The new concept of embodied cognition theories has been enthusiastically studied by the cognitive sciences, by as well as such disparate disciplines as philosophy, anthropology, neuroscience, and robotics. Embodiment theory provides the framework for ongoing discussions on the linkage between “low” cognitive processes as perception and “high” cognition as language processing and comprehension, respectively. This review gives an overview along the lines of argumentation in the ongoing debate on the embodiment of language and employs an ALE meta-analysis to illustrate and (...) weigh previous findings. The collected evidence on the somatotopic activation of motor areas, abstract and concrete word processing, as well as from reported patient and timing studies emphasizes the important role of sensorimotor areas in language processing and supports the hypothesis that the motor system is activated during language comprehension. (shrink)
Two experiments, one on school-aged children and one on adults, explored the mechanisms underlying responses to an image prime followed by graspable objects that were, in certain cases, dangerous. Participants were presented with different primes and objects representing two risk levels . The task required that a natural/artifact categorization task be performed by pressing different keys. In both adults and children graspable objects activated a facilitating motor response, while dangerous objects evoked aversive affordances, generating an interference-effect. Both children and adults (...) were sensitive to the distinction between biological and non-biological hands, however detailed resonant mechanisms related to the hand-prime gender emerged only in adults. Implications for how the concept of “dangerous object” develops and the relationship between resonant mechanisms and perception of danger are discussed. (shrink)
This study investigates the acquisition of integrated object manipulation and categorization abilities through a series of experiments in which human adults and artificial agents were asked to learn to manipulate two-dimensional objects that varied in shape, color, weight, and color intensity. The analysis of the obtained results and the comparison of the behavior displayed by human and artificial agents allowed us to identify the key role played by features affecting the agent/environment interaction, the relation between category and action development, and (...) the role of cognitive biases originating from previous knowledge. (shrink)
Artefacts are usually understood in contrast with natural kinds and conceived as a unitary kind. Here we propose that there is in fact a variety of artefacts: from the more concrete to the more abstract ones. Moreover, not every artefact is able to fulfil its function thanks to its physical properties: Some artefacts, particularly what we call “institutional” artefacts, are symbolic in nature and require a system of rules to exist and to fulfil their function. Adopting a standard method to (...) measure conceptual representation (the property generation task), we have experimentally explored how humans conceptualise these different kinds of artefacts. Results indicate that institutional artefacts are typically opposed to social objects, while being more similar to standard artefacts, be they abstract or concrete. (shrink)
The mental representation of one’s own body does not necessarily correspond to the physical body. For instance, a dissociation between perceived and actual reach-ability has been shown, that is, individuals perceive that they can reach objects that are out of grasp. We presented participants with 3D pictures of objects located at four different distances, namely near-reaching space, actual-reaching space, perceived-reaching space and non-reaching space. Immediately after they were presented with function, manipulation, observation or pointing verbs and were required to judge (...) if the verb was compatible with the object.Participants were faster with function and manipulation verbs than with observation and pointing verbs. Strikingly, with both function and manipulation verbs participants were faster when objects were presented in actual than the perceived reaching space. These findings suggest that our knowledge of the world is implicitly built online through behaviour, and is not necessarily reflected in explicit estimates or conscious representations. (shrink)
We investigated motor resonance in children using a priming paradigm. Participants were asked to judge the weight of an object shortly primed by a hand in an action-related posture or a non action-related one . The hand prime could belong to a child or to an adult. We found faster response times when the object was preceded by a grasp hand posture . More crucially, participants were faster when the prime was a child’s hand, suggesting that it could belong to (...) their body schema, particularly when the child’s hand was followed by a light object . A control experiment helped us to clarify the role of the hand prime. To our knowledge this is the first behavioral evidence of motor simulation and motor resonance in children. Implications of the results for the development of the sense of body ownership and for conceptual development are discussed. (shrink)
The author describes and sociocognitive skills that he argues as being necessary for tool use. We propose that those skills could be based on simpler detection systems humans could share with other animal tool users. More specifically, we discuss the impact of object affordances on the understanding and the social learning of tool use.
