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Norscia I.,University of Pisa | Palagi E.,University of Pisa | Palagi E.,CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies
PLoS ONE | Year: 2011

The ability to share others' emotions, or empathy, is crucial for complex social interactions. Clinical, psychological, and neurobiological clues suggest a link between yawn contagion and empathy in humans (Homo sapiens). However, no behavioral evidence has been provided so far. We tested the effect of different variables (e.g., country of origin, sex, yawn characteristics) on yawn contagion by running mixed models applied to observational data collected over 1 year on adult (&16 years old) human subjects. Only social bonding predicted the occurrence, frequency, and latency of yawn contagion. As with other measures of empathy, the rate of contagion was greatest in response to kin, then friends, then acquaintances, and lastly strangers. Related individuals (r≥0.25) showed the greatest contagion, in terms of both occurrence of yawning and frequency of yawns. Strangers and acquaintances showed a longer delay in the yawn response (latency) compared to friends and kin. This outcome suggests that the neuronal activation magnitude related to yawn contagion can differ as a function of subject familiarity. In conclusion, our results demonstrate that yawn contagion is primarily driven by the emotional closeness between individuals and not by other variables, such as gender and nationality. © 2011 Norscia, Palagi.


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.


Caligiore D.,CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies | Parisi D.,CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies | Baldassarre G.,CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies
Psychological Review | Year: 2014

Despite the huge literature on reaching behavior, a clear idea about the motor control processes underlying its development in infants is still lacking. This article contributes to overcoming this gap by proposing a computational model based on three key hypotheses: (a) trial-and-error learning processes drive the progressive development of reaching; (b) the control of the movements based on equilibrium points allows the model to quickly find the initial approximate solution to the problem of gaining contact with the target objects; (c) the request of precision of the end movement in the presence of muscular noise drives the progressive refinement of the reaching behavior. The tests of the model, based on a two degrees of freedom simulated dynamical arm, show that it is capable of reproducing a large number of empirical findings, most deriving from longitudinal studies with children: the developmental trajectory of several dynamical and kinematic variables of reaching movements, the time evolution of submovements composing reaching, the progressive development of a bell-shaped speed profile, and the evolution of the management of redundant degrees of freedom. The model also produces testable predictions on several of these phenomena. Most of these empirical data have never been investigated by previous computational models and, more important, have never been accounted for by a unique model. In this respect, the analysis of the model functioning reveals that all these results are ultimately explained, sometimes in unexpected ways, by the same developmental trajectory emerging from the interplay of the three mentioned hypotheses: The model first quickly learns to perform coarse movements that assure a contact of the hand with the target (an achievement with great adaptive value) and then slowly refines the detailed control of the dynamical aspects of movement to increase accuracy. © 2014 American Psychological Association.


Addessi E.,CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies | Paglieri F.,CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies | Focaroli V.,CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies
Cognition | Year: 2011

Both human and non-human animals often face decisions between options available at different times, and the capacity of delaying gratification has usually been considered one of the features distinguishing humans from other animals. However, this characteristic can widely vary across individuals, species, and types of task and it is still unclear whether it is accounted for by phylogenetic relatedness, feeding ecology, social structure, or metabolic rate. To disentangle these hypotheses, we evaluated temporal preferences in capuchin monkeys, South-American primates that, despite splitting off from human lineage approximately 35 million years ago, show striking behavioural analogies with the great apes. Then, we compared capuchins' performance with that of the other primate species tested so far with the same procedure. Overall, capuchins showed a delay tolerance significantly higher than closely related species, such as marmosets and tamarins, and comparable to that shown by great apes. Capuchins' tool use abilities might explain their comparatively high preference for delayed options in inter-temporal choices. Moreover, as in humans, capuchin females showed a greater delay tolerance than males, possibly because of their less opportunistic foraging style. Thus, our results shed light on the evolutionary origins of self-control supporting explanations of delay tolerance in terms of feeding ecology. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.


Castelfranchi C.,CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies
Cognitive Processing | Year: 2012

In this paper, I explain how we just "ascribe" "attribute" to social actors - in a fast and automatic way and without complex reasoning - mental representations on the basis of "scripts," "roles," role-signs, tool use and functions, categories and prejudices, and several heuristics; or by default. How scripts and roles must be filled in with the actors' mental attitudes. How social interaction systematically requires assumptions about the other's mind. How sometimes in the subject those mental attitudes are not only unconscious but actually implicit; just potential or tacit (non-activated), or just the non-intended or nonunderstood function of his behavior/role. However, what really matters is that we assume that those beliefs and goals are there, and we act "as if" it were so. I finally claim that this mechanism of mind ascription while reading the behavior or the signs of the roles and scripts is the basis of a fundamental form of communication: Behavioral Implicit Communication. © Marta Olivetti Belardinelli and Springer-Verlag 2011.


Borgo S.,CNR Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies
Computers in Industry | Year: 2014

Ontologies are structural components of modern information systems. The taxonomy, the core of an ontology, is a delicate balance between adequacy considerations, minimal commitments and implementation concerns. However, ontological taxonomies can be quite restrictive and entities that are commonly used in production and services might not find room in a official or de facto standard or ontological system. This mismatch between the company's view and the ontological constraints can limit or even jeoparize the adoption of modern formal ontologies in industry. We study the roots of this problem and individuate a general set of principles to relate the ontology and those non-ontological entities that are yet important for the core business of the company. We then introduce a theoretically sound and formally robust approach to expand a given ontology with new dependency relations, which make available information regarding the non-ontological entities without affecting the consistency of the overall information system. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.


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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