CALL FOR PAPERS – Adaptive Behavior Special issue on “Post-cognitivist approaches to perceptual learning”

The classical cognitivist theory in cognitive science depicts perception as the result of information processing of sense data, which is transformed into a representation of the original information to be useful for the human mind. In the same vein, perceptual learning has been understood as an enrichment of sensations by representational mechanisms. In this view, the improvement in performance must be understood as the effect of a sophistication of computational algorithms entailing a better interpretation of sensory stimuli.

At the end of the 20th century, criticism against the cognitivist framework and its ideas of perception, cognition, and representation started to arise. Some of these arguments crystallized in alternative theories of cognition that offers an innovative way to understand perception and, consequently, perceptual learning.

The aim of this special issue is to document the theories and research that highlight a “4E cognition” approach to perceptual learning. The issue is focused on contributions from the current panorama of post-cognitivism with an emphasis on theories from the ecological, enactive and sensorimotor accounts.



Jorge Campos receives 2018 ISAL Award for Outstanding Student Research

Well done Jorge!! I am happy that your hard work is being recognized.

Dr. Tom Froese

I am proud to announce that the International Society for Artificial Life (ISAL) has awarded the following conference paper, which was based on Jorge’s Master’s thesis, with the “2018 ISAL Award for Outstanding Student Research”:

Campos, J.I. & Froese, T. (2017). Referential communication as a collective property of a brain-body-environment-body-brain system: A minimal cognitive model. 2017 IEEE Symposium Series on Computational Intelligence (SSCI), Honolulu, HI: IEEE Press, pp. 863-870.

Out of the nominated papers this paper was chosen as the best in terms of its scientific rigor and clarity.

The award will be announced at the ALIFE 2018 conference in Tokyo this year. alife2018-logo-screengrab

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New Spanish translation: Donde hay vida, hay mente

Many thanks to our group’s translator Laura Rodriguez Benavidez for all her hard work on this very tough text!

Dr. Tom Froese

I was invited to contribute a chapter to the book Biocomplejidad edited by Moisés Villegas, Lorena Caballero and Eduardo Vizcaya. The book will come out online in open access format later this year.

The contribution is a Spanish translation of an article written by Kirchhoff and Froese (2017). Here it is:

Donde hay vida, hay mente: en apoyo a una tesis fuerte de la continuidad vida-mente

Michael D. Kirchhoff and Tom Froese

El presente texto considera cuestiones en torno a la continuidad y la discontinuidad entre la vida y la mente. Inicia examinando dichas cuestiones desde la perspectiva del principio de energía libre (PEL). El PEL se ha vuelto considerablemente influyente tanto en la neurociencia como en la ciencia cognitiva. Postula que los organismos actúan para conservarse a sí mismos en sus estados biológicos y cognitivos esperados, y que lo logran al minimizar su energía libre, dado que el…

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21st ENSO Seminar: TONY CHEMERO. Radical Embodiment and Real Cognition

The 21st ENSO Seminar will be presented by Tony Chemero!

Next week, Thursday 8th March @ 3pm UTC, Tony will present on Radical Embodiment and Real Cognition. The details of the talk, including the time in your own timezone, can be found on the ENSO webpage.


A persistent criticism of radical embodied cognitive science is that it will be impossible to explain “real cognition” without invoking mental representations. This talk will provide an account of explicit, real-time thinking of the kind we engage in when we imagine counter-factual situations, remember the past, and plan for the future. We will first present a very general non-representational account of explicit thinking, based on pragmatist philosophy of science. Then we will present a more detailed instantiation of this general account drawing on nonlinear dynamics and ecological psychology. This talk is based on a paper co-authored with Gui Sanches de Oliveira and Vicente Raja.



Explaining the origins of the genetic code without vertical descent

Many thanks to Jorge for all his hard work on implementing and running the model!!

Dr. Tom Froese

Here is the result of my two-month stay at the Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI) of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, which was made possible by ELSI’s Origins Network. I quite like the implication that life could have been an inherently social phenomenon from its very origins!

Horizontal transfer of code fragments between protocells can explain the origins of the genetic code without vertical descent

Tom Froese, Jorge I. Campos, Kosuke Fujishima, Daisuke Kiga, and Nathaniel Virgo

Theories of the origin of the genetic code typically appeal to natural selection and/or mutation of hereditable traits to explain its regularities and error robustness, yet the present translation system presupposes high-fidelity replication. Woese’s solution to this bootstrapping problem was to assume that code optimization had played a key role in reducing the effect of errors caused by the early translation system. He further conjectured that initially evolution was dominated by horizontal exchange…

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CALL FOR PAPERS – Adaptive Behavior Special issue: “Spotlight on 4E Cognition research in Colombia”

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 put a spotlight on 4E cognition research from one such region, Colombia. It intends to do so in two respects: first, to explore the current state and breadth of the field in Colombia; second, to critically examine questions and problems elicited by this Colombian research, focusing on open challenges, with the aim to articulate more precise arguments for and against key claims advanced by 4E cognition research.


Sensitivity to social contingency in adults with high-functioning autism

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 contingency, i.e., a reduced sensitivity to the other’s responsiveness to one’s own behavior. Surprisingly, our analysis reveals that, at least under the conditions of this highly simplified, computer-mediated, embodied form of social interaction, people with HFA perform equally well as controls. This finding supports the increasing use of virtual reality interfaces for helping people with ASD to better compensate for their social disabilities. Further dynamical analyses are necessary for a better understanding of the mechanisms that are leading to the somewhat surprising results here obtained.

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Self-modeling in Hopfield Neural Networks with Continuous Activation Function

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.

Call for Posters and Registration: 4E Cognition and the Landscapes of Mental Disorder (5-6 April 2018, University of Exeter)

4E Cognition and the Landscapes of Mental Disorder
5 – 6 April 2018
University of Exeter

How does the environment impact the dynamics of mental disorder? Whilst dominant biomedical approaches in psychopathology adopt brain-centered approaches to taxonomy, diagnosis, and treatment, emerging “4E” approaches in cognitive science look beyond the brain and portray minds as embodied , embedded , enacted, and extended. According to 4E cognition, minds are shaped by ongoing engagements with their material, social, and symbolic environments. This conference will explore the implications of 4E frameworks for understanding and treating mental disorder.


Enactivism: Theory and Performance

15-17 March 2018
Department of Philosophy, University of Memphis

Enactivism continues to be developed as a theory of embodied cognition, informed by phenomenology, pragmatism, and ecological psychology. Recent work in this area has fostered theory development and applications across a number of disciplines and topics. This conference will explore theoretical issues concerning enactivist notions of intentionality, action, externalism, the causal or constitutive roles of affect and affordance, predictive coding, and niche construction with respect to consciousness and cognition. An associated workshop will explore application to the area of musical performance.

This conference and workshop are supported by the Humboldt Foundation’s Anneliese Maier Research Award. Further support: Lillian and Morrie Moss Chair of Excellence in Philosophy at the University of Memphis; the Cognitive Science Program at the Institute for Intelligent Systems, University of Memphis; and the Australian Research Council’s Minds in Skilled Performance project at the University of Wollongong.