Methods in Mind
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These authors also used a matching emotion recognition task, in which participants decided if two faces showed the same or different emotions De Sonneville et al.
The Mind and Methods of V.S. Ramachandran - On Our Mind
Another method used to evaluate emotion recognition is to determine how accurately participants identify emotions from facial expressions with varying levels of subtlety. Thomas et al. Vocal emotion recognition can also be evaluated with tasks similar to those designed to measure facial emotion. In these tasks, participants generally hear semantically neutral sentences with different forms of emotional prosody and are asked to identify the emotion of the speaker Nowicki and Carton, ; Scherer and Scherer, Like tasks requiring the use of shared world knowledge for ToM reasoning, social cue perception tasks have greatly contributed to what is understood about mental state reasoning.
These tasks too, however, share limitations in their reflective, offline design, and limited ecological validity. Considering emotion recognition tasks, for example, participants are often presented with decontextualized images of faces e.
Additionally, even when stimuli are dynamic in the form of video clips McDonald et al. In daily life, emotional displays, are fleeting but are rarely presented in isolation—redundant clues to mental states are presented in partners' words, faces, voices, and actions. This combination of presenting isolated social cues, which may underestimate actual abilities, and prolonged observation and thinking time, which may overestimate abilities, make it difficult to establish an accurate picture of the perception of social cues in everyday interaction.
These limitations are of clinical importance because the ability to infer mental states from social cues has been commonly studied as a means to better understand the impact of social deficits on functioning in everyday life Spell and Frank, ; Baron-Cohen et al. Research on the development of ToM has provided evidence that children as young as 6 months of age form expectations regarding how humans interact with other humans and inanimate objects Legerstee et al.
As humans, we generally believe that others act in ways that are consistent with their beliefs and goals Heider and Simmel, ; Ajzen, Given this assumption, passively observing behavior can offer important clues regarding the intentions or beliefs of others. Several tasks have been developed to evaluate participants' abilities to infer mental states from behavior Wimmer and Perner, For example, in a standard false-belief task e. Tasks requiring the interpretation of actions are frequently used in developmental literature Baron-Cohen et al. For example, Sebanz et al.
Supporting the relationship between observing actions and inferring mental states, Ramnani and Miall trained participants to perform a button-press task in response to visual symbols, with the symbol color indicating whether the participant, a partner, or the computer should respond. Neuroimaging data from this experiment suggested that predicting another's actions i. While tasks designed to test ToM through the observation of actions are inherently passive in nature, joint action tasks, like that used by Ramnani and Miall, have allowed for the study of ToM abilities in simulated interactions as opposed to simply reasoning about social scenarios as third-party observers.
The mechanisms discussed above allow individuals to draw on information about the actions, behaviors, and knowledge of others to make inferences about their thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and intentions. Individuals gather this information through reciprocal interactions and process it on-line to make ToM inferences and determine subsequent behavior. To study this interactive, on-line social-cognitive process, research on ToM has primarily used experimental paradigms that involve participants making ToM inferences from stimuli presented as static images Baron-Cohen et al.
Schilbach et al. Interacting with others provides individuals with the ability to perform active conversational roles, which might include initiating or responding to episodes of interaction, rather than observing the interaction as a bystander. This active involvement also facilitates shared goals, intentions, and actions among the participants of the interaction, providing individuals with the ability to draw on firsthand experience in making ToM inferences.
Risko et al. This continuum includes static schematic faces, dynamic schematic faces, static photographs of faces, static photographs of people in complex social scenes, dynamic images of people in complex social scenes, situations with the potential for real social interaction, and real social interactions.
Studies that compare responses to stimuli from different sections of this continuum show significant differences. For instance, imaging studies show that direct gaze elicits significantly greater brain response than either gaze aversion or no gaze, but only when participants observe live stimuli and not when they observe static images Ponkanen et al.
