The Fractal Structure of Extended Communicative Performance

AbstractHow does the mind sustain lengthy, continuous performances? Cognitive processes are continuous, dynamic and adaptive. However, until recently, we didn’t have the methodological tools to study these features. In this study, we use Detrended Fluctuation Analysis (DFA) and a sliding window, to analyze the change in the fractal structure of body movement during the delivery of an academic lecture. We show that fractal structure varies widely during performance but also reveals a strong attraction towards 1/f noise. Our analysis also uncovers a general inverted U pattern in the fractal organization of the performance: speakers exhibit relatively low exponents (i.e., less structure) at the beginning of their talk, that then increase as they get into their performance, and then decrease again as they finish their narration. This trajectory mirrors the familiar idea of academic lectures as performances in which we set up an argument, develop that argument, and conclude that argument.

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