Sunday, November 2, 2008
According to this article in the New York Times, Professor Alex Pentland at MIT has developed a device to measure verbal and non-verbal cues during conversation that tells the speaker whether the audience is responding positively or not. The so-called "smartphone" measures conversation tone, cadence and body language to understand the real communication between the parties that lies beneath the words used. As the article points out, Professor Pentland's invention has tremendous potential for helping individuals become more effective communicators and, by implication, it may be able to help lawyers one day with a range of critical professional skills such as persuasion, negotiation, and client relations. Professor Pentland's research appears in his recent book, Honest Signals from MIT Press.
As legal writing professors explore both in the classroom and in their scholarship the roles of reason, emotion and the speaker's ethos to effective attorney communication skills, efforts such as those of Professor Pentland to quantify the influence each of these factors play is important work we should follow.
After a brief recuperative hiatus, the scholarship dude is back - larger than life and twice as ugly.