German Conversation – January 2019

Humans use blinking as a subtle way to control conversations! Rapid blinks can encourage others to speak more,while slower ones can discourage speaking. They should be considered as conversational clues,a bit like nodding.

Blinks have a clear physiological function,keeping the eyes moist and clear,but we do about 13,500 a day,many more than needed for this alone. We also blink more frequently in conversation than when silent.

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute set out to test what other purpose blinking serves.They created a computer face-an avatar-that acted as a virtual listener and asked volunteers questions such as ‘How was your weekend?’. They controlled the avatar’s blinking,short blinks lasting 208 milliseconds and long ones 607 milliseconds;millisecond is a thousandth of a second!

They found that the difference between the blinks was picked up by the listener;long blinks resulted in substantially shorter answers while shorter blinks led to replies several seconds longer.

But in our group we are always too busy talking to continue this important research so we will just wish everyone a Happy and chatty New Year

Sylvia Mountford