Mirroring and beyond: Coupled dynamics as a generalized framework for modelling social interactions

Uri Hasson, Chris D. Frith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

83 Scopus citations

Abstract

When people observe one another, behavioural alignment can be detected at many levels, from the physical to the mental. Likewise, when people process the same highly complex stimulus sequences, such as films and stories, alignment is detected in the elicited brain activity. In early sensory areas, shared neural patterns are coupled to the low-level properties of the stimulus (shape, motion, volume, etc.), while in high-order brain areas, shared neural patterns are coupled to high-levels aspects of the stimulus, such as meaning. Successful social interactions require such alignments (both behavioural and neural), as communication cannot occur without shared understanding. However, we need to go beyond simple, symmetric (mirror) alignment once we start interacting. Interactions are dynamic processes, which involve continuous mutual adaptation, development of complementary behaviour and division of labour such as leader–follower roles. Here, we argue that interacting individuals are dynamically coupled rather than simply aligned. This broader framework for understanding interactions can encompass both processes by which behaviour and brain activity mirror each other (neural alignment), and situations in which behaviour and brain activity in one participant are coupled (but not mirrored) to the dynamics in the other participant. To apply these more sophisticated accounts of social interactions to the study of the underlying neural processes we need to develop new experimental paradigms and novel methods of data analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume371
Issue number1693
DOIs
StatePublished - May 5 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

Keywords

  • Alignment
  • Coupling
  • Inter-subject correlation
  • Mirroring
  • Synchronization

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