ICMPC14: Dyadic improvisation and mirroring of finger movements

As I unfortunately (or, as the reason is a newborn baby in the family, fortunately) were not able to attend the ICMPC14, I decided to summarise our study (co-authored with Maija Niinisalo and Riitta Hari, a poster was supposed to appear at the Music & Movement 3 session on Thursday, 4:00 pm, Seacliff A-C, Th23) on dyadic improvisation in this blog post. The blog post format allows me to use videos etc. to illustrate the tasks and the data better than a static poster would, and also lets me write a bit more about it than would fit in a poster. If you have any questions, drop me an email. We are currently writing this up as a journal article, so you’ll get the whole story soon, I hope.

Dyadic improvisation and mirroring of finger movements


We studied kinematics and coordination in a mirror game using fluent, improvised movements (circle drawing & free movement). 32 participants took part in dyads. In turn, one of the participants was appointed the leader, or the dyad was instructed to share leadership. Hand movements were recorded with optical motion capture.

Compared to the leader–follower condition, sharing leadership resulted in more synchronous circles, smoother free movements, and stronger mutual adaptation.

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Movement data – what to do with it?



Now that we have recorded the approximately 450MB of movement data, it’s time to start processing and analysing it, and getting it ready for the next stages of the project. This, and probably the next couple of posts are about movement data: in this post I’ll explain briefly how optical motion capture works, and in the next ones what we can do with the data.   Continue reading

Social eMotions: movement recordings completed!

Video clip from our recording session

Click the image for a video clip!

What a day! Yesterday we completed an important phase in the project: we have now recorded the movement data we are going to use in the next phases. This phase posed challenges for everyone in the project, as the artistic team, Jarkko and Johanna, had to create a choreography that could then be performed in different emotional scenarios, and then perfect those different scenarios to make them into convincing short stories, where the dynamic, social emotional processes are conveyed through body movements alone. The scientific team (me, Klaus and Maija) were racking our brains trying to figure out which combinations of emotions we should include (and crucially, which ones we could exclude), trying to make sure we have enough and correct data for the following phases (kinematic analysis, movement synthesis, and perceptual experiments).  Continue reading

Social eMotions – sosiaaliset tunteet

Jarkko and Johanna - our dancers/choreographers are also very excited for the project!

Jarkko and Johanna – our dancers/choreographers are also very excited for the project!

Excitement! A new project! We recently got funding for a cool project that combines art and science, and have now started to work on it. We plan to document the two-year process in various ways, including posts in this blog. Our project, ‘Social eMotions’ combines movement research, psychology and contemporary dance. We are funded by the Kone Foundation, which is very exciting for us, as these grants are highly sought after and we are proud to be among the recipients, alongside the crème de la crème of Finnish arts and humanities! According to their definition, they fund “bold initiatives” in research and in the arts. We have five people in the team. The science crew consists of me, Klaus Förger and Maija Niinisalo, and we have worked together on previous behavioural synchrony projects. Our choreographer/dancers are Jarkko Lehmus and Johanna NuutinenContinue reading

Mind and movement

The traditional view of cognition is that brains are responsible for information processing, and to study that brain and how it works should be done by metaphorically evacuating it from the skull, bolting it on the test bench of the psychology lab and put it through its paces.

As an analogy, you can’t get a comprehensive idea of the performance of the car based on just having its engine being measured in a test bench. You will learn nothing about how the car will handle under different conditions, how comfortable or handy it will be etc.

I don’t want to push that analogy any further, as I think it’s already as far as it uncomfortably goes, but cognitive psychology is well-known for leaving out the (usually) social context in which the individual mind works, and also the body in which it resides, which it moves and which takes it to places. While fields like social and cognition and cultural psychology have tried to bring in the social side of our being, embodied cognition is the keyword for studying how the mind and body work together to instantiate behaviours and cognitive processes.

Music is a great domain to study these issues, and one could argue that in order to study music, one needs to take both the social and embodied contexts into account. In Jyväskylä, we study music-related movement with this in mind; to understand what takes place when someone plays music, we need to see how they use their bodies AND how they use their minds.

That’s a bit of an intro to this interesting paper I recently found. In the paper “Moving Through Time”, the authors from the University of Aberdeen discuss their study, where they tracked the forward-and-back -movement or posture of people who were either recalling their past or predicting what their future would look like. They noticed that when imagining their future (the ability to travel subjectively through time, is called chronesthesia, in case you need to impress someone, or for instance come up with a fancy-sounding excuse for staring blankly ahead) people would be leaning forward, and when recalling the past, they’d be leaning backward.

According to the authors, this demonstrates that this subjective time travel has an observable behavioural correlate and that this is an instance of how the perception-action cycle works. This is a very clear and simple study, and the results look very clean. I wonder if we could somehow extend this to interpersonal or musical contexts… Please leave a comment if you have ideas!

Miles, L. K., Nind, L. K. & Macrae, C. N. (2010). Moving Through Time. Psychological Science. Published online as doi:10.1177/0956797609359333
Pic: Engine test bench http://www.sensycontrol.pl