category use specific unit forms for the activity. Thus all peoples eat, but each culture has its own dishes and manners. And certain word choices are characteristic for particular dialectic areas. Smiles and quasi-courting routines are typical ways of attracting a relationship in certain classes and traditions. So the use of a particular and typical pattern of alternative unit forms can be indicative of a participant’s background. Similar generalizations could be made about some personality types within a cultural category. Therefore, the characteristic alternatives which a person habitually uses characterize his repertoire, that is, the repertoire of his background.
We cannot judge the limits of a person's repertoire by watching him in one transaction, but we can note that he uses certain alternatives over and over. Such repetition becomes especially significant if it is stereotyped — if, for instance, a participant keeps using forms that are not acceptable to the others or which do not accord with his other purposes. Thus, if a participant does not make use of the full repertoire which, given his background, he should have learned, we can suspect either that he is operating under some special constraint or that he is a deviant.
I do not know enough about the tactical variants of Mrs. V’s and Marge’s backgrounds to comment about their cultural specificity. But in many cases, as I will describe in Chapters 9 and 10, their behavior did appear to be stereotyped. They did not use the full range of behavioral alternatives allowable in psychotherapy or, I think, in Sicilian-American culture. In Chapter 10 I attribute this to deviance, more specifically, to schizophrenia.
OTHER BEHAVIORS THAT INDICATED THE LIFE CONTEXTS OF THE WOMEN
Stated References to Larger Contexts
We interviewed Mrs. V and Marge before the session. They gave information which identified them as South Philadelphian, Catholic Sicilians of the working class. Mrs. V also told us she was a widow, who had lived alone since Marge had been hospitalized. We also knew Marge was a hospitalized mental patient with a diagnosis of schizophrenia who had been in psychotherapy for six months.
Most of this information could have been inferred from the behavior of the women in Session I. Some of it was stated in their utterance to the men. Mrs. V told the men she was widowed, for instance. Both women used words like mass, confession, and mortal sin, and Marge made the sign of the cross. Mrs. V spoke of being given wine by her father. She mentioned ice (Italian water ice) and street carnival (an enclave custom in Italian South Philadelphia). Marge showed an apprentices’ knowledge of psychiatric terms and concepts (see Chapter 9).
Consistent Metabehavior That Indicated Values and Beliefs
There are a number of ways by which the women indicated their metaconceptions. Sometimes they stated them by metacommunicative intercalations about their own or their partner's behavior. Through these intercalations they also indicated their conceptions about proper behavior by their kinesic monitoring behavior s and facial gestures when others took a position. And by psychoanalytic inference we can derive certain of their values by the innuendoes, denials, rationalizations and concealments they used.
Operationally we can inventory all of the metacommunicative behavior of each woman, abstract some consistent themes, and interpret these within any of a number of psychological frames of reference. I do not want to get involved in controversial and debatable frames of reference, but a few clear themes did emerge.
Mrs. V's Ideas About Marge’s Behavior and About Family
As we might expect of a mother, Mrs. V consistently monitored Marge's sexy and provocative behavior. But Mrs. V also wiped her nose and prepared to stand whenever Marge started to reveal a secret of the V family history, and whenever she allied with Whitaker. Sometimes Mrs. V also verbalized her disapproval of these actions by Marge. She expressed disagreement, however, about other kinds of behavior which she did not monitor. She denied that Marge was crazy. She denied discord between Marge and the father and also tended to minimize the violence, separations, and disagreements which beset her marriage. She also minimized Marge's anger at her. And she did not like the fact that Marge did not level with her.
It was my impression that Mrs. V's main concern was to cover up disagreements among family members and hold together what was left of her family. A high value on family cohesiveness has been reported by many observers as a characteristic of southern Italian culture, as well as a characteristic of families which have a schizophrenic member (Wynne et al, 19 58).
Mrs. V's General Values
We could also infer that Mrs. V set store upon Marge's and her husband's intelligence. She disapproved of being nervous, crazy, sexy, violent, and suicidal, and apparently thought it improper to laugh about her husband’s death. On the whole she seemed to espouse Catholic values.
