Connecting through Shared Cognition: Social Consequences and Psychological Underpinnings of Sharing Experiences with Others.
To create social closeness, humans engage in a variety of social activities centered around shared experiences, which, remarkably, do not seem to have a non-human equivalent. Recent work with human adults has suggested that one potential key mechanism through which humans connect to others during shared experiences is shared cognition, the capacity to infer shared mental states, with a particular emphasis on joint attention. To better understand the role of shared experiences, and its underlying social cognition, in human social life, we present a series of studies aimed at examining the ontogeny, phylogeny, contextual flexibility, and (social) consequences of sharing experiences with others through joint attention. Chapter 1 establishes the importance of the current empirical work by discussing the relationship between shared cognition and social bonding from an evolutionary perspective and describes the current state of the field. It then discusses several fundamental questions that remain unanswered, which form the core of the current dissertation. In Chapters 2-4, we describe a set of studies aimed at better understanding the ontogeny and phylogeny of the role of joint attention in connecting with others through shared experiences. We find that although both human children and great apes behave more socially after co-attending to a video (Chapters 2 and 3), only humans seem to create additional social closeness by creating common ground with their partner about the fact that they are sharing an experience through mutual gaze in response to a stimulus onset (Chapter 4). In Chapter 5, we describe a study with college students, in which we examine whether the social bonding effect of joint attention also operates in the context of online video mediated interactions, and if this phenomenon is moderated by group size. We find no difference between the joint attention and disjoint attention condition for dyads or groups, suggesting that, regardless of group size, joint attention is not an effective way to create social closeness in video mediated social interactions. In Chapter 6, we describe a study in which we examine whether children have a social preference for experiencing an activity together, through joint attention, versus alone, and whether sharing this experience shapes children’s attitudes towards the content of that experience in general. Our preliminary data (halted due to Covid 19 safety regulations) show no difference in children’s willingness to stay engaged in a video depending on whether they shared the experience of watching that video or watched the video by themselves (social preference). We did, however, find a trend towards children staying engaged longer during the shared experience. Additionally, we found no effect of joint attention to a toy on children’s motivation to play with that toy during subsequent individual exposure (attitude formation). In Chapter 7, we examine the darker side of the role of shared cognition in social bonding, namely how, after a shared experience, we are concerned about making a good impression on others. Specifically, we examine the development of the Liking Gap: the tendency of individuals to, after a brief interaction with a partner, think that their partner evaluated them more negatively than they evaluated their partner. Our results with children between age 4 and 11 show a Liking Gap emerging at age 5, and intensifying between age 5 and 11. Finally, in Chapter 8 we summarize and synthesize the empirical findings, discuss their theoretical contribution and practical implications, and propose avenues for future research. Overall, these studies demonstrate the crucial role of humans’ sophisticated social cognitive abilities in our social life, enabling us to connect with others effectively through shared experiences. However, our results also suggest that the extent to which this social cognitive mechanism operates outside of the context of face to face interactions might be limited. Finally, the current work highlights that these new opportunities for social bonding might also come with new opportunities to worry about the impression we make on others, even at an early age.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Rights for Collection: Duke Dissertations
Works are deposited here by their authors, and represent their research and opinions, not that of Duke University. Some materials and descriptions may include offensive content. More info