Cognition, Value and Behavior

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Why and How We Do Things Together With Others

Project Description:


When we interact with others, we coordinate our thoughts, intentions and behavior through back-and-forth exchange: from exchanging casual smiles on the U-bahn to deep philosophical discussions about the state of the world. But why are we compelled to do things together? The answer, is almost certainly not simply only to achieve things we can do together, as there is a great deal we can do alone. The answer perhaps lies in how we do things together. In the examples of team sports, dance or group music making, we see richer ways in which individuals temporally coordinate and adapt to one another over longer periods of time. One individual might slow down their actions. Their partners in turn will adapt their behaviour to a greater or lesser extent.

The focus of this LMU Excellence Programme funded project is the mutual exchanges that underlie non-verbal interactions between co-actors: these might be groups of individuals walking together or tapping together in time with a beat. Our published and ongoing studies test musicians as well as healthy and autistic individuals, developing new experimental tasks to study the way in which information is exchanged between groups of interacting agents. This experimental work package is complimented by and informs the devising of new computational models to better describe the nature of the exchange. Finally, the project aims to revise theoretical and philosophical accounts of the alignment of bodies and minds.


  • Merle Fairhurst