InterSpeech 2011

Honest Signals

Alex 'Sandy' Pentland (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

How did humans coordinate before we had sophisticated language capabilities? Pre-linguistic social species coordinate by signaling, and in particular 'honest signals' which actually cause changes in the listener. I will present examples of human behaviors that are likely honest signals, and show that they can be used to predict the outcomes of dyadic interactions (dating, negotiation, trust assessment, etc.) with an average accuracy of 80%. Patterns of signaling also allow accurate identification of social and task roles in small groups, predict task performance in small groups, guide team formation, and understand aspects of organizational performance. These experiments suggest that modern language evolved `on top' of ancient signaling mechanisms, and that today linguistic and signaling mechanisms operate in parallel.