CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies

Padova, Italy

CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies

Padova, Italy
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Caligiore D.,CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies | Pezzulo G.,CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies | Pezzulo G.,CNR Institute of Computational linguistics Antonio Zampolli | Miall R.C.,University of Birmingham | Baldassarre G.,CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies
Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews | Year: 2013

Research on action understanding in cognitive neuroscience has led to the identification of a wide "action understanding network" mainly encompassing parietal and premotor cortical areas. Within this cortical network mirror neurons are critically involved implementing a neural mechanism according to which, during action understanding, observed actions are reflected in the motor patterns for the same actions of the observer. We suggest that focusing only on cortical areas and processes could be too restrictive to explain important facets of action understanding regarding, for example, the influence of the observer's motor experience, the multiple levels at which an observed action can be understood, and the acquisition of action understanding ability. In this respect, we propose that aside from the cortical action understanding network, sub-cortical processes pivoting on cerebellar and basal ganglia cortical loops could crucially support both the expression and the acquisition of action understanding abilities. Within the paper we will discuss how this extended view can overcome some limitations of the "pure" cortical perspective, supporting new theoretical predictions on the brain mechanisms underlying action understanding that could be tested by future empirical investigations. © 2013 The Authors.


Cartoni E.,CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies | Puglisi-Allegra S.,University of Rome La Sapienza | Baldassarre G.,CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies
Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience | Year: 2013

Pavlovian conditioned stimuli can influence instrumental responding, an effect called Pavlovian-instrumental transfer (PIT). During the last decade, PIT has been subdivided into two types: specific PIT and general PIT, each having its own neural substrates. Specific PIT happens when a conditioned stimulus (CS) associated with a reward enhances an instrumental response directed to the same reward. Under general PIT, instead, the CS enhances a response directed to a different reward. While important progress has been made into identifying the neural substrates, the function of specific and general PIT and how they interact with instrumental responses are still not clear. In the experimental paradigm that distinguishes specific and general PIT an effect of PIT inhibition has also been observed and is waiting for an explanation. Here we propose an hypothesis that links these three PIT effects (specific PIT, general PIT and PIT inhibition) to three aspects of action evaluation. These three aspects, which we call "principles of action", are: context, efficacy, and utility. In goal-directed behavior, an agent has to evaluate if the context is suitable to accomplish the goal, the efficacy of his action in getting the goal, and the utility of the goal itself: we suggest that each of the three PIT effects is related to one of these aspects of action evaluation. In particular, we link specific PIT with the estimation of efficacy, general PIT with the evaluation of utility, and PIT inhibition with the adequacy of context. We also provide a latent cause Bayesian computational model that exemplifies this hypothesis. This hypothesis and the model provide a new framework and new predictions to advance knowledge about PIT functioning and its role in animal adaptation. © 2013 Cartoni, Puglisi-Allegra and Baldassarre.


Paglieri F.,CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies
Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior | Year: 2013

Intertemporal choices are typically regarded as indicative of delay discounting. In this view, the degree of behavioral propensity to wait for a reward is attributed to an underlying process of reward devaluation as a function of delay. However, this widespread interpretation overlooks the role that the costs of delay might have in determining intertemporal choices. In this paper I review evidence of a marked discrepancy in intertemporal behavior across different tasks, and argue that the differential costs of delay can account for this anomaly better than alternative explanations. In particular, I characterize two types of delay, waiting versus postponing, examine how they impact behavioral choices across delay discounting tasks, what methodological challenges they present for new experimental paradigms, and what theoretical implications they have for our understanding of intertemporal choice.


Chersi F.,CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies
Experimental Brain Research | Year: 2011

Humans, in particular, and to a lesser extent also other species of animals, possess the impressive capability of smoothly coordinating their actions with those of others. The great amount of work done in recent years in neuroscience has provided new insights into the processes involved in joint action, intention understanding, and task sharing. In particular, the discovery of mirror neurons, which fire both when animals execute actions and when they observe the same actions done by other individuals, has shed light on the intimate relationship between perception and action elucidating the direct contribution of motor knowledge to action understanding. Up to date, however, a detailed description of the neural processes involved in these phenomena is still mostly lacking. Building upon data from single neuron recordings in monkeys observing the actions of a demonstrator and then executing the same or a complementary action, this paper describes the functioning of a biologically constraint neural network model of the motor and mirror systems during joint action. In this model, motor sequences are encoded as independent neuronal chains that represent concatenations of elementary motor acts leading to a specific goal. Action execution and recognition are achieved through the propagation of activity within specific chains. Due to the dual property of mirror neurons, the same architecture is capable of smoothly integrating and switching between observed and self-generated action sequences, thus allowing to evaluate multiple hypotheses simultaneously, understand actions done by others, and to respond in an appropriate way. © 2011 Springer-Verlag.


