Center for Interdisziplinary Research

ZiF Research Group

Embodied Communication in Humans and Machines


Convenors: Ipke Wachsmuth (Bielefeld), Günther Knoblich (Newark)

Participants of the preparatory meeting. 1. row: Isabella Poggi, Catherine Pelachaud, Simone Bosbach, Kristinn Thórisson, Luc Steels, Viola Stephan, Aude Billard. 2. row: Susan Duncan, Rafael Núñez, Elisabeth Ahlsén, Josep Call, Bennett Bertenthal, Sotaro Kita, Thomas Metzinger, Georg Meggle, Achim Stephan, Ipke Wachsmuth, Julie Grèzes. 3. row: Jens Allwood, Manuela Lenzen, Christopher Habel, Michael Spivey, Wolfgang Prinz, Holk Cruse, Helge Ritter, Joëlle Proust, Lawrence Barsalou. 4. row: Günther Knoblich, Stefan Kopp, Marcello Ghin, Natalie Sebanz, Ralf Möller, Jürgen Streeck.

In recent years, embodiment has found enormous theoretical attention in language, speech, and communication in general. Converging insights are accumulating in the cognitive and neurocognitive disciplines which indicate that communication among social partners cannot be reduced to the transfer of abstract information. They reveal shortcomings of 'classic' communication models that emphasize symbolic information transfer, in that they neglect the decisive role of non-symbolic qualities transmitted by the body and especially in face-to-face communication. At the same time, researchers all around the world are assessing brain mechanisms supporting interpersonal action coordination. Major discoveries are being made which have impact on, and are fostered by, research in embodied AI, humanoid robotics, and embodied human-machine communication. While insights are rapidly growing, an integrative view bridging from low-level, sensorimotor models and their role in the 'social loop' to the higher-level, functional models of communicative mechanisms is lacking.
In this context, the ZiF Research Group will focus on "embodied communication", taken to entail any exchange of information among social partners (humans and machines) that decisively depends on the presence of an expressive body and its relation to objects and other expressive bodies. It is intended to bring together leading international scholars from the cognitive, neuro- and computer sciences and develop an integrated perspective of embodied communication from a vast body of research findings. A novel perspective on these issues is foreseen to have impact on both a deepened understanding of embodiment in communication and on furthering advanced human-machine communication.

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