Postdoctoral Project: Communicating (with) robots: Multimodal information exchange in human-human and human-robot interactions

Part of research project: Multimodal Interaction and Communication

Principal Investigators

Description of the research project

To fully understand the mechanisms of social interaction and communication in humans and to replicate this complex human skill in technological artifacts, we must provide effective means of knowledge transfer between agents. The first aim of this project is therefore to describe core components and determinants of communicative behaviour including joint attention, partner co-representation, information processing from different modalities and the role of motivation and personal relevance. We will compare these functions in human-human, human-robot and robot-robot interactions to identify commonalities and differences. This comparison will also consider the role of different presumed partner attributes (e.g., a robot described as “social” or “intelligent”). We will conduct behavioural and electrophysiological experiments to describe the microstructure of communicative behaviour.

Building on the resulting description of communicative and social interactive behaviour, the second aim of the project is to create predictive models for multimodal communication that can account for these psychological findings in humans. Both the prerequisites and factors acting as priors will be identified, and suitable computational models will be developed that can represent multimodal sensory features in an abstract but still biologically plausible way. In perspective, the models will be used to generate novel predictions of social behavior in human agents.

Throughout the project we will focus on the processing of multimodal information, a central characteristic of social interactions that have nevertheless thus far been investigated mostly within modalities. We assume that multimodal information, e.g. from auditory (speech) and visual (face, eye gaze) or tactile (touch) information, will augment the partner co-representation and will therefore improve communicative behaviour.

Description of the postdoctoral project

The aim of this postdoctoral project is to describe core elements of human communicative behaviour and social interactions with a focus on processing complex multimodal information, a central characteristic of social interactions. Psychological approaches with behavioural and electrophysiological measures will be used to identify and describe the mechanisms of social interactions. Specifically, the project will investigate (1) how multimodal information improves communication both, when information is received and when it is produced during task-oriented social interactions and (2) how different communication partners are co-represented and simulated. We directly compare human-human and human-robot interactions, and in the latter case differences between robots of different levels of (presumed) intelligence or social skills.


Project start date: October 1, 2019

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Candidates must hold a University degree and PhD in Psychology or related fields (Cognitive Science, Cognitive neuroscience) and should have a proven background in the following specifications:

  • Training in experimental methods
  • Familiarity with EEG methods
  • Programming skills and experiences in state-of-the-art statistical analysis
  • Scientific track record
  • Interest (and ideally, research experience) in language processing, social cognition
  • Good academic writing and presentation skills
  • Willingness and ability to work in interdisciplinary teams
  • Strong interpersonal and organizational skill


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