Alignment in multimodal interaction: An integrative framework

Rasenberg, M., Ozyurek, A., & Dingemanse, M. (2020). Alignment in multimodal interaction: An integrative framework. Cognitive Science, 44(11): e12911. doi:10.1111/cogs.12911.
When people are engaged in social interaction, they can repeat aspects of each other’s communicative behavior, such as words or gestures. This kind of behavioral alignment has been studied across a wide range of disciplines and has been accounted for by diverging theories. In this paper, we review various operationalizations of lexical and gestural alignment. We reveal that scholars have fundamentally different takes on when and how behavior is considered to be aligned, which makes it difficult to compare findings and draw uniform conclusions. Furthermore, we show that scholars tend to focus on one particular dimension of alignment (traditionally, whether two instances of behavior overlap in form), while other dimensions remain understudied. This hampers theory testing and building, which requires a well‐defined account of the factors that are central to or might enhance alignment. To capture the complex nature of alignment, we identify five key dimensions to formalize the relationship between any pair of behavior: time, sequence, meaning, form, and modality. We show how assumptions regarding the underlying mechanism of alignment (placed along the continuum of priming vs. grounding) pattern together with operationalizations in terms of the five dimensions. This integrative framework can help researchers in the field of alignment and related phenomena (including behavior matching, mimicry, entrainment, and accommodation) to formulate their hypotheses and operationalizations in a more transparent and systematic manner. The framework also enables us to discover unexplored research avenues and derive new hypotheses regarding alignment.
Publication type
Journal article
Publication date

Share this page