Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 214–228 | Cite as

Head movement during listening turns in conversation

  • U. Hadar
  • T. J. Steiner
  • F. Clifford Rose


In five subjects, head movement during conversation was monitored by polarised light goniometry, and recorded alongside speech and a signal proportional to peak amplitude of sound waves (‘peak loudness’). Kinematic properties of listeners' head movements, such as amplitude, frequency and cyclicity, differentiated various conversational functions. That is, they were function-specific: symmetrical, cyclic movements were employed to signal ‘yes’, ‘no’ or equivalents; linear, wide movements anticipated claims for speaking; narrow linear movements occurred in phase with stressed syllables in the other's speech (‘ynchrony’ movements); and wide, linear movements occurred during pauses in the other's speech. That, it is argued, bears upon the relation between thesignalling of communicative intentions and the synchronisation of interactional rhythm. Thus, the former appears to determine the timing and tempo of responses such as ‘yes’ and ‘no’, while the latter determines the regulation of ‘synchrony’ movements. The manner in which these factors interact in other conversational functions and their theoretical implications are discussed.


Social Psychology Head Movement Sound Wave Theoretical Implication Linear Movement 


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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • U. Hadar
    • 1
  • T. J. Steiner
    • 1
  • F. Clifford Rose
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of NeurologyCharing Cross HospitalLondon W6England

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