At this time of year, it’s not uncommon to see family members and friends frantically shaking wrapped presents, trying to discover what’s inside. But what are they trying to figure out? Are they trying to find out the shape of the present inside, or how many objects are inside?Recent Research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences It turns out that present shaker observers only need a few seconds to tell them what information they’re looking for. This research on human cognition and perception could have implications for future artificial intelligence.
[Related: Can exercising the mind improve our abilities, or is it just another self-improvement fantasy?]
“Just by looking at someone’s body movements, we can tell what they are trying to learn about their environment,” said study co-author Chaz Firestone, a cognitive scientist at Johns Hopkins University. . stated in a statement. “We do this all the time, but there’s very little research on it.”
Pragmatic and epistemological behavior
Our brains perceive and analyze the actions of others many times a day without us even realizing it. realistic action It includes anything that moves a person towards a goal. Our brains analyze these actions to infer which direction someone is walking down the street or what they are reaching for. previous research They showed that people can quickly and accurately infer the practical behavioral goals of others simply by observing them.
New research is investigating different types of behavior, including: epistemic behavior. These types of actions are performed when a person tries to learn something about his surroundings. Cognitive actions include dipping your feet in the pool to test the water temperature or sampling your soup to see if it needs seasoning.
Although pragmatic and epistemic actions are similar, there are some subtle differences. Firestone and his team were interested in whether participants could detect their epistemic goals simply by observing others, and designed a series of experiments to find out.
What’s inside the box?
The researchers asked 500 participants to watch two videos of people picking up boxes full of objects and shaking them. One video showed a person shaking a box to see how many items were inside. Another video showed someone shaking the box to decipher the shape of the object inside.
Almost all study participants were able to tell who was shaking the box to find out the number of objects and who was shaking it to find out the shape of the contents.
“What struck me was how intuitive this was,” says study co-author Shorey Croom, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University. stated in a statement. “People can really sense what others are trying to understand. It shows you.”
[Related: How you see these shapes may depend on your culture.]
Further research into epistemic behavior could help engineers develop more predictive AI systems designed to better interact with humans. In future studies, the researchers will look at epistemic and pragmatic intentions to determine what happens in the brain when someone performs an action, such as sticking their hand out a window to test the temperature. I’m interested in seeing if I can decipher it. They are also interested in the possibility of building models that detail precisely how observed physical actions reveal epistemic intentions.
“It’s a very complex process, given all the mental math someone has to do to understand what the other person is trying to learn,” Firestone says. “But our findings show that it’s easy for people to do. It’s one thing to know where someone is going or what products they want, but it’s another thing to know where someone is going or what products they want. It’s another thing to guess if you’re lost or what kind of information you’re looking for.”