Public human interactions have been studied for several years by disciplines such as engineering and robotics, due to the growing impact of machines in communication among humans. Concurrently, neuroscience has begun to address the inclusion of humans in society and realize that it is difficult to establish social cognition neuronal mechanisms by studying isolated individuals. While we have long known that social context controls behavioral responses to sensorial stimuli, taking this factor into account is not common practice in the experimental protocol adopted in human behavioral neurosciences. With the introduction of new forms of communication, human interactions are made public and undoubtedly transformed.
This project aims to cross-reference knowledge from several disciplines to study the mechanisms of interpersonal coordination in public human interactions. Taking advantage of new collaborative applications, we would like to use them as experimental tools to provide knowledge to cognitive and social neurosciences. Inversely, the results of our experiments should be used to assess collaborative applications, questioning the sensory mechanisms they reveal as well as their social and artistic consequences.
The first example is that of personal space, studied this time in a situation of interaction. Over 50 years ago, the anthropologist Edward Hall created the idea of proxemics, defining different levels of territory around the body and their social function. Recently, this work was associated with research in neurophysiology establishing the neuronal standards for personal space. This personal space is coded on a cerebral level like a motor and multisensory interface between body and environment. Several studies have revealed the plasticity of the limits of this virtual space around the subject’s body depending on the social and emotional situation in which she is placed.
A study was developed to investigate the impact of different social contexts on the size of personal space, in particular in contexts of either collaboration or competition between subjects. These studies confirmed the specificity of collaboration as a social context that controls the volume of personal space.