Assessing the reliability of the Laban Movement Analysis system

Ulysses Bernardet*, Sarah Fdili Alaoui, Karen Studd, Karen Bradley, Philippe Pasquier, Thecla Schiphorst

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Laban Movement Analysis system (LMA) is a widely used system for the description of human movement. Here we present results of an empirical analysis of the reliability of the LMA system. Firstly, we developed a directed graph-based representation for the formalization of LMA. Secondly, we implemented a custom video annotation tool for stimulus presentation and annotation of the formalized LMA. Using these two elements, we conducted an experimental assessment of LMA reliability. In the experimental assessment of the reliability, experts–Certified Movement Analysts (CMA)–were tasked with identifying the differences between a “neutral” movement and the same movement executed with a specific variation in one of the dimensions of the LMA parameter space. The videos represented variations on the pantomimed movement of knocking at a door or giving directions. To be as close as possible to the annotation practice of CMAs, participants were given full control over the number of times and order in which they viewed the videos. The LMA annotation was captured by means of the video annotation tool that guided the participants through the LMA graph by asking them multiple-choice questions at each node. Participants were asked to first annotate the most salient difference (round 1), and then the second most salient one (round 2) between a neutral and gesture and the variation. To quantify the overall reliability of LMA, we computed Krippendorff’s α. The quantitative data shows that the reliability, depending on how the two rounds are integrated, ranges between a weak and an acceptable reliability of LMA. The analysis of viewing behavior showed that, despite relatively large differences at the inter-individual level, there is no simple relationship between viewing behavior and individual performance (quantified as the level of agreement of the individual with the dominant rating). This research advances the state of the art in formalizing and implementing a reliability measure for the Laban Movement Analysis system. The experimental study we conducted allows identifying some of the strengths and weaknesses of the widely used movement coding system. Additionally, we have gained useful insights into the assessment procedure itself.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0218179
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2019 Bernardet et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funding: This work was supported by: Moving Stories, SSHRC Institutional Partnership Research Grant ( to UB, SF, KS, KB, PP, TS. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. This work was also supported by Movement + Meaning NEP, CANARIE, Industry Canada ( to UB, PP, TS.


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