The Bursts and Lulls of Multimodal Interaction: Temporal Distributions of Behavior Reveal Differences Between Verbal and Non‐Verbal Communication

Cognitive Science 42 (4):1297-1316 (2018)
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Recent studies of naturalistic face‐to‐face communication have demonstrated coordination patterns such as the temporal matching of verbal and non‐verbal behavior, which provides evidence for the proposal that verbal and non‐verbal communicative control derives from one system. In this study, we argue that the observed relationship between verbal and non‐verbal behaviors depends on the level of analysis. In a reanalysis of a corpus of naturalistic multimodal communication (Louwerse, Dale, Bard, & Jeuniaux, ), we focus on measuring the temporal patterns of specific communicative behaviors in terms of their burstiness. We examined burstiness estimates across different roles of the speaker and different communicative modalities. We observed more burstiness for verbal versus non‐verbal channels, and for more versus less informative language subchannels. Using this new method for analyzing temporal patterns in communicative behaviors, we show that there is a complex relationship between verbal and non‐verbal channels. We propose a “temporal heterogeneity” hypothesis to explain how the language system adapts to the demands of dialog.



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