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Micro-feedback as cues to understanding in communication

Chapter in book
Authors Anna Jia Gander
Pierre Gander
Published in Dialogue and Perception: Extended papers from DaP2018
Pages 11
ISSN 2002-9764
Publisher Centre for Linguistic Theory and Studies in Probability (CLASP)
Place of publication Gothenburg, Sweden
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Applied Information Technology (GU)
Pages 11
Language en
Keywords Feedback, Understanding, Interaction, Communication
Subject categories Linguistics, General Language Studies and Linguistics


Understanding in communication is studied in eight video-recorded spontaneous face-to-face dyadic first encounters conversations between Chinese and Swedish participants. Micro-feedback (unobtrusive expressions used in real-time conversation such as nods and yeah) related to sufficient understanding, misunderstanding, and non-understanding is investigated with regard to auditory and visual modalities, typical unimodal and multimodal expressions, and prosodic features. Results indicate that unimodal head movements exclusively show sufficient understanding. Misunderstanding and non-understanding are more related to multi-modal expressions than unimodal ones. For sufficient understanding, the most commonly used expressions are yeah, okay, m, nods, nod, smile, yeah + nods, chuckle, and yeah + nod (associated with a flat pitch contour). For misunderstanding, half of the multimodal expressions contain nods and yeah or a noun phrase associated with hesitation (and a falling pitch contour). For non-understanding, unimodal micro-feedback sorry, what do you mean, eyebrow raise, and gaze at and multimodal micro-feedback head forward or eyebrow raise combined with sorry, what, or huh are most frequently used, expressing uncertainty and eliciting further information (in association with a rising pitch contour).

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