Perceptual crossing

> 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. 

From Auvray et al (2012) Perceptual crossing: the simplest online paradigm

// Social cognition has taken an "interactionist turn", according to Auvray, where the dynamics of social behavior are explained and described not simply in terms of internal processing of mental representations, but directly in terms of the interactive feedback among the components of a social activity. The "perceptual crossing" experimental paradigm is designed to test these dynamics using the simplest, one dimensional model of social interaction possible. 

The image below comes from a paper recently published using the paradigm, and will help explain how the experiment works. At the top we see two participants connected to identical interfaces. On their right is a track ball, which they can move left or right as they please. On their left is a vibrating pad that gives them haptic feedback when something interesting happens as they move around. 

The users are then connected in a 1D shared "virtual reality" space, 600 units long that wraps around at the edges so that users can move left and right indefinitely with their track ball. When they run into each other (or anything else) in that space, their vibrating pad buzzes. From the article above:

> Each participant moved a cursor (an avatar representing her body) along a line using a computer mouse and received a tactile stimulus to the free hand when encountering something on the line. The participants were asked to click the mouse button when they perceived the presence of the other participant. Apart from each other, participants could encounter a static object or a displaced “shadow image” of the partner. Note that this shadow image was strictly identical with respect to shape and movement characteristics. Therefore, the only difference between the partner and their shadow image is that the former can at the same time perceive and be perceived, i.e., that there can be live dyadic interactions. A solution to the task has to rely at least partially on performing and detecting a live interaction.

// Perceptually, the participants find themselves interacting with three kinds of things: static objects, objects that move but are not responsive, and finally objects that are responsive and will engage with them. Participants are instructed to press a button when they think they're interacting with each other, and unsurprisingly they are able to do so with extremely high accuracy. Since the interaction is the only thing distinguishing the avatar from its shadow, the high degree of accuracy is taken as confirmation of the interactionist view.

Interestingly, participants tend to spend much more time interacting with each other than with either the static objects or shadow avatars. Agents, it seems, are attracted to each other. But this gives some reasons for doubting the interactionists conclusion, since the high accuracy of the judgments in the perceptual crossing experiments might simply be an artifact of the fact that agents spend more time around each other than around the other objects.

Froese et al recently published a version of the experiment in Nature Scientific Reports designed to clear up this worry. In their version of the experiment, the participants are explicitly told that their task is mutual identification as a cooperative enterprise. They hypothesized that giving the participants a shared task will motivate them to coordinate and self-organized their behaviors with respect to each other. From the article:

> Our hypothesis was that the perceptual crossing paradigm could be used to demonstrate that social interaction can in some cases constitute social cognition, without relying on elements that are independent from the interaction process itself. 

We made two predictions. We hypothesized on the basis of an agent-based model of the perceptual crossing paradigm that those participants who managed to spontaneously develop a way of mutually coordinating their behaviour would exhibit more accurate clicking performance. And on the basis of the theoretical considerations of the enactive approach to perception and sociality, we hypothesized that those same participants would also clearly experience themselves as being engaged in social interaction, and thus demonstrate first-person awareness of the other's presence, specifically during that kind of mutual interaction.

Both of these hypotheses were confirmed. Most participants of the current study were able to interactively coordinate their embodied interactions in the minimal virtual space so as to create sufficient conditions for jointly becoming aware of each other's presence, and thus to click with higher accuracy. The fact that such co-regulation gave rise not only to a correct social judgment but also to an experience of the other's presence supports the enactive approach to social cognition. It gives empirical support to the theory that social interaction can sometimes partially constitute social cognition, especially when that interaction is co-regulated by participants. It also backs the proposal that experiencing others is a perceptual modality constituted by exercising one's social skill of interacting with others. As predicted by the enactive concept of “participatory sense-making”, we specifically found that mutual participation is constitutive of making sense of the social. These results challenge our folk psychological notions about the boundaries of mind, but make sense from evolutionary and developmental perspectives because an extendible mind can partially offload the mechanisms of cognition into its environment and thereby augment its capacities. 

From: Embodied social interaction constitutes social cognition in pairs of humans: A minimalist virtual reality experiment. 

via +Michele Merritt 

#participation   #interaction   #social   #cognition   #extendedmind    #scienceeveryday  
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