What Is  Social Signal?

What Is Social Signal?

In order to explain why I freaked out, I need to walk you through a little science. So let’s start at the beginning, what’s a social signal? Well, some researchers have described it as,

“acts or structures that influence the behavior or internal state of other individuals” (Mehu & Scherer, 2012).

Basically, any behavior that effects someone else (even if that effect is internal to the other person and hard to measure).

Now, this isn’t the only definition. Here’s a list of overlapping consensus from a researcher that literally wrote the book on Social Signal Processing:

• Social signals are observable behaviors that people display during social interactions.

• The social signals of an individual A produce changes in others (e.g., the others develop an impression or a belief about A, react to A with appropriate social signals, or coordinate their social signals with those of A).

• The changes produced by the social signals of A in others are not random, but follow principles and laws.

Vinciarelli goes on to explain that based on all the research they compiled:

Social signals are the physical, machine detectable trace of social and psychological phenomena not otherwise accessible to direct observation.

Did you get that? Social signals by definition are physical and machine detectable. Beyond that, the goals of SSP

• Modeling: identification of principles and laws that govern the use of social signals.

• Analysis: automatic detection and interpretation of social signals in terms of the principles and laws above.

• Synthesis: automatic generation of artificial social signals following the principles and laws above.


Vinciarelli, A. (2017). Introduction: Social Signal Processing. In J. Burgoon, N. Magnenat-Thalmann, M. Pantic, & A. Vinciarelli (Eds.), Social Signal Processing (pp. 1-8). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781316676202.001