Shared action spaces: a basis function framework for social re-calibration of sensorimotor representations supporting joint action

Giovanni Pezzulo*, Pierpaolo Iodice, Stefano Ferraina, Klaus Kessler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The article explores the possibilities of formalizing and explaining the mechanisms that support spatial and social perspective alignment sustained over the duration of a social interaction. The basic proposed principle is that in social contexts the mechanisms for sensorimotor transformations and multisensory integration (learn to) incorporate information relative to the other actor(s), similar to the "re-calibration" of visual receptive fields in response to repeated tool use. This process aligns or merges the co-actors' spatial representations and creates a "Shared Action Space" (SAS) supporting key computations of social interactions and joint actions; for example, the remapping between the coordinate systems and frames of reference of the co-actors, including perspective taking, the sensorimotor transformations required for lifting jointly an object, and the predictions of the sensory effects of such joint action. The social re-calibration is proposed to be based on common basis function maps (BFMs) and could constitute an optimal solution to sensorimotor transformation and multisensory integration in joint action or more in general social interaction contexts. However, certain situations such as discrepant postural and viewpoint alignment and associated differences in perspectives between the co-actors could constrain the process quite differently. We discuss how alignment is achieved in the first place, and how it is maintained over time, providing a taxonomy of various forms and mechanisms of space alignment and overlap based, for instance, on automaticity vs. control of the transformations between the two agents. Finally, we discuss the link between low-level mechanisms for the sharing of space and high-level mechanisms for the sharing of cognitive representations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number800
Number of pages16
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberNovember
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2013

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2013 Pezzulo, Iodice, Ferraina and Kessler. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


  • joint action
  • perspective taking
  • basis function
  • sensorimotor transformation
  • social interaction
  • mental alignment
  • spatial alignment


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