Edward T. Hall

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Edward T. Hall
Edward T. Hall 1966.jpg
Hall in 1966
Edward Twitchell Hall, Jr.

(1914-05-16)May 16, 1914
Webster Groves, Missouri,
United States
DiedJuly 20, 2009(2009-07-20) (aged 95)
Santa Fe, New Mexico,
United States
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma mater Columbia University
Known for Proxemics, High-context and low-context cultures, monochronic and polychronic time
Scientific career
Fields Anthropology
Institutions United States Army, University of Denver, Bennington College, Harvard Business School, Illinois Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, United States Department of State

Edward Twitchell Hall, Jr. (May 16, 1914 July 20, 2009) was an American anthropologist and cross-cultural researcher. He is remembered for developing the concept of proxemics and exploring cultural and social cohesion, and describing how people behave and react in different types of culturally defined personal space. Hall was an influential colleague of Marshall McLuhan and Buckminster Fuller. [1]

Anthropology is the scientific study of humans and human behavior and societies in the past and present. Social anthropology and cultural anthropology study the norms and values of societies. Linguistic anthropology studies how language affects social life. Biological or physical anthropology studies the biological development of humans.

Proxemics is the study of human use of space and the effects that population density has on behaviour, communication, and social interaction.

Marshall McLuhan Canadian educator, philosopher, and scholar-- a professor of English literature, a literary critic, and a communications theorist

Herbert Marshall McLuhan was a Canadian philosopher. His work is one of the cornerstones of the study of media theory. Born in Edmonton, Alberta, McLuhan studied at the University of Manitoba and the University of Cambridge. He began his teaching career as a professor of English at several universities in the U.S. and Canada before moving to the University of Toronto in 1946, where he remained for the rest of his life.



Hall was born in Webster Groves, Missouri and taught at the University of Denver, Colorado, Bennington College in Vermont, Harvard Business School, Illinois Institute of Technology, Northwestern University in Illinois and others. The foundation for his lifelong research on cultural perceptions of space was laid during World War II, when he served in the U.S. Army in Europe and the Philippines.

Webster Groves, Missouri City in Missouri, United States

Webster Groves is an inner-ring suburb of St. Louis in St. Louis County, Missouri, United States. The population was 22,995 at the 2010 census.

University of Denver private university in the Rocky Mountain Region of the United States

The University of Denver (DU) is a private research university in Denver, Colorado. Founded in 1864, it is the oldest independent private university in the Rocky Mountain Region of the United States with an organization revenue of $300 million. DU enrolls approximately 5,600 undergraduate students and 6,100 graduate students. The 125-acre (0.51 km2) main campus is a designated arboretum and is located primarily in the University Neighborhood, about five miles (8 km) south of downtown Denver.

Colorado State of the United States of America

Colorado is a state of the Western United States encompassing most of the southern Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains. It is the 8th most extensive and 21st most populous U.S. state. The estimated population of Colorado was 5,695,564 on July 1, 2018, an increase of 13.25% since the 2010 United States Census.

From 1933 through 1937, Hall lived and worked with the Navajo and the Hopi on Native American reservations in northeastern Arizona, the subject of his autobiographical West of the Thirties. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1942 and continued with field work and direct experience throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. During the 1950s he worked for the United States State Department, at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), teaching inter-cultural communications skills to foreign service personnel, developed the concept of "high context culture" and "low context culture", and wrote several popular practical books on dealing with cross-cultural issues. He is considered a founding father of intercultural communication as an academic area of study. [2] [3]

Navajo Nation Reservation

The Navajo Nation is a Native American territory covering about 17,544,500 acres, occupying portions of northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah, and northwestern New Mexico in the United States. This is the largest land area retained by a Native American tribe, with a population of roughly 350,000 as of 2016.

Hopi ethnic group

The Hopi are a Native American tribe, often recognized for populating the North American continent and in particular, Arizona. As of the 2010 census, there are 19,338 Hopi in the United States. The Hopi language is one of 30 in the Uto-Aztecan language family. The majority of Hopi people are enrolled in the Hopi Tribe of Arizona but some are enrolled in the Colorado River Indian Tribes. The Hopi Reservation covers a land area of 2,531.773 sq mi (6,557.26 km2).

Indian reservation land managed by Native American tribes under the US Bureau of Indian Affairs

An Indian reservation is a legal designation for an area of land managed by a federally recognized Native American tribe under the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs rather than the state governments of the United States in which they are physically located. Each of the 326 Indian reservations in the United States is associated with a particular Native American nation. Not all of the country's 567 recognized tribes have a reservation—some tribes have more than one reservation, while some share reservations. In addition, because of past land allotments, leading to some sales to non–Native Americans, some reservations are severely fragmented, with each piece of tribal, individual, and privately held land being a separate enclave. This jumble of private and public real estate creates significant administrative, political, and legal difficulties.

Throughout his career, Hall introduced a number of new concepts, including proxemics, monochronictime, polychronic time, and high-context and low-context cultures. In his second book, The Hidden Dimension, he describes the culturally specific temporal and spatial dimensions that surround each of us, such as the physical distances people maintain in different contexts.

