This paper conceptualizes human interaction as a dynamical system -- that is, where two people interacting with one another become a new system that is sensitive to contextual pressures like what kind of conversation they’re having or whether they’re trying to keep something in memory at the same time. We use head-mounted accelerometers to measure head movement during participants’ conversations and use nonlinear methods (i.e., cross-recurrence quantification analysis) to see how their movement dynamics are affected by different contextual factors. All of the code and data are available in a registered repository on OSF: Dual Conversation Constraints.
Abstract: Much work on communication and joint action conceptualizes interaction as a dynamical system. Under this view, dynamic properties of interaction should be shaped by the context in which the interaction is taking place. Here we explore interpersonal movement coordination or synchrony—the degree to which individuals move in similar ways over time—as one such context-sensitive property. Studies of coordination have typically investigated how these dynamics are influenced by either high-level constraints (i.e., slow-changing factors) or low-level constraints (i.e., fast-changing factors like movement). Focusing on nonverbal communication behaviors during naturalistic conversation, we analyzed how interacting participants' head movement dynamics were shaped simultaneously by high-level constraints (i.e., conversation type; friendly conversations vs. arguments) and low-level constraints (i.e., perceptual stimuli; non-informative visual stimuli vs. informative visual stimuli). We found that high- and low-level constraints interacted non-additively to affect interpersonal movement dynamics, highlighting the context sensitivity of interaction and supporting the view of joint action as a complex adaptive system.
Interpersonal Movement Synchrony Responds to High- and Low-Level Conversational Constraints
July 28, 2017 | Alexandra Paxton and Rick Dale | Frontiers in Psychology