What is the function of cognition? On one influential account, cognition evolved to co-ordinate behaviour with environmental change or complexity. Liberal interpretations of this view ascribe cognition to an extraordinarily broad set of biological systems—even bacteria, which modulate their activity in response to salient external cues, would seem to qualify as cognitive agents. However, equating cognition with adaptive flexibility per se glosses over important distinctions in the way biological organisms deal with environmental complexity. Drawing on contemporary advances in theoretical biology (...) and computational neuroscience, we cash these distinctions out in terms of different kinds of generative models, and the representational and uncertainty-resolving capacities they afford. This analysis leads us to propose a formal criterion for delineating cognition from other, more pervasive forms of adaptive plasticity. On this view, biological cognition is rooted in a particular kind of functional organisation; namely, that which enables the agent to detach from the present and engage in counterfactual inference. (shrink)
Predictive processing theories are increasingly popular in philosophy of mind; such process theories often gain support from the Free Energy Principle —a normative principle for adaptive self-organized systems. Yet there is a current and much discussed debate about conflicting philosophical interpretations of FEP, e.g., representational versus non-representational. Here we argue that these different interpretations depend on implicit assumptions about what qualifies as representational. We deploy the Free Energy Principle instrumentally to distinguish four main notions of representation, which focus on organizational, (...) structural, content-related and functional aspects, respectively. The various ways that these different aspects matter in arriving at representational or non-representational interpretations of the Free Energy Principle are discussed. We also discuss how the Free Energy Principle may be seen as a unified view where terms that traditionally belong to different ontologies—e.g., notions of model and expectation versus notions of autopoiesis and synchronization—can be harmonized. However, rather than attempting to settle the representationalist versus non-representationalist debate and reveal something about what representations are simpliciter, this paper demonstrates how the Free Energy Principle may be used to reveal something about those partaking in the debate; namely, what our hidden assumptions about what representations are—assumptions that act as sometimes antithetical starting points in this persistent philosophical debate. (shrink)
We propose a view of embodied representations that is alternative to both symbolic/linguistic approaches and purely sensorimotor views of cognition, and can account for procedural and declarative knowledge manipulation. In accordance with recent evidence in cognitive neuroscience and psychology, we argue that anticipatory and simulative mechanisms, which arose during evolution for action control and not for cognition, determined the first form of representational content and were exapted for increasingly sophisticated cognitive uses. In particular, procedural and declarative forms of knowledge can (...) be explained, respectively, in terms of on-line sensorimotor anticipation and off-line simulations of potential actions, which can give access to tacit knowledge and make it explicit. That is, mechanisms that evolved for the on-line prediction of the consequences of one's own actions (i.e. forward models) determine a (procedural) form of representation, and became exapted for off-line use. They can therefore be used to produce (declarative) knowledge of the world, by running a simulation of the action that would produce the relevant information. We conclude by discussing how embodied representations afford a form of internal manipulation that can be described as internalized situated action. (shrink)
Humans and other animals are able not only to coordinate their actions with their current sensorimotor state, but also to imagine, plan and act in view of the future, and to realize distal goals. In this paper we discuss whether or not their future-oriented conducts imply (future-oriented) representations. We illustrate the role played by anticipatory mechanisms in natural and artificial agents, and we propose a notion of representation that is grounded in the agent’s predictive capabilities. Therefore, we argue that the (...) ability that characterizes and defines a true cognitive mind, as opposed to a merely adaptive system, is that of building representations of the non-existent, of what is not currently (yet) true or perceivable, of what is desired. A real mental activity begins when the organism is able to endogenously (i.e. not as the consequence of current perceptual stimuli) produce an internal representation of the world in order to select and guide its conduct goal-directed: the mind serves to coordinate with the future. (shrink)
This paper offers a conceptual framework which (re)integrates goal-directed control, motivational processes, and executive functions, and suggests a developmentalpathway from situated action to higher level cognition. We first illustrate a basic computational (control-theoretic) model of goal-directed action that makes use of internalmodeling. We then show that by adding the problem of selection among multiple actionalternatives motivation enters the scene, and that the basic mechanisms of executivefunctions such as inhibition, the monitoring of progresses, and working memory, arerequired for this system to (...) work. Further, we elaborate on the idea that the off-line re-enactment of anticipatory mechanisms used for action control gives rise to (embodied)mental simulations, and propose that thinking consists essentially in controlling mental simulations rather than directly controlling behavior and perceptions. We concludeby sketching an evolutionary perspective of this process, proposing that anticipationleveraged cognition, and by highlighting specific predictions of our model. (shrink)
