Interactional leader-follower sensorimotor communication strategies during repetitive joint actions

J R Soc Interface. 2015 Sep 6;12(110):0644. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2015.0644.


Non-verbal communication is the basis of animal interactions. In dyadic leader-follower interactions, leaders master the ability to carve their motor behaviour in order to 'signal' their future actions and internal plans while these signals influence the behaviour of follower partners, who automatically tend to imitate the leader even in complementary interactions. Despite their usefulness, signalling and imitation have a biomechanical cost, and it is unclear how this cost-benefits trade-off is managed during repetitive dyadic interactions that present learnable regularities. We studied signalling and imitation dynamics (indexed by movement kinematics) in pairs of leaders and followers during a repetitive, rule-based, joint action. Trial-by-trial Bayesian model comparison was used to evaluate the relation between signalling, imitation and pair performance. The different models incorporate different hypotheses concerning the factors (past interactions versus online movements) influencing the leader's signalling (or follower's imitation) kinematics. This approach showed that (i) leaders' signalling strategy improves future couple performance, (ii) leaders used the history of past interactions to shape their signalling, (iii) followers' imitative behaviour is more strongly affected by the online movement of the leader. This study elucidates the ways online sensorimotor communication help individuals align their task representations and ultimately improves joint action performance.

Keywords: model comparison; motor interactions; sensorimotor communication.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Feedback, Sensory / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Joints / physiology*
  • Male
  • Models, Biological*
  • Nonverbal Communication / physiology*