What are some of the gender differences in nonverbal communication as they appear in contempory advertising?

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Jessica Pope | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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The nature of gender differences in nonverbal communication is controversial. Some scholars believe that cross-cultural, universal gendered styles of communication exist. New York University professor of gender studies Carol Gilligan has written extensively about the non-direct, nonverbal nature of much female communication. Gilligan and those who agree with her believe that women tend to read nuanced body linage with greater sensitively and accuracy than do men.

This premise is widely expressed in contemporary advertising -- including commercials, billboards, and print ads. Many commercials for household products depict a wife or mother "reading" the body language of her husband and/or children in anticipation of their needs. The husband glances around the kitchen with a searching look in his eyes, and the wife knows he's looking for his favorite breakfast cereal. A young child runs through the door and gives his mother a certain look; the mother knows the child wants an afternoon snack.

Conversely, many male-targeted commercials depict stereotypical male ineptness when it comes to reading body language. Men gather around the television screen watching a sports event, while their wives in the background sigh, shake their heads and display other signs of discontent. Often the advertised product is meant to ameliorate the tension between the sexes that is caused by this gender distinction in communicating.

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