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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Commun. | doi: 10.3389/fcomm.2019.00063

The look of (un)confidence: Visual markers for inferring speaker confidence in speech

  • 1McGill University, Canada
  • 2Centre for Research on Brain Language and Music, Canada

Evidence suggests that observers can accurately perceive a speaker’s static confidence level, related to their personality and social status, by only assessing their visual cues. However, less is known about the visual cues that speakers produce to signal their transient confidence level in the content of their speech. Moreover, it is unclear what visual cues observers use to accurately perceive a speaker’s confidence level. Observers are hypothesized to use visual cues in their social evaluations based on the cue’s level of perceptual salience and/or their beliefs about the cues that speakers with a given mental state produce. We elicited high and low levels of confidence in the speech content by having a group of speakers answer general knowledge questions ranging in difficulty while their face and upper body were video recorded. A group of observers watched muted videos of these recordings to rate the speaker’s confidence and report the face/body area(s) they used to assess the speaker’s confidence. Observers accurately perceived a speaker’s confidence level relative to the speakers’ subjective confidence, and broadly differentiated speakers as having low compared to high confidence by using speakers’ eyes, facial expressions, and head movements. Our results argue that observers use a speaker’s facial region to implicitly decode a speaker’s transient confidence level in a situation of low-stakes social evaluation, although the use of these cues differs across speakers. The effect of situational factors on speakers’ visual cue production and observers’ utilisation of these visual cues are discussed, with implications for improving how observers in real world contexts assess a speaker’s confidence in their speech content.

Keywords: speech communication, memory recall, Nonverbal Behavior, mental state attribution, competence

Received: 24 Jul 2019; Accepted: 23 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Mori and Pell. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Miss. Yondu Mori, McGill University, Montreal, Canada, yondu.mori@mail.mcgill.ca