As an experimental psychologist/cognitive scientist, with expertise in embodied cognition, social and perception-action psychology, complex systems, and nonlinear dynamics, my research is directed towards identifying and modeling the lawful processes that underlie human perception, action, and cognition, and the degree to which these lawful processes shape and constrain human knowledge and creativity. I am particularly interested in understanding and modeling how the behavioral dynamics of everyday social and multi-agent behavior emerge from the complex, nonlinear interactions that occur between the physical, biomechanical, neural, informational, and social/cultural properties of agent-environment systems. To this end, advancing the methodological and analytic tools of complexity science, including dynamical systems modeling, nonlinear time-series analysis, far-from-equilibrium thermodynamics, and symmetry principles within the fields of psychology, philosophy, cognitive science, and neuroscience have become a prominent feature of my research program. Given that my basic research findings often have implications for the assessment and understanding of social deficit disorders (e.g., Autism) and for the development of robust human-machine (robotic) systems, I also conducted applied research within these domains.

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New Research Programs

  • Embedded Multiagent Dynamics

    A fundamental feature of social behavior is face-to-face, co-present interaction. The success of such interactions, whether measured in terms of social connection, goal achievement, or the ability of an individual or group of individuals to know and predict the meaningful intentions and behaviors of others, is not only dependent on the neural and representational processes of social cognition and perception, but also on the physical (environmental) and perceptual-motor processes that make such face-to-face and co-present interaction possible. A primary goal of my research program is to model the complex dynamics of such goal-directed social and multi-agent activity, in an attempt to explain how the dynamics of such behavioral activity is an emergent and self-organized consequence of the complex interactions that exist between physical, neural, informational, and social properties. This involves developing dynamical and computational models of the temporal and spatial patterns of social interaction and coordination across a wide range of prototypical social and multi-agent behaviors. In collaboration with Dr. Rachel Kallen (UC), Dr. R. C. Schmidt (College of the Holy Cross), Dr. Elliot Saltzman (Boston University) and Dr. Steven J. Harrison (University of Connecticut) this research program is currently supported by a 1.4 million dollar NIH award (R01-GM105045).

    Recent Publications:

    • Richardson, M., Kallen, R., Nalepka, P., Harrison, S., Lamb, M., Chemero, A., Saltzman, E. and Schmidt, R. (2016). Modeling Embedded Interpersonal and Multiagent Coordination. In Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Complex Information Systems (COMPLEXIS 2016), pp.155-164.
    • Richardson, M. J., Harrison, S. J., Kallen, R. W., Walton, A., Eiler, B., & Schmidt, R. C. (2015). Self-Organized Complementary Coordination: Dynamics of an Interpersonal Collision-Avoidance Task. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. 41, 665-79.
    • Romero, V., Kallen, R. W., Riley, M. A., & Richardson, M. J., (2015). Is Joint Action Synergistic? Studying the Stabilization of Interpersonal Hand Coordination. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. DOI:10.1037/xhp0000083
    • Richardson, M. J. Dale R., & Marsh, K. L., (2014). Complex Dynamical Systems in Social and Personality Psychology: Theory, Modeling and Analysis. In H. T. Reis, and C. M. Judd. (Eds.). Handbook of Research Methods in Social and Personality Psychology, 2nd Edition. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
  • Self-Organized Anticipation and Anticipatory Coordination

    Recent research in physics has uncovered evidence to suggest that small temporal feedback delays may actually enhance (rather than hinder) an individual’s ability to synchronize with unpredictable, chaotic events. This counter intuitive phenomenon is referred to as self-organized anticipatory coordination. Dr. Auriel Washburn (Stanford University), Dr. Rachel Kallen (UC Psychology), and Dr. Kevin Shockley (UC, Psychology) and I are currently exploring whether the lawful process of self-organized anticipatory coordination might also underlie the ability of individuals to anticipate the complex and seemingly unpredictable behaviors of co-actors during social interaction. We are also exploring whether dynamical and computational models that incorporate small time-delay coupling functions are able to foster and enhance anticipatory behavior during human-machine interaction.

