Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Rui Liu (Donders series 567)

28 September 2022

Promotor: Prof. dr. Ivan Toni
Co-promotor: Dr. Sara Bögels

Perception and production of communicative action

Interlocutors have no direct access to each other’s internal mental state; however, they can easily understand, convey and coordinate their private ideas by virtue of their observable action. In the present thesis, I studied the perception and production of communicative action, using psychophysics experiments, psychopharmacological manipulations, MEG, and kinematic recordings. Specifically, this thesis explored how recipient design is implemented during referential communication and investigated the function of oxytocin in social perception and recipient design. The empirical observations suggest that oxytocin might, on the one hand, make participants more sensitive to social stimuli; and, on the other hand, allow them to more efficiently integrate different sources of social information when implementing recipient design, by modulating neural responses in ventral prefrontal cortex. Moreover, rather than generically boosts prosocial behaviors, interlocutors contribute as much as needed during referential communication, namely, avoiding unnecessary communicative adjustments and overly exaggerated moving trajectories of referential pointing. Finally, I proposed that future research on intentional communication will benefit from investigating the temporal development of behavioral and inter-brain neural dynamics, combining hyper-stimulation and hyper-scanning, and optimizing protocols of intranasal administration of oxytocin.