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5 - Measuring Responses to Nonverbal Social Signals: Research on Affect Receiving Ability

from Part I - Conceptual Models of Social Signals

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 July 2017

Ross Buck
University of Connecticut
Mike Miller
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Stacie Renfro Powers
Philliber Research Associates
Judee K. Burgoon
University of Arizona
Nadia Magnenat-Thalmann
Université de Genève
Maja Pantic
Imperial College London
Alessandro Vinciarelli
University of Glasgow
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Facial and bodily expressions function as social signals: communicative displays of affect that regulate social interaction. It has long been recognized that abilities to read such signals accurately is a kind of social intelligence, distinct from the traditional IQ. An understanding and valid and reliable measures assessing such abilities would be very useful. In recent years a number of techniques have been developed for the automatic analysis of the stream of affect display across time, including facial expressions, body movements and postures, and vocalic analyses. Such techniques enable the efficient and objective recording of the dynamic stream of display and are of immense value, permitting the analysis of the detailed structure of nonverbal “body language” as never before. Potential exists for applications that help to assess the detailed structure of nonverbal receiving abilities: for example, the nature of specific cues that underlie accurate or inaccurate judgment on the part of different receivers.

This chapter considers the conceptual foundations and assumptions underlying measures of social signal pickup and processing, and the current developments art including specific measures that have been proposed. A major challenge is that current approaches are almost exclusively based upon posed or enacted facial and bodily displays, many of them static rather than dynamic. There is much evidence that static and/or posed displays differ from dynamic spontaneous displays involving the authentic experience of emotion on the part of the sender. Evidence suggests that the processing of spontaneous versus posed displays differs as well. A second concern of this chapter involves the concept of emotion sonar: that in interactive situations the tone is set by the display behavior of the sender more than the interpretive skills of the receiver. Given attention, displays are “picked up” automatically, affording mutual contingent responsiveness and enabling primary intersubjectivity vis-á-vis sender and receiver in which each is constantly attuned to the subjective state displayed by the other. Finally, we will consider evidence of the role of the neurohormone oxytocin (OT) in responsiveness to social signals.

Measuring Abilities to “Read” Social Signals

Person Perception Accuracy

Attempts to measure abilities at social recognition, also termed person perception accuracy, date from the 1920s. However, early attempts were frustrated by methodological problems.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2017

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