Interactional leader-follower sensorimotor communication strategies during repetitive joint actions

Matteo Candidi, Arianna Curioni, Francesco Donnarumma, Lucia Maria Sacheli, Giovanni Pezzulo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Non-verbal communication is the basis of animal interactions. In dyadic leader- follower interactions, leadersmaster the ability to carve theirmotor behaviour in order to 'signal' their future actions and internal planswhile 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 howthis cost-benefits trade-off ismanaged 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 onlinemovements) 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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20150644
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number110
Publication statusPublished - Sep 6 2015


  • Model comparison
  • Motor interactions
  • Sensorimotor communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry


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