Together with the lovely Malika Auvray, I just published a review article on a series of experiments in perceptual crossing. These experiments study online dyadic interaction and the perception of someone else’s agency in very simple virtual worlds. The main result is that dynamic self-organization of behaviour in interaction (like emergent coordination, dynamic role allocation, turn-taking, …) can explain humans’ capacity to identify an interaction partner among distractor objects. Therefore, it fits well in the research topic Towards a Neuroscience of Social Interaction that argues for the importance of studying social cognition online, in closed-loop interaction, rather than to test humans’ reaction to social stimuli offline.
From my perspective, this work can be seen as somewhat ‘pre-historic’, as I have never been involved with any of the experiments but instead worked on robot models of the task (Rohde, 2010, chapters 6 and 7; Di Paolo, Rohde & Iizuka, 2008). Yet I do follow the research with great interest (for instance by Malika Auvray, Hiro Iizuka, the people of the CRED in Compiegne or Tom Fröse). It really gets at the essence of what it is that makes us perceive otherness. The kinds of measures developed for this simple research paradigm (coordination, turn-taking, sensorimotor rules of coordination) could also really be helpful for the study of social interaction more generally.
But you should read for yourself. Here’s the abstract:
Perceptual crossing: the simplest online paradigm
By Malika Auvray and Marieke Rohde
Researchers in social cognition increasingly realize that many phenomena cannot be understood by investigating offline situations only, focusing on individual mechanisms and an observer perspective. There are processes of dynamic emergence specific to online situations, when two or more persons are engaged in a real-time interaction that are more than just the sum of the individual capacities or behaviors, and these require the study of online social interaction. Auvray et al.’s (2009) perceptual crossing paradigm offers possibly the simplest paradigm for studying such online interactions: two persons, a one-dimensional space, one bit of information, and a yes/no answer. This study has provoked a lot of resonance in different areas of research, including experimental psychology, computer/robot modeling, philosophy, psychopathology, and even in the field of design. In this article, we review and critically assess this body of literature. We give an overview of both behavioral experimental research and simulated agent modeling done using the perceptual crossing paradigm. We discuss different contexts in which work on perceptual crossing has been cited. This includes the controversy about the possible constitutive role of perceptual crossing for social cognition. We conclude with an outlook on future research possibilities, in particular those that could elucidate the link between online interaction dynamics and individual social cognition.