Deconstructing Social Interaction: The Complimentary Roles of Behaviour Alignment and Partner Feedback to the Creation of Shared Symbols


This paper experimentally tests the contribution of two distinct aspects of social interaction to the creation of shared symbols: behaviour alignment and concurrent partner feedback. Pairs of participants (N= 120, or 60 pairs) completed an experimental-semiotic game, similar to Pictionary, in which they tried to communicate a range of recurring meanings to a partner by drawing on a shared whiteboard (without speaking or using numbers of letters in their drawings). The opportunity for sign alignment and/or concurrent partner feedback was manipulated in a full factorial design. Each process made a distinct contribution to the evolution of shared symbols: sign alignment directly influenced communication success, and concurrent partner feedback drove sign simplification and symbolization. These complimentary processes led to the interactive evolution of effective and efficient human communication systems.

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