Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, Vol. 20, Iss. 2, April, 2016, pp. 193-222
@2016 Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology & Life Sciences


Top-down (Prior Knowledge) and Bottom-up (Perceptual Modality) Influences on Spontaneous Interpersonal Synchronization

Christina L. Gipson, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA
Jamie C. Gorman, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA
Eric E. Hessler, University of Minnesota Duluth, Duluth, MN

Abstract: Coordination with others is such a fundamental part of human activity that it can happen unintentionally. This unintentional coordination can manifest as synchronization and is observed in physical and human systems alike. We investigated the role of top-down influences (prior knowledge of the perceptual modality their partner is using) and bottom-up factors (perceptual modality combination) on spontaneous interpersonal synchronization. We examine this phenomena with respect to two different theoretical perspectives that differently emphasize top-down and bottom-up factors in interpersonal synchronization: joint-action/shared cognition theories and ecological-interactive theories. In an empirical study twelve dyads performed a finger oscillation task while attending to each other’s movements through either visual, auditory, or visual and auditory perceptual modalities. Half of the participants were given prior knowledge of their partner’s perceptual capabilities for coordinating across these different perceptual modality combinations. We found that the effect of top-down influence depends on the perceptual modality combination between two individuals. When people used the same perceptual modalities, top-down influence resulted in less synchronization and when people used different perceptual modalities, top-down influence resulted in more synchronization. Furthermore, persistence in the change in behavior as a result of having perceptual information about each other (“social memory”) was stronger when this top-down influence was present.

Keywords: coordination, dynamics, informational coupling, interaction, interpersonal, representational, social memory, synchronization