Similarly, while the propensity to look toward another individual's eyes exists across the spectrum from schematic faces to dynamic social scenes, potential for actual social interaction significantly affects this propensity Risko et al. An emerging approach that seeks to build a first- or second-person understanding of ToM mechanisms and processes is the use of simulation-based computational methods such simulated social interaction Blascovich et al.
These methods draw on advancements in computer sciences to employ complex computational systems that enable the simulation of embodied, situated interactions and thus the development of protocols with great experimental control and ecological validity. Simulated social interaction involves generating social behavior in artificial agents such as virtual characters, which are often embedded in immersive virtual environments or as humanlike robots.
In these experimental paradigms, participants interact with simulated others whose behaviors are precisely controlled to reflect experimental manipulations and who respond to changes in the participants' behaviors affording interactions that more closely resemble real-world interactions than static simuli do. These interactions might take place in immersive virtual environments, in the physical environment with a virtually simulated character Pelphrey and Carter, ; Wilms et al.
Illustrations of three simulated experimental paradigms: 1 immersive virtual environments, 2 physical environment with a virtually simulated character, and 3 physical environment with a humanlike robot.
How the Experimental Method Works in Psychology
Simulated social interaction offers a number of advantages over traditional experimental paradigms used for the study of ToM including precise control of experimental stimuli, interactive, dynamic social interaction, on-line processing and measurement. Thus, these methods more closely approximate the ToM demands of everyday interactions. Simulations of social stimuli follow computational representations of human behavior, which provide the experimenter with control parameters for the behavior or mechanism under study and the ability to create experimental manipulations that are impossible or infeasible for human confederates to perform.
In a recent study, Andrist et al. The results showed that affiliative gaze increased subjective evaluations of the character and the interaction, while referential gaze increased recall of information from the environment Andrist et al. The two types of gaze behaviors designed as experimental stimuli: referential left and affiliative right Andrist et al. For instance, Wilms et al.
Their results showed that establishing joint attention to an object of interest elicited greater activity in the brain medial prefrontal cortex and posterior cingulate cortex than did attending to the object non-jointly.
Method of loci
The simulation approach also affords on-line processing and measurement of social interaction. For instance, another imaging study showed that a virtual character elicited greater brain activation in the superior temporal sulcus when it established mutual gaze with participants than it did when it averted its gaze as it passed by participants in the virtual world Pelphrey et al.
The precise control, interactivity, and on-line processing afforded by this experimental approach offer greater ecological validity for the study of ToM and social cognition. In a study that embodies these characteristics, Mutlu et al. In half of the trials, the robot produced a brief gaze shift toward the item before answering the questions, producing a leakage cue, while it did not shift its gaze in the other half.
Participants were able to identify the robot's pick with fewer questions and in shorter time when the robot produced leakage cues than they did when the robot did not leak information, suggesting that the participants used the socially relevant information to make ToM inferences and to more effectively narrow down the response options. Furthermore, the majority of participants did not report noticing leakage cues or using this information in the task, suggesting an implicit processing of such cues.
This experimental paradigm offers the ability to precisely control the gaze cues presented by the robot, present these stimuli in an interactive, dynamic protocol, and support on-line processing toward shaping subsequent behavior in the interaction. The experiment also contextualized ToM processes in a simulated interaction that closely resembled face-to-face interaction and captured effects of ToM processes on objective measures of task performance.
Participants interacting with two humanlike robots in an interactive protocol designed to study how individuals might use nonverbal leakage to make ToM inferences Mutlu et al. This approach does not afford the study of ToM processes in complex interactions such as joint action scenarios Sebanz et al. A complementary approach to simulated social interaction is cognitive simulation, which seeks to develop artificial representations of neurocognitive mechanisms such as imitation and perception of self, simulate them in artificial agents such as humanlike robots, and assess their functioning in enabling ToM inferences in human-agent interactions Breazeal and Scassellati, ; Scassellati, ; Michel et al.
Building on simulation theory Gallese and Goldman, , cognitive simulation involves the robot establishing and maintaining representations of the mental states of its human counterparts by tracking and matching their states with resonant states of its own. These representations enable the robot to take the perspective of its human counterparts, make inferences about the human's goals, and learn from their actions.
