Using Violations of Fitts’ Law to Communicate during Joint Action


When people perform joint actions together, task knowledge is sometimes distributed asymmetrically such that one person has information that another person lacks. In such situations, inter¬¬personal action coordination can be achieved if the know¬ledgeable person modulates basic parameters of her goal-directed actions in a way that provides relevant infor¬mation to the less knowledgeable partner. We investigated whether systematic violations of predicted movement duration provide a sufficient basis for such communication. Results of a joint movement task show that knowledgeable partners spontaneously and systematically violated the pre¬dictions of Fitts’ law in order to communicate if their partners could not see their movements. Unknowing partners had a benefit from these violations and more so if the violations provided a good signal-to-noise ratio. Together, our findings suggest that generating and perceiving systematic deviations from the predicted duration of a goal-directed action can enable non-conventionalized forms of communication during joint action.

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