Marge repeatedly referred to going to hell, being dead, being operated on for sin, and so on. In Session III we found that Marge had become pregnant and had had an abortion. But Marge poked fun at other of her mother's values. She burlesqued her mother's classical health advice and the idea of seeing into the future. She teased her mother about being unable to commit ‘mortal sin,’ and she especially mocked her mother's injunctions against being sexy. Marge was serious about being angry at her mother and she insisted that the older woman was mentally ill. She did not concur in the idea of family closeness and harmony.
The reader can make his own inferences from the transcript in Appendix A. We can generalize that the women’s metacommunicative behavior was consistent with the other indications of their background.
Indicators of Health and Persistent Affect
Illness may be indicated by flushed cheeks or pallor, by weakness and poor tonus, by corneal dullness, inattentiveness, coughing, wheezing, and wincing in pain, and so on. None of the participants in Session I gave any indication of poor health.
As I described above, Marge showed styles of behavior which we ordinarily associate with anger. She protruded her jaw, she made direct face-to-face confrontations to Mrs. V, and she raised her voice. But these quaUties were transient and related to immediate contexts in Session I. We would not say she was essentially an angry person. The same thing can be said about her tendency to fall into slow movement and the facies of depression. These indicators did not persist in her facial demeanor. We would say she was intermittently depressed in Session I, rather than saying she had a depression.
But Mrs. V did show persistent signs of depressive affect. She consistently spoke and moved slowly; her face sagged and her lids appeared heavy. In cases like hers the affective indicators did not appear to vary with the vicissitudes of the transaction, so they suggested a continuing state related to the larger contexts of her life situation.
COMMENT: THE PERSONAL CONTEXTS OF A PERFORMANCE
The Contexts of Cultural Experience
Emic Systems of Behavior
The cultural heritage of a people prescribes what Pike calls an ‘emic system* of behavior.3 It provides a repertoire of formats for all occasions, a communicative system of language, gestures, postures, and spacing patterns, and a metacommunicative system of beliefs and values. Each child who grows up in a culture learns these systems of form and style and replicates them at subsequent transactions. As a consequence a knowledgeable observer can identify a participant’s culture of origin by watching his behavioral style and the repertoire of forms that he uses. So we have no difficulty recognizing that Mrs. V is of southern Italian extraction. And at least traces of such ethnic background are evident in Marge’s behavior.
There are usually a number of subtraditions in any ethnic tradition. There are several social classes, each of which has distinctive behavioral qualities, and there may be a number of religious, occupational, and regional subcultures. Features of these subcultural traditions are also recognizable in the performances of their members.
If an individual has learned a single emic system of culture, we can assume that this system determines his behavioral repertoire. The occurrence, then, of any culturally recognizable sample of behavior in his performance will predict the remainder of that emic system. If he speaks Sicilian like a native, for example, we can expect that he eats Sicilian food, uses Sicilian gestures and postures, and shares Sicilian values. But there are a number of exceptions and difficulties to keep in mind.
For example, all members of a tradition do not use the full repertoire of possible forms and styles. They probably recognize the full range, but they use only some subset prescribed for their gender, age grouping, marital status, institutional affiliation, and so forth — a constellation we can abstract as a role.
Furthermore, people may change their ethnic, class, and institutional memberships. They may be upwardly mobile in the class system, for instance, or they may migrate to another place and begin to acculturate. Mrs. V and Marge had thus in some degree acculturated, and Marge showed traces of middleclass style.4
Temperament and Personality
Even if we should categorize the expected forms of behavior for a participant by taking into account all the known divisions of his ethnic background, class, religion, age grouping, and so forth, we would still find variations, some of which we attribute to temperment or personality. Thus there are sad and happy and open and paranoid Catholic, Sicilian-American working class members. Maybe there are genetic differences in temperament, but certainly there are idiosyncratic experiences in an individual's path to maturation through the various emic systems of his background.
Some of these seem to cut across culture. Thus psychiatrists find basically similar schizophrenic reactions in many Western cultures. Maybe specific cognitive disorders and overly close mother-daughter dyads develop in all Western cultures and lead to certain consequences regardless of the emic systems in which they occur (see Chapter 10). In any event we could see deviant behaviors in Mrs. V and Marge that seemed to override their cuitural experiences. Mrs. V's immobile body and face, as we have noted, seemed to be quite atypical for a southern Italian background but common in schizophrenia.
