Seminar Series

Mind-oriented movements

As with many other core human abilities, intentional communication appears a fairly straightforward phenomenon, at least until we interact with other humans having communication deficits, or until we try to build artificial cognitive agents that can effectively deal with the pervasive ambiguity of human communicative signals. Traditional accounts of these communicative abilities have suggested that our ability to communicate and interact with others is dependent upon language. More recent accounts have suggested that communicative actions are an instance of instrumental actions, i.e. actions designed to alter a physical state of the environment. In this talk I will explore the possibility that our communicative abilities are distinct from both sensorimotor and linguistic processes. I will provide empirical evidence showing that communicative, linguistic, and sensorimotor abilities rely on different set of constraints, and on cerebrally distinct mechanisms. I will describe how the selection of communicative actions is independent from the operations of the language system, strongly dependent on social constructs, and constrained by predictions of the consequences of the action on the collaborators’ minds, rather than on the environment. I will conclude by illustrating recent theoretical work designed to provide a principled identification of putative model parameters that control cognitive processes supporting intentional communication.