Looking To Understand: The Coupling Between Speakers' and Listeners' Eye Movements and Its Relationship to Discourse Comprehension

Cognitive Science 29 (6):1045-1060 (2005)
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We investigated the coupling between a speaker's and a listener's eye movements. Some participants talked extemporaneously about a television show whose cast members they were viewing on a screen in front of them. Later, other participants listened to these monologues while viewing the same screen. Eye movements were recorded for all speakers and listeners. According to cross-recurrence analysis, a listener's eye movements most closely matched a speaker's eye movements at a delay of 2 sec. Indeed, the more closely a listener's eye movements were coupled with a speaker's, the better the listener did on a comprehension test. In a second experiment, low-level visual cues were used to manipulate the listeners' eye movements, and these, in turn, influenced their latencies to comprehension questions. Just as eye movements reflect the mental state of an individual, the coupling between a speaker's and a listener's eye movements reflects the success of their communication.



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