Paper 1 Analysis

Self Help Guide

Unseen Text: Aggressiveness and Readiness Gestures

Text Type: Self-Help Guide

Guiding Question: How does the author of the text reveal his purpose and the values that are important to him?

The ability to be a critical and independent thinker is highly prized by the IBDP. Attributes such as ‘inquirer,’ ‘thinker’ and ‘risk-taker’ are boiled in to the IB Learner Profile, providing clues as to how to approach your day-to-day learning. The following response demonstrates how taking a critical position on a text can result in strong analysis and evaluation. It may feel like a ‘risk’ but, by carefully supporting all your points with well-chosen evidence, you’ll find that taking a critical position can pay off. It’s important to note, however, that this is just one way of responding to the given text and may not work every time; alternative approaches can be equally valid.

Sample Response:

The given text is an extract from a self-help guide called Body Language: How to read others’ thoughts by their gestures, written by Alan Pease and published in 1981. The purpose of a self-help book is often to give people advice on how to overcome problems in life; this book explains the meaning of various poses and examples of body language, in order to help people in sales become better negotiators. While not directly addressed to salesmen, because a major application of the writer’s methods is in sales situations, it is likely that the text would appeal more to people in sales. Furthermore, due to the stereotypical representation of men and women in the text, it is more likely the book was originally aimed at men.

The advisory element of the text is not strongly foregrounded. In fact, the first phrases which directly address the reader in order to give advice are in the fifth paragraph: ‘it is also important to consider…’ and ‘several other gestures can further support your conclusion’  both give the impression of the writer speaking to a reader directly. His tone is authoritative, as if he is a teacher guiding the reader through a course. The teaching and advisory purpose becomes more apparent towards the end of the text, where phrases such as ‘one of the most valuable gestures a negotiator can learn is…’ and ‘learning to recognise such gestures… helps to keep many more people in the sales profession.’  The repetition of the word ‘learn’  is complemented by the word ‘teach’  in this section of the text and reveals the writer’s intention is to pass on knowledge and expertise.

The author considers himself an expert on the subject of body language and he writes in an authoritative tone throughout. He belittles other ‘sales tactic’ guides by saying, ‘Unfortunately, most sales courses teach salespeople always to ask for the order with little regard for the client’s body position and gestures.’  Throughout the text he writes in declarative sentences (for example: ‘aggressive-readiness clusters are used…’‘closed-coat readiness shows aggressive frustration’; ‘critical evaluation gestures are often seen…’). However, this mode of writing can be used to disguise opinions as facts, and the writer presents no evidence to support his claims of superior knowledge. There are no statistics or citations in the article.

On closer inspection, the writer uses language in a way that creates the impression of authority where none exists. In the previous three examples listed, there is a piece of jargon in each one: ‘aggressive-readiness clusters’, ‘closed-coat readiness’ and ‘critical evaluation gestures.’  Pease is a fan of adjective stacking, which makes the language quite dense, and sometimes creates compound words (by joining two words together with a hyphen) which sound technical and specialist. But the lack of glossary or explanation can exclude a reader who is not an expert – presumably the very people who are reading this book! A reader might be forgiven for finding the text difficult to understand or asking what exactly is an ‘aggressive-readiness cluster.’

The guide is accompanied by simple outline sketches of men and women standing in the ‘the hands-on-hips pose.’  However, the pictures present very stereotypical images of men and women. For example, the man on the first page is standing up straight and facing the reader. His image connotes strength and confidence. By contrast, the women are posed at an angle, highlighting the profile of their bodies. The way they pose is more suggestive; their bodies are slightly bent and their legs and hips are emphasised in a way the man’s are not. This difference becomes even more apparent through analysis of the captions below each image. The man is described as ‘Ready for Action’, connoting preparedness and the ability to confront problems (another example is the phrase ‘ready to tackle his objectives’) whereas the caption on the women’s image explains the gesture is ‘used to make clothes seem more appealing.’  Pease repeats the importance of clothing to women – ‘clothing for the modern… woman’ – and also mentions ‘professional models’ ; it seems like, to the writer, a woman’s ‘professionalism’ is defined only by how she looks.

Men, on the other hand, are constantly associated with the word ‘aggression / aggressiveness’  which is repeated ten times in the text. Other words from a similar lexical field are ‘angry’, dominant’, ‘fearless’, and ‘fighting.’  Men are depicted as ready for conflict and action (at one point they stand with ‘clenched fists’) a bias which appears in the opening metaphor: ‘the boxer in the changing room waiting for his bout to start.’  In paragraph four Pease notes similarities between men and wild birds in terms of the importance of size: ‘birds fluff their feathers to make themselves bigger.’

In conclusion, because this text is a self-help guide a reader might expect to receive advice or useful information. However, the way this text is written suggests it is not as reliable as it may appear. Furthermore, the values presented by the author are stereotypical and outdated, although the presentation of men as strong, aggressive and dominant might appeal to salesmen, the audience for whom the text is primarily intended.

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