Ecological Psychology, 25(2), 103–130p. (2013) DOI:10.1080/10407413.2013.753806

Effects of Visual Tasks and Conversational Partner on Personal and Interpersonal Postural Activity

T. A. Stoffregen, M. R. Giveans, S. J. Villard, K. Shockley

The control of stance is influenced by activities that are engaged in during stance. We investigated simultaneous constraints imposed by individual-specific factors (such as the distance of visual targets) and of interpersonal factors arising from dyadic conversation. Each member of participant pairs looked at targets (drawings) that were similar to, but differed from, that of a conversational partner. Conversational partners conversed to identify the differing elements. In Experiments 1 and 2, members of each dyad conversed with each other or separately conversed with a confederate (an experimenter). We varied the distance of targets (Experiment 1) and their size (Experiment 2). In Experiment 3, target size could be the same for both members of a dyad (i.e., small-small, large-large) or could differ (i.e., small-large, large-small). Interpersonal postural coordination was stronger when members of dyads conversed with each other, replicating earlier studies, but this manipulation also influenced parameters of individual sway. In Experiment 3, interpersonal postural coordination also was influenced by variation in the size of the partner's target. Analysis of the sway of individuals revealed influences of target distance and size, replicating previous effects; however, these manipulations also influenced interpersonal postural coordination. Overall, the results indicate that postural activity was modulated simultaneously with respect to individual and dyadic parameters of the task situation. We argue that it may be useful, both theoretically and empirically, to interpret the effects of conversation on postural activity within the broader context of relations between postural control and the performance of suprapostural tasks.

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