Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Final Report Summary - SENSE OF COMMITMENT (The Sense of Commitment: a minimal analogue of commitment for joint action)

The project has aimed to develop a theoretical framework for research on commitment, and to create a suite of experimental paradigms for testing predictions generated by the theoretical framework. To this end, the primary theoretical objective has been to specify and operationalize the notion of a SENSE OF COMMITMENT in such a way as facilitate research directed toward the identification of situational factors modulating commitment, as well as research devoted to modeling the cognitive and emotional mechanisms underpinning commitment. By investigating commitment within the context of joint action, the project has been designed to illuminate basic mechanisms underlying large-scale human social phenomena.
Much of the work performed in the context of the project has been theoretical: using philosophical analysis to specify key theoretical notions, in particular that of a sense of commitment, and integrating the results of empirical research from various disciplines, especially developmental psychology and behavioral economics. The results of this theoretical work have been published in a series of theoretical papers, most importantly in 'The Sense of Commitment: A Minimal Approach.' Collaborations with developmental psychologists have been planned on the basis of this theoretical work, and will be carried out within the context of a follow-up project.
A further theoretical aim has been to apply the theoretical framework to human robot interaction, specifying benchmarks for roboticists designing robots that can participate in commitments with humans. This has led to a series of publications and also to new collaborations with roboticists, preparing the groundwork for experiments in human robot interaction, which are now planned in the context of a follow-up project.
In addition, the project has developed experimental paradigms and conducted experiments implementing these paradigms. The core of these paradigms has been the principle of operationalizing the sense of commitment in terms of agents' resistance to distractions and to tempting alternatives to a joint action in which they are engaged, and/or in terms of their expectations that other agents will resist distractions and tempting alternatives.
The first experimental study implementing this logic has already been completed and is currently under review in a top journal. It presents the results of a series of experiments testing the prediction that coordination is a key factor enhancing the sense of commitment. In all experiments, participants viewed brief videos of a joint action involving either a high degree or a low degree of coordination between two actors. In each experiment, one of the actors was presented with a tempting outside option (e.g. his phone rang). To probe participants’ sense that the actors in the videos were committed to the joint action, we asked various questions about their expectation that the actor would resist the tempting outside option. The results showed that participants were more likely to expect the actor in the high coordination condition to resist the tempting outside option. This corroborates the hypothesis that coordination enhances the sense of commitment. A colleague in Argentina is currently conducting a follow-up study using this paradigm to investigate the sense of commitment in individuals who have autism.
The project also prepared the ground for a second experimental study, which is currently being piloted. This project investigates the degree of agents' commitment to a joint action by administering multiple tasks simultaneously and measuring the agents' allocation of attention and effort among these tasks.

All of the publications arising out of the project are available online at:

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