    Recent Publications:

    Washburn, A., Kallen, R. W., Shockley, K., & Richardson, M. J. (in preparation). Anticipatory Synchronization in Humans and Artificial Agents.

    Washburn, A (2016). Anticipatory Synchronization in Humans and Artificial Agents. PhD. Dissertation, University of Cincinnati.

    Washburn, A., Kallen, R. W., Shockley, K., & Richardson, M. J. (2015). Harmony from Chaos: Anticipatory Synchronization and Complexity Matching in Aperiodic Interpersonal Coordination. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. DOI:10.1037/xhp0000080

  • Human-Machine Interaction

    A new objective of my research program is to develop and test dynamical models that capture the synergistic, self-organization of human multi-agent coordination and deploy these models in artificial agents (virtual and robotic agents) to create highly robust and mutually responsive coupled human-machine systems. My research in this area is currently focused on three main behavioral activities. First, research with my UC collaborator Dr. Ali Minai (Dept. of Computer and Electrical systems Engineering) and my NSF funded (SBE1513801, $226,273.00) postdoctoral research fellow, Dr. Maurice Lamb, is directed towards demonstrating how dynamical models of object pick and place tasks (such as those employed when loading a dishwasher with another individual) can be successfully implemented in artificial agents to produce robust patterns of human-machine interaction equivalent to human-human interaction. The second and closely related area of research concerns the development of artificial systems for shepherding groups of autonomous agents (human, animal, machine) based on dynamical models I have developed with Patrick Nalepka (UC Psychology), Dr. Kallen (UC Psychology), Dr. Chemero (UC Philosophy), and Dr. Saltzman (Boston University) that capture human multiagent shepherding behavior. Finally, I am collaborating with Dr. Tamara Lorenz, Dr. Manish Kumar, Dr. Anca Ralescu (Computer Systems and Electrical and Mechanical Engineering) and Dr. Adam Kiefer (Sports Medicine, CCHMC) on a UC funded Strategic Collaborative project aimed at developing lower body exoskeletons and human-robotic control structures that entail multimodal (EEG, EMG, motion-capture) sensorimotor feedback arrays.

    Recent Publications:

    • Lamb, M, Harrison, S. J., Kallen, R. W., de Bernardo, Minai, A., & Richardson. (in prep). Behavioral dynamics of object movement and passing during a joint-action pick and place task.
    • Nalepka, P., Kallen, R. W., Chemero, A., Saltzman, E., & Richardson, M .J. (under review). Herd Those Sheep: Emergent multiagent coordination and behavioral mode switching.
    • Nalepka, P., Lamb, M., Kallen, R. W., Shockley, K., Chemero, A., & Richardson, M. J. (2016). A Bio-Inspired Artificial Agent to Complete a Herding Task with Novices. The Fifteenth International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems. MA: MIT Press.
  • Human Improvisation and Creativity

    Most human behaviors involve some degree of improvisation and creativity. This is because the past, present and future context of individual or social behavioral activity is never the same. Motivated by this understanding and the relevance of improvisation and creativity for modeling the social behaviors outline above, an growing foci within my research program, is investigating the (nonlinear) dynamical processes or principles that support context dependent improvisation and creativity. Perhaps most noteworthy, is my recent collaboration with Ashley Walton examining how the embodied interaction of jazz musicians (pianists) both supports and constrains musical improvisation and creativity, as well as listener evaluations of the resultant musical performance.

    Recent Publications:

    • Walton, A., Washburn, A., Langland-Hassan, P., Kloos, H., Chemero, A., & Richardson, M. J. (under review) Creating time: social collaboration in music improvisation.
    • Walton, A., Richardson, M.J., Chemero, A. (2015). Self-organization and Semiosis in Jazz Improvisation. International Journal on Signs and Semiotics Systems. 1 (6). DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00313
    • Walton, A., Richardson, M. J., Langland-Hassan, P. & Chemero, A. (2015). Improvisation and the self-organization of multiple musical bodies. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 313. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00313.

