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Workshop: Alignment and Social Bonding

The CEU Campus
Friday, June 7, 2019, 9:30 am – 2:00 pm

9.30-10.30 Alignment at different levels during dialogue
Simon Garrod, Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, University of Glasgow, UK

10.30-11.00 Coffee

11.00-12.00 How we connect: From shared attention to social networks 
Thalia Wheatley, Center for Social Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College, US

12.00-13.00 Lunch

13.00-14.00 Molecular imaging of the human social bonding circuit
Lauri Nummenmaa, Turku PET Centre, Finland

Talk abstracts

Alignment at different levels during dialogue (Simon Garrod, Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, University of Glasgow, UK) 

Cooperative joint activities such as dialogue present a challenge for monadic cognitive science, because they involve more than one individual at the same time. This talk will present a non-monadic Shared Workspace framework for interpreting such activities and show how it applies to dialogue. The framework captures distributed properties of joint activities such as alignment of representations and synchronization. 
Alignment in dialogue has two dimensions. The first concerns the content of the aligned representations which can be linguistic or based on dialogue models. Linguistic representations relate to the sound, meaning and grammar as well as the para linguistic features of utterances (e.g., gestures). Dialogue models are of two kinds. Interlocutors have a situation model representing what they are discussing and a game model representing their current dialogue game - the interactive device (e.g., question plus answer) used to achieve the current goal of the dialogue (e.g., seeking information from your partner). 
The second dimension of alignment concerns time-scale which can be short-term (focal alignment) or long-term (global alignment). I will argue that global linguistic alignment is the residue of successive focal alignments based on ‘automatic’ priming mechanisms. Similarly, global alignment of situation models reflects successive focal alignments on situation models. And focal alignment of linguistic representations contributes to focal alignment of situation models. 
The goal of dialogue as a cooperative joint activity is to achieve alignment in relation to the topic of discussion. Therefore, interlocutors monitor their joint contributions to the shared workspace for such alignment. In turn, they use the outcome of the monitoring to produce positive or negative commentaries which help to keep the dialogue on track.

How we connect: From shared attention to social networks (Thalia Whealey, Center for Social Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College, US)

The human brain evolved to be massively interactive with its social environment. A deep understanding of human thought and behavior will therefore require research that incorporates the context of others. In this talk I will present behavioral and brain research from my lab that shows the utility of conversation to align people's mental models and how this alignment across brains predicts friendship and influence in real world social networks. I will also highlight recent advances in the field that are increasingly affording the study of how and why minds connect.  

Molecular imaging of the human social bonding circuit (Lauri Nummenmaa, Turku PET Centre, Finland) 

The endogenous opioid and dopamine systems support appetitive, motivational, and social behaviour in humans and animals. In this talk I discuss our recent work on mapping the role of the μ-opioid receptor (MOR) and type 2 dopamine receptor system (D2R) systems in human social and emotional behaviour using fusion imaging with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and in vivo positron emission tomography (PET) with agonist radioligands [11C]carfentanil and [11c]raclopride selective for MORs and D2Rs, respectively. Both activation studies and cross-sectional work show that MORs are associated with sociability. Social grooming and social laughter modulate central opioidergic activity, and multiple aspects of prosociality measured by laboratory tasks and questionnaires are positively associated with MOR expression in the frontal cortex. Conversely, antisocial traits such as psychopathy are negatively associated with MOR expression in the limbic system. Finally, MOR (but not D2R) expression is associated with BOLD-fMRI responses during vicarious pain perception confirming the contribution of MOR system in empathy. Altogether these results suggest that particularly the opioid system plays a major role in in human reward processing and sociability. Central opioid release during social interaction may act as a safety signal, promoting establishment and maintenance of social relationships. Consequently, malfunction of the opioid system may predispose individuals to developing disorders involving abnormal hedonic and socioemotional processing.