Something in the Way We Move: Motion, not Perceived Sex, Influences Nods in Conversation

Steven M. Boker, Jeffrey F. Cohn, Barry-John Theobald, Iain Matthews, Michael Mangini, Jeffrey R. Spies, Zara Ambadar, Timothy R. Brick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

During conversation, women tend to nod their heads more frequently and more vigorously than men. An individual speaking with a woman tends to nod his or her head more than when speaking with a man. Is this due to social expectation or due to coupled motion dynamics between the speakers? We present a novel methodology that allows us to randomly assign apparent identity during free conversation in a videoconference, thereby dissociating apparent sex from motion dynamics. The method uses motion-tracked synthesized avatars that are accepted by naive participants as being live video. We find that 1) motion dynamics affect head movements but that apparent sex does not; 2) judgments of sex are driven almost entirely by appearance; and 3) ratings of masculinity and femininity rely on a combination of both appearance and dynamics. Together, these findings are consistent with the hypothesis of separate perceptual streams for appearance and biological motion. In addition, our results are consistent with a view that head movements in conversation form a low level perception and action system that can operate independently from top–down social expectations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)874-891
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Volume37
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011

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