Task Sharing & Joint Action

The ability to coordinate our actions with others is crucial for our success as individuals and in social interactions. Two people engaged in ballroom dancing, for example, need a remarkable ability to coordinate their actions in order to reach a common goal. Investigating task sharing/joint action in laboratory setting is one way of studying real-time social interactions. In such joint task settings, two or more individuals take care of certain aspects of a common task. Previous behavioural, electrophysiological, and neuroimaging research has shown that

  • people take into account the other agent and his/her aspects of the task when working together, suggesting that they co-represent the other’s task (e.g., Sebanz et al. 2003, 2005, 2006; Knoblich & Sebanz, 2006);
  • co-representation may involve predictive processes (Ramnani & Miall, 2004);
  • co-representation does not require physical presence of another individual. Instead, it suffices that people believe they are performing together with another intentional agent Ramnani & Miall, 2004).

Our research group investigates the underlying cognitive and neural mechanisms of such co-representations. To this end we conduct reaction time, EEG and fMRI experiments using several different tasks and effects that already have been extensively studied in individual task settings. Our goal is to answer questions such as: 

  1. What exactly is shared in shared representations? 
  2. Which processes are modulated by the fact that another agent is present? 
  3. Is it possible to modulate the effects of co-representation by manipulating the instruction? 
  4. Under which conditions are representations shared and under which conditions not? 
  5. Is there a variance in shared representations, depending on the level of familiarity?
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