Life and Mind seminar: Imitation by Interaction

I will give a Life and Mind seminar in Tokyo. Location: The Komaba Campus of the University of Tokyo, Building 16, Room 107. Time: 12:30. Title and abstract:

Imitation by interaction: a new proposal based on the dynamics and phenomenology of social interaction

Tom Froese (1), Charles Lenay (2), and Takashi Ikegami (1)

(1) Ikegami Laboratory, Department of General Systems Studies, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan

(2) COSTECH, The University of Technology of Compiegne, France

The study of imitative behavior is currently a central topic in social, developmental, and comparative psychology, as well as in social neuroscience. It is widely accepted that imitation plays a significant role in social learning and enculturation, and that it serves as an inheritance mechanism for human-specific cumulative cultural evolution. One of the major challenges faced by explanations of imitation is the ‘correspondence problem’: How can one match one’s own bodily expression to the observed other’s bodily expression, especially in cases where there is no possibility of external self-observation? Current theories only consider the possibility of an innate or acquired matching mechanism belonging to an isolated individual. In this paper we evaluate an alternative that situates the explanation of imitation in the inter-individual dynamics of the interaction process itself. We implement and analyze a model of two embodied agents, which are engaged in mutual interaction. The agents can neither directly sense the configuration of their own body, nor even the configuration of the other’s body, and yet surprisingly they are nevertheless capable of bodily imitation. Analysis of the results provides a proof of concept that imitation can be enabled by a property of the collective dynamics, namely the relative stability of the interaction process. We then integrate this insight with considerations of the phenomenology of intersubjectivity in order to propose a parsimonious explanation of the apparently uneven distribution of imitation skills across ontogenetic and phylogenetic lines.

All welcome!


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