PhD Defense Adam Boncz

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Oktober 6 u. 7
Thursday, June 6, 2019 - 2:00pm
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Thursday, June 6, 2019 - 2:00pm to 6:00pm

The Department of Cognitive Science cordially invites you to the public defense of the PhD thesis of

Adam Boncz

Communication as Joint Action: The role
of cognitive alignment and coupling

Primary supervisor: Gunther Knoblich
Secondary supervisor: Thalia Wheatley

The defense will take place at the Department of Cognitive Science, V. Budapest, Oktober 6 street 7, room 101. Time TBA.


Human communication is a multi-faceted phenomenon. Here we focused on communication in a joint action framework and aimed to answer three questions. First, we asked if people communicate efficiently in helping situations where signals can have a direct effect on task performance. We tested this question in four experiments using a precueing version of a reaction time task, where a helper participant’s action provided a cue for a helpee participant. We found that helpers communicated efficiently but helpees did not utilize helpers’ signals as much as they could. While helpers traded their own effort for helpees’ performance gain, helpees avoided relying on helpers’ communication, leading to a tension on the pair level. Second, we tested if alignment in verbal interactions is modulated by interactivity and individual goals, contrasting predictions of the interactive alignment model and automatic imitation accounts. Interactivity and goal overlap were modulated in a joint storytelling scenario and alignment was captured at multiple linguistic levels. We found independent effects of interactivity and individual goals: prosodic alignment (in terms of temporal structure) was affected only by the goal manipulation, while syntactic, lexical and semantic alignment was mostly modulated by interactivity. Our results suggest that interactivity increases high-level linguistic alignment, but prosodic alignment is unaffected by it. Third, we tested if interactivity elicits stronger brain-to-brain coupling using an fMRI hyperscanning setup. Employing the joint storytelling task we found evidence for stronger predictive coupling in an interactive condition relative to a non-interactive condition, potentially linked to temporal predictive processes. In sum, our work emphasizes the importance of studying communication from a broad, integrative perspective and by employing a variety of techniques.