Sensitivity to social contingency in adults with high-functioning autism

Somewhat unexpectedly, we found that people with high-functioning autism performed indistinguishably from controls in this embodied agency detection task.

4E Cognition Group

As part of his doctoral research, Leonardo Zapata-Fonseca coordinated this analysis of embodied social interaction. Great team effort!

Sensitivity to Social Contingency in Adults with High-Functioning Autism during Computer-Mediated Embodied Interaction

Leonardo Zapata-Fonseca, Tom Froese, Leonhard Schilbach, Kai Vogeley, and Bert Timmermans

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be understood as a social interaction disorder. This makes the emerging “second-person approach” to social cognition a more promising framework for studying ASD than classical approaches focusing on mindreading capacities in detached, observer-based arrangements. According to the second-person approach, embodied, perceptual, and embedded or interactive capabilities are also required for understanding others, and these are hypothesized to be compromised in ASD. We therefore recorded the dynamics of real-time sensorimotor interaction in pairs of control participants and participants with High-Functioning Autism (HFA), using the minimalistic human-computer interface paradigm known as “perceptual crossing” (PC). We investigated whether HFA is associated with impaired detection of social…

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Self-modeling in Hopfield Neural Networks with Continuous Activation Function

The unsupervised learning technique our group has been working on has been extended to a more general class of artificial neural network.

4E Cognition Group

Finally a large part of Mario’s thesis on unsupervised learning in artificial neural networks has been published and is available open access:

Self-modeling in Hopfield Neural Networks with Continuous Activation Function

Mario Zarco and Tom Froese

Hopfield networks can exhibit many different attractors of which most are local optima. It has been demonstrated that combining states randomization and Hebbian learning enlarges the basin of attraction of globally optimal attractors. The procedure is called self-modeling and it has been applied in symmetric Hopfield networks with discrete states and without self-recurrent connections. We are interested in knowing which topological constraints can be relaxed. So, the self-modeling process is tested in asymmetric Hopfield networks with continuous states and self-recurrent connections. The best results are obtained in networks with modular structure.

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This minimal cognition model will be useful in the philosophical debate regarding the widely assumed necessity of understanding bee dance in a representational way…

4E Cognition Group

Referential communication as a collective property of a brain-body-environment-body-brain system: A minimal cognitive model

Jorge I. Campos and Tom Froese

Referential communication is a complex form of social interaction whereby agents manage to coordinate behavior with respect to features that are not immediately present during the interaction. A famous example from nature is the bee waggle dance. The authors used an minimal cognitive approach to create a model of referential communication that is sufficiently minimal to permit a full dynamical analysis, and yet still complex enough so that the results provide a useful perspective onto the processes that could be involved in natural referential communication. The task is for two embodied agents to interact in a “hive” area such that one of the agents (the receiver) is able to move to a specific “target”, the location of which is only available to the other agent (the sender). The task…

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CALL FOR PAPERS – Adaptive Behavior

This CFP should be of interest to my Mexican colleagues!

4E Cognition Group

Special issue: “Spotlight on 4E Cognition research in Mexico”

The last couple of decades in cognitive science have seen an increasing interest in the philosophical and scientific study of embodied, embedded, extended, and enactive cognition – so-called “4E cognition.” By now theories of 4E cognition have matured and a lot of evidence has been collected, which consequently has reshaped our understanding of the relationship between an agent’s brain, body, and its material and sociocultural world. Despite their differences in emphasis, the various strands of 4E cognition research are united in proposing that an agent’s cognitive activity is bodily mediated, especially by the context-sensitive deployment of sensorimotor capacities.

While these interdisciplinary approaches have largely been developed in Europe, the United States, and Australia, other regions have also been influenced by this growing movement and have started to advance their own original contributions. The aim of this special issue is, therefore, to…

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Talks at Hokkaido University

This week I was invited by Prof. Hiro Iizuka, on behalf of the Department of Information Science and Technology at Hokkaido University, to continue collaborations with the Laboratory of Autonomous Systems Engineering.

During my stay I will also give two public seminars:

15:00 on Tuesday, Feb. 21, Department of Information Science and Technology:

“Using big data to study the social mind: brain, language, and urbanism”

17:15 on Thursday, Feb. 23, Graduate School of Letters:

“The mysterious origins of the symbolic mind”

New paper on the irreducibility of social interaction dynamics

Exciting new paper written by members of the 4E Cognition Group…

4E Cognition Group

In an upcoming publication in the journals Frontiers in Psychology we present a couple of findings that challenge the prevalent idea that properties of social interaction can be explained in terms of individual properties alone.

Time series analysis of embodied interaction: Movement variability and complexity matching as dyadic properties

Leonardo Zapata-Fonseca, Dobromir G. Dotov, Ruben Y. Fossion, and Tom Froese

There is a growing consensus that a fuller understanding of social cognition depends on more systematic studies of real-time social interaction. Such studies require methods that can deal with the complex dynamics taking place at multiple interdependent temporal and spatial scales, spanning sub-personal, personal, and dyadic levels of analysis. We demonstrate the value of adopting an extended multi-scale approach by re-analyzing movement time series generated in a study of embodied dyadic interaction in a minimal virtual reality environment (a perceptual crossing experiment).

Reduced movement variability revealed an interdependence between social…

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Video memory of ALIFE XV in Cancun

Some impressions from this year’s International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems (ALIFE XV).

Launch of research group website

Since the beginning of last year I have been involved in the formation of a new research group dedicated to 4E cognition. We have finally launched our own website. Please click on the following link to know more about us:


International workshop on hallucinations

I was invited to give a talk at an international workshop on hallucinations, organized by Juan Gonzalez, at the Faculty of Humanities, UAEM, Cuernavaca.

Hallucinations: Inner fictions, outer realities, or something in between?

Tom Froese

Despite its stated intentions to the contrary, enactivist epistemology, especially in its early formulations, implicitly assumed the same kind of internalism about conscious experience that is inherent in the majority of approaches to cognitive science. On this view, there is no essential difference between a perceptual and a hallucinatory experience – at least not from the point of view of the subject. The difference lies in the external reality to which there is no access. More recently, enactivist epistemology has started to explicitly reject this view of consciousness in favor of a relational concept of consciousness, in which not only the brain but also body and environment shape our experiences. This view has the interesting consequence that perceptual and hallucinatory experience should in principle be phenomenologically distinguishable based on the status of the environment in relation to what is experienced. Conversely, a transformation of the subjective pole of this distributed subject-world relationship, for example during altered states of consciousness, would no longer be just internal and self-contained. In some cases it could therefore reveal otherwise hidden aspects of reality, which might be consistent with some shamanic interpretations of hallucinations.

Clarification of English translation of job title

It has come to my attention that some people have interpreted my translation of my current official Spanish job title (“Investigador Asociado C”) as the English title “Associate Professor” as motivated by self-aggrandizement. Nothing could be further from my mind.

The fact of the matter is that there is no officially sanctioned translation from my university, and there are different translations in use. For example, in a job advertisement of the same category of position, we find it translated as “full-time tenure-track assistant / associate professor”, whereas the more literal translation of “Research Associate” has instead been used in the context of calls for postdoctoral appointments. Nevertheless, I now realize that there are also institutes of the university that have reserved the translation of “Associate Professor” for the Spanish job title “Investigador Titular B” and I do not want to give the impression that I share their job title.

Accordingly, I have removed my English job translations from this website and from my CV. Until the university gives an official statement on the matter of how to translate UNAM job titles I will henceforth simply describe myself as being a “tenure-track faculty member”.

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