Individuality and togetherness in joint improvised motion

Yuval Hart, Lior Noy, Rinat Feniger-Schaal, Avraham E. Mayo, Uri Alon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Actors, dancers and musicians that improvise together report special moments of togetherness: high performance and synchrony, seemingly without a leader and a follower. Togetherness seems to conflict with individuality- the idiosyncratic character of each person's performance. To understand the relation of individuality and togetherness, we employed the mirror game paradigm in which two players are asked to mirror each other and create interesting synchronized motion, with and without a designated leader. The mirror game enables quantitative characterization of moments of togetherness in which complex motion is generated with high synchrony. We find that each person as a leader does basic strokes of motion with a characteristic signature, in terms of the shape of their velocity profile between two stopping events. In moments of togetherness both players change their signature to a universal stroke shape. This universal velocity profile resembles a half-period of a sine wave, and is therefore symmetric and maximally smooth. Thus, instead of converging to an intermediate motion signature, or having one player dominate, players seem to shift their basic motion signatures to a shape that is altogether different from their individually preferred shapes; the resulting motion may be easier to predict and to agree on. The players then build complex motion by using such smooth elementary strokes.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere87213
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
StatePublished - 12 Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


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