Correlating Speaker Gestures in Political Debates with Audience Engagement Measured via EEG

John R. Zhang, Jason Sherwin, Jacek Dmochowski, Paul Sajda, John R. Kender

We hypothesize that certain speaker gestures can convey significant information that are correlated to audience engagement. We propose gesture attributes, derived from speakers’ tracked hand motions to automatically quantify these gestures from video. Then, we demonstrate a correlation between gesture attributes and an objective
method of measuring audience engagement: electroencephalography (EEG) in the domain of political debates. We collect 47 minutes of EEG recordings from each of 20 subjects watching clips of the 2012 U.S. Presidential debates. The subjects are examined in aggregate and in subgroups according to gender and political
affiliation. We find statistically significant correlations between gesture attributes (particularly extremal pose) and our feature of engagement derived from EEG both with and without audio. For some stratifications, the Spearman rank correlation reaches as high as ρ = 0.283 with p < 0.05, Bonferroni corrected. From these results, we identify those gestures that can be used to measure engagement, principally those that break habitual gestural patterns.

Accepted 3 November 2014
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