Prosodic speech entrainment in romantic relationships

Author(s): Sarah Weidman, Mara Breen and Katherine Haydon

Abstract

Speech entrainment, the tendency of conversational partners to match their speech, has been shown to be associated with positive social outcomes. In the current study, we investigated speech entrainment between romantic partners. We extracted a set of acoustic-prosodic features from the conversations of twenty-six couples in order to examine (1) the degree to which romantic partners prosodically entrain their speech and (2) whether relationship factors predict romantic partners’ level of entrainment. Using observational ratings and self-report data collected from the Couples Communication Project corpus, in which couples participated in discussions about conflicts and agreements in their relationships, we investigated whether speech entrainment is associated with couples’ exhibited behavior during the discussions or factors about their relationship. Couples exhibited overall speech entrainment for features of pitch, intensity, voice quality and speech rate. Moreover, entrainment varied with the content of the conversation. Couples who entrained during a conflict discussion were less likely to resolve the conflict; conversely, couples who entrained during an agreement discussion were rated as healthier and better collaborators.

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