Consequently we ordinarily postulate some interaction between culture and personality. At this point in history it is difficult to visualize the role of genetic transmission. Within the limits of cultural experience each individual develops modes of behavior which further determine his niche in the society. Thus some interrelations of cultural experience, social niche, potential, and idiosyncratic experience sustain each other and form a persistent and consistent pattern of behavioral determination. Borrowing an idea from Langer (1953) I will call this system of determinants the remote content of an individual’s present performance.5
We can hold only that the total cultural experience of an individual determines the limits of his repertoire — determines the forms of behavior that he is able to learn. More immediate contexts shape the actual behavior he will use.
The Mediate Contexts of the Women’s Performance
Some of the stylistic features of the women’s behaviors were not indicative of permanent cultural constraints. Rather, they had reference to phases and eras in their life situations or life spaces6״ Such arrangements certainly persisted beyond Session I but were not in all probability lifelong. The following indicators seemed to belong to such mediate contexts: Mrs. V was in an era of middle-aged, noncourting widowhood; she had once been single and once been married. Marge was unmarried and sexually active. The history indicated that she sometimes used these behaviors in prostitution.
Marital status, sexual activity, parenthood, and age grouping define the mediate context in a woman's life. Ordinarily there are culturally prescribed roles and established constraints for her at each of the stages from childhood to old age.
During a person's lifetime he may belong to several ethnic, regional and class subcultures, and a number of institutions. At any era of his life, he may be affiliated actively in some and inactively in others. Thus he may remain an active, practicing Catholic or become unaffiliated and therefore retain only residual behaviors and values of this institutional membership. Similariy a daughter may remain actively affiliated with her family and its values or she may move away into other relationships and hold other metaconceptions. The stress upon certain indicators, their frequency and overtness, for instance, may indicate the current life-space memberships of a participant; with this information we can make a rough estimate of his more influential mediate contexts.
In Session I both the mother and daughter gave every evidence that they were actively involved, even preoccupied with each other (see Chapter 10). Marge and Mrs. V also showed an active investment in Roman Catholicism. They used Catholic signs and Catholic phrases. They spoke of mortal sin and told stories of visits by the priest. Marge also gave indications of current membership in the role of mental patient. She spoke the words and ideas of psychotherapy. She showed brief evidence of the bizarre qualities and autism of the institutional, schizophrenic patient (Scheflen 1965).
People who have learned more than one ethnic and social class pattern can behave in more than one cultural mode. Marge at times used Sicilian styles, although she did not have to. She sometimes used forms which, I would guess, she learned in school. Marge's use of these modes seemed to be related to her relationships in the Periods of Session I. In Phase I she used Sicilian-American styles more frequently. When relating to Whitaker, she used more American class styles.
We might guess, therefore, that Marge had played roles in three mediate contexts; one as a daughter in the V family (evident in a Period 1) ; another as psychotherapy patient in a mental hospital (evident in a Period 2); and still another outside of these institutions (evident in relating to Whitaker in transition to a Period 2).
Context and the Choice of Performance
So we say that contexts determine a performance. But since we do not, in a systems concept, picture relations with linear arrows, we must also comment on the other side of the arc. Whenever Mrs. V behaved as a widowed mother of an adolescent daughter in an extended family of an Italian Catholic enclave, she contributed to the maintenance of these contextual systems. In a more adequate formulation, then, we say that contexts and performances are interdependent.
The quality of being Sicilian tends to dictate that of being Catholic, just as these qualities together tend to dictate motherdaughter dependency and the resulting behavior of this relationship tends to dictate efforts which prevent separation. At the same time, the act of blaming, the appeals to loyalty, authoritarianism, and other behaviors of cohesiveness in the motherdaughter relationship tend to maintain the family, which in turn maintains and transmits Catholicism and Sicilian culture.
We could predict that Mrs. V's performance would be dedicated to maintaining the existing contexts of her life. She did not seem to have any ties outside her family. She had no immediate relatives other than Marge, and Marge’s behavior was threatening even this relationship. Thus Mrs. V was tied essentially to a single immediate context. When this was threatened she must have been prompted to a strong and sustained effort to re-establish its conditions. Hence, her performance in Session I was likely to be stereotyped.