Affordances, i.e. the opportunity of actions offered by the environment, are one of the central research topics for the theoretical perspectives that view cognition as emerging from the interaction between the environment and the body. Being at the bridge between perception and action, affordances help to question a dichotomous view of perception and action. While Gibson’s view of affordances is mainly externalist, many contemporary approaches define affordances as the product of long-term visuomotor associations in the brain. These studies have emphasized (...) the fact that affordances are activated automatically, independently from the context and the previous intention to act: for example, affordances related to objects’ size would emerge even if the task does not require focusing on size. This emphasis on the automaticity of affordances has led to overlook their flexibility and contextual-dependency. In this contribution I will outline and discuss recent perspectives and evidence that reveal the flexibility and context-dependency of affordances, clarifying how they are modulated by the physical, cultural and social context. I will focus specifically on social affordances, i.e. on how perception of affordances might be influenced by the presence of multiple actors having different goals. (shrink)
Both evolutionary and developmental research indicate that humans are adapted to respecting property rights, independently (and possibly orthogonally) of considerations of fairness. We offer evidence from psychological experiments suggesting that enforcing one's rights and respecting others' possessions are basic cognitive mechanisms automatically activated and grounded in humans' sensory-motor system. This may entail an independent motivation that is more profound than considerations of fairness and impartiality.
The topic is characterized by a highly interdisciplinary approach to the issue of action and language integration. Such an approach, combining computational models and cognitive robotics experiments with neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, and linguistic approaches, can be a powerful means that can help researchers disentangle ambiguous issues, provide better and clearer definitions, and formulate clearer predictions on the links between action and language. In the introduction we briefly describe the papers and discuss the challenges they pose to future research. We identify (...) four important phenomena the papers address and discuss in light of empirical and computational evidence: (a) the role played not only by sensorimotor and emotional information but also of natural language in conceptual representation; (b) the contextual dependency and high flexibility of the interaction between action, concepts, and language; (c) the involvement of the mirror neuron system in action and language processing; (d) the way in which the integration between action and language can be addressed by developmental robotics and Human-Robot Interaction. (shrink)
Our commentary addresses two issues that are not developed enough in the target article. First, the model does not clearly address the distinction among external objects, external body parts, and internal bodies. Second, the authors could have discussed further the role of body schema with regard to its dynamic character, and its role in perspective and in imitation.
: This work focuses on emotional concepts. We define concepts as patterns of neural activation that re-enact a given external or internal experience, for example the interoceptive experience related to fear. Concepts are mediated and expressed through words. In the following, we will use “words” to refer to word meanings, assuming that words mediate underlying concepts. Since emotional concepts and the words that mediate them are less related to the physical environment than concrete ones, at first sight they might be (...) depicted as abstract concepts. Evidence coming from several studies shows, instead, that the issue is more complex. In this work, we will briefly outline the debate and illustrate results from recent studies on comprehension of concrete, emotional and abstract words in children and adults. We will argue that emotional words can be accounted for from a grounded perspective and will contend that emotional words represent a particular set of words that differs from both the concrete and purely abstract ones. Keywords: Embodied and Grounded Cognition; Abstract Concepts; Emotional Words; Language Acquisition; Language Processing La peculiarità delle parole emotive: un approccio basato sulla grounded cognition Riassunto: Questo lavoro si incentra sui concetti emotivi. Intendiamo qui per concetti i pattern di attivazioni neurali che riattivano un’esperienza interna o esterna, per esempio le esperienze interocettive collegate alla paura. I concetti sono mediati ed espressi dalle parole. Di seguito, useremo “parole” in riferimento al significato delle parole, assumendo le parole come veicolo dei concetti. I concetti emotivi e le parole che li esprimono, dal momento che sono meno legati all’ambiente fisico rispetto a quelli concreti, potrebbero essere a tutta prima classificati come concetti astratti. Molti studi invece mostrano come la questione sia più complessa. In questo lavoro illustreremo brevemente il dibattito e i risultati di recenti studi sulla comprensione di parole astratte, concrete ed emotive in bambini e adulti, per mostrare come una prospettiva grounded possa rendere conto delle parole emotive, sostenendo che queste rappresentano un insieme particolare di parole, diverse sia da quelle concrete che da quelle puramente astratte. Parole chiave: Embodied and Grounded Cognition; Concetti astratti; Parole emotive; Acquisizione del linguaggio; Processamento del linguaggio. (shrink)
Mirror neurons may play a role in representing not only signs but also their meaning. Because actions are the only aspect of behavior that are inter-individually accessible, interpreting meanings in terms of actions might explain how meanings can be shared. Behavioral evidence and artificial life simulations suggest that seeing objects or processing words referring to objects automatically activates motor actions.
In this paper, we investigate how the interactions of a robot with its environment can be used to create concepts that are typically represented by verbs in language. Towards this end, we utilize the notion of affordances to argue that verbs typically refer to the generation of a specific type of effect rather than a specific type of action. Then, we show how a robot can form these concepts through interactions with the environment and how humans can use these concepts (...) to ease their communication with the robots. We demonstrate that iCub, a humanoid robot, can use the concepts, which it has developed, to to understand what a human performs, perform multi-step planning for reaching a goal state as well as to specify a goal to the robot using symbolic descriptions. (shrink)