They Make the Decisions

American Idol

Year after year, I never fail to catch the auditions of American Idol. From amazingly captivating auditions to the downright hilarious, every contestant hopes to hear the magical words, “You’re going to Hollywood!” But the fate of every single contestant is determined by one group of people – the judges.  

In virtually every competition, there are always a panel of judges. Have you ever seen a lone ranger do the judging before? Rarely. Having a group of expertise to critique the performance of contestants adds credibility to a programme, ensuring the quality of the contestants that make it. Each judge’s opinion is important in formulating certain decisions that make or break a contestant.  

The judges in American Idol are an example of a group, having a minimal size of three. In previous seasons, the panel comprised of Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, as well as Kara DioGuardi, who joined the eighth and ninth season. But the departure of Abdul, Cowell and Dioguardi as judges in 2010 meant that new replacements had to fill up those empty slots. These new members came in the form of Aerosmith member Steve Tyler and the ever famous music icon, Jennifer Lopez. When the organizers were sourcing for potential judges, Tyler and Lopez were prospective members. Having strong credibility and background in the music industry, these individuals soon became new members in the judging group for the latest season. 

Original Judges. From left: Randy Jackson, Kara DioGuardi, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell

Current judges. From left: Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Steve Tyler and host Ryan Seacrest

As a group of judges, their specific roles in the initial stage of the competition are to give comments on an audition and decide individually whether he or she should “go to Hollywood”. Discussions are seldom involved between each judge. In subsequent stages of the competition, collective decisions have to be made and we see how the judges interact progressively with each other to determine the fate of each contestant.

Season 10 of American Idol revealed the top 24 this week. At the final stage of auditions, the judges have to agree together as a group who they want to stay or leave. The following clip is an example of a contestant, Jovany Barreto, receiving news from the judges regarding his fate.

Tying all these back to concepts relating to group communication, we identify firstly that the judges in American Idol are a group because of their task interaction, which is one of the two components in group interaction. Task interaction involves communication and behaviour around a task which is important to the group. In this context, their task as judges is simply to decide who’s in and who’s out. They have to effectively convey their opinions to one another and come to a conclusion pertaining to who they want to see in the top 24.

The next element that identifies them as a group is goal-orientation. These judges exist with the purpose of providing feedback to improve the quality of future contestants, apart from making important decisions as mentioned above. The group revolves around collective goals, and it is clear how the judges are structured for a particular purpose.

In our lives, every one of us belong to a group in some way or another. Your clique of friends in school, your project work group, your teammates and so on. We establish ourselves as belonging to a group based on the characteristics that defines one.

Food for thought:

How have particular groups in your life influence you and your behaviour?

Do share (:


February 26, 2011. Uncategorized. 14 comments.

Be My Valentine?

Love is in the air this week.

Simply observe the splendour of flowers and balloons around and we are able to conclude the onset of a special event – Valentine’s Day. A day where cupid strikes.

The whole notion about love inspired this particular entry.

Following last week’s discussion on verbal communication, this week’s entry will focus on the nonverbal aspect of communication. It is important to remember, however, that in reality, nonverbal cues interact with verbal cues; both are inseparable from the other.

In a social context, situations like dates involve both verbal and nonverbal behaviour and communication. But I shall focus on the latter. Amidst my hunt for interesting videos, I chanced upon an interactive web series on YouTube about dating. The videos, collectively titled 8 Dates , feature a socially awkward female, Ava, on a quest to find a boyfriend before Valentine’s Day. (Find out more about 8 Dates )

Each separate clip features the female lead going on a date with different individuals. As we follow her on her journey, we can observe and pick out the use of nonverbal communication in everyday lives. To assist in my analysis, I have selected the more recent one being posted on 5 February 2011.

5 Feb 2011. 8 Dates: HAUNTED By Your Ex.

Well, the above clip isn’t your typical date. But nonetheless, we are able to identify specific nonverbal cues based on their interaction with each other.

The first type of nonverbal communication that is most widely observed on a date is that of Kinesics, or body language. More specifically, a type of kinesics known as affect displays are prevalent as we notice an array of facial expressions in the clip by both parties. At the very beginning, the male lead’s facial expression communicates the message that he isn’t enjoying himself (He substantiates that via verbal communication by explaining the breakup with his ex girlfriend). Subsequently, throughout the date, his facial expression simply stuck at the stage of sorrow, because everything reminded him of his ex girlfriend. The female lead is similarly flustered when everything she said or did reminded her date of his ex, and this emotion was expressed through her facial expression.  

