Visual prosody and speech intelligibility: head movement improves auditory speech perception

Psychol Sci. 2004 Feb;15(2):133-7. doi: 10.1111/j.0963-7214.2004.01502010.x.


People naturally move their heads when they speak, and our study shows that this rhythmic head motion conveys linguistic information. Three-dimensional head and face motion and the acoustics of a talker producing Japanese sentences were recorded and analyzed. The head movement correlated strongly with the pitch (fundamental frequency) and amplitude of the talker's voice. In a perception study, Japanese subjects viewed realistic talking-head animations based on these movement recordings in a speech-in-noise task. The animations allowed the head motion to be manipulated without changing other characteristics of the visual or acoustic speech. Subjects correctly identified more syllables when natural head motion was present in the animation than when it was eliminated or distorted. These results suggest that nonverbal gestures such as head movements play a more direct role in the perception of speech than previously known.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Gestures
  • Head Movements*
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Male
  • Perceptual Distortion
  • Phonetics
  • Semantics
  • Sound Localization*
  • Sound Spectrography
  • Speech Acoustics*
  • Speech Intelligibility*
  • Speech Perception*
  • User-Computer Interface