Non-Verbal communication Experiment

Influence of Cultural Background on Non-verbal Communication in a Usability Testing Situation

1Department of Design, IIT Guwahati, Guwahati, India
2Department of Informatics, CBS, Copenhagen, Denmark

Designers are continuously engaged in elicitation of user data, prior to new product conceptualisation, as well as during the testing of prototypes. When such user data collection happens across different cultures, data is often collected and analysed ignoring the rich qualitative cues embedded in non-verbal communications such as gestures. In cross-cultural situations, gestures can yield additional information from the user. This paper analyses non-verbal kinesthetic cues of users engaged in a verbal protocol-based testing situation. To understand the extent of the influence of cultural background on the nature of non-verbal communications, such as gestures of the head and hands, and to find out if there is an increase of gestures in the vicinity of usability problems, gestures in videos of usability Think-Aloud sessions were analysed using a content analysis software tool. The experiment revealed that there is a rich non-verbal component of communication in the form of gesture-clusters and body movements that happen in an interactive cross-cultural situation. While some gesture types are culture specific, cultural background itself seems not to influence the rate or pattern of the gestures’ occurrence. Non-verbal communication, such as gestures, does hold potential as a source of additional user behavior data in a cross-cultural testing situation.

Keywords – Culture, Gestures, Non-Verbal Communication, Usability Test, User’s Data.

Relevance to Design Practice – There is a large amount of rich non-verbal communication that occurs during a predominantly verbal user data collection and testing situation that has not been, so far, tapped by design researchers. The study indicates that non-verbal communication can be relied upon by design researchers for additional interpretation in cross-cultural situations that have issues like language accents and cultural unfamiliarity and newness for a designer or usability tester. There are optimistic reasons for further probing and studying users’ non- verbal communication during interviews and testing and data collection events.

Citation: Yammiyavar, P., Clemmensen, T., & Kumar, J. (2008). Influence of cultural background on non-verbal communication in a usability testing situation. International Journal of Design, 2(2), 31-40.

Copyright: © 2008 Yammiyavar, Clemmensen, and Kumar. Copyright for this article is retained by the authors, with first publication rights granted to the International Journal of Design. All journal content, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivs 2.5 License. By virtue of their appearance in this open access journal, articles are free to use, with proper attribution, in educational and other non-commercial settings.


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