Social interaction depends on complex signals in many modalities. In human interactions, spoken language is the dominant role in which we communicate, while often we forget about the importance of non-verbal signals. Several studies illustrate that there are complex non-verbal factors which enable humans’ ability to communicate. For example, the expressions that we see in another’s face elicits a number of cognitive processes, prompting rapid responses that often imitate the emotion seen in the observed face. Bodily gestures prompts more friendly behaviour between speakers, and thus the two communicators are seen to behave in a more prosocial manner.
These behavioural gestures and facial expressions become related to meaning, making the development of language more possible in accordance to the human psyche. Furthermore, a key component towards making communication possible is empathy. Empathy has been described as the process of understanding a person’s subjective experience by vicariously sharing that experience while maintaining an observant stance. It is the ability to recognize others feelings, the causes of these feelings, and to be able to participate in the emotional experience of an individual. In the context of language and communication, empathy is not the result of a previous experience, but rather is the moment when non-verbal contact between people is occurring.
What is the intelligence humans have developed to effectively communicate? What is happening when people are “connecting”? And when people are conveying conceptual and emotional ideas? Developmental psychologist Howard Gardner argues that human intelligence does not have a single format, but rather is recognized in 8 forms: physical/kinetic intelligence – the ability to use one’s body to express feeling and ideas such as dance, body language and sport; music intelligence – the recognition, production and conversion of musical forms; interpersonal intelligence – the perception of moods, feelings and motivation of others, and cooperation and communication in a group with others; intrapersonal intelligence – the ability to self-knowledge, understanding of moods, feelings and motivation, and our ability to act based on our knowledge; linguistic intelligence – the ability to efficiently use words, manipulate languages and express meanings through written words, debate and humour; spatial intelligence – the ability to perceive sites and to form mental images; logical intelligence as the ability to use numbers, analyze scientific thought, such as productive and deductive reasoning; and moral or existential intelligence – as the naturalistic ability to distinguish between the phenomena of the world and their assessment.
Conceptualizing such theories makes the study of language and communication complex and interesting. It prompts me to think about how communication has the ability to influence collective experience, and how the significant ability for words – such as poetry, novels, or written music – are able to represent and elicit such a strong sense of emotion. Taking Gardner’s theories of intelligence and its relationship to communication, Clouds, focuses on sign-language as a site in which the complex theoretical tenets of communication and intelligence is represented in an embodied form. Subtracting auditory cues surely affects one’s ability to communicate. With sign-language however, behavioural intelligence intrinsic to communication becomes more prominent. It was interesting for me to learn that sign-language is a conceptual language.
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