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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Explicit and Implicit Coordination of Joint Action


People collaborate daily to achieve joint goals, negotiating sidewalks, preparing meals, constructing furniture. Here we analyzed how strangers coordinate a complex novel task, assembling a TV cart. Before beginning and before major actions, partners used a photo of the completed cart, speech, and gesture to establish a joint model of the structure of the completed cart. Most coordination was implicit, a conversation of actions that could be understood in the context of the current state of the object and the shared mental representation. Actions served a dual purpose, both to communicate and to advance the task. The basic unit of coordination was the dyad, not the individual.

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