Harmony from chaos? Perceptual-motor delays enhance behavioral anticipation in social interaction

Auriel Washburn, Rachel W. Kallen, Charles A. Coey, Kevin D. Shockley, Michael J. Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Effective interpersonal coordination is fundamental to robust social interaction, and the ability to anticipate a coactor’s behavior is essential for achieving this coordination. However, coordination research has focused on the behavioral synchrony that occurs between the simple periodic movements of coactors and, thus, little is known about the anticipation that occurs during complex, everyday interaction. Research on the dynamics of coupled neurons, human motor control, electrical circuits, and laser semiconductors universally demonstrates that small temporal feedback delays are necessary for the anticipation of chaotic events. We therefore investigated whether similar feedback delays would promote anticipatory behavior during social interaction. Results revealed that coactors were not only able to anticipate others’ chaotic movements when experiencing small perceptual-motor delays, but also exhibited movement patterns of equivalent complexity. This suggests that such delays, including those within the human nervous system, may enhance, rather than hinder, the anticipatory processes that underlie successful social interaction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1166–1177
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • anticipatory synchronization
  • interpersonal coordination
  • chaos
  • global coordination
  • complexity matching


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