Representations in Dynamical Embodied Agents: Re-Analyzing a Minimally Cognitive Model Agent

Cognitive Science 36 (5):870-895 (2012)
Understanding the role of ‘‘representations’’ in cognitive science is a fundamental problem facing the emerging framework of embodied, situated, dynamical cognition. To make progress, I follow the approach proposed by an influential representational skeptic, Randall Beer: building artificial agents capable of minimally cognitive behaviors and assessing whether their internal states can be considered to involve representations. Hence, I operationalize the concept of representing as ‘‘standing in,’’ and I look for representations in embodied agents involved in simple categorization tasks. In a first experiment, no representation can be found, but the relevance of the task is undermined by the fact that agents with no internal states can reach high performance. A simple modification makes the task more “representationally hungry,” and in this case, agents’ internal states are found to qualify as representations. I conclude by discussing the benefits of reconciling the embodied-dynamical approach with the notion of representation
Keywords Representation  Embodied cognition  Categorization  Minimally cognitive behavior  Dynamical systems  Anti‐representationalism
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DOI 10.1111/j.1551-6709.2012.01233.x
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