Specific facial signals associate with categories of social actions conveyed through questions

Nota, N., Trujillo, J. P., & Holler, J. (2023). Specific facial signals associate with categories of social actions conveyed through questions. PLoS One, 18(7): e0288104. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0288104.
The early recognition of fundamental social actions, like questions, is crucial for understanding the speaker’s intended message and planning a timely response in conversation. Questions themselves may express more than one social action category (e.g., an information request “What time is it?”, an invitation “Will you come to my party?” or a criticism “Are you crazy?”). Although human language use occurs predominantly in a multimodal context, prior research on social actions has mainly focused on the verbal modality. This study breaks new ground by investigating how conversational facial signals may map onto the expression of different types of social actions conveyed through questions. The distribution, timing, and temporal organization of facial signals across social actions was analysed in a rich corpus of naturalistic, dyadic face-to-face Dutch conversations. These social actions were: Information Requests, Understanding Checks, Self-Directed questions, Stance or Sentiment questions, Other-Initiated Repairs, Active Participation questions, questions for Structuring, Initiating or Maintaining Conversation, and Plans and Actions questions. This is the first study to reveal differences in distribution and timing of facial signals across different types of social actions. The findings raise the possibility that facial signals may facilitate social action recognition during language processing in multimodal face-to-face interaction.
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