Theories and computational models of affordance and mirror systems: An integrative review

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Abstract

Highlights

★ We review neuroscientific/psychological work on the affordance and mirror systems. ★ We focus on affordance selection and the role of action goals in behaviour encoding. ★ We review relevant computational models to discuss underlying computations. ★ We propose a comprehensive framework integrating both research strands. ★ This framework can be used to guide and facilitate future research in several ways.

Neuroscientific and psychological data suggest a close link between affordance and mirror systems in the brain. However, we still lack a full understanding of both the individual systems and their interactions. Here, we propose that the architecture and functioning of the two systems is best understood in terms of two challenges faced by complex organisms, namely: (a) the need to select among multiple affordances and possible actions dependent on context and high-level goals and (b) the exploitation of the advantages deriving from a hierarchical organisation of behaviour based on actions and action-goals. We first review and analyse the psychological and neuroscientific literature on the mechanisms and processes organisms use to deal with these challenges. We then analyse existing computational models thereof. Finally we present the design of a computational framework that integrates the reviewed knowledge. The framework can be used both as a theoretical guidance to interpret empirical data and design new experiments, and to design computational models addressing specific problems debated in the literature.

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