Ongoing Research Programs

  • Symmetries of Human Behavior and Information.

    The theoretical concept of symmetry and the theory of symmetry-breaking is fundamental within the physical, chemical, and biological sciences. Despite this, the degree to which the theoretical principles of symmetry and symmetry-breaking have been employed to understand and explain the behavioral organization of human and social systems remains rather limited. Motivated by a number of recent findings within my lab and the deep role that symmetry-breaking plays in creating order within complex systems, Dr. Rachel Kallen (UC) and I have started to explore the symmetries of human social and multiagent coordination and the degree to which the formal language of symmetry, namely Group Theory, can be employed to predict the set of behaviors that are possible within a given social or multiagent task context. Our initial work in this area has been very productive and has led us to explore the manner by which the dualistic nature of symmetry and asymmetry and the theory of symmetry-breaking might provide a lawful account of ‘information’ and ‘information flow’ for complex agent-environment systems.

    Example Publications:

    • Akifumi, K., Shima, H., Okumura, M., Yamamoto, Y., & Richardson, M. J. (under review). Effects of Agent-Environment Symmetry on the coordination dynamics of three-person (triadic) jumping.
    • Richardson, M. J., Washburn, A., Kallen, R. W. & Harrison, S. J. (2016). Symmetry and the Behavioral Dynamics of Social Coordination. In P. Passos and K. Davis (Eds.). Interpersonal Coordination and Performance in Social Systems (pp. 65-81). Routledge.
    • Richardson, M. J., & Kallen, R. W. (2015). Symmetry-Breaking and the Contextual Emergence of Human Multiagent Coordination and Social Activity. In E. Dzhafarov, S. Jordan, R. Zhang, and V. Cervantes (Eds.). Contextuality from Quantum Physics to Psychology. (pp. 229-286). World Scientific.
  • Fractal Scaling in Human Performance

    It has become increasingly clear that the behaviors of most natural systems, including human and social systems, exhibit varying degrees of fractal structure. My research is this area has centered on determining how different physical, informational and intentional task-goal constraints shape the fractal nature of behavioral performance and the degree to which fractal scaling can provide insights about the lawful principles that structure the origination of complex perception-action processes. Previous and future projects include: (i) determining how task constraints or task instructions (i.e., task intentions) imposed on the nested sub-movements of s synergistic action task (i.e., sub-eye or -limb movements or actions), might show interrelated dynamics, and whether manipulations affecting the fractal scaling of one sub-action has consequences for the scaling of others; (ii) determining whether the dynamic process of self-organized criticality and the structured perturbation effects of fractal variability might underlie social stimulus-response compatibility effects, as well as joint cognitive processes in general; and (iii) evaluating whether similarities in the behavioral variability of co-acting individuals (recently termed complexity matching) reflects a longer-term, ‘global coordination’ process that entrains the behavioral regularity of co-acting individuals without requiring local (immediate time-scale) coordination.

    Example Publications:

