Backchannel Responses and Enjoyment of the Conversation: The More Does Not Necessarily Mean the Better

  •  Han Z. Li    
  •  Yanping Cui    
  •  Zhizhang Wang    


This study examined the types of backchannel response as well as its relationship with speaker presentation, listener recall, and participants’ perceived enjoyment of the conversation in an intercultural setting. Participants were 40 Anglo-Canadians and 40 Mainland Chinese, forming 40 same-gender dyads and performing two dialogues. All interactions were video-taped and micro-analyzed. Noteworthy findings include the following: 1) The Chinese participants in the role of listeners made significantly more backchannel responses than their Canadian counterparts in performing Task 2. 2) “Nod” and “okay” had the highest frequencies in both cultural groups. However, the Canadians used “repeat” more frequently than Chinese and the Chinese used “uhm” and “yeah” more than the Canadians. Participants in both groups “switched codes” when making backchannel responses, providing support for communication accommodation theory. 3) A significant negative correlation was found between the frequency of backchannel responses and participants’ self-reported level of enjoyment of the conversation, raising the critical issue of how to balance the appropriate amount of backchannel response in intercultural communication. 

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