‘It’s My Turn!’ is an interactive theatre performance that uses music, mimicry, and a fairy (!) to teach children how to take turns.

Successful turn taking requires people to listen to their partner, predict when their partner will finish, prepare their own response, and come in at the right time. Research suggests that people experience difficulties in turn taking because of problems predicting when the other person will finish (Boiteau, Malone, Peters, & Almor, 2014). This is presented in the play when the protagonist (Ellie) displays difficulties taking turns with her family.

Research suggests that mimicry can aid comprehension (Adank, Hagoort, & Bekkering, 2010). We reference this literature in the play by an extended scene in which the protagonist mimics her sister; by copying her speech patterns and style she is able to better predict her and take turns with her more appropriately.

Our current research investigates whether simulating a partner aids prediction across both language and music interactions. Research in music demonstrates that pianists are better at predicting music played and recorded by themselves than music played and recorded by someone else (Keller et al., 2007). Using a language study paradigm by De Ruiter, Mitterer and Enfield (2006),  we investigate whether pianists are better able to predict people with a similar musical style to themselves than people with a dissimilar musical style to themselves. If this is the case, this would suggest that we do indeed use simulation to make turn-end predictions. This notion is referenced in the final scene in which the audience are asked to mimic the singing style of the actors, predict when they finish a turn, and subsequently come in themselves.

A further two studies are based on a dual-interference task previously run in language but not in music. Boiteau et al. (2014) showed that interlocutors must attend more to their partner when that partner is about to finish their turn. We explore turn-taking during musical improvisation to investigate whether the dynamics of musical turn-taking parallel those of language. This work is referenced in the play during the ‘musical performance scene’; half of the audience must wait until the other half have finished before beginning their musical ‘turn’.

This project is supported by a Research Project Leverhulme grant awarded to Professor Martin Pickering and Dr Lauren Hadley, on which Dr Nina Fisher is employed. The research is wholly conducted by staff and students in the School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences.


Adank, P., Hagoort, P., & Bekkering, H. (2010). Imitation Improves Language Comprehension. Psychological Science, 21(12), 1903–1909. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797610389192

Boiteau, T. W., Malone, P. S., Peters, S. A., & Almor, A. (2014). Interference between conversation and a concurrent visuomotor task. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(1), 295–311. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0031858

De Ruiter, J. P., Mitterer, H., & Enfield, N. J. (2006). Projecting the end of a speaker’s turn: A cognitive cornerstone of conversation. Language, 82(3), 515–535. Retrieved from https://pure.mpg.de/pubman/faces/ViewItemOverviewPage.jsp?itemId=item_60156_3

Keller, P. E., Knoblich, G., & Repp, B. H. (2007). Pianists duet better when they play with themselves: On the possible role of action simulation in synchronization. Consciousness and Cognition, 16(1), 102–111. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2005.12.004