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Gaze direction signals response preference in conversation

Kendrick, K. H., & Holler, J. (2017). Gaze direction signals response preference in conversation. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 50(1), 12-32. doi:10.1080/08351813.2017.1262120.
In this article, we examine gaze direction in responses to polar questions using both quantitative and conversation analytic (CA) methods. The data come from a novel corpus of conversations in which participants wore eye-tracking glasses to obtain direct measures of their eye movements. The results show that while most preferred responses are produced with gaze toward the questioner, most dispreferred responses are produced with gaze aversion. We further demonstrate that gaze aversion by respondents can occasion self-repair by questioners in the transition space between turns, indicating that the relationship between gaze direction and preference is more than a mere statistical association. We conclude that gaze direction in responses to polar questions functions as a signal of response preference. Data are in American, British, and Canadian English.

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