Oh C.K., Kruzic, D., Herrera, F., Bailenson, J. (2020) Facial expressions contribute more than body movements to conversational outcomes in avatar-mediated virtual environments. Sci Rep 10, 20626. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-76672-4
This study focuses on the individual and joint contributions of two nonverbal channels (i.e., face and upper body) in avatar mediated-virtual environments. 140 dyads were randomly assigned to communicate with each other via platforms that differentially activated or deactivated facial and bodily nonverbal cues. The availability of facial expressions had a positive effect on interpersonal outcomes. More specifically, dyads that were able to see their partner’s facial movements mapped onto their avatars liked each other more, formed more accurate impressions about their partners, and described their interaction experiences more positively compared to those unable to see facial movements. However, the latter was only true when their partner’s bodily gestures were also available and not when only facial movements were available. Dyads showed greater nonverbal synchrony when they could see their partner’s bodily and facial movements. This study also employed machine learning to explore whether nonverbal cues could predict interpersonal attraction. These classifiers predicted high and low interpersonal attraction at an accuracy rate of 65%. These findings highlight the relative significance of facial cues compared to bodily cues on interpersonal outcomes in virtual environments and lend insight into the potential of automatically tracked nonverbal cues to predict interpersonal attitudes.