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What is Face Threat

Handbook of Research on Culturally-Aware Information Technology: Perspectives and Models
Face was defined by Goffman (1967, p. 5) as the “positive social value a person effectively claims for himself”. Face can be saved or lost, and it can be threatened or conserved in interactions. The desire to preserve and enhance one’s face is presumed to be a universal social goal in the Brown and Levinson (1987) model, and commonly manifests itself as the twin desires to autonomously direct one’s actions and attentions where one wills and to have one’s goals and actions seen as valuable. Yet virtually all interactions between social agents are Face threatening acts (FTAs) since, at a minimum, they require the hearer to shift attention and acknowledge the speaker, thereby impinging upon one or both of the face goals. Brown and Levinson’s model claims that the degree of face threat in an interaction is a function of three terms: the power that the Hearer has over the Speaker, the Social distance between Speaker and Hearer, and the raw imposition of the topic or request inherent in the interaction.
Published in Chapter:
Politeness and Etiquette Modeling: Beyond Perception to Behavior
Christopher A. Miller (Smart Information Flow Technologies, USA), Tammy Ott (Smart Information Flow Technologies, USA), Peggy Wu (Smart Information Flow Technologies, USA), and Vanessa Vakili (Smart Information Flow Technologies, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-883-8.ch017
If culture is expressed in the patterns of behavior, values and expectations of a group, then a central element in the practical modeling and understanding of culture is the expression of politeness and its roles in governing and influencing behavior. The authors have been developing computational models of “politeness” and its role in power and familiarity relationships, urgency, indebtedness, etc. Such a model, insofar as it extends to human-machine interactions, will enable better and more effective decision aids. This model, based on a universal theory of human politeness, links aspects of social context (power and familiarity relationships, imposition, character), which have culture-specific values, to produce expectations about the use of polite, redressive behaviors (also culturally defined). The authors have linked this “politeness perception” model to a coarse model of decision making and behavior in order to predict influences of politeness on behavior and attitudes. This chapter describes the algorithm along with results from multiple validation experiments: two addressing the model’s ability to predict perceived politeness and two predicting the impact of perceived politeness on compliance behaviors in response to directives. The authors conclude that their model tracks well with subjective perceptions of American cultural politeness and that its predictions broadly anticipate and explain situations in which perceived politeness in a directive yields improved affect, trust, perceived competence, subjective workload, and compliance, though somewhat decreased reaction time. The model proves better at accounting for the effects of social distance than for power differences.
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