Abstract for: Path Dependency and the Role of Delays in Creating Shared Understanding in Dyadic Communication

Informed by a theory of symbolic interactionism, this research explores the dynamics of dyadic communications within which understanding is socially constructed. Based upon an earlier analysis of a case-study investigation in a large multi-disciplinary governmental project with multiple contractors and subcontractors, we modify, simulate, and analyze a dynamic model of dyadic communications. Our simulation results support the previous findings and, in addition, underscore the role of path dependency in creating shared understanding; that is, “first” interpretations affected by random and imprecise messages can influence subsequent shared understanding and meaning construction significantly. Finally, our sensitivity analysis sheds light on the effects of decision and action delay and observation and orientation delay. Delays, which in part represent how responsive a partner is, can have counter-intuitive effects on players’ convergence or divergence in a dyadic communication. Our study shows that reducing observation and orientation delay can be considered as a leverage point for communication convergence, while increasing decision and action delay may facilitate convergence.