For instance, Trafton et al. A similar approach by Breazeal et al. The separate sets of beliefs enabled the robot to identify differences in its beliefs from those of its human counterparts in order to plan actions that it might take or skills it might learn in order to establish a shared set of beliefs.
Examples of the cognitive simulation approach also include simulations of the motor-resonance mechanism Blakemore and Decety, for enabling ToM inferences in artificial agents. These examples build on the finding that observing the actions of others elicits automatic activation of motor representations associated with these actions and enables predictions about action consequences. For instance, Gray et al. These inferences enabled the robot to perform task-level simulations and track the participant's progress in the task in order to anticipate the needs of its partner and offer help.
A model developed by Bicho et al. The preceeding examples illustrate how cognitive simulation might complement the simulated interaction approach for studying ToM mechanisms by simulating ToM processes in artificial agents. When coupled, the two approaches promise two key methodological advances in the study of ToM. First, they help in assessing existing neurocognitive models of ToM mechanisms by computationally simulating them and observing system behavior in interactive situations.
Second, they enable empirical studies to build new understanding of ToM processes in truly interactive protocols in which all agents—human or artificial—involved in the interaction employ ToM mechanisms. The coupling of the two approaches extends the methodological advantages of simulated social interaction by enabling not only on-line measurement of responses to social stimuli but also on-the-fly precise control over simulated cognitive mechanisms and social behaviors, thus affording even greater experimental control. The truly interactive setting of the protocols enabled by the coupling of these two approaches also improves their ecological validity.
Recent research across many fields of social, cognitive, and computational sciences has developed first- and second-person experimental methods to study ToM mechanisms with the goal of gaining a better understanding of these mechanisms and designing artificial agents that effectively interact with people.
The paragraphs below illustrate paradigms that study the three key ToM mechanisms described earlier.
Theory of mind: mechanisms, methods, and new directions
In making ToM inferences, individuals draw on a shared world knowledge to integrate information from various sources including resources in the environment, knowledge about social norms, the goals of the interaction, the relationship among interaction partners, and the participation structure of the interaction.
The results suggest that the experimental protocol successfully established different relationships between the robot and the participant across the two conditions, which in turn shaped their preferences for interpersonal distance, enabling on-line processing of gaze stimuli and measurement of preferences for interpersonal distance directly from the distance that the participants maintained with the robot.
Another study by Mutlu et al. There were three conditions, which differed according to the percent of time the robot gazed at each of the two participants in that condition. In one condition, the robot looked exclusively at one participant the addressee , signaling that the second participant had the role of overhearer. In the second condition, the robot looked mostly at the addressee and occasionally at the second participant, indicating a role of bystander.
In the third condition, gaze was distributed equally between the two participants, indicating that both were addressees. The simulated social interaction approach enabled precise control of the robot's gaze behaviors to signal specific participation structures and illustrated how individuals integrate a perception of the robot's behavioral cues and their world knowledge, particularly the norms associated with the participation structure of a conversation, to make ToM inferences about the conversational intentions of the robot and follow the norms associated with inferred intentions.
ToM inferences are also informed by perceptions of social cues such as gaze.
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The study by Mutlu et al. Examples of simulation-based protocols also include studies that explore how the precise temporal and spatial congruency of such cues might affect outcomes such as joint attention, information recall, and task performance Staudte and Crocker, ; Huang and Mutlu, The study manipulated the congruency between the robot's linguistic and gaze references and showed that participants confirmed the correctness of the statements faster when the two references were congruent.
The simulation-based approach not only ensured that gaze cues were presented with precise timings but also enabled the presentation of incongruent cues in gaze and speech that is difficult to reliably produce by human confederates in an interactive protocol.
Another study by Huang and Mutlu extended these results by comparing congruent gaze and speech cues to temporally incongruent cues by introducing a delay into the robot's gaze shifts such that they were produced — milliseconds after the onset of linguistic references.