Automatically Detected Nonverbal Behavior Predicts Creativity in Collaborating Dyads


In the current study we administered a creative task in which two people collaboratively generated novel strategies to conserve resources. During this task, the nonverbal behavior of 104 participants in 52 pairs was tracked and recorded using the Kinect computer vision algorithm. We created a measure of synchrony by correlating movements between the two dyad members, and showed that synchrony occurred—that is, correlations decreased when we increased delay between the recorded movements of pair members. We also demonstrated a link between nonverbal synchrony and creativity, as operationalized by the number of new, valid ideas produced. Linear correlations demonstrated a significant relationship between synchrony and creativity. Finally, models using synchrony scores as input predicted whether dyads were high or low in creativity with a success rate as high as 86.7 % in the more exclusive subsets. We discuss implications for methodological approaches to measuring nonverbal behavior and synchrony, and suggest practical applications which can leverage the current findings.

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The work presented herein was funded in part by Konica Minolta as part of a Stanford Media-X grant, and we thank them for the valuable insights provided by their visiting researchers, in particular Dr. Haisong Gu. In addition, it was funded in part by grant 108084-5031715-4 from the National Science Foundation. The authors also thank lab manager Cody Karutz for coordinating the administrative aspects of running this study, and Jimmy Lee, Pamela Martinez, Evan Shieh, Alex Zamoshchin, Angel Olvera, Christine Tataru, Mark Diaz and Mark Peng for their help in coding and data analysis, and Dr. Laura Aymerich-Franch, Ketaki Shriram, Michelle Friend, Brian Perone, and Jakki Bailey for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

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Correspondence to Andrea Stevenson Won.

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Won, A.S., Bailenson, J.N., Stathatos, S.C. et al. Automatically Detected Nonverbal Behavior Predicts Creativity in Collaborating Dyads. J Nonverbal Behav 38, 389–408 (2014).

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  • Nonverbal behavior
  • Synchrony
  • Gesture
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Kinect
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Contingency