Edward T. Hall

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Edward T. Hall
Edward T. Hall 1966.jpg
Born Edward Twitchell Hall, Jr.
(1914-05-16)May 16, 1914
Webster Groves, Missouri,
United States
Died July 20, 2009(2009-07-20) (aged 95)
Santa Fe, New Mexico,
United States
Citizenship United States
Nationality American
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
Alma mater Columbia University
Known for Proxemics, High context culture, Low context culture, monochronic and polychronic time

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]


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.

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]

Throughout his career, Hall introduced a number of new concepts, including proxemics, polychronic and monochronic time, and high and low context culture. 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 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; that is, that humanity's rate of evolution has and does increase as a consequence of its creations, that we evolve as much through our "extensions" as through our biology. However, with extensions such as the wheel, cultural values, and warfare being technology based, they are capable of much faster adaptation than genetics.

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 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, to investigation of communication between members of different cultures.[6] 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."[7]

What was particularly innovative about Hall's early work was that instead of focusing on a single culture at a time, or cross-cultural comparison of two or more cultures, as was then (the 1950s) typical in 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.[8] 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.[9] 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.

See also[edit]


  • The Silent Language (1959)
  • The Hidden Dimension (1966)
  • The Fourth Dimension In Architecture: The Impact of Building on Behavior (1975, co-authored with Mildred Reed Hall)
  • Beyond Culture (1976)
  • The Dance of Life: The Other Dimension of Time (1983)
  • Handbook for Proxemic Research
  • Hidden Differences: Doing Business with the Japanese
  • An Anthropology of Everyday Life: An Autobiography (1992, Doubleday, New York)
  • Understanding Cultural Differences - Germans, French and Americans (1990, Yarmouth, Maine)
  • West of the Thirties. Discoveries Among the Navajo and Hopi (1994, Doubleday, New York etc.)


  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.” Keio Communication Review, 24: 3-26. Accessible at http://www.mediacom.keio.ac.jp/publication/pdf2002/review24/2.pdf
  3. ^ Leeds-Hurwitz, Wendy. (1990). “Notes in the History of Intercultural Communication: The Foreign Service Institute and the Mandate for Intercultural Training.” Quarterly Journal of Speech, 76(3): 262-281.
  4. ^ http://www.santafenewmexican.com/Local%20News/Edward-T--Hall--1914-2009-Anthropologist--loved-to-bring-N-M--w
  5. ^ Brown, N.. "Edward T. Hall: Proxemic Theory, 1966." Csiss. CSISS Classics, 2011. Web. Available at http://www.csiss.org/classics/content/13
  6. ^ Leeds-Hurwitz, Wendy. (1990). Notes in the History of Intercultural Communication: The Foreign Service Institute and the Mandate for Intercultural Training. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 76(3): 262-281.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Leeds-Hurwitz, Wendy. (1990). Notes in the History of Intercultural Communication: The Foreign Service Institute and the Mandate for Intercultural Training. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 76(3), 263.
  9. ^ Leeds-Hurwitz, Wendy. (1990). Notes in the History of Intercultural Communication: The Foreign Service Institute and the Mandate for Intercultural Training. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 76(3), 263.

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