DOI: 10.1111/tops.12712 ISSN: 1756-8757

The Dynamical Hypothesis in Situ: Challenges and Opportunities for a Dynamical Social Approach to Interpersonal Coordination

Alexandra Paxton
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


Over the past three decades, Van Gelder's dynamical hypothesis has been instrumental in reconceptualizing the ways in which perception‐action‐cognition unfolds over time and in context. Here, I examine how the dynamical approach has enriched the theoretical understanding of social dynamics within cognitive science, with a particular focus on interpersonal coordination. I frame this review around seven principles in dynamical systems: three that are well‐represented in interpersonal coordination research to date (emergent behavior, context‐sensitive behavior, and attractors) and four that could be useful opportunities for future growth (hysteresis, sensitivity to initial conditions, equifinality, and reciprocal compensation). In addition to identifying specific promising lines of theoretical inquiry, I focus on the significant potential afforded by computationally intensive science—especially in naturally occurring data or trace data. Building on the foundation laid over the past three decades, I argue that looking to increasingly situated and naturalistic settings (and data) is not only necessary to realize the full commitment to the dynamical hypothesis but is also critical to building parsimonious and principled theories of social phenomena.

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