14thAnnual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association

Lyon, France
August 25-29, 2013

Modeling Therapist Empathy and Vocal Entrainment in Drug Addiction Counseling

Bo Xiao (1), Panayiotis G. Georgiou (1), Zac E. Imel (2), David C. Atkins (3), Shrikanth Narayanan (1)

(1) University of Southern California, USA
(2) University of Utah, USA
(3) University of Washington, USA

Empathy is considered a key curative aspect of interactive counseling based psychotherapy. In this present work, it is deemed an interpersonal behavior whereby one person communicates attention and understanding to another. The process of empathy involves "trying on" the thoughts or feelings of another person. Thus it is hypothesized to involve entrainment, wherein interlocutors become more alike in behaviors such as speech, gestures, emotions, etc. We extend previous algorithms on vocal similarity, measured through temporal weighting on speech features, and principal components constructed from these features. In addition, we approximate entrainment via turn-based differences in weighted pitch between speakers and turn-taking statistics. Results show these cues are significantly correlated with human ratings of empathy, and can predict therapist empathy significantly better than chance. This work establishes a link between empathy and entrainment, and proposes computational approaches to infer therapist empathy.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Xiao, Bo / Georgiou, Panayiotis G. / Imel, Zac E. / Atkins, David C. / Narayanan, Shrikanth (2013): "Modeling therapist empathy and vocal entrainment in drug addiction counseling", In INTERSPEECH-2013, 2861-2865.