Communication Distortion: An Intercultural Lesson from the Visa Application Process

Bolanle A. Olaniran, David E. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This paper examines the effects of intercultural factors on communication distortion using a visa interview process. Participants include applicants from a West African and interviewers from a Western Culture. A combination of participant observation and interview techniques were used in an effort to understand the role of culture as a contributory factor to communication distortion and to understand how similar behaviors are subject to different attributions given cultural differences. Specifically, three nonverbal communicative behaviors were addressed: speech pattern, body posture, and eye contact along with information disclosure and verbal aggression. Evidence suggests that different cultures attribute different meanings to similar behaviors which result in communication distortion. Implications and suggestions are discussed for consular attaches, host cultures, and interpersonal communication interactions as a whole.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-240
Number of pages16
JournalCommunication Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 1995


  • Intercultural communication
  • West Africa
  • communication distortion
  • nonverbal communication
  • participant observation


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