Speech Rhythm Convergence as a Social Coalition Signal
Samuel, Arthur G.
MetadataShow full item record
Polyanskaya, L., Samuel, A. G., & Ordin, M. (2019). Speech Rhythm Convergence as a Social Coalition Signal. Evolutionary Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1177/1474704919879335
Patterns of nonverbal and verbal behavior of interlocutors become more similar as communication progresses. Rhythm entrainment promotes prosocial behavior and signals social bonding and cooperation. Yet, it is unknown if the convergence of rhythm in human speech is perceived and is used to make pragmatic inferences regarding the cooperative urge of the interactors. We conducted two experiments to answer this question. For analytical purposes, we separate pulse (recurring acoustic events) and meter (hierarchical structuring of pulses based on their relative salience). We asked the listeners to make judgments on the hostile or collaborative attitude of interacting agents who exhibit different or similar pulse (Experiment 1) or meter (Experiment 2). The results suggest that rhythm convergence can be a marker of social cooperation at the level of pulse, but not at the level of meter. The mapping of rhythmic convergence onto social affiliation or opposition is important at the early stages of language acquisition. The evolutionary origin of this faculty is possibly the need to transmit and perceive coalition information in social groups of human ancestors. We suggest that this faculty could promote the emergence of the speech faculty in humans.