ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (3): 450-459.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2021.00450

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The mechanism of representational alignment in spatial dialogue

YU Meng, LI Jing()   

  1. School of Psychology, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing 210097, China
  • Received:2020-05-26 Online:2021-03-15 Published:2021-01-26
  • Contact: LI Jing


How do people process and communicate spatial information with others in spatial dialogue is a widely studied issue in the domain of spatial cognition. People would think about spatial relationships and try to communicate with others to achieve goals together, such as plan to get from point A to point B. The scholars have found that there is a common phenomenon in spatial dialogue that people who communicate with their partners in spatial dialogue will achieve alignment at different representational levels, such as spatial terms, spatial frames of reference, and viewing perspectives. In particular, the listeners would repeat the spatial representation what their partners used in previous dialogue. Why the alignment of spatial representations can be achieved?According to the Interaction Alignment model and the Common Point Theory, It’s because that people want to achieve the lowest cost of collaboration. The physiological basis for realizing representational alignment is the consistency of the neural activities of the speakers and listeners.

There are two factors that affect the alignment of representations in spatial dialogues, one is the physical characteristics of the spatial scene, and the other is the collaboration between people. In terms of the former, the spatial layout of objects will affect the degree of alignment of representations. A spatial layout with a certain internal structure will strengthen the alignment of representations and promote a other-centric representation. And speakers prefer to provide their partners clear direction information based on functional relationship to clarify the location and direction of the object in space. In terms of the latter, firstly, there is an obvious language initiation phenomenon in the alignment of spatial language representations. Secondly, the assessment of the relative spatial cognition of the partners affects how the interlocutors actually represent the spatial relationship. Finally, the relative body position of the partner also affects the way the spatial representation is selected.

In the future, we can continue to explore the mechanism of representation alignment. For example, researchers can develop a more ecologically valid spatial collaboration paradigm, such as investigate the neural mechanisms of online spatial dialogue with fMRI, event-related potentials and other technologies. Furthermore, researchers can explore the relationship between representation alignment and individual spatial preferences. Moreover, scholars can also examine the how people encode and represent spatial relationships in spatial dialogue.

Key words: spatial dialogue, spatial collaboration, interactive alignment model, representational alignment

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