Coordinated minds and bodies. Second-person accounts of the co-creation of social reality through nonverbal behaviour - Prof. Gary Bente
Without explicitly using the term "Second Person Perspective" (SPP) there have been numerous accounts in anthropology and communication science emphasizing the importance of analyzing people in interaction when trying to understand social reality and its underlying cognitive processes. Contemporary social psychology has almost exclusively taken a "First Person Perspective" (FPP), focusing on mechanisms of social information processing as inherent in the individual mind and brain. The "other" only appeared as a social stimulus, as an input to the processing "self" which then creates its own social reality. In contrast we propose to focus on the interaction process itself and to analyze the way in which people adjust to one another and co-create social meaning. Our emphasis here is on nonverbal communication, which is considered an important, if not the most important, means to reveal, recognize and share emotions and intentions and to coordinate our collaborative efforts. Data from various fields of research converge in the result that nonverbal signals provide a basic and indispensable level of human communication, which precedes the use of language in phylogeny as well as ontogeny and might therefore also be called "preverbal communication". Coordinated motor action can be conceived as a prerequisite for all collaborative efforts in a social species. However, human conversations often do not imply as much coordinated motor action as, for instance, hunting. Nevertheless the role of nonverbal behaviour seems ubiquitous in the regulation of interpersonal relations. We suggest approaching conversational nonverbal behaviour as a derivate from task-oriented motor coordination, revealing information about the likelihood and quality of social adjustment with a specific "other". Impression judgements concerning potency and valence of interaction partners are seen as a result of this basic approach or as avoidance tendencies emerging from the "nonverbal interaction play". The talk will present novel paradigms to access behavioural and perceptual correlates of adjustment in dyadic interactions referring to data from cross-cultural and clinical studies.
GARY BENTE is Professor of Social Psychology and Media Psychology at the University of Cologne. He is co-editor of the German textbook on "Media Psychology" and currently editor in chief of the Journal of Media Psychology. His research focuses on nonverbal behaviour and person perception in face-to-face as well as mediated social encounters. He is particularly interested in the way humans establish interpersonal relations and social order and how they coordinate intentions and actions by means of nonverbal communication. Particular emphasis in his work is put on conditions of diversity as defined by gender, culture and communication pathologies. He is also known for his contributions to the development of research methodology, utilizing novel technologies for motion capture and 3D character animation for the study of nonverbal interaction processes. His recent research is applying these methodologies to the study of universals and cultural specificities in the production and reception of nonverbal behaviour. This approach for the first time allows the systematic separation of effects of visual identity from the mere impact of nonverbal behaviour.