Natalie Sebanz

Self and Other in Joint Action

People relate to and interact with each other in many different ways. While some social interactions are characterized by a merging of self and other and a lack of self-other distinction, other interactions require us to keep mental states, feelings, and actions of self and other apart. In this talk, I will discuss what we can learn about representations of self and other by studying joint action, our ability to coordinate actions with others in space and time to achieve shared goals. First, I will review evidence suggesting that in planning joint actions, we integrate others' actions in our planning much as if they were our own. This ability to engage in joint action planning develops early and may constitute a kind of default way of being together. I will also discuss consequences of acting in synchrony, including increases in pro-social behavior and changes in attitudes towards out-group members. Then, I will focus on moments in joint action where self and other need to be clearly distinguished and kept apart, such as turn-taking or keeping different rhythms. I will review the cognitive and neural mechanisms involved in keeping self and other apart and discuss why this is often challenging. 


Natalie is a Professor in Cognitive Science at Central European University. Her research interests revolve around the cognitive and neural basis of social interaction, with a special focus on how we coordinate our actions with others.  Having obtained her PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research, Munich, she has held appointments at Rutgers University (US), the University of Birmingham (UK), and Radboud University (NL). Natalie is a recipient of the European Science Foundation`s Young Investigator Award and the Young Mind and Brain Prize. Her research has been funded by an ERC Consolidator grant and an ERC Proof of Concept grant.