Edward T. Hall

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Edward Twitchell Hall the Younger (born May 16, 1914 in Webster Groves , Missouri , † July 20, 2009 in Santa Fe , New Mexico ) was an American anthropologist and ethnologist and is considered the founder of intercultural communication as an anthropological science .

Live and act

He has taught at the University of Denver , Colorado, Bennington College in Vermont, Harvard Business School , Illinois Institute of Technology , Northwestern University in Illinois, and others. 1942 PhD from Columbia University .

During World War II he served in the Pacific and Europe. The war experiences in foreign cultures brought him to his research topic and his central thesis that misunderstandings between cultures can be traced back to a matrix of different parameters that apply to all cultures. Over the years he has devoted himself to this field of research, particularly with regard to international business relationships. Together with his wife Mildred Hall , he examined various sources (newspaper articles, films, business structures and behavior, institutions, individual and group behavior, etc.) and conducted numerous open interviews, especially with managers, but also with artists, writers and teachers. This also resulted in practical guides for dealing with business partners from different cultures.

Hall sees culture as "huge, complex computers". It has specific underlying structures (“basic patterns”), its members share internalized codes of behavior and unconscious attributions of meaning, which Hall describes using the “silent language”. At the same time, their actions are based on material and immaterial "extensions" ( extensions of man ), which are extensions, extensions, divestments of the body, of thinking, feeling, speaking, etc., which function as cultural or technical support structures. Language is an extension of thinking, writing is an extension of language, and the compulsory institution is an extension of conscience. These external institutions and functions are relatively permanent. Internal processes are continuously transferred to external ones or supported by them. Conversely, external processes are internalized again and again - voluntarily or under duress.

With the critical appraisal of this achievement by culture, bureaucracies, institutions and technology in his book Beyond Culture , Hall is close to the theory of deficiencies , which requires organ lengthening and enlargement ( extension transference ) or organ replacement. He moves into the vicinity of the institutions teaching of Arnold Gehlen , have certainly aware rezipiert without them. Hall's assumption goes beyond Gehlen that with increasing specialization and dependence of people on the network of often not exactly “fitting” extensions, i.e. tools, institutions, organizations, language and thought models (“theoreality” - model realities) precisely those human functions are damaged which have been "extended".

Hall also makes critical references to Sigmund Freud's theory of sublimation . The sublimation through the building of institutions has just led to the dependence on the network of institutions and models and to some extent hindered human creativity and development.

Cultural dimensions of Hall

Unlike other well-known cultural researchers such as Geert Hofstede or Fons Trompenaars , Edward T. Hall did not present his cultural dimensions in one work, but developed them successively and described them in various publications.

Proxemics / understanding of space

In his work The Hidden Dimension from 1966, Hall introduced this dimension:

Another thesis of Hall has become known under the name of proxemics and describes the cultural-dependent, different spatial distances that people allow or try to protect against "intruders" in different ways. The spaces that are unconsciously differentiated by individuals are called distance zones. A distinction is made between the intimate, personal, social and public distance zones. These can change with increasing familiarity between people. Depending on the culture, these zones have different dimensions. In northern Europeans, for example, the intimate or private spatial zone begins more at a greater body distance than in southern Europeans. Falling short of the distance can be as serious a mistake as stretching it too far. If you stand next to each other an arm's length apart in a cultural area, this can quickly lead to the conclusion that there is excessive caution, hostility or a lack of trust. In another cultural area, touching the body or smelling the other person's breath may make you feel annoyed and robbed of your privacy.

Hall's concepts shape research and practice in intercultural communication. In intercultural trainings (e.g. when preparing for international business contacts) they serve to illustrate and explain possible misunderstandings.

High or low context

In his 1976 book Beyond Culture , Hall introduced this cultural dimension:

High or low context denote concepts for information acquisition or information processing and the necessary networking. It is less about high or low context as rather strong or weak context with respect to communication. In “high context” cultures it is less common to call things by their names. It is implicitly assumed that you are known, and mentioning numerous details can be perceived as negative. The facial expression of the interlocutor, allusions, the circumstances of the encounter and many other context factors are separate information carriers that should not be underestimated.

Cultures with a strong contextual reference can be found in countries in southern Europe (Spain, France), many Asian (China, Japan) and African countries as well as in Latin America.

In cultures with weak contextual reference, one does not expect that most of the information is already known or recognizable without linguistic expression. Everything is called by name here, you seem more direct and feel obliged to give the other person the most precise information possible. So-called "low-context" cultures are for example the USA, Canada, Scandinavian countries, the Benelux countries and Great Britain. (Due to the strong economic relevance of the authors, countries with strong international market activities have been examined more closely and are presented in a more differentiated manner.)

Monochronous or polychronic understanding of time

In his 1983 book The Dance of Life: The Other Dimension of Time , Hall introduced this cultural dimension:

In addition to information processing, the relationship to and handling of time is another important element that defines cultures and in which differences can be recognized. On the one hand, a distinction is made between cultures that tend to be monochronous, in which it is more common (i.e. more likely than normal to accept individual work steps) one after the other. Keeping to the schedule is very important here; completing tasks counts more than maintaining personal relationships.

In polychronic cultures, performing several actions side by side is more common. The schedule is a “can” but not a “must”. You are more flexible and prioritize your personal relationship, completing a task is of secondary importance when it comes to an encounter.

Information speed

In the 1990s, Hall published his research on this cultural dimension:

This cultural dimension expresses that, depending on the culture, preference is given to information that can be processed at different speeds. This can be found in the headlines of daily newspapers, among other things. In cultures with a high speed of information, headlines that can be processed quickly, but are less meaningful, dominate, such as " Guttenberg excludes resignation ". In cultures with a slow information speed, on the other hand, headlines that are less quickly processable but more meaningful dominate, such as " Defense Minister zu Guttenberg excludes resignation due to the affair surrounding the air attack near Kunduz ".


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hall: Beyond Culture , p. 12.