The inability to move on and get over the breakup can also be a nonverbal cue. Time conveys meaning, and in this context, focuses on the male lead’s association with time. Him being so wrapped up in past memories delivers the idea of Chronemics – the study of how time affects human behaviour.  In short, the sequence can be described like this: Stuck in the past – behaviour affected – date failed.

In dates, eye contact (Oculesics) is also a very important code of nonverbal communication. Meaning is associated with the eyes even though no words are spoken (Imagine a very much in love couple gazing into each other’s eyes. They love each other, no?). In the video, the male lead seldom makes eye contact with the focal of his attention – his date. Eye contact conveys meaning like interest and attraction. But the guy, obviously self absorbed in his past, constantly shifts his gaze, denoting his awkwardness and lack of attention towards this date.

Essentially, nonverbal communication is prevalent in many more ways than we can imagine in our lives. Dates require interpersonal communication, and this video is a bad example of a great date. But what we can draw from this is the use of nonverbal cues that if, understood thoroughly, signify a more successful date to come 🙂

Food for thought:

Are there other examples in our lives where nonverbal communication is used?

February 19, 2011. Uncategorized. 14 comments.


A plethora of local productions are being churned out this lunar new year, such as It’s a Great Great World and Homecoming. Companies are jumping on the bandwagon to produce local movies to exploit the festive period. Just last week, I noticed a surge in the number of families watching movies on the second day of the Chinese New Year. These family friendly productions successfully cater to the needs of people wanting to spend some time with their loved ones.

Homecoming 2011

It's a Great Great World 2011


I’m not sure how many people in our community support local films, but I admit that I’m not a local movie fan. The latest local production  I caught was “Money No Enough 2” way back in 2008. However, after watching the trailer for “Homecoming“, I felt the urge to catch it because of  a sense of renewed hope for the local movie industry. Based on the trailer and synopsis alone, I was able to draw out concepts covered in class this week. Under the umbrella term of Verbal Communication, I think it is only appropriate to focus on a number of concepts for deeper analysis. These concepts are namely the use and impact of language and the language-based barriers to communication.  

After a couple of female impersonations in the past that propelled him to fame, Jack Neo is back with a new character in the form of an immaculate lady by the name of Karen Neo in “Homecoming“. Names help to define the identity of the people we attach them to. Holding household names like Liang Po Po (1993) and Liang Si Mei (1995) gives Neo a distinct identity and differentiates one character from another. Despite being the same person, impersonations with different names allow the audience to recognize the characters that Neo is portraying.

See trailer below:

In the trailer, we see Mark Lee as an overbearing chef with an accent. Based on preconceived generalizations and stereotypes, it is fairly simple for the audience to conclude that Mark Lee hails from Hong Kong in the movie. His pronunciation and infusion of the Cantonese dialect in his speech led the audience to classify him as a Hong Konger. Similarly, we understand that Neo is not bred in Singapore due to his acccent. Singaporeans are easily identifiable because of our Singlish and occasional smatter of Hokkien. These generalizations brought about by society causes us to inevitably organize people into different categories based on the way they speak .

In verbal communication, there would be unavoidable challenges that pose as barriers to impede our communication with one another. We see many of such language-based barriers in the Homecoming trailer. A word that stood out while I was watching the trailer was the word “Fantabulous” used by Mark Lee in 1:22. As a slang, this word may not be familiar to many, hence resulting in a possibility of misunderstandings due to the lack of understanding. Slang is often a barrier to verbal communication because people who have never accountered the word will not understand what it means.

From the analysis above, we come to an understanding that language is a powerful tool that defines and helps us to organize the information regarding the things around us. In reel life, the roles that each character play affects the way they communicate. But in real life, verbal communication requires skill and tactics for it to be effective.

Food for thought:

– Are there instances in your life where you are lost in translation because people use language and terms which you dont understand?

Do give your comments and share with us your story (:

February 13, 2011. Uncategorized. 12 comments.