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Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper “Prediction of Communication Effectiveness During Media Skills Training Using Commercial Automatic Non-Verbal Recognition Systems”, by Pereira, M.; Meng, H. and Hone, K. (2022), in which authors carry out a study with commercial technology to know whether with it, nonverbal useful cues to media speeches can be detected. 

Being able to communicate effectively in media interviews is important in a multitude of job roles. In fact, huge investments are made to improve people’s communication skills so that they show themselves positively.

This does not surprise us, since for some years it has been known that verbal communication represents a small percentage of social communication, where non-verbal signals are especially important.

Therefore, it is important that accurate and objective observations of nonverbal cues be incorporated into the evaluation of people’s performance in media interviews, and in interventions to improve the skills of these people so it’s easier for them to succeed. However, the current tools for this are more limited than it seems.

Previous research about nonverbal communication was based solely on careful observation and analysis of video recordings. The problem is that this method is likely to be subjective and time consuming.

In this article, authors propose the alternative of using commercial technologies available to practically any user, to perform a faster and more objective measurement of non-verbal elements.

But, before getting to this point, they do a little review of the most basic aspects of non-verbal language.

For example, they mention that non-verbal language fulfills an important function from an evolutionary point of view, showing emotions and, thereby, benefiting both the senders and receivers of the message in social relationships.

They also explain the channels that exist: facial expressions, prosody (vocal behavior), gestures, postures…

They also mention the existence of Ekman and his investigations, such as the FACS facial coding system, which we have already explained several times.

Within prosody, they talk about the importance of non-linguistic and linguistic vocalizations, as well as the quality of the voice or silence. For example, intonation can change a message so that it is ironic or sarcastic.

Gestures are often used to regulate interactions, changing arm movements, leg movements, postures, all to show emotion.

In addition, it is known that the communication between two interlocutors depends on its objective and the context. For example, the most important nonverbal cue identified in a job interview is smiling more, while in the classroom, the most important nonverbal cues are voice quality and gestural activity.

Recommendations for media interviews are made in some manuals. For example, lack of eye contact, fast rate of speech, monotonous voice, negatively influences how the person is perceived by the audience. On the contrary, it is recommended to imitate the interviewer’s movements, maintain eye contact and smile.

What happens is that, if software is used to analyze this, it is expensive and difficult to access it. That is why authors mention the usefulness of accessible and commercial programs such as Emotients FACET, Affectiva or Microsoft Kinect.

The objectives of this work are two. On the one hand, to investigate which combination of non-verbal cues are important in a media interview during media interviews and, on the other hand, to present a possible more objective method of capturing social cues during media interviews.

Interviews of 39 participants were recorded and used for the research. In the first session, 17 were recorded and in another one, 22.

The results suggest that body position, facial expressions, vocal cues, and hand gestures are, as we already assumed, relevant to the context of media interviews.

It seems that people who are apparently relaxed and calm are considered to project more honesty and comfort.

The results on facial expressions suggested that those who showed more anger and disgust were classified as better communicators. This may be because the lowering of the forehead and eyebrows can often be understood as concentration, suggesting that the subjects are listening and reflecting.

The study shows that the commercial technology used, detailed in the article, can be used successfully for the measurement of nonverbal signals from different channels, which can be used to help trainers by providing them with an easier mechanism to provide a students objective feedback on their training.

It may also be relevant to social psychology researchers, who need high-quality evaluations of media interviews.

If you want to know more about nonverbal behavior and how it influences our personal relationships, visit our Nonverbal Communication Certificate, a 100% online program certificated by the Heritage University (Washington) with special discounts for readers of the Nonverbal Communication Blog.

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