    • Favela, L. H., Coey, C. A., Griff, E. R., & Richardson, M. J., (2016). Fractal analysis reveals subclasses of neurons and suggests an explanation of their spontaneous activity. Neuroscience Letters.
    • Coey, C. A., Washburn, A., Hassebrock, J., & Richardson, M. J. (2016). Complexity matching effects in bimanual and interpersonal syncopated finger tapping. Neuroscience letters, 616, 204-210.
    • Wallot, S., Coey, C. A., & Richardson, M. J. (2015) Cue predictability changes scaling in eye-movement fluctuations. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 77, 2169–2180.
    • Castillo, R. D., Kloos, H., Holden, J. D., & Richardson, M. J. (2015). Fractal Coordination in Adults’ Attention to Hierarchical Visual Patterns. Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences. 19(2):147-72.
    • Coey, C. A., Hassebrock, J., Kloos, H., & Richardson, M. J. (2015). The Complexities of Keeping the Beat: Dynamical Structure in the Nested Behaviors of Finger Tapping. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics. DOI 10.3758/s13414-015-0842-4.
    • Washburn, A. Coey, C. A., Romero, V. Malone, M. L., & Richardson, M. J. (2015). Interaction of Intention and Environmental Constraints on the Fractal Dynamics of Human Performance. Cognitive Processing. DOI:10.1007/s10339-015-0652-6
    • Malone, M., Castillo, R. D., Holden, J. D., Kloos, H., & Richardson, M. J. (2014). Dynamic Structure of Joint-Action Stimulus-Response Activity. PLoS ONE 9(2):e89032.
  • Social Motor Coordination in Children with Autism

    Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) exhibit numerous impairments in social interaction that typically affect them for their entire lifetime. It is possible that an important key for increasing our understanding of ASD-specific social deficits may lie within the movement coordination that takes place in a social context. Given that a number of my previous research projects have demonstrated that social movement coordination has been found to be an essential part of successful human interaction, my colleagues Dr. R. C. Schmidt (College of the Holly Cross), Dr. Paula Fitzpatrick (Assumption College), Dr. Amie Duncan (CCHMC) and Veronica Romero (UC) have been exploring social movement coordination in children with ASD. This NIMH funded research project (R21MH094659) has revealed that children with ASD exhibit different and less stable patterns of social motor coordination than typically developing children, and moreover, that these differences are associated with a range of clinical and experimental measures of social cognition and social-emotional skill (e.g., visual perspective taking, theory of mind, joint-attention, social responsiveness, socio-emotional engagement).

    Example Publications:

    • Fitzpatrick, P., Romero, V., Amaral, J., Duncan, A., Barnard, H., Richardson, M. J., & Schmidt, R. C. (under review). Evaluating the Importance of Social Motor Synchronization and Motor Skill for Understanding Autism.
    • Romero, V., Fitzpatrick, P., Schmidt, R. C. & Richardson, M. J., (2016). Using Cross-Recurrence Quantification Analysis to Understand Social Motor Coordination in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. C.L. Webber, Jr. et al. (eds.), Recurrence Plots and Their Quantifications: Expanding Horizons, Springer Proceedings in Physics 180. Switzerland: Springer.
    • Fitzpatrick, P., Richardson, M. J., & Schmidt, R. C. (2013). Dynamical Methods for Evaluating the Time-Dependent Unfolding of Social Coordination in Children with Autism. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 7, doi: 10.3389/fnint.2013.00021
    • Isenhower, R. W., Marsh, K. L., Richardson, M. J., Helt, M., Schmidt, R. C., Fein, D., (2012). Rhythmic Bimanual Coordination is Impaired in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. 6, 25-31
  • Affordance Perception and Actualization

    Research on how individuals perceive what actions are possible in a given environment has focused on the concept of affordances (possibilities for action) and the perception of the meaningful relations that exist between a perceptual agent (human/animal) and its environment. I have conducted a number of projects aimed at highlighting the nested structure of affordances and how perceiving an affordance, including its action boundaries, dynamically constrains and self-organizes agent-environment systems into functional organized units or synergies. I have also conducted research examining the parameters that define inter-individual actions relative to individual actions and the physical, social, and cognitive constraints on affordance perception and actualization. In collaboration with Till Frank, I have also developed a dynamical model of affordance mode transition behavior that can be generalized to account for a wide variety of intrapersonal and interpersonal (social) affordances. This research was supported by NSF grant, BCS0340277.

