Michael Arbib, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
Title: Hands and tools: from body schemas to language
Abstract: I will present some ideas on tool use and the distalization of the end-effector (Arbib et al., 2009), and link them to the Mirror System Hypothesis on the evolution of the language-ready brain. I will also include some update on the integrated learning of grasps and affordances, the so called ILGA model (Bonaiuto & Arbib, in preparation), and reconsider in its light some key findings in past grasping research (in particular, Iberall et al., 1986; Jeannerod et al., 1995; Maravita & Iriki, 2004).
Salvatore Maria Aglioti, Università “La Sapienza” di Roma
Title: Plasticity of the self as inferred from enfacement illusion: behavioural and neural studies
Abstract: Mirrors or other reflecting surfaces are the only means to see one’s own face. Mirror self-face recognition is an important precursor of complex forms of self-identify and self-consciousness. While behavioral, neuroimaging and neuropsychological evidence classically suggests that self-face representations are rather stable, recent studies indicate that deriving the self from one’s own face may be an inherently plastic process. For example, experiencing tactile facial stimulation while seeing similar synchronous stimuli on the face of another individual (Interpersonal Multisensory Stimulation, IMS) induces ‘enfacement’, i.e. the subjective illusory experience of ownership of the other’s face, and a bias in attributing the others’ facial features to the self. Thus inducing enfacement may powerfully induce plastic changes into the self-face representation. More recently, we have found that the enfacement reduces the overwhelming capturing power of highly distracting self- (but not other-) facial gaze stimuli. Moreover we provided neurophysiological evidence that IMS affects the visual neural processing associated to the self- (but not the other-) face representation. Indeed, we found that the enfacement modulated a long-latency Visual Evoked Potential (at about 300-700 ms after the presentation of the face stimuli; LLP), which is considered a reliable electrophysiological marker of self-identification process. There was significant reduction of LLP amplitude to the visual presentation of the self-face after participants received synchronous IMS. Synchronous IMS did not affect, instead, LLP amplitudes evoked after presentation of the other-face. In a series of subsequent studies, we explored the possibility that the tendency to include the other into one’s own face representation was dependent upon interpersonal perception of the synchronously stimulated other. We found that positive interpersonal perception and attitudes derived from newly acquired short-term individual inter-actions, influenced the enfacement strength. More specifically, the enfacement-related self-attribution bias was stronger when the other was considered highly attractive and provided very positive feedback about the personality traits of the participant. No self-attribution bias was instead present when the other judged negatively the participant. We speculated that enfacing a ‘positive’ other might strengthen the set of perceptual or cognitive processes that maintain and protect positive (bodily and conceptual) self-views (i.e. ‘self-serving biases’), and ultimately has the potential to strengthen the positive view of the self. Thus, the enfacement illusion described in our studies may be fundamentally important because it suggests that conceptual and bodily features of others’ identity can be included -and induce analogous changes- in the notion of the self. [This paper is joint work with Ilaria Bufalari & Giuseppina Porciello.]
Anna Maria Borghi, Università di Bologna & ISTC-CNR Roma
Title: Truth, freedom and phantasy are difficult to explain: a proposal on abstract concepts and words
Abstract: One of the main problems of embodied and grounded theories of concepts and language is to account for how abstract concepts (e.g., “freedom”, “truth”) are represented. I will present a recent theoretical proposal on abstract concepts and words, called WAT: Words As social Tools (Borghi & Binkofski, 2014) and report recent evidence supporting it. The WAT view starts from the assumption that both concrete and abstract concepts are embodied and grounded. Compared to other embodied theories on abstract concepts, it is characterized by the focus on acquisition: according to WAT, the linguistic mediation and the influence of the social context is more crucial for acquiring abstract than concrete words meanings (Wauters et al., 2003), given that the first do not have single, concrete referents. I will argue that the different role played by the linguistic and social mediation during the acquisition of concrete and abstract words influences a. their brain representation: linguistic areas are more activated for abstract than for concrete words; b. the effectors they activate: compared to concrete concepts, abstract concepts preferentially activate the mouth. Furthermore, I will show how linguistic variability affects more abstract than concrete objects representation. I will discuss the proposal in the framework of current embodied theories on abstract concepts and words, outlining further research directions necessary to strengthen it.
Michele Di Francesco, Istituto Universitario di Studi Superiori (IUSS), Pavia
Title: Supersizing the (extended) mind
Abstract: The extended mind hypothesis (EMH; Clark & Chalmers 1998, Clark 2008,) originates from «the claim that cognitive systems themselves extend beyond the boundary of the individual organism. On this view, features of an agent’s physical, social, and cultural environment can do more than distribute cognitive processing: they may well partially constitute that agent’s cognitive system» (Wilson & Foglia 2011). In my talk I first offer a critical discussion of EMH by addressing three questions: Do external vehicles play a causal or a constitutive role in the extension of cognition? Are the empirical data sufficient to distinguish EMH from HEC (the hypothesis of embodied cognition; Rupert 2004, Clark 2007)? What is the «mark of the cognitive» employed by the participants in the debate about EMH? On the basis of the answers to these questions I then offer a critical reading of what Shaun Gallagher (2013) recently labeled «the socially extended mind». I then propose taking EMH as a (mildly naturalistic) bridge between Cartesian and Hegelian (Gallagher & Crisafi 2009) views of the mind.
