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Stick-figure Politicians

Speaking Through the Body

Do people associate the body movements of politicians with their speech?

Former NIAS Fellows Markus Koppensteiner and Greg Siegle published an article on the body movements of politicians, and how these affect people's judgements of politicians making a speech. This paper was based on their research at NIAS.


When people speak, they gesture. However, is the audience watching a speaker who is sensitive to this link? We translated the body movements of politicians into stick-figure animations and separated the visual from the audio channel. We then asked participants to match a selection of five audio tracks (including the correct one) with the stick-figure animations. The participants made correct decisions in 65% of all cases (chance level of 20%). Matching voices with animations was less difficult when politicians showed expansive movements and spoke with a loud voice. Thus, people are sensitive to the link between motion cues and vocal cues, and this link appears to become even more apparent when a speaker shows expressive behaviours. Future work will have to refine and validate the methods applied and investigate how mismatches between communication channels affect the impressions that people form of politicians.


Published online: 27 December 2017