    Example Publications:

    • Anderson, M. L., Richardson, M. J., & Chemero, A. (2012). Eroding the boundaries of cognition: Implications of embodiment. Topics in Cognitive Science.4, 1–14
    • Isenhower, R., Richardson, M. J., Marsh, K. L., Carello, C., & Baron, R. M. (2010). Affording cooperation: Dynamics and action-scaled invariance of joint lifting. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. 17, 342-347.
    • Richardson, M. J. Marsh, K. L., & Schmidt, R. C. (2010). Challenging egocentric notions of perceiving, acting, and knowing. In L. F. Barrett, B. Mesquita, and E. Smith. (Eds.). The Mind in Context. (pp. 307-333). New York, NY: Guilford.
    • Frank, T. D., Richardson, M. J., *Lopresti-Goodman, S., & Turvey, M. T. (2009). Order parameter dynamics of body-scaled hysteresis and mode transitions in grasping behavior. Journal of Biological Physics. 35, 127-147.
    • Lopresti-Goodman, S., Richardson, M. J., Marsh, K. L., Carello, C., & Baron, R. M. (2009). Task constraints on affordance boundaries. Motor Control. 13, 69–83
    • Richardson, M. J., Fajen, B. R., Shockley, K., Riley, M. A., Turvey, M. T. (2008). Ecological Psychology: Six Principles for an Embodied–Embedded Approach to Behavior. In. Paco Calvo & Toni Gomila (Eds.). Handbook of Cognitive Science: An Embodied Approach. (pp.161-197). Elsevier.
    • Richardson, M. J., Marsh, K. L., & Baron, R. M. (2007). Judging and Actualizing Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Affordances. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. 33, 845-859.
    • Johnston, L., Hudson, S.M., Richardson, M. J., Gunns, R.E., & Garner, M. (2004). Changing kinematics as a means of reducing vulnerability to attack. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 34,514-537.
  • Interpersonal Coordination and Behavioral Synchrony

    My work in this area has been directed towards advancing an understanding of how the physical and informational constraints support interpersonal and social motor coordination, including how different informational couplings (i.e., visual, auditory, linguistic) and different physical properties (i.e., movement frequency and frequency differences) operated to constrained the dynamic stabilities of rhythmic coordination and conversational interaction. In collaboration with Dr. R. C. Schmidt (College of Holy Cross), Dr. Kerry Marsh (University of Connecticut) and Dr. Lynden Miles (University of Aberdeen) this research has played a significant role in spearheading the renewed interest in joint-action and social motor coordination, and how the dynamic stabilities of behavioral synchrony and coordination influence the outcome of super-ordinate social-cognitive task goals, perceived intergroup characteristics (i.e., group membership) and rapport, and the  patterning of the behavioral coordination that occurs between players in team sports (e.g., soccer, rugby). This research was supported by my NSF grants BCS0240277, BCS0750190, and BCS0926662.

    Example Publications:

