Humans have a remarkable capacity for tuning their communicative behaviors to different addressees, a phenomenon also known as recipient design. It remains unclear how this tuning of communicative behavior is implemented during live human interactions. Classical theories of communication postulate that recipient design involves perspective taking, i.e., the communicator selects her behavior based on her hypotheses about beliefs and knowledge of the recipient. More recently, researchers have argued that perspective taking is computationally too costly to be a plausible mechanism in (...) everyday human communication. These researchers propose that computationally simple mechanisms, or heuristics, are exploited to perform recipient design. Such heuristics may be able to adapt communicative behavior to an addressee with no consideration for the addressee's beliefs and knowledge. To test whether the simpler of the two mechanisms is sufficient for explaining the `how' of recipient design we studied communicators' behaviors in the context of a non-verbal communicative task (the Tacit Communication Game, TCG). We found that the specificity of the observed trial-by-trial adjustments made by communicators is parsimoniously explained by perspective taking, but not by simple heuristics. This finding is important as it suggests that humans do have a computationally efficient way of taking beliefs and knowledge of a recipient into account. (shrink)
Four articles in this issue of topiCS (volume 4, issue 1) argue against a computational approach in cognitive science in favor of a dynamical approach. I concur that the computational approach faces some considerable explanatory challenges. Yet the dynamicists’ proposal that cognition is self-organized seems to only go so far in addressing these challenges. Take, for instance, the hypothesis that cognitive behavior emerges when brain and body (re-)configure to satisfy task and environmental constraints. It is known that for certain systems (...) of constraints, no procedure can exist (whether modular, local, centralized, or self-organized) that reliably finds the right configuration in a realistic amount of time. Hence, the dynamical approach still faces the challenge of explaining how self-organized constraint satisfaction can be achieved by human brains and bodies in real time. In this commentary, I propose a methodology that dynamicists can use to try to address this challenge. (shrink)
Bayesian models are often criticized for postulating computations that are computationally intractable (e.g., NP-hard) and therefore implausibly performed by our resource-bounded minds/brains. Our letter is motivated by the observation that Bayesian modelers have been claiming that they can counter this charge of “intractability” by proposing that Bayesian computations can be tractably approximated. We would like to make the cognitive science community aware of the problematic nature of such claims. We cite mathematical proofs from the computer science literature that show intractable (...) Bayesian computations, such as postulated in existing Bayesian models, cannot be tractably approximated. This does not mean that human brains do not (or cannot) implement the type of algorithms that Bayesian modelers are advancing, but it does mean that proposing that they do by itself does nothing to parry the charge of intractability, because the postulated algorithms are as intractable (i.e., require exponential time) as the computations they try to approximate. Besides our negative message for the community, our letter also makes a positive contribution by referring to a methodology that Bayesian modelers can use to try and parry the charge of intractability in a mathematically sound way. (shrink)
Single cell recordings in monkeys provide strong evidence for an important role of the motor system in action understanding. This evidence is backed up by data from studies of the (human) mirror neuron system using neuroimaging or TMS techniques, and behavioral experiments. Although the data acquired from single cell recordings are generally considered to be robust, several debates have shown that the interpretation of these data is far from straightforward. We will show that research based on single-cell recordings allows for (...) unlimited content attribution to mirror neurons. We will argue that a theoretical analysis of the mirroring process, combined with behavioral and brain studies, can provide the necessary limitations. A complexity analysis of the type of processing attributed to the mirror neuron system can help formulate restrictions on what mirroring is and what cognitive functions could, in principle, be explained by a mirror mechanism. We argue that processing at higher levels of abstraction needs assistance of non-mirroring processes to such an extent that subsuming the processes needed to infer goals from actions under the label ?mirroring? is not warranted. (shrink)
Human intentional communication is marked by its flexibility and context sensitivity. Hypothesized brain mechanisms can provide convincing and complete explanations of the human capacity for intentional communication only insofar as they can match the computational power required for displaying that capacity. It is thus of importance for cognitive neuroscience to know how computationally complex intentional communication actually is. Though the subject of considerable debate, the computational complexity of communication remains so far unknown. In this paper we defend the position that (...) the computational complexity of communication is not a constant, as some views of communication seem to hold, but rather a function of situational factors. We present a methodology for studying and characterizing the computational complexity of communication under different situational constraints. We illustrate our methodology for a model of the problems solved by receivers and senders during a communicative exchange. This approach opens the way to a principled identification of putative model parameters that control cognitive processes supporting intentional communication. (shrink)
Barbey & Sloman (B&S) advocate a dual-process (two-system) approach by comparing it with an alternative perspective (ecological rationality), claiming that the latter is unwarranted. Rejecting this alternative approach cannot serve as sufficient evidence for the viability of the former.