Naomi Nota defends thesis 6 December

28 November 2023
On Wednesday 6 December, 14:30 hrs, Naomi Nota will defend her thesis 'Talking faces: The contribution of conversational facial signals to language use and processing’ in the Aula of the Radboud University. The event will also be accessible via live-stream.

Link to live-stream

In everyday face-to-face conversations, people can see each other’s faces and body movements while communicating. This thesis explores whether facial movements (such as movements from the eyebrows, eyes, nose, or mouth), play a role in language use and comprehension. Traditionally, facial movements were studied in relation to expressing emotions rather than in the context of conversation.

Two key questions guide the current research: Do individuals use specific facial movements when they want to communicate certain messages or goals, such as the intention to ask a question? And do these facial movements help listeners in comprehending the speaker’s intended messages or goals more accurately and rapidly? To answer these questions, people’s facial behaviour was analysed in spontaneous conversations. Then, their responses to virtual avatars was tested after manipulating the avatars’ facial movements.

Results from this thesis show that the presence and timing of particular facial movements helps people to understand what someone intends to say early on. In conclusion, facial movements are a key part of how people show and understand what they mean when they talk to each other face-to-face.

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