Biological Cybernetics

, Volume 111, Issue 2, pp 165–183 | Cite as

You cannot speak and listen at the same time: a probabilistic model of turn-taking

  • Francesco Donnarumma
  • Haris Dindo
  • Pierpaolo Iodice
  • Giovanni PezzuloEmail author
Original Article


Turn-taking is a preverbal skill whose mastering constitutes an important precondition for many social interactions and joint actions. However, the cognitive mechanisms supporting turn-taking abilities are still poorly understood. Here, we propose a computational analysis of turn-taking in terms of two general mechanisms supporting joint actions: action prediction (e.g., recognizing the interlocutor’s message and predicting the end of turn) and signaling (e.g., modifying one’s own speech to make it more predictable and discriminable). We test the hypothesis that in a simulated conversational scenario dyads using these two mechanisms can recognize the utterances of their co-actors faster, which in turn permits them to give and take turns more efficiently. Furthermore, we discuss how turn-taking dynamics depend on the fact that agents cannot simultaneously use their internal models for both action (or messages) prediction and production, as these have different requirements—or, in other words, they cannot speak and listen at the same time with the same level of accuracy. Our results provide a computational-level characterization of turn-taking in terms of cognitive mechanisms of action prediction and signaling that are shared across various interaction and joint action domains.


Turn-taking Action prediction Signaling Dialogue Joint action 



The authors want to thank two anonymous reviewers for useful comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francesco Donnarumma
    • 1
  • Haris Dindo
    • 2
  • Pierpaolo Iodice
    • 1
  • Giovanni Pezzulo
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Institute of Cognitive Sciences and TechnologiesNational Research CouncilRomeItaly
  2. 2.RoboticsLab, Polytechnic School (DICGIM)University of PalermoPalermoItaly

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