An automated approach to examining conversational dynamics between people with dementia and their carers

Atay, Christina, Conway, Erin R., Angus, Daniel, Wiles, Janet, Baker, Rosemary and Chenery, Helen J. (2015) An automated approach to examining conversational dynamics between people with dementia and their carers. PLoS One, 10 12: 1-27. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0144327

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Author Atay, Christina
Conway, Erin R.
Angus, Daniel
Wiles, Janet
Baker, Rosemary
Chenery, Helen J.
Title An automated approach to examining conversational dynamics between people with dementia and their carers
Journal name PLoS One   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1932-6203
Publication date 2015-12-10
Year available 2015
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0144327
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 10
Issue 12
Start page 1
End page 27
Total pages 27
Place of publication San Francisco, CA United States
Publisher Public Library of Science
Language eng
Subject 1300 Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
1100 Agricultural and Biological Sciences
Abstract The progressive neuropathology involved in dementia frequently causes a gradual decline in communication skills. Communication partners who are unaware of the specific communication problems faced by people with dementia (PWD) can inadvertently challenge their conversation partner, leading to distress and a reduced flow of information between speakers. Previous research has produced an extensive literature base recommending strategies to facilitate conversational engagement in dementia. However, empirical evidence for the beneficial effects of these strategies on conversational dynamics is sparse. This study uses a time-efficient computational discourse analysis tool called Discursis to examine the link between specific communication behaviours and content-based conversational engagement in 20 conversations between PWD living in residential aged-care facilities and care staff members. Conversations analysed here were baseline conversations recorded before staff members underwent communication training. Care staff members spontaneously exhibited a wide range of facilitative and non-facilitative communication behaviours, which were coded for analysis of conversation dynamics within these baseline conversations. A hybrid approach combining manual coding and automated Discursis metric analysis provides two sets of novel insights. Firstly, this study revealed nine communication behaviours that, if used by the care staff member in a given turn, significantly increased the appearance of subsequent content-based engagement in the conversation by PWD. Secondly, the current findings reveal alignment between human- and computer-generated labelling of communication behaviour for 8 out of the total 22 behaviours under investigation. The approach demonstrated in this study provides an empirical procedure for the detailed evaluation of content-based conversational engagement associated with specific communication behaviours.
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

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