The effect of eyebrow movements on question identification

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In conversation, many speakers use social actions. It is important for the listener to quickly recognize the social action of the speaker in order to understand what the speaker is trying to convey. Questions frequently occur in conversations, and require immediate action from the listener. Several studies have demonstrated that eyebrow frowns and raises facilitate question identification. However, few studies have investigated the effect of eyebrow movements as they naturally occur in communication on accuracy and response times. Therefore, the current study investigated the effect of eyebrow movements, which are based on natural intensities, on question identification. To investigate this, we did an online experiment. In this experiment, participants did a forced choice two-alternative behavioural task, where participants had to judge whether the utterance pronounced was a question or a statement. The utterances were pronounced by an avatar, whose behaviour was based on the natural behaviour shown in a multimodal Dutch face-to-face corpus. The participants’ task was to identify whether the utterance of the avatar was a question or a response as quickly and accurately as possible. The aim of this experiment was to determine whether specific visual signals, such as eyebrow frowns or raises, play a role in the perception of questions. Gorilla, an online testing platform, was used to collect data. Results showed similar accuracy scores for the presence (frowns, raises) and absence of eyebrow movement. Additionally, participants were significantly faster in identifying questions when an utterance was paired with a frown in comparison to a raise or the absence of eyebrow movement. Thus, the presence of frowns results in a quicker identification of questions.
Faculteit der Letteren