VIII. Evelyn McClave, Ph.D.
Evelyn McClave, Ph.D., Department of English and Linguistics, California State University at Northridge, discussed the role of gesture and ways in which misunderstandings occur in face-to-face communication. Gestures such as head nodding (up and down) can mean that the deaf person is indicating they are trying to be cooperative conversational participants, not that they are understanding what is being said, nor that they are, necessarily, agreeing with it. Speakers also do "back-channeling" (head-nodding) to indicate they want feedback. Head-shaking (from side to side, generally understood as "no" in American culture) can mean agreement in some cultures and actually often means "I am assessing what you are saying," not disagreeing, in many contexts within American culture. Gestural nods cannot be taken to be assurance of comprehension or of agreement without additional information, according to McClave.
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