Periodic Reporting for period 1 - JAL (Uncovering the Behavioural and Neural Correlates of Joint Action Learning)
Reporting period: 2020-09-01 to 2022-08-31
The first WP (WP1) developed and validated a paradigm for capturing joint action learning, using musical turn-taking as a model of joint action. In this paradigm, musical novices produced auditory tone sequences alone or in alternation with a partner. Findings revealed unique features of joint action learning: Specifically, partners imposed rhythmic patterns onto action sequences during joint learning that reflected the turn-taking structure; in contrast, individuals did not impose rhythmic patterns onto sequences when learning alone. Together, findings point towards the emergence of spontaneous rhythmicity as a unique feature of learning to produce turn-taking sequences, consistent with the view that rhythm may have evolved to scaffold social motor coordination. Findings can be exploited by dynamical systems models of how rhythms emerge during coordinated group actions. Findings from WP1 have been disseminated through presentation at an international conference , and through a manuscript preprint that has been posted on an Open Access repository  and submitted to an Open Access scientific journal.
The second WP (WP2) developed and validated an empirical paradigm for capturing how partners learn to coordinate synchronous continuous movements, in contrast with the discrete turn-taking actions investigated in WP1. Partners in the WP2 paradigm learned to synchronize continuous rhythmic movements by aligning continuous sounds produced by their actions. The paradigm was validated in a laboratory study that assessed how prediction of a partner is influenced by access to sensory information produced by their actions during learning. Preliminary findings revealed that partners learned to synchronize at above-chance levels, and that prediction was indeed modulated by sensory information. Specifically, partners predicted one another most accurately (displayed optimal synchrony) when both could hear one another during learning; when only one partner could hear the other that partner tended to proceed (anticipate) the other’s movements. Together, these findings are consistent with prior work on discrete joint action coordination, which indicates that bidirectional sensory feedback facilitates synchrony; findings are also consistent with work indicating that individuals anticipate the timing of non-adaptive rhythmic signals (e.g. auditory metronomes). Findings can be exploited in future work directly comparing learning mechanisms associated with discrete and continuous joint action learning. Preliminary findings from WP2 have been reported in Master’s thesis , and will be submitted for presentation at international conferences and to a scientific journal after analyses are finalized.
1. Zamm, A., S. Debener, and N. Sebanz. Distinct rhythms of joint and individual action: Evidence from an auditory sequence production paradigm. in Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. 2021.
2. Zamm, A., S. Debener, and N. Sebanz, Learning to take turns together: The spontaneous emergence of rhythmic coordination. 2021.
3. Leeb, C., Match me if you can: Continuous dynamics of learning to coordinate auditory-motor rhythms with a partner, in Middle European interdisciplinary Master's Programme in Cognitive Science. 2021, Master's Thesis, University of Vienna: Vienna.
4. Kotz, S.A. A. Ravignani, and W.T. Fitch, The evolution of rhythm processing. Trends in cognitive sciences, 2018. 22(10): p. 896-910.
JAL’s empirical findings, particularly from WP1, suggest that there are indeed differences between individual and joint action learning and point towards the emergence of rhythm as a specific tool for learning to coordinate actions with others. This key insight not only makes a direct impact on the field of evolutionary social cognition – by providing evidence for the hypothesis that rhythm’s evolutionary purpose is to facilitate social coordination  – but will also hopefully inspire future work further investigating how rhythm facilitates cohesive group coordination.
Kotz, S.A. A. Ravignani, and W.T. Fitch, The evolution of rhythm processing. Trends in cognitive sciences, 2018. 22(10): p. 896-910.