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Understanding Mechanisms of Human Social Interaction using Interactive Avatars

Objective

Human social interaction depends on non-verbal unconscious behaviour as much as on verbal signals. Mimicry (unconscious copying of actions) is a good example of a social behaviour which is caused by and has consequences for our evaluation of others. However, studying mimicry with traditional methods is hard because of the trade-off between good experimental control and realistic social interaction. INTERACT will (1) establish a new approach to the science of mimicry, bringing together methods from social psychology, cognitive neuroscience and computer science, and (2) use this approach to understand the information processing mechanisms underlying mimicry of hand actions. First, we will develop interactive avatars which can mimic a participant’s hand actions or be mimicked by the participant in the context of a simple drum rhythm task. Using computer-generated avatars allows us to precisely control and measure movement timing and structure during mimicry, and to record how participants interact with avatars with different socially-relevant features (age / attractiveness or even aliens). Thus, the INTERACT system will enable high-resolution, well-controlled studies of how people detect and control mimicry. Second, we will use the interactive avatars to examine mimicry in unprecedented detail, studying how the timing and structure of an action and form of the avatar impact on the control and detection of mimicry in typical adults. Building on this, we will define the brain mechanisms of mimicry and why mimicry might go wrong in adults with autism spectrum condition. The results will test current hypotheses of mimicry and will reveal the information processing mechanisms underlying human mimicry and its relationship to other social processes. Completion of the project will benefit research and practice in social neuroscience, developmental and educational psychology, computer science and robotics, and all researchers interested in human social behaviour.

Field of science

  • /social sciences/psychology/social psychology
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/neurobiology/cognitive neuroscience
  • /natural sciences/computer and information sciences/data science/data processing

Call for proposal

ERC-2012-StG_20111124
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

ERC-SG - ERC Starting Grant

Host institution

University College London
Address
Gower Street
WC1E 6BT London
United Kingdom
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 1 317 418,83
Principal investigator
Antonia Felicity De Courcy Hamilton (Dr.)
Administrative Contact
Daniele Giannone (Mr.)

Beneficiaries (2)

University College London
United Kingdom
EU contribution
€ 1 317 418,83
Address
Gower Street
WC1E 6BT London
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Principal investigator
Antonia Felicity De Courcy Hamilton (Dr.)
Administrative Contact
Daniele Giannone (Mr.)
THE UNIVERSITY OF NOTTINGHAM

Participation ended

United Kingdom
EU contribution
€ 65 952,17
Address
University Park
NG7 2RD Nottingham
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Paul Cartledge (Mr.)