Representation of the other in joint action: An investigation into the underlying mechanisms of conversation, comparing flatmates and strangers.
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Abstract When we have a conversation with someone, we are engaging in a joint action. This is the coordination of two or more people working together to reach a common goal. A lack of explanations in to the processes that underlie joint action in conversation has led to a call for the creation of a more mechanistic approach. One suggested mechanistic model is the interactive alignment account, which states that we automatically align on many linguistic levels during conversation and make predictions about what others are going to say by representing their actions based on our own production system. Another aspect of conversation which has not been widely explored is whether the relationship between speaking partners can affect how well they represent each other’s actions as their own. This study therefore tested pairs of flatmates and strangers in an active and passive sentence completion task. Based on monologue research, the proposed outcome was that participants would differ in onset times for active and passive sentences despite their partner being the one to complete the active or passive part of it. We also proposed that these onset times would differ significantly between the different groups. Results found no significant difference between passive and active conditions, but a significant difference in onset times when a participant initiated a sentence that would be completed by their partner compared to when no sentence completion would take place. No significant difference was found between flatmates and strangers. We suggest that participants may have been representing each other on a general level, but perhaps the design of the study meant they could not represent each other explicitly enough. We conclude that with a different approach exploring different aspects, it is still very possible that a link between production and comprehension systems during conversation can be demonstrated.