Principles and mechanisms of Mutual Understanding

Colloquium | January 23 | 12:10-1:15 p.m. | 1104 Berkeley Way West

 Arjen Stolk, Postdoctoral Fellow, UC Berkeley Knight Lab and the Donders Institute

 Institute of Personality and Social Research

Intuitively, humans understand one another because they share the same set of communicative signals such as words and gestures. However, that intuition neglects the extreme flexibility with which we employ our communicative signals in everyday social interaction. Neither can it account for our evolutionarily unique ability to instantly reach joint meaning of new signals in the first place. In this talk, I will present neuroscientific evidence converging on the notion that human communicators share not signals but a fleeting cognitive space. This shared cognitive space provides context for selecting and interpreting communicative signals that can be mutually understood. The shared cognitive space is jointly coordinated and updated during social interaction, and that coordinated updating is altered in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Finally, I will present ongoing work demonstrating how empirical studies of social interaction can be combined with intracranial recordings in neurosurgical patients to yield rare mechanistic insights into our core mutual understanding abilities.

 ipsr@berkeley.edu, 510-642-5050