2017 Jerry S. Wiggins Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Research - Girard
Measuring head pose and interpersonal behavior
Girard, J. M., Amole, M. C., Cyranowski, J. M., Swartz, H. A., Cohn, J. F., & Wright, A. G. C. (2017, July). Associations between spontaneous head pose and the dimensions of interpersonal behavior. Presented at the 20th Annual Meeting of the Society for Interpersonal Theory and Research, Pittsburgh, PA.
Psychological theories of interpersonal communication often emphasize the role that nonverbal behavior plays in the sending and receiving of social signals (e.g., those related to dominance and affiliation). However, because measuring these constructs is often difficult and time-intensive, empirical studies in this area have been rare (see Burgoon & Dunbar, 2006; Gifford, 2010).
To better understand the complex connections between nonverbal behavior and interpersonal communication, new research is needed that focuses on: (1) specific behaviors that can be directly interpreted, (2) spontaneous behaviors that have not been acted or posed, (3) dimensional measures that can capture gradations of motion and meaning, and (4) momentary measures that can trace the unfolding of behavior over time.
The current study adopted an interdisciplinary approach to this problem by combining theories and methods from psychological science with tools and techniques from computer science. Software packages developed by the authors were used to collect dimensional and momentary measurements of specific and spontaneous nonverbal behaviors and social signals. The resulting findings reveal new insights into the role that head pose (e.g., angling up-vs-down and turning toward-vs-away) plays in communicating interpersonal dominance and affiliation.
Analyses focused on video-recordings of 53 mothers and their 53 teenage daughters during two dyadic, lab-based tasks: a discussion of pleasant events (e.g., shared memories and plans) and a discussion of relationship conflicts (e.g., topics that frequently lead to arguments).
Momentary ratings of mothers’ and daughters’ dominance and affiliation were collected from five trained observers using the Continuous Assessment of Interpersonal Dynamics (CAID) joystick-based approach (Lizdek, Sadler, Woody, Ethier, & Malet, 2012). Custom software called DARMA (http://darma.jmgirard.com; Girard & Wright, 2017) was used to automate many parts of the process and to enhance training, thus easing observer burden and increasing rating quality.
Momentary measures of mothers’ and daughters’ head pose were automatically generated using custom software called ZFACE (http://www.zface.org; Jeni, Cohn, & Kanade, 2016). ZFACE uses computer vision techniques to build 3D face models from standard 2D video. Dimensional estimates of head pose were extracted from these models in three dimensions: pitch (angling up or down), yaw (turning toward or away), and roll (tilting clockwise or counter-clockwise).
Finally, the momentary associations of each participant’s interpersonal behavior and head pose were analyzed using complex multilevel modeling. Affiliation and dominance were simultaneous outcome variables, and head pitch, yaw, and roll were correlated predictor variables; observations were nested within individuals and standard errors were adjusted for dyadic clustering.
Across both discussion tasks and across both mothers and daughters, dimensions of head pose were significantly and uniquely associated with dimensions of interpersonal behavior (see the abstract for details). Angling the head down was associated with higher affiliation and lower dominance ratings, whereas turning left or right was associated with lower dominance ratings. Conversely, angling the head up was associated with lower affiliation and higher dominance ratings, whereas orienting the head straight ahead was associated with higher dominance ratings.
The study’s findings are consistent with evolutionary accounts of dominance/power signaling (Burgoon & Dunbar, 2006). An upward and frontal head pose may have evolved to signal hostile dominance by increasing the appearance of physical potency (e.g., size and threat) and resource holding potential (e.g., elevation and visual field), whereas a downward and non-frontal head pose may have evolved to signal the opposite (e.g., yielding) by reducing these appearances. Future work will assess the generalizability of these findings to other populations and contexts.
Importantly, these results were found using dimensional and momentary measurements of specific and spontaneous behavior. These methodological advancements were only made possible by wedding the efficiency and precision of measurement offered by computer science with the theoretical and statistical clarity offered by psychology. Thus, in addition to shedding new light on a challenging area of scientific interest, the current study serves to demonstrate the exciting possibilities afforded by interdisciplinary collaboration.
Burgoon, J. K., & Dunbar, N. E. (2006). Nonverbal expressions of dominance and power in human relationships. In V. Manusov & M. L. Patterson (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of nonverbal communication (pp. 279–298). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Gifford, R. (2010). The role of nonverbal communication in interpersonal relations. In L. M. Horowitz & S. Strack (Eds.), Handbook of interpersonal psychology: Theory, research, assessment, and therapeutic interventions (pp. 171–190). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Girard, J. M., & Wright, A. G. C. (2017). DARMA: Software for Dual Axis Rating and Media Annotation. Behavior Research Methods. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13428-017-0915-5
Jeni, L. A., Cohn, J. F., & Kanade, T. (2016). Dense 3D face alignment from 2D videos in real-time. Image and Vision Computing, 58, 13–24.
Lizdek, I., Sadler, P., Woody, E., Ethier, N., & Malet, G. (2012). Capturing the stream of behavior: A computerjoystick method for coding interpersonal behavior continuously over time. Social Science Computer Review, 30(4), 513–521.