Tummolini L.,CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies
Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences | Year: 2014

Mind reading (i.e. the ability to infer the mental state of another agent) is taken to be the main cognitive ability required to share an intention and to collaborate. In this paper, I argue that another cognitive ability is also necessary to collaborate: representing others' and ones' own goals from a third-person perspective (other-centred or allocentric representation of goals). I argue that allocentric mind reading enables the cognitive ability of goal adoption, i.e. having the goal that another agent's achieve p because and as long as another agent has that goal that p. Having clarified the relevance of mutual goal adoption for acting jointly, I argue that when an intention is shared between several agents, each individual has an intention in favour of the joint action and one in favour of a joint mode of reasoning. This mode of reasoning is allocentric reasoning. Finally, I elaborate on the consequences of this view for the scientific study of human collaboration. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


Schino G.,CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies | Aureli F.,Liverpool John Moores University
Ecology Letters | Year: 2010

Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the evolution of altruistic behaviours. Their relative roles in explaining actual cases of animal altruism are, however, unclear. In particular, while kin selection is widely believed to have a pervasive influence on animal behaviour, reciprocity is generally thought to be rare. Despite this general agreement, there has been no direct test comparing the relative roles of kinship and reciprocity in explaining animal altruism. In this paper, we report on the results of such a test based on a meta-analysis of allogrooming in primates, grooming being probably the most common altruistic behaviour among mammals. In direct contrast to the prevailing view, reciprocity played a much larger role than kinship in explaining primate allogrooming. These results point to a more significant role of reciprocity in the evolution of animal altruism than is generally acknowledged. © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/CNRS.


Pezzulo G.,CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies
Behavioral and Brain Sciences | Year: 2014

I applaud Huang and Bargh's (H&B'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. © 2014 Cambridge University Press.


Addessi E.,CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies | Rossi S.,CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2011

In humans and apes, one of the most adaptive functions of symbols is to inhibit strong behavioural predispositions. However, to our knowledge, no study has yet investigated whether using symbols provides some advantage to non-ape primates. We aimed to trace the evolutionary roots of symbolic competence by examining whether tokens improve performance in the reverse-reward contingency task in capuchin monkeys, which diverged from the human lineage approximately 35 Ma. Eight capuchins chose between: (i) two food quantities, (ii) two quantities of 'low-symbolic distance tokens' (each corresponding to one unit of food), and (iii) two 'high-symbolic distance tokens' (each corresponding to a different amount of food). In all conditions, subjects had to select the smaller quantity to obtain the larger reward. No procedural modifications were employed. Tokens did improve performance: five subjects succeeded with high-symbolic distance tokens, though only one succeeded with food, and none succeeded with low-symbolic distance tokens. Moreover, two of the five subjects transferred the rule to novel token combinations. Learning effects or preference reversals could not account for the successful performance with high-symbolic distance tokens. This is, to our knowledge, the first demonstration that tokens do allow monkeys to inhibit strong behavioural predispositions, as occurs in chimpanzees and children. © 2010 The Royal Society.


Mirolli M.,CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies
Cognitive Science | Year: 2012

Understanding the role of ''representations'' in cognitive science is a fundamental problem facing the emerging framework of embodied, situated, dynamical cognition. To make progress, I follow the approach proposed by an influential representational skeptic, Randall Beer: building artificial agents capable of minimally cognitive behaviors and assessing whether their internal states can be considered to involve representations. Hence, I operationalize the concept of representing as ''standing in,'' and I look for representations in embodied agents involved in simple categorization tasks. In a first experiment, no representation can be found, but the relevance of the task is undermined by the fact that agents with no internal states can reach high performance. A simple modification makes the task more "representationally hungry," and in this case, agents' internal states are found to qualify as representations. I conclude by discussing the benefits of reconciling the embodied-dynamical approach with the notion of representation. © 2012 Cognitive Science Society, Inc.


Baldassarre G.,CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies
2011 IEEE International Conference on Development and Learning, ICDL 2011 | Year: 2011

The concept of "intrinsic motivation", initially proposed and developed within psychology, is gaining an increasing attention within cognitive sciences for its potential to produce open-ended learning machines and robots. However, a clear definition of the phenomenon is not yet available. This theoretical paper aims to clarify what intrinsic motivations are from a biological perspective. To this purpose, it first shows how intrinsic motivations can be defined contrasting them to extrinsic motivations from an evolutionary perspective: whereas extrinsic motivations guide learning of behaviours that directly increase fitness, intrinsic motivations drive the acquisition of knowledge and skills that contribute to produce behaviours that increase fitness only in a later stage. Given this difference, extrinsic motivations generate learning signals on the basis of events involving body homeostatic regulations, whereas intrinsic motivations generate learning signals based on events taking place within the brain itself. These ideas are supported by presenting some examples of biological mechanisms underlying the two types of motivations. The paper closes by linking the theory to the current major computational views on intrinsic motivations and by listing the main open issues of the field. © 2011 IEEE.

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