Stefano Nolfi, ISTC-CNR Roma
Title: On the role of the multi-level and multi-scale organization of behaviour: evidences from evolutionary robotics experiments
Abstract: In this talk I will claim that behavioural and cognitive capacities in embodied agents can be properly characterized as dynamical processes, originating from the agents/environmental interactions, displaying a multi-level and multi-scale organization. More specifically I will review a series of evolutionary robotics experiments that illustrate how the multi-level nature of these systems can enable: generalization processes that operate at the level of entire behaviours, the progressive expansion of the robots behavioural skills, and behavioural compositionality.
Bruno Siciliano, Università di Napoli “Federico II”
Title: Postural synergies for human-like grasping and manipulation with anthropomorphic hands
Abstract: Postural synergies, inherited from neuroscience studies on the human hand, have been widely explored in robotics to simplify grasp planning and control of anthropomorphic hands. Methods to learn from human data and map synergies to artificial hands have been proposed. Learning and control strategies based on neural networks and synergies have been developed and experimentally tested to synthesize grasps on the basis of few object/task parameters. Further studies have been carried out to explore the role of postural synergies in manipulation tasks.
Corrado Sinigaglia, Università di Milano
Title: On a puzzle about relations between thought, experience and the motoric
Abstract: Motor representations live a kind of double life. Although paradigmatically involved in performing actions, they also occur when merely observing others act and sometimes influence thoughts about the goals of observed actions. Further, these influences are content-respecting: what you think about an action sometimes depends in part on how that action is represented motorically in you. The existence of such content-respecting influences is puzzling. After all, motor representations do not feature alongside beliefs or intentions in reasoning about action; indeed, thoughts are inferentially isolated from motor representations. So how could motor representations have content-respecting influences on thoughts? The aim of the talk is to solve this puzzle. In so doing, I shall provide the basis for an account of how experience links the motoric with thought. Such an account matters for understanding how humans think about action: in some cases, we have reasons for thoughts about actions that we would not have if we were unable to represent those actions motorically.
Angela Sirigu, CNC-CNRS & Universite de Lyon
Title: Varieties of movement representation in the human brain
Abstract: I will discuss the role of parietal and motor regions for movement representation and movement prediction. I will present findings obtained in patients with selective lesions in the parietal or premotor cortex using task requiring attention to onset of intention or attention to onset of movement. I will also show how direct cortical stimulation (during neurosurgery) of the inferior parietal regions produces the ‘desire to move’ and even perception of movement even when no motor act actually occurred as shown by EMG recording. The opposite patterns will be described during stimulation of the premotor cortex where patients produce movements but the experience of movement didn’t reach consciousness. I will argue that the inferior parietal regions play a key role for anticipating the future states of our own movements and for bringing them into awareness.
Marco Tettamanti, IBFM-CNR & Ospedale San Raffaele, Milano
Title: Embodiment versus disembodiment: conceptual-semantic representations and their modulation by syntactic negation
Abstract: The idea that the organization of conceptual knowledge in semantic memory closely reflects the quality of experience of the concepts’ referents is congruent with theories that propose to ground cognition in distributed sensory-motor and experiential neurocognitive systems. Converging evidence from the cognitive neurosciences indicate that the interplay between the language core network and grounded networks is not an automatic but rather a dynamic process, which depends on the specific task as well as on sentential linguistic context encompassing conceptual-semantic information. I will present neuroimaging and behavioral data suggesting that sensory-motor and other grounded cognitive systems flexibly interact with perisylvian language areas, yielding specific configurations and connectivity patterns that reflect nuances of meaning. I will also show that these grounded representations are flexibly modulated by syntactic constructions, such as sentential negation. The emerging generalized grounded cognition framework of conceptualsemantic sentence processing emphasizes the functional role of distributed sensory-motor and experiential neurocognitive systems that are differentially involved, depending on the specific semantic features and meanings of the concepts’ referents and on the lexical and grammatical sentential format used to express them linguistically.
Elisabetta Visalberghi, ISTC-CNR Roma
Title: Learning from capuchin monkeys’ stone tool use
Abstract: The EthoCebus research team has studied the behaviour of two groups of wild bearded capuchins for ten years (see http://www.ip.usp.br/ethocebus2/) at Fazenda Boa Vista, in the northeast of Brazil. These monkeys use stone hammers and stone/wood anvils to crack very resistant palm nuts. Until a decade ago, this type of tool use was considered to be present only in our ancestors and the Western chimpanzees. Cracking hard foods using stone tools, as practiced by bearded capuchins, involves planning, decision-making, modification of species- typical action routines, modulation of action to accommodate variable materials and settings, and monitoring activity throughout the course of performance. I will illustrate these features on the basis of our field experiments and observational studies and I will discuss the ways in which our results might be relevant to design the scenarios in which stone tool use may emerge in capuchins as well as in other primates.