Human sensorimotor communication: A theory of signaling in online social interactions

Haris Dindo, Francesco Donnarumma, Giovanni Pezzulo

Risultato della ricerca: Articlepeer review

71 Citazioni (Scopus)


Although the importance of communication is recognized in several disciplines, it is rarely studied in the context of online social interactions and joint actions. During online joint actions, language and gesture are often insufficient and humans typically use non-verbal, sensorimotor forms of communication to send coordination signals. For example, when playing volleyball, an athlete can exaggerate her movements to signal her intentions to her teammates (say, a pass to the right) or to feint an adversary. Similarly, a person who is transporting a table together with a co-actor can push the table in a certain direction to signal where and when he intends to place it. Other examples of ``signaling'' are over-articulating in noisy environments and over-emphasizing vowels in child-directed speech. In all these examples, humans intentionally modify their action kinematics to make their goals easier to disambiguate. At the moment no formal theory exists of these forms of sensorimotor communication and signaling. We present one such theory that describes signaling as a combination of a pragmatic and a communicative action, and explains how it simplifies coordination in online social interactions. We cast signaling within a ``joint action optimization'' framework in which co-actors optimize the success of their interaction and joint goals rather than only their part of the joint action. The decision of whether and how much to signal requires solving a trade-off between the costs of modifying one's behavior and the benefits in terms of interaction success. Signaling is thus an intentional strategy that supports social interactions; it acts in concert with automatic mechanisms of resonance, prediction, and imitation, especially when the context makes actions and intentions ambiguous and difficult to read. Our theory suggests that communication dynamics should be studied within theories of coordination and interaction rather than only in terms of the maximization of information transmission.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Numero di pagine0
RivistaPLoS One
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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  • ???subjectarea.asjc.1100.1100???
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