The multimodal nature of communicative efficiency in social interaction

Rasenberg, M., Pouw, W., Özyürek, A., & Dingemanse, M. (2022). The multimodal nature of communicative efficiency in social interaction. Scientific Reports, 12: 19111. doi:10.1038/s41598-022-22883-w.
How does communicative efficiency shape language use? We approach this question by studying it at the level of the dyad, and in terms of multimodal utterances. We investigate whether and how people minimize their joint speech and gesture efforts in face-to-face interactions, using linguistic and kinematic analyses. We zoom in on other-initiated repair—a conversational microcosm where people coordinate their utterances to solve problems with perceiving or understanding. We find that efforts in the spoken and gestural modalities are wielded in parallel across repair turns of different types, and that people repair conversational problems in the most cost-efficient way possible, minimizing the joint multimodal effort for the dyad as a whole. These results are in line with the principle of least collaborative effort in speech and with the reduction of joint costs in non-linguistic joint actions. The results extend our understanding of those coefficiency principles by revealing that they pertain to multimodal utterance design.
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