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 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. 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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
When people communicate, they coordinate a wide range of linguistic and non-linguistic behaviors. This process of coordination is called alignment, and it is assumed to be fundamental to successful communication. In this paper, we question this assumption and investigate whether disalignment is a more successful strategy in some cases. More specifically, we hypothesize that alignment correlates with task success only when communication is interactive. We present results from a spot-the-difference task in which dyads of interlocutors have to decide whether they (...) are viewing the same scene or not. Interactivity was manipulated in three conditions by increasing the amount of information shared between interlocutors. We use recurrence quantification analysis to measure the alignment between the scan-patterns of the interlocutors. We found that interlocutors who could not exchange feedback aligned their gaze more, and that increased gaze alignment correlated with decreased task success in this case. When feedback was possible, in contrast, interlocutors utilized it to better organize their joint search strategy by diversifying visual attention. This is evidenced by reduced overall alignment in the minimal feedback and full dialogue conditions. However, only the dyads engaged in a full dialogue increased their gaze alignment over time to achieve successful performances. These results suggest that alignment per se does not imply communicative success, as most models of dialogue assume. Rather, the effect of alignment depends on the type of alignment, on the goals of the task, and on the presence of feedback. (shrink)
In a matter of mere milliseconds, conversational partners can transform their expectations about the world in a way that accords with another person's perspective. At the same time, in similar situations, the exact opposite also appears to be true. Rather than being at odds, these findings suggest that there are multiple contextual and processing constraints that may guide when and how people consider perspective. These constraints are shaped by a host of factors, including the availability of social and environmental cues, (...) and intrinsic biases and cognitive abilities. To explain how these might be integrated in a new way forward, we turn to an adaptive account of interpersonal interaction. This account draws from basic principles of dynamical systems, principles that we argue are already expressed, both implicitly and explicitly, within a broad landscape of existing research. We then showcase an initial attempt to develop a computational framework to instantiate some of these principles. This framework, consisting of what we argue to be important mechanistic insights rendered by neural network models, is based on a promising and long-standing approach that has yet to take hold in the current domain. We argue that by bridging this gap, new insights into other theoretical accounts, such as the connections between memory and common ground information, might be revealed. (shrink)
We discuss two problems for a general scientific understanding of language, sequences and synergies: how language is an intricately sequenced behavior and how language is manifested as a multidimensionally structured behavior. Though both are central in our understanding, we observe that the former tends to be studied more than the latter. We consider very general conditions that hold in human brain evolution and its computational implications, and identify multimodal and multiscale organization as two key characteristics of emerging cognitive function in (...) our species. This suggests that human brains, and cognitive function specifically, became more adept at integrating diverse information sources and operating at multiple levels for linguistic performance. We argue that framing language evolution, learning, and use in terms of synergies suggests new research questions, and it may be a fruitful direction for new developments in theory and modeling of language as an integrated system. (shrink)
From the first months of life, human infants produce “protophones,” speech-like, non-cry sounds, presumed absent, or only minimally present in other apes. But there have been no direct quantitative comparisons to support this presumption. In addition, by 2 months, human infants show sustained face-to-face interaction using protophones, a pattern thought also absent or very limited in other apes, but again, without quantitative comparison. Such comparison should provide evidence relevant to determining foundations of language, since substantially flexible vocalization, the inclination to (...) explore vocalization, and the ability to interact socially by means of vocalization are foundations for language. Here we quantitatively compare data on vocalization rates in three captive bonobo (Pan paniscus) mother–infant pairs with various sources of data from our laboratories on human infant vocalization. Both humans and bonobos produced distress sounds (cries/screams) and laughter. The bonobo infants also produced sounds that were neither screams nor laughs and that showed acoustic similarities to the human protophones. These protophone-like sounds confirm that bonobo infants share with humans the capacity to produce vocalizations that appear foundational for language. Still, there were dramatic differences between the species in both quantity and function of the protophone and protophone-like sounds. The bonobo protophone-like sounds were far less frequent than the human protophones, and the human protophones were far less likely to be interpreted as complaints and more likely as vocal play. Moreover, we found extensive vocal interaction between human infants and mothers, but no vocal interaction in the bonobo mother–infant pairs—while bonobo mothers were physically responsive to their infants, we observed no case of a bonobo mother vocalization directed to her infant. Our cross-species comparison focuses on low- and moderate-arousal circumstances because we reason the roots of language entail vocalization not triggered by excitement, for example, during fighting or intense play. Language appears to be founded in flexible vocalization, used to regulate comfortable social interaction, to share variable affective states at various levels of arousal, and to explore vocalization itself. (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)
This article introduces the Special Issue and its focus on research in language evolution with emphasis on theory as well as computational and robotic modeling. A key theme is based on the growth of evolutionary developmental biology or evo-devo. The Special Issue consists of 13 articles organized in two sections: A) Theoretical foundations and B) Modeling and simulation studies. All the papers are interdisciplinary in nature, encompassing work in biological and linguistic foundations for the study of language evolution as well (...) as a variety of computational and robotic modeling efforts shedding light on how language may be developed and may have evolved. (shrink)
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.
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.
Anthony Chemero’s Radical Embodied Cognitive Science is obviously boldly entitled. It has bold goals, and cuts across an impressive range of topics. It is filled with diverse interweaving threads — topics of interest to the full disciplinary range of the cognitive sciences, from psychology to philosophy. For example, any cognitive scientist interested in a basic summary of philosophical theories of representation would find Chapter 3 invaluable, as it is one of the clearest reviews of this conceptually challenging area that I (...) know of. As another example, Chemero draws out the consequences of the radical embodied approach for the philosophy of mind, a rare agenda . Its inclusion of both conceptually challenging philosophical theories, along with technically sophisticated empirical review , makes the book a cognitive science book par excellence. (shrink)