The EPS-Funded Workshop on Current Trends and Future Directions in Social Interaction was held successfully on 4 May 2022 at the Graduate Centre at Queen Mary University of London. The event saw an excellent line-up of 8 speakers, 25 poster presentations and 60 attendees.
The workshop brought together researchers examining the factors that influence social interaction (with a focus on embodied social interaction) and in turn predict the well-being and physical health of individuals and initiate positive social change. The workshop took a multidisciplinary approach covering research from a broad range of relevant domains including social, comparative, cognitive, developmental, and clinical psychology, as well as neuroscience and computer science, and contributed to the collaborative activities within the Centre for Social Interaction Research.
The day started with Prof Isabelle Mareschal’s talk on individual differences in facial emotion perception and how the use of innovative tools based on a genetic algorithm can improve experimental designs and outcomes in emotion recognition research. Dr Roger Newport took over and described how mediated-reality can be used to investigate the connection between understanding our own body and understanding others.
The second session had a focus on how our hands influence interactions, with Prof Patrick Healey discussing how our body position and orientation are used to define the boundaries of an interaction and the challenges and opportunities when we interact via technology. In turn, Mr Paul Hills demonstrated how the use of hand signals can lead to the improvement of social interactions online with implications in education and organisational teamwork.
The afternoon session focused on autism and how we can further improve our understanding and attitudes towards autistic people by exploring their strengths. Dr Gray Atherton shared research findings on when social motivation and responsiveness is well-preserved in autism. Dr Amy Pearson has been hearing the voice of autistic people and highlighted the importance of considering the link between stigma and victimisation, reducing barriers to support, and improving wellbeing outcomes for autistic people.
The last session made the attendees think “outside the box” about the universality of facial expressions and how learning can be achieved. Prof Bridget Waller discussed how individual differences in facial expressivity equip us to differentially engage with our social environment and relate to the quality and size of our social networks. Finally, Dr Elisabetta Versace showed us how newly-hatched chicks and exquisite dancers can learn in a controlled environment.
The day closed with an inspiring panel discussion moderated by Dr Frederike Beyer and Dr Paraskevi Argyriou. The invited speakers and the audience discussed the biggest challenges in the field and the next big questions that remain to be asked, nurturing future research and collaborations.
Researchers from all levels, including undergraduate and postgraduate students, presented their work via posters in a 2-hour session, which enabled fruitful discussions and networking opportunities. Congratulations to the two poster prize winners, Laura Freeland (Queen Mary University of London) and Dr Ana Levordashka (University of Bath) for presenting their work on “Tactile imprinting and cross-modal information transfer in domestic chicks” and “Psychological Immersion: Is it observable?”, respectively.
A big thanks also to everyone who contributed to and attended the workshop, the Experimental Psychology Society for funding it, and everyone from the School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences for helping to host it.
In the words of some of the participants:
“I found all the talks excellent and the event very well organised and thought through. The sessions and discussions were very inspiring.”
“The line-up of speakers was excellent, and the schedule included plenty time for networking.”
“The workshop was greatly organised. All the speakers were excellent and topics covered were well thought through to approach questions in social interaction research. The discussions were inspiring. More of those small, informal workshops would be useful to the field.”