Virtually accommodating: Speech rate accommodation to a virtual interlocutor.


Why do people accommodate to each other’s linguistic behavior? Studies of natural interactions (Giles, Taylor & Bourhis, 1973) suggest that speakers accommodate to achieve interactional goals, influencing what their interlocutor thinks or feels about them. But is this the only reason speakers accommodate? In real-world conversations, interactional motivations are ubiquitous, making it difficult to assess the extent to which they drive accommodation. Do speakers still accommodate even when interactional goals cannot be achieved, for instance, when their interlocutor cannot interpret their accommodation behavior? To find out, we asked participants to enter an immersive virtual reality (VR) environment and to converse with a virtual interlocutor. Participants accommodated to the speech rate of their virtual interlocutor even though he could not interpret their linguistic behavior, and thus accommodation could not possibly help them to achieve interactional goals. Results show that accommodation does not require explicit interactional goals, and suggest other social motivations for accommodation.

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