A participant thus joins a transaction under certain constraints. The immediate context requires of him a certain performance. He must behave communicatively and appropriately for the immediate situation. But he maintains cognitive images of mediate contexts which he must maintain by his performance and he can only perform formats which lie within his life experience. In some measure he has to accommodate these various considerations and he may have to make choices or compromises.
In the simplest instances this might not be an issue. If a person stays within his culture he will not necessarily encounter alien behavior or be asked to perform an unfamiliar part. If he stays in a stable institution his role is established and he shares with others the same occasions, transactions, and performance expectancies. Thus a religious man stays with others of the same persuasion. When he behaves in a ‘proper’ program within that group he simultaneously maintains his affiliations, abides by his beliefs, forwards a plan to spread ‘good, * and increases his institutional status. Thus, most of the potential incongruities of a transaction are avoided by established order in larger social systems.
But the matter was not so simple in Session I. The men and women were, as noted, strangers to each other and members of different institutions, social classes, and ethnic groupings. Also the women had strong disagreements between them. Even though the structure of the psychotherapy session provided some latitude for these differences, certain discrepancies had to be faced. We might guess, for instance, that Mrs. V had to decide whether or not she should sanction Marge's relationship to the men, since it threatened to change the mother-daughter relationship.
Faced with such choices a number of solutions are possible. A participant might refuse to enact the formats expected by the others. Or he might accommodate himself to the immediate situation and thereby risk a disequilibrium in higher contexts. Or he might partly accommodate. In Chapter 9 I will describe some ways in which the women managed these possibilities. We can surmise that they had plans for the session which they modified with the contingencies of its progression.
Thus we can order determinants in a performance by levels of context. The remote contexts of a person’s life — which we abstract as genetic, cultural, and psychic determinants — would limit the possible repertoire of a performer.
The mediate contexts of his life — which we represent by factors such as goals, social position, and affiliations — would constrain his performance inasmuch as it would supposedly maintain these contexts. And the immediate context of the transaction would further limit his performance.
At each level of context a participant has some latitude of choices. He may attend or avoid certain transactions. Once there, he may or may not have a choice of roles. If he is versed in several cultural traditions he may have a choice of formats. The performance expected of him may or may not allow him to support existing affiliations, beliefs, and goals. So we do not maintain dichotomously either an idea of free will or an idea of predestination. Choices are possible at each level, but the choices at any level are constrained by conditions at higher levels of context.
Paracommunicative Inference and Paracommunication
These issues of deduction are of contrai concern in a psychodynamic approach. Personality assessments are made by processes of inference something like those I have just made. We observe a participant's behavior and make inferences about his activities in other circumstances and about his cognitive patterns. And we use these deductions to locate him in a classificatory system of personality or cultural types. From these operations we try to make predictions about what he may do in a specific circumstance.
In communication theory our central interest is not in personality or enthnographic assessment, but the processes of inference about a participant’s life contexts are not academic. These same deductive processes are carried out regularly by participants in any transaction — styles are recognized, attributed a significance, reacted to with biases, or used as a source of information for gauging a performance.
Whitaker and Malone, for example, had been quite familiar with Italian culture since their childhoods. Malone was experienced with Catholicism. They told us that they planned some of their tactics on the basis of predictions about Mrs. V and Marge when they realized the ethnic background and religion of the women.
Furthermore, we need to know about the backgrounds of participants for research purposes — to explain and understand the significance of different communicative systems and to study issues of miscommunication. So we make paracommunicative inferences as a means to an end in communication theory.
Judgments about a participant’s life contexts and the determination of his behavior are most reliably made, I believe, on the basis of his style, i. e. , from his paracommunicative qualities. So I call these mentalistic processes paracommunicative inference. That such inferences are an activity in communication justifies, as well, a concept of paracommunication.
But paracommunication does not depend alone on inferences about style and variation. Participants use symbolic behaviors to signify the traditions — ethnic, class, regional, institutional, and role —• to which their performances belong. Also they indicate their values, states, and so forth. Thus participants behave paracommunicatively.7