In anthropology, High-context culture and low-context culture is a measure of how explicit the messages exchanged in a culture are, and how important the context is in communication. These concepts were first introduced by the anthropologist Edward T. Hall in his 1976 book Beyond Culture. According to Hall, in a low-context culture, the message will be interpreted through just the words and their explicit meaning. High and low context cultures creates a scale to describe a culture's communication with others through their range of communication abilities; utilizing gestures, relations, body language, and verbal or non verbal messages are ways in which a culture can be categorized. Categorizing cultures in this manner helps to comprehend a culture's communication skills and applying this knowledge also influences how cultures respond through global communication. In a high-context culture, messages are also interpreted using tone of voice, gesture, silence or implied meaning, as well as context or situation. There, the receiver is expected to use the situation, messages and cultural norms to understand the message.

In The Silent Language (1959), Hall coined the term "polychronic" to describe the ability to attend to multiple events simultaneously, as opposed to "monochronic" individuals and cultures who tend to handle events sequentially.

In 1976, he released his third book, Beyond Culture , which is notable for having developed the idea of extension transference; by an extension, he simply means any technological item, from clothes to laptops. He brings to our attention the fact that these 'extensions' only help us perform certain functions, but they as extensions will never quite be able to carry out these functions by themselves (for example, think about computers, airplanes, etc. We can fly with airplanes, but we can't on our own and nor can airplanes fly 'on their own'). His biggest claim is that culture itself is an extension of man. Extensions also exist in their own evolutionary realm, as well. That is, they evolve on their own and do not directly influence human evolution.

Beyond Culture is a 1976 book by American anthropologist Edward T. Hall.

Extension transference is the symbolic sub-division of a particular goal or purpose so that the sub-divided concepts seem fragmented from the original purpose.

The 'transference' of 'extension transference' is a term he coined to describe when people regard a symbol to actually be its referent. The clearest example of this would be language; like when people do not realize that words are merely symbolic to their referents. For example, there is nothing inherently watery about the physical object water, at least in terms of the symbolic acoustic properties that are produced when someone utters water. Evidence for this would be the fact that across languages there are thousands of unique words that all refer to water. Culture, as an extension, is also a good example; extension transference of culture happens naturally when people are unaware of the extent to which culture shapes how they perceive time and space, or that culture shapes their perception of them at all. Time and space are the two prominent aspects that Hall in particular focuses on in many of his works.

He died at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico on July 20, 2009. [4]


According to Nina Brown, the work of Hall was so groundbreaking that it created a multitude of other areas for research. One of the most widely sought after topics of anthropology is an idea that was first introduced by Edward Hall: Anthropology of Space. Brown goes on to mention that the Anthropology of Space has essentially opened the door to dozens of new topics. [5] Along with influencing the Anthropology of Space, Hall's research had a substantial influence on the development of intercultural communication as a research topic. Since at least 1990, he has been acknowledged frequently for his role in introducing nonverbal aspects of communication, specifically proxemics, the study of the social uses of space, the investigation of communication between members of different cultures. [3] For example, Robert Shuter, a well-known intercultural communication researcher, commented: "Edward Hall's research reflects the regimen and passion of an anthropologist: a deep regard for culture explored principally by descriptive, qualitative methods... The challenge for intercultural communication... is to develop a research direction and teaching agenda that returns culture to preeminence and reflects the roots of the field as represented in Edward Hall's early research." [6]

What was particularly innovative about Hall's early work is that instead of focusing on a single culture at a time, or cross-cultural comparison, as was typical in 1950's anthropology, he responded to the needs of his students at the Foreign Service Institute of the Department of State to help them understand interactions between members of different cultures. [7] Hall points out that the only environment in which classroom dialogue is encountered is simply in the classroom, ergo it served the students little use when actually in the foreign country of interest. At the same time, and in response to the same students, he narrowed his focus from an entire culture, as was then standard within anthropology, to smaller moments of interaction. [7] Colleagues working with him at FSI at the time included Henry Lee Smith, George L. Trager, Charles F. Hockett, and Ray Birdwhistell. Between them, they used descriptive linguistics as a model for not only proxemics but also kinesics and paralanguage.

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  1. Rogers, Everett M. (2000). "The Extensions of Men: The Correspondence of Marshall McLuhan and Edward T. Hall." Mass Communication and Society, 3(1): 117-135.
  2. Rogers, Everett M.; Hart, William B.; Miike, Yoshitaka (2002). "Edward T. Hall and the History of Intercultural Communication: The United States and Japan" (PDF). Keio Communication Review (24): 3–26.
  3. 1 2 Leeds-Hurwitz 1990, p. 262-281.
  4. Constable, Anne (24 July 2009). "Edward T. Hall, 1914-2009: Anthropologist 'loved to bring N.M. with him'". Santa Fe New Mexican . MediaSpan. Archived from the original on 17 February 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  5. Brown, N.. "Edward T. Hall: Proxemic Theory, 1966." Csiss. CSISS Classics, 2011. Web. Available at http://www.csiss.org/classics/content/13
  6. Shuter, Robert. (2008). The centrality of culture. In Molefi Kete Asante, Yoshitaka Miike, & Jing Yin (Eds.), The global intercultural communication reader (pp. 37-43). New York: Routledge.
  7. 1 2 Leeds-Hurwitz 1990, p. 263.