Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Communication



First Advisor

Michael Castro

Second Advisor

John Tieman

Third Advisor

Hal Zimmerman


The research goal of the following culminating project is to identify the role of non-verbal communication in the maintenance of social stratification based on gender and race in America.

The first chapter seeks to clarify the two main components: social stratification and non-verbal communication. Social stratification is defined and a summary is given of several theories regarding stratification and of how, in various religious, political and social movements, it is a significant factor. The constituents of non-verbal communication are identified.

The second chapter reviews literature on the subject of general social stratification. In order to present a concise look at how various subsistence patterns affect social stratification, Lenski's review of this subject is summarized. Literature that addresses sexual stratification or differences in the way males and females communicate is identified. From Ember's book on cultural anthropology, theories on why the status of women is high or low are reviewed along with comments on these theories from other authors. Also, Ember's chart on worldwide patterns of sexual division of labor and theories about why sexual division of labor exists are presented. Racism, which is a product of stratification by race, is defined, and books regarding this subject are identified. Shipman's book on the evolution of racism is summarized. The main point of this summary is to show how a scientific theory was twisted to promote racism for economic and political gain. Literature regarding socialization is reviewed, establishing how this process teaches, either consciously or unconsciously, expected roles and who should be dominant or submissive, factors central to stratification. Ways in which our socialization process also includes aspects that affect racism are described. Finally, literature covering non-verbal communication is reviewed. This section provides a general overview of non-verbal communication that may have worldwide significance rather than be used exclusively in America.

The third chapter focuses on literature which specifically ties the topics of racial and gender stratification to non-verbal communication. Non-verbal behavior which signals, monitors or controls others is identified. Literature, which outlines specific behaviors that help to stratify the two genders, such as differential use of touch, space and dominance displays, is reviewed. Although there were no entire books on the subject of non-verbal communication that perpetuates stratification by race, some literature briefly addresses this subject and these sources are reviewed as well. The reader is directed to analyze all non-verbal behavior that is negative or dominating which can be used to keep blacks and others in certain roles or social positions.

Chapter four presents my conclusions regarding social stratification and the impact that non-verbal communication has on stratification by gender and race. Also, various authors' ideas for how to change interaction habits to allow for more social equality are presented in my proposals for combatting sexual and racial inequality.

The final chapter presents discussion about the conclusions and suggestions for further work on the research subject.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

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