Co-actors represent the order of each other’s actions

December 1, 2018

Laura Schmitz, Cordula Vesper, Natalie Sebanz, Günther Knoblich

Previous research has shown that people represent each other’s tasks and actions when acting together. However, less is known about how co-actors represent each other’s action sequences. Here, we asked whether co-actors represent the order of each other’s actions within an action sequence, or whether they merely represent the intended end state of a joint action together with their own contribution. In the present study, two co-actors concurrently performed action sequences composed of two actions. We predicted that if co-actors represent the order of each other’s actions, they should experience interference when the order of their actions differs. Supporting this prediction, the results of six experiments consistently showed that co-actors moved more slowly when performing the same actions in a different order compared to performing the same actions in the same order. In line with findings from bimanual movement tasks, our results indicate that interference can arise due to differences in movement parameters and due to differences in the perceptual characteristics of movement goals. The present findings extend previous research on co-representation, providing evidence that people represent not only the elements of another’s task, but also their temporal structure.