Gaze, turn-taking and proxemics in multiparty versus dyadic conversation across cultures

David Alberto Herrera, University of Texas at El Paso


When people converse with others, they participate in joint interaction behaviors, like proxemics or interpersonal distance, mutual gaze, and turn-taking or pause and overlap, which they may not consciously negotiate. How these behaviors manifest depends on many factors, such as gender, age, personality, culture, and number of participating conversants. Understanding these differences is important for situations where intercultural joint interaction behaviors are necessary for mission success, such as for military personnel in foreign countries. They may also be useful for modeling embodied conversational agents where culture and group vary. Joint interaction behaviors have been extensively studied for American dyads, and multiparties have recently received attention for some of these behaviors. In particular, differences in these behaviors as a function of group size have been addressed by comparing studies under differing conditions, settings, and experimental designs. However, less attention has been given to how these behaviors vary across cultures. ^ This study collects, annotates and analyzes joint interaction behaviors of two-person and four-person standing conversations from three different cultures: American, Arab, and Mexican. It looks at differences in proxemics, speaker and listener gaze behaviors, overlap and pause at turn-transitions, and mutual gaze to coordinate turn to answer this question: How do people use joint interaction behaviors differently in multiparty versus dyadic conversation and how is this relationship affected by differences in culture? ^ Data analysis shows that proxemics, gaze, mutual gaze to coordinate turns changed with group size and with culture. However, these changes do not always agree with the way the literature would suggest or what one might expect. For example, proxemics was actually larger for dyads than quads (4 persons), American listener gaze increased significantly in quads and not all contact cultures gaze in high amounts. Their interactions also exhibit some interesting correlations. These unanticipated outcomes demonstrate the importance of collecting and analyzing joint interaction behaviors.^

Subject Area

Sociology, Organizational|Computer Science

Recommended Citation

Herrera, David Alberto, "Gaze, turn-taking and proxemics in multiparty versus dyadic conversation across cultures" (2010). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3418853.