Visual information in computer-mediated interaction matters: Investigating the association between the availability of gesture and turn transition timing in conversation

Trujillo, J. P., Levinson, S. C., & Holler, J. (2021). Visual information in computer-mediated interaction matters: Investigating the association between the availability of gesture and turn transition timing in conversation. In M. Kurosu (Ed.), Human-Computer Interaction. Design and User Experience Case Studies. HCII 2021 (pp. 643-657). Cham: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-78468-3_44.
Natural human interaction involves the fast-paced exchange of speaker turns. Crucially, if a next speaker waited with planning their turn until the current speaker was finished, language production models would predict much longer turn transition times than what we observe. Next speakers must therefore prepare their turn in parallel to listening. Visual signals likely play a role in this process, for example by helping the next speaker to process the ongoing utterance and thus prepare an appropriately-timed response. To understand how visual signals contribute to the timing of turn-taking, and to move beyond the mostly qualitative studies of gesture in conversation, we examined unconstrained, computer-mediated conversations between 20 pairs of participants while systematically manipulating speaker visibility. Using motion tracking and manual gesture annotation, we assessed 1) how visibility affected the timing of turn transitions, and 2) whether use of co-speech gestures and 3) the communicative kinematic features of these gestures were associated with changes in turn transition timing. We found that 1) decreased visibility was associated with less tightly timed turn transitions, and 2) the presence of gestures was associated with more tightly timed turn transitions across visibility conditions. Finally, 3) structural and salient kinematics contributed to gesture’s facilitatory effect on turn transition times. Our findings suggest that speaker visibility--and especially the presence and kinematic form of gestures--during conversation contributes to the temporal coordination of conversational turns in computer-mediated settings. Furthermore, our study demonstrates that it is possible to use naturalistic conversation and still obtain controlled results.
Publication type
Proceedings paper
Publication date
2021

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