This article is part of the Research Topic Interfaces Between Language And Cognition

Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 30 November 2011 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00355

The dynamics of reference and shared visual attention

  • 1 Cognitive and Information Sciences, University of California Merced, Merced, CA, USA
  • 2 Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck University of London, London, UK
  • 3 Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain Sciences, University College London, London, UK

In the tangram task, two participants are presented with the same set of abstract shapes portrayed in different orders. One participant must instruct the other to arrange their shapes so that the orders match. To do this, they must find a way to refer to the abstract shapes. In the current experiment, the eye movements of pairs of participants were tracked while they were engaged in a computerized version of the task. Results revealed the canonical tangram effect: participants became faster at completing the task from round 1 to round 3. Also, their eye-movements synchronized over time. Cross-recurrence analysis was used to quantify this coordination, and showed that as participants’ words coalesced, their actions approximated a single coordinated system.

Keywords: language, reference, vision, attention, coordination, synchrony, interaction, communication

Citation: Dale R, Kirkham NZ and Richardson DC (2011) The dynamics of reference and shared visual attention. Front. Psychology 2:355. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00355

Received: 01 September 2011; Accepted: 10 November 2011;
Published online: 30 November 2011.

Edited by:

Andriy Myachykov, University of Glasgow, UK

Reviewed by:

Markus Janczyk, University of Würzburg, Germany
Michael Kaschak, Florida State University, USA

Copyright: © 2011 Dale, Kirkham and Richardson. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited.

*Correspondence: Rick Dale, Cognitive and Information Sciences, University of California Merced, Merced, CA 95343, USA. e-mail:

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