Going Beyond the “Synthetic Method”: New Paradigms Cross-Fertilizing Robotics and Cognitive Neuroscience

Frontiers in Psychology 13 (2022)
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Abstract

In so-called ethorobotics and robot-supported social cognitive neurosciences, robots are used as scientific tools to study animal behavior and cognition. Building on previous epistemological analyses of biorobotics, in this article it is argued that these two research fields, widely differing from one another in the kinds of robots involved and in the research questions addressed, share a common methodology, which significantly differs from the “synthetic method” that, until recently, dominated biorobotics. The methodological novelty of this strategy, the research opportunities that it opens, and the theoretical and technological challenges that it gives rise to, will be discussed with reference to the peculiarities of the two research fields. Some broad methodological issues related to the generalization of results concerning robot-animal interaction to theoretical conclusions on animal-animal interaction will be identified and discussed.

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