Children’s Reflections on Two Cultural Ways of Working Together: “Talking with Hands and Eyes” or Requiring Words

Amy L. Roberts, Barbara Rogoff


Forty-four pairs of Mexican-heritage and European-heritage US children were asked to characterize differences between two contrasting cultural patterns of working together in video clips that showed a) Mexican Indigenous-heritage children working together by collaborating, helping, observing others, and using nonverbal as well as verbal communication, and b) middle-class European-American children working alone and using predominantly verbal communication.

Through experience in two cultural settings, bilingual Mexican-heritage US children may become familiar with these contrasting cultural patterns that have been identified in research. Mexican-heritage US children characterized the clips in ways that corresponded with researchers’ descriptions more often than did European-heritage children, when discussing working together and helping but not when discussing communication.

The children from the two backgrounds differed in their treatment of talk. In addition to talking more overall, half of the European-heritage US children considered talk a requirement for working together or helping, excluding nonverbal communication as a way of working together or helping. In contrast, the Mexican-heritage US children included nonverbal communication as a means of working together and helping, and some seemed to include nonverbal communication as a form of talking.


communication, collaboration, nonverbal, culture, Intent Community Participation

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