    • Varlet, M., & Richardson, M. J. (2015). What Would Be Usain Bolt’s 100-Meter Sprint World Record Without Tyson Gay? Unintentional Interpersonal Synchronization Between the Two Sprinters. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 41, 36-41.
    • Schmidt, R. C., Nie, L., Franco, A., & Richardson, M. J., (2014). Bodily synchronization underlying joke telling. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00633.
    • Washburn, A. Coey, C. A., Romero, V. & Richardson, M. J. (2014). Unintentional Polyrhythmic Entrainment: Can 1:2, 2:3 and 3:4 Patterns of Visual Coordination Occur Spontaneously? Journal of Motor Control, 46, 247-57.
    • Duarte, R., Araújo, D., Correia, V., Davids, K., Marques, P., & Richardson, M. J. (2013). Competing together: Assessing the dynamics of team-team and player-team synchrony in professional association football. Human Movement Science. 32, 555–566.
    • Richardson, M. J., Garcia, A., Frank, T. D., Gergor, M., & Marsh, K. L., (2012). Measuring Group Synchrony: A Cluster-Phase Method for Analyzing Multivariate Movement Time-Series. Frontiers in Physiology. 3, 405.
    • Romero, V., Coey, C., Schmidt, R. C., & Richardson, M. J. (2012). Movement Coordination or Movement Interference: Visual Tracking and Spontaneous Coordination Modulate Rhythmic Movement Interference. PLoS ONE 7(9): e44761.
    • Miles, L. K., Lumsden, J., Richardson, M. J., & Macrae, N. C. (2011). Do Birds of a Feather Move Together? Group Membership and Behavioral Synchrony. Experimental Brain Research, 211, 495-503.
    • Harrison, S. J. & Richardson, M. J. (2009). Horsing around: Spontaneous Four-Legged Coordination. Journal of Motor Behavior, 41, 519 – 524.
    • Richardson, M. J., Campbell, W. L. & Schmidt, R. C. (2009). Movement interference during action observation as emergent coordination. Neuroscience Letters, 449, 117–122.
    • Shockley, K. D., Baker, A. A., Richardson, M. J., & Fowler, C. A. (2007). Verbal constraints on interpersonal postural coordination. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. 33, 201-208.
    • Richardson, M. J., Marsh, K. L., Isenhower, R., Goodman, J., & Schmidt, R. C. (2007). Rocking Together: Dynamics of Intentional and Unintentional Interpersonal Coordination. Human Movement Science.26, 867-891.
  • Visual Coordination and Entrainment:

    Paralleling my work on the dynamics of interpersonal and social movement coordination I have investigated the degree to which an individual’s movements are coupled to environmental stimuli and the effects of such environmental couplings on behavioral performance. This research has uncovered how the stability of such entrainment is dependent on the degree to which an individual’s perceptual system is actively involved in the pick-up of environmental information. This research program also demonstrated how stimulus kinematics, agency, and cognitive load influence the occurrence and stability of visual and interpersonal rhythmic coordination, and how large differences between the resonant frequencies of an individual’s limb movements and a visual environmental rhythm can result in complex patterns of spontaneously polyrhythmic coordination. This research was supported by NSF BCS0750190.

    Example Publications:

    • Varlet, M., Richardson, M. J. & Schmidt, R. C. (2015). Noise can facilitate spontaneous movement synchronization. Journal of Motor Behavior. DOI:10.1080/00222895.2015.1050548
    • Varlet, M., Bucci, C., Richardson, M. J. & Schmidt, R. C. (2015). Informational Constraints on Spontaneous Visuomotor Entrainment. Human Movement Science. 41, 265–281.
    • Varlet, M., Coey, C., Schmidt, R. C., Marin, L., Bardy, B. G., & Richardson, M. J. (2014). Influence of stimulus velocity profile on rhythmic visuomotor coordination. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 40, 1849-1860.
    • Coey, C. A., Wallot, S., Richardson, M. J., & Van Orden, G. (2012). On the Structure of Measurement Noise in Eye-Tracking. Journal of Eye Movement Research, 5, 1-10.
    • Varlet, M., Coey, C., Schmidt, R. C., & Richardson, M. J. (2012). Influence of Stimulus Amplitude on Spontaneous Visual Coordination. Human Movement Science. 31, 541-52.
    • Hajnal, A., Richardson, M. J., Harrison, S. J., & Schmidt, R. C. (2009). Location but not amount of stimulus occlusion influences the stability of visuo-motor coordination. Experimental Brain Research, 199, 89–93.
    • Lopresti-Goodman, S., Richardson, M. J., Silva, P. L., & Schmidt, R. C. (2008). Period Basin of Entrainment for Unintentional Visual Coordination. Journal of Motor Behavior. 40, 3-10.
    • Schmidt, R. C., Richardson, M. J., Arsenault, C., & Galantucci, B. (2007). Visual Tracking and Entrainment to an Environmental Rhythm. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. 33, 860-870.