Sign In

Communications of the ACM

ACM News

Social Studies

View as: Print Mobile App Share:
Face to Face

Christine Daniloff

For humans, the very idea of communication is bound up with the idea of language. But for hundreds of thousands of years before language emerged, we communicated the same way other social species do: through a complex system of nonverbal signals. We ignore those ancient signals at our peril, says Alex "Sandy" Pentland, Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences. Nonverbal cues can make unreasonable arguments strangely persuasive, but if properly recognized and harnessed, they can make group discussions much more productive.

Pentland's research group, the Human Dynamics Lab, tends to court contradictions. To study ancient signaling systems, it uses cutting-edge technology. But one of its recent findings is that even in an age of Twitter and texting, companies may improve their productivity if they give employees more time to talk face to face.

Pentland's MIT doctorate is in psychology, but after graduation, he immediately began applying psychological insight to artificial-intelligence research. After five years in Palo Alto, at Stanford University and SRI International, he came back to MIT as an expert in computer vision. His work expanded to include sensor systems more generally, and in 1997, Newsweek named him one of 100 people to watch in the new century for his work on "smart rooms" studded with sensors that could anticipate and meet their inhabitants' needs.

From MIT News Office
View Full Article


No entries found