Hesitation in Intercultural Communication: Some Observations and Analyses on Interpreting Shoulder Shrugging

  • Kristiina Jokinen
  • Jens Allwood
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 6259)


This paper concerns the different ways in which hesitation, and hesitation related phenomena like uncertainty, doubt and other phenomena where lack of knowledge is involved are expressed in different cultures. The paper focuses especially on shoulder shrugging as a signal of hesitation or uncertainty, and starts from the observation that shoulder shrugging has different interpretations depending on the interlocutor’s cultural background. It is not commonly used in Eastern cultures while in Western cultures it is a sign of uncertainty and ignorance. The paper reports a small study on the differences in interpretation of a particular video tape gesture, and draws some preliminary conclusions of how this affects intercultural communication between human interlocutors and between humans and conversational agents.


hesitation signalling gesturing intercultural communication 


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristiina Jokinen
    • 1
  • Jens Allwood
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Speech SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.SSKKIIUniversity of GöteborgGöteborgSweden

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