People reflect the face they're talking to

Not only are voices or speech patterns imitated, but facial and body movements are matched.Photo / Thinkstock
Not only are voices or speech patterns imitated, but facial and body movements are matched.Photo / Thinkstock

People copy the facial expressions of those they are speaking with, a new Kiwi study has found.

Not only are voices or speech patterns imitated, but facial and body movements are matched, according to the University of Canterbury (UC) speech research project.

UC student Nicole Mehrtens helped Dr Kauyumari Sanchez research a phenomenon known as the chameleon effect and have found that people speak differently when they talk to different people.

It is something that people all do at different times, whether they realise it or not, Ms Mehrtens says.

"Why do we do this? Well, imitation has been found to establish rapport between people. We like people who are similar to us, whether it is through acting or even talking similarly.

"We might not consciously decide to copy another person so they like us, but it does happen.''

The outcomes of the research will help people who are blind or deaf, and for people learning a second language, the researchers say.

Ms Mehrtens will present her research, supervised by Dr Sanchez, at a public summer scholarship event on campus on February 8.

The findings will help UC's New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behaviour work toward establishing a vocal fingerprint which they say will be useful for speech recognition systems, and possibly in criminal justice settings.

- APNZ

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