Why is interaction so simple? This article presents a theory of interaction based on the use of shared representations as “coordination tools” (e.g., roundabouts that facilitate coordination of drivers). By aligning their representations (intentionally or unintentionally), interacting agents help one another to solve interaction problems in that they remain predictable, and offer cues for action selection and goal monitoring. We illustrate how this strategy works in a joint task (building together a tower of bricks) and discuss its requirements from a (...) computational viewpoint. (shrink)
A growing body of evidence in cognitive psychology and neuroscience suggests a deep interconnection between sensory-motor and language systems in the brain. Based on recent neurophysiological findings on the anatomo-functional organization of the fronto-parietal network, we present a computational model showing that language processing may have reused or co-developed organizing principles, functionality, and learning mechanisms typical of premotor circuit. The proposed model combines principles of Hebbian topological self-organization and prediction learning. Trained on sequences of either motor or linguistic units, the (...) network develops independent neuronal chains, formed by dedicated nodes encoding only context-specific stimuli. Moreover, neurons responding to the same stimulus or class of stimuli tend to cluster together to form topologically connected areas similar to those observed in the brain cortex. Simulations support a unitary explanatory framework reconciling neurophysiological motor data with established behavioral evidence on lexical acquisition, access, and recall. (shrink)
To be successful, the research agenda for a novel control view of cognition should foresee more detailed, computationally specified process models of cognitive operations including higher cognition. These models should cover all domains of cognition, including those cognitive abilities that can be characterized as online interactive loops and detached forms of cognition that depend on internally generated neuronal processing.
Predictive processing theories are increasingly popular in philosophy of mind; such process theories often gain support from the Free Energy Principle (FEP)—a nor- mative principle for adaptive self-organized systems. Yet there is a current and much discussed debate about conflicting philosophical interpretations of FEP, e.g., repre- sentational versus non-representational. Here we argue that these different interpre- tations depend on implicit assumptions about what qualifies (or fails to qualify) as representational. We deploy the Free Energy Principle (FEP) instrumentally to dis- tinguish (...) four main notions of representation, which focus on organizational, struc- tural, content-related and functional aspects, respectively. The various ways that these different aspects matter in arriving at representational or non-representational interpretations of the Free Energy Principle are discussed. We also discuss how the Free Energy Principle may be seen as a unified view where terms that tradition- ally belong to different ontologies—e.g., notions of model and expectation versus notions of autopoiesis and synchronization—can be harmonized. However, rather than attempting to settle the representationalist versus non-representationalist debate and reveal something about what representations are simpliciter, this paper demon- strates how the Free Energy Principle may be used to reveal something about those partaking in the debate; namely, what our hidden assumptions about what represen- tations are—assumptions that act as sometimes antithetical starting points in this persistent philosophical debate. (shrink)
The core of human cooperation is people's ability to perform joint actions. Frequently, this requires effectively decomposing a joint task into individual subtasks, for example, when jointly shopping at the market to buy food. Surprisingly, little is known about how collaborators balance the costs of establishing a joint strategy for such decompositions and its expected benefits for a joint goal. We created a new online task that required pairs of randomly matched participants to jointly collect colored items. We then systematically (...) varied the cognitive costs and benefits of applying a color‐splitting strategy. The results showed that pairs adopted a color‐splitting strategy more often when necessary to lower cognitive costs. However, once the strategy was jointly adopted, it continued to be used even when the cost–benefits changed. Our results provide first insights on how people decompose joint tasks into individual components and how decomposition strategies may evolve into conventions. (shrink)
I applaud Huang & Bargh's theory that places goals at the center of cognition, and I discuss two ingredients missing from that theory. First, I argue that the brains of organisms much simpler than those of humans are already configured for goal achievement in situated interactions. Second, I propose a mechanistic view of the “reconfiguration principle” that links the theory with current views in computational neuroscience.
We consider the ways humans engage in social epistemic actions, to guide each other's attention, prediction, and learning processes towards salient information, at the timescale of online social interaction and joint action. This parallels the active guidance of other's attention, prediction, and learning processes at the longer timescale of niche construction and cultural practices, as discussed in the target article.
Empirical evidence suggests a broad impact of communication mode on cognition at large, beyond language processing. Using a sign language since infancy might shape the representation of words and other linguistic stimuli – for example, incorporating in it the movements and signs used to express them. Once integrated into linguistic representations, this visuo-motor content can affect deaf signers’ linguistic and cognitive processing.
Pickering & Garrod (P&G) explain dialogue dynamics in terms of forward modeling and prediction-by-simulation mechanisms. Their theory dissolves a strict segregation between production and comprehension processes, and it links dialogue to action-based theories of joint action. We propose that the theory can also incorporate intentional strategies that increase communicative success: for example, signaling strategies that help remaining predictable and forming common ground.