Natalie Sebanz and Günther Knoblic

Cognitive mechanisms for joint action: Planning and coordination

Human life is full of joint actions ranging from a handshake to the performance of a symphony. How do people manage to coordinate their actions to achieve joint goals? What cognitive abilities are needed? In this talk, we will give an overview of psychological research on the mechanisms underlying action planning and coordination in the context of small-scale joint action. This research shows that people are surprisingly prone to forming joint task representations and rely on several different mechanisms, including entrainment, motor simulation, and signaling, to achieve temporal and spatial coordination. We will discuss what a minimalist account of joint action can contribute to a comparative approach to social interaction.
Natalie is an Associate Profesor at Radboud University Nijmegen and at Central European University. She studied psychology and psycholinguistics in Innsbruck, Austria, and then joined the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research in Munich in 2001. Having received her PhD from LMU Munich in 2004 she spent the following years working as a post-doc and later as an Assistant Professor at Rutgers University, NJ, and as a lecturer at the University of Birmingham, UK. In 2008, Natalie was appointed as an Associate Professor at the Donders Centre for Cognition, Radboud University Nijmegen, and started a five year project on the "Cognitive and Neural Mechanisms of Joint Action" (funded by a EURYI grant from the European Science Foundation). She is interested in how perception, action, and cognition contribute to social interaction in humans and other animals.
Günther is a Professor of Cognitive Science at Central European University Budapest. He received his PhD from Hamburg University in 1997 (Topic: Insight in Problem Solving). In 1997 he became a research scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research in Wolfgang Prinz’s group in Munich. He habilitated at LMU Munich in 2004 (Topic: Self and Other in Perception and Action). Later in 2004 he moved to Rutgers University, where he became an Associate Professor of Cognitive Psychology. Between 2007 and 2011 he held Full Professorships at the University of Birmingham, UK and the Donders Institute at Radboud University, Nijmegen. His diverse research interests include action and body perception, sense of agency, joint action, embodied communication, Self, stereotyping, and problem solving.
Knoblich, G., Butterfill, S., & Sebanz, N. (2011). Psychological research on joint action: theory and data. In B. Ross (Ed.), The Psychology of Learning and Motivation, 54 (pp. 59-101), Burlington: Academic Press.
Vesper, C., Butterfill, S., Knoblich, G., & Sebanz, N. (2010). A minimal architecture for joint action. Neural Networks, 23, 998-1003.