Sensitivity to social contingency or stability of interaction? Modelling the dynamics of perceptual crossing.

We introduce a series of evolutionary robotics simulations that address the behaviour of individuals in socially contingent interactions. The models are based on a recent study by Auvray, Lenay and Stewart (2006) on tactile perceptual crossing in a minimal virtual environment. In accordance, both the empirical experiments and our simulations point out the essential character of global embodied interaction dynamics for the sensitivity to contingency to arise. Rather than being individually perceived by any of the interactors, sensitivity to contingency arises from processes of circular causality that characterise the collective dynamics. Such global dynamical aspects are frequently neglected when studying social cognition. Furthermore, our synthetic studies point out interesting aspects of the task that are not immediately obvious in the empirical data. They, in addition, generate new hypotheses for further experiments. We conclude by promoting a minimal but tractable, dynamic and embodied account to social interaction, combining synthetic and empirical findings as well as concrete predictions regarding sensorimotor strategies, the role of time-delays and robustness to perturbations in interactive dynamics.

Di Paolo, E. A., Rohde, M. and Iizuka, H. (2008). Sensitivity to social contingency or stability of interaction? Modelling the dynamics of perceptual crossingNew Ideas in Psychology , 26: 278 – 294

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