We describe a “centipede’s dilemma” that faces the sciences of human interaction. Research on human interaction has been involved in extensive theoretical debate, although the vast majority of research tends to focus on a small set of human behaviors, cognitive processes, and interactive contexts. The problem is that naturalistic human interaction must integrate all of these factors simultaneously, and grander theoretical mitigation cannot come only from focused experimental or computational agendas. We look to dynamical systems theory as a framework for (...) thinking about how these multiple behaviors, processes, and contexts can be integrated into a broader account of human interaction. By introducing and utilizing basic concepts of self-organization and synergy, we review empirical work that shows how human interaction is flexible and adaptive and structures itself incrementally during unfolding interactive tasks, such as conversation, or more focused goal-based contexts. We end on acknowledging that dynamical systems accounts are very short on concrete models, and we briefly describe ways that theoretical frameworks could be integrated, rather than endlessly disputed, to achieve some success on the centipede’s dilemma of human interaction. (shrink)
Research on linguistic interaction suggests that two or more individuals can sometimes form adaptive and cohesive systems. We describe an “alignment system” as a loosely interconnected set of cognitive processes that facilitate social interactions. As a dynamic, multi-component system, it is responsive to higher-level cognitive states such as shared beliefs and intentions (those involving collective intentionality) but can also give rise to such shared cognitive states via bottom-up processes. As an example of putative group cognition we turn to transactive memory (...) and suggest how further research on alignment in these cases might reveal how such systems can be genuinely described as cognitive. Finally, we address a prominent critique of collective cognitive systems, arguing that there is much empirical and explanatory benefit to be gained from considering the possibility of group cognitive systems, especially in the context of small-group human interaction. (shrink)
This special issue is a refreshing contrast to the intuitively influential notion of language as an internal system. This internal approach to language is going strong in some segments of the cognitive sciences. As an assumption, internalism drives much empirical work on language, and it is the basis of prominent theories of language – its nature (e.g. an internalised computational system), its evolution (e.g. a single still-unknown mutation), and its function (e.g. thinking, not communication). -/- Radical fundamentalist versions of these (...) theories are no longer in the main stream, however, despite the attention they may garner by forceful exposition (e.g. Chomsky 2011a). A fuller canvassing of the cognitive sciences – obviously outside the scope of the current presentation – would probably reveal that most researchers, even those who study aspects of language isolated in individual participants, would allow for an intrinsic social characteristic to language. I would go so far as to guess that they would place this social character on explanatory par with other structural or information-processing features that are studied in the lab. And despite what is averred by Chomsky (2011a), this social character in human cognition has been proposed in many domains, from vision (Balcetis & Lassiter 2010) to memory (Barnier et al. 2008). Humans are intrinsically social in a way that distinguishes them from any other primate species, and this sociality seems to be weaved into many cognitive processes (Castiello et al. 2010; Tomasello 2009). -/- But “social” is not the same thing as “distributed,” by the content of this issue. The latter may subsume the former. The distributed approach discussed in this special issue is not “simply” social – it does not just propose an added static feature of any synchronic language context (as noted in Jennings & Thompson this issue). The approach instead regards this social characteristic as just one part of a broader dynamic distributed process that constitutes language, through different kinds of inter-individual coordination at many levels of spatial and temporal scale (Cowley this issue; Fusaroli & Tylén this issue). (shrink)
A variety of theoretical frameworks predict the resemblance of behaviors between two people engaged in communication, in the form of coordination, mimicry, or alignment. However, little is known about the time course of the behavior matching, even though there is evidence that dyads synchronize oscillatory motions (e.g., postural sway). This study examined the temporal structure of nonoscillatory actions—language, facial, and gestural behaviors—produced during a route communication task. The focus was the temporal relationship between matching behaviors in the interlocutors (e.g., facial (...) behavior in one interlocutor vs. the same facial behavior in the other interlocutor). Cross-recurrence analysis revealed that within each category tested (language, facial, gestural), interlocutors synchronized matching behaviors, at temporal lags short enough to provide imitation of one interlocutor by the other, from one conversational turn to the next. Both social and cognitive variables predicted the degree of temporal organization. These findings suggest that the temporal structure of matching behaviors provides low-level and low-cost resources for human interaction. (shrink)
Numerous philosophical theories of joint agency and its intentional structure have been developed in the past few decades. These theories have offered accounts of joint agency that appeal to higher-level states (such as goals, commitments, and intentions) that are ?shared? in some way. These accounts have enhanced our understanding of joint agency, yet there are a number of lower-level cognitive phenomena involved in joint action that philosophers rarely acknowledge. In particular, empirical research in cognitive science has revealed that when individuals (...) engage in a joint activity such as conversation or joint problem solving, they become aligned at multiple levels (e.g., behaviors, or cognitive states). We argue that this phenomenon of alignment is crucial to understanding joint actions and should be integrated with philosophical approaches. In this paper, we sketch a possible integration, and draw out its implications for understanding of joint agency and collective intentionality. The result is a process-based, dynamic account of joint action that integrates both low-level and high-level states, and seeks to capture the separate processes of how a joint action is initiated and sustained. (shrink)
This brief commentary has three goals. The first is to argue that ‘‘framework debate’’ in cognitive science is unresolvable. The idea that one theory or framework can singly account for the vast complexity and variety of cognitive processes seems unlikely if not impossible. The second goal is a consequence of this: We should consider how the various theories on offer work together in diverse contexts of investigation. A final goal is to supply a brief review for readers who are compelled (...) by these points to explore existing literature on the topic. Despite this literature, pluralism has garnered very little attention from broader cognitive science. We end by briefly considering what it might mean for theoretical cognitive science. (shrink)
A strength of Jablonka & Lamb's (J&L's) book lies in its accessible as well as thorough treatment of genetic and epigenetic inheritance. The authors also provide a stimulating framework integrating evolutionary research across disciplines. A weakness is its unsystematic treatment of the interaction between behavioral and symbolic inheritance, particularly in their discussion of language.
Corballis's explanation for right-handedness in humans relies heavily on the gestural protolanguage hypothesis, which he argues for by a series of “intuition pumps.” Scrutinizing the mirror system hypothesis and modern gesture as components of the argument, we find that they do not provide the desired evidence of a gestural precursor to speech.
Carruthers invokes a number of controversial assumptions to support his thesis. Most are questionable and unnecessary to investigate the wider relevance of language in cognition. A number of research programs (e.g., interactionist psycholinguistics and cognitive linguistics) have for years pursued a similar thesis and provide a more empirically grounded framework for investigating language’ cognitive functions.