Unobtrusive tracking of interpersonal orienting and distance predicts the subjective quality of social interactions

Juha Lahnakoski, Paul A.G. Forbes, Cade Andrew McCall, Leonhard Schilbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Interpersonal coordination of behaviour is essential for smooth social interactions. Measures of interpersonal behaviour, however, often rely on subjective evaluations, invasive measurement techniques or gross measures of motion. Here, we constructed an unobtrusive motion tracking system that enables detailed analysis of behaviour at the individual and interpersonal levels, which we validated using wearable sensors. We evaluate dyadic measures of joint orienting and distancing, synchrony and gaze behaviours to summarize data collected during natural conversation and joint action tasks. Our results demonstrate that patterns of proxemic behaviours, rather than more widely used measures of interpersonal synchrony, best predicted the subjective quality of the
interactions. Increased distance between participants predicted lower enjoyment, while increased joint orienting towards each other during cooperation correlated with increased effort reported by the participants. Importantly, the interpersonal
distance was most informative of the quality of interaction when task demands and experimental control were minimal.These results suggest that interpersonal measures of behaviour gathered during minimally constrained social interactions are particularly sensitive for the subjective quality of social interactions and may be useful for interaction-based phenotyping for further studies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number191815
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number8
Early online date12 Aug 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Aug 2020

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© 2020 The Authors.

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