Emergence and Development of Social Interaction

As social animals, one way that humans develop learning abilities is through social interactions. However, the underlying mechanisms of the emergence of social ability and how we learn through socialization, especially at early ages, are still unclear. Our studies propose to use both bottom-up and top-down methods to investigate the coordination process between social partners interactions, aiming to explain the emergence and the development of the diverse interaction patterns and early social learning process.

Multi-modality Coordination in Early Interactions

Infants learn and develop their social abilities, such as turn-taking, emotion coordination, and verbal interaction, rapidly in their early lives. Previous research has often investigated the interactive processes between infants and their caregivers by interpreting their behaviors using limited modalities and time scales. Our studies focus on using bottom-up ways to explore signal-level coordination between the two parties, including both behavioral and physiological modalities, by introducing variable computational models. Our results suggest that infants and their caregivers coordinate with each other’s vocal prosodies differently on local and global time scales (Li J. et al., 2022). The coordination can be extended to a higher level, e.g., emotional level (Li M., Li J. et al., 2023). In addition, the global circadian patterns of autonomic nervous activities interact between the two parties and closely relate to the caregiver’s mental state (Li J. et al., 2023).

Diversity of Interactions through Diversity of Cognitive Development

Humans have the ability to coordinate with other individuals, such as synchronization, conformity, and empathy. On the other hand, coordination cannot be achieved by every pair because there is diversity in cognitive development. We proposed the theoretical framework that the emergence of different interaction patterns can be explained by predictive processing theory, a computational theory from cognitive neuroscience. The strength of beliefs varies from person to person (Nagai, 2019), and the combination of different beliefs determines the dynamics of interaction. Our experiments focus on the situation where two individuals learn and exchange signals, and confirm that the predictive processing theory can be applied to human social interaction (Nakata & Nagai, 2024).

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