Perception of smiling in different modalities by native vs. non-native speakers

Author(s): Caroline Émond, Albert Rilliard and Jürgen Trouvain


Smiling, as a visual expression and nonverbal behavior, has been the subject of many studies, but less is known about smiled speech. This paper aims at examining the perception of smiling in audio only, visual only and in audiovisual conditions, among three different linguistic groups. The subjects’ reaction times and the perceived intensity of the smiles were recorded, during a task where subjects rated stimuli for being or not produced with a smile. In order to proceed with an instrumental analysis, a Québec-French-speaking actress reproduced 138 utterances from spontaneous-speech data which served as stimuli for a perception test administered to French listeners from Québec (n=20) and France (n=18) and German listeners without any knowledge of Québec French (n=21). Results show that Québec listeners perceived a higher rate of smiling utterances followed by French and German. The reaction times are longer in audio only condition than in audiovisual. Listeners showed shorter reaction times for utterances that were associated with high-intensity as opposed to low-intensity smiling.