An investigation into the interpersonal kinematics of cooperation and competition

Date of Completion

January 1999


Psychology, Social




A paradigm for the ecological study of social perception is adapted from the field of event perception. It allows for the study of both the transformational (kinematic) and structural characteristics of social objects. The KSD (kinematic specification of dynamics) principle is also extended from the case of one actor to the case of an interacting dyad. A series of studies is performed to determine if observers of kinematic video displays of two cooperating or competing actors can detect the cooperativeness or competitiveness of the interaction. A preliminary study leaves the kinematics (movement patterns) in the video displays intact but removes the structure. It is found that observers can pick up cooperativness and competitiveness from the kinematics of the interactions alone. Main Study I additionally manipulates the kinematics in the video displays. Results show that observers can detect cooperativeness and competitiveness when either kinematics or structure (or both) are left intact, but not when both of these qualities are disrupted. Main Study 2 leaves the kinematics of the video displays intact but manipulates the interpersonal quality by editing out one of the actors. Here it is found that observers can detect the cooperativeness and competitiveness of the interactions from displays of interpersonal kinematics (both actors present) but not from displays of individual kinematics (only one actor present). The results of this program of research appear to confirm that observers can detect social properties of interactions, such as cooperativeness and competitiveness, from displays of kinematics alone, and more specifically from displays of interpersonal kinematics. It is also noted that the role of structural qualities is important in the perception of such properties. The importance for taking into account both of the major event qualities, structural and transformational, for a more complete picture of social knowing is discussed. ^