(KU Leuven – MIDI Research Group – METLab)
Multimodal strategies in the production and reception of irony in face-to-face interaction
Eye gaze has been described as a powerful instrument in social interaction, serving a multitude of functions and displaying particular patterns in relation to speech, gesture and other semiotic resources. Recently developed data collection techniques, including mobile eye-tracking systems, allow us to generate fine-grained information on the gaze orientation of multiple participants simultaneously while they are engaged in spontaneous face-to-face interactions. In this talk, I will zoom in on one set of studies from our lab that provides an illustration of how mobile eye-tracking data may be used for both qualitative and quantitative explorations into the working of the ‘gaze machinery’ in (inter)action. More specifically, I will discuss the complex cognitive-pragmatic phenomenon of irony in interaction. The intrinsic layered nature of irony requires a form of negotiation between speakers and their addressees, in which eye gaze behaviour (along with other nonverbal resources) seems to play a relevant role. A comparison of both speaker and addressee gaze patterns in ironic vs. non-ironic sequences in spontaneous interactions reveals interesting patterns that can be attributed to an increased grounding activity between the participants.