Doctoral project: The Nature of Joint Attention: Perception and Other Minds
You are eyeing the last piece of cake on the table. Unbeknownst to you, I’ve been also looking at the cake. My attention converges on the same object, yet it does not influence you in any way. But then we both come to realize that we are looking at the same piece of cake. Our attention becomes coordinated: alternating glances between the cake and the other, we are now attending to it together. If one of us were to say, "It’s mine!", the intended referent would be obvious. Thus we went from a state of accidental, uncoordinated attention to joint attention.
Joint attention is considered fundamental to several aspects of human cognition and interaction, including the use of referential expressions, and the development of social cognition and concept acquisition. Although joint attention has been a topic of study for about two decades across several disciplines, it remains unclear what joint attention is and how it is involved in all these capacities. Similarly, current research on joint attention is narrowly focused on selected visual cases, and tends to be carried out in relative isolation from debates in perceptual experience, selective attention, and multisensory research.
This project aims is to elucidate the relational nature of joint attention and its functional significance for social cognition. This research goal is sub-divided into the interrelated objectives of (1) clarifying the role of perceptual experience for characterizing joint attention, and (2) providing a functional analysis of how joint attention is implicated in cases involving different sense modalities and non-perceptual social coordination.