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1.  Explaining Facial Imitation: A Theoretical Model 
Early development & parenting  1997;6(3-4):179-192.
A long-standing puzzle in developmental psychology is how infants imitate gestures they cannot see themselves perform (facial gestures). Two critical issues are: (a) the metric infants use to detect cross-modal equivalences in human acts and (b) the process by which they correct their imitative errors. We address these issues in a detailed model of the mechanisms underlying facial imitation. The model can be extended to encompass other types of imitation. The model capitalizes on three new theoretical concepts. First, organ identification is the means by which infants relate parts of their own bodies to corresponding ones of the adult’s. Second, body babbling (infants’ movement practice gained through self-generated activity) provides experience mapping movements to the resulting body configurations. Third, organ relations provide the metric by which infant and adult acts are perceived in commensurate terms. In imitating, infants attempt to match the organ relations they see exhibited by the adults with those they feel themselves make. We show how development restructures the meaning and function of early imitation. We argue that important aspects of later social cognition are rooted in the initial cross-modal equivalence between self and other found in newborns.
PMCID: PMC3953219  PMID: 24634574
imitation; faces; cross-modal; memory; motor coordination; self
2.  Infant Imitation After a 1-Week Delay: Long-Term Memory for Novel Acts and Multiple Stimuli 
Developmental psychology  1988;24(4):470-476.
Deferred imitation after a 1-week delay was examined in 14-month-old infants. Six actions, each using a different object, were demonstrated to each infant. One of the six actions was a novel behavior that had a zero probability of occurrence in spontaneous play. In the imitation condition, infants observed the demonstration but were not allowed to touch the objects, thus preventing any immediate imitation. After the 1-week delay, infants returned to the laboratory and their imitation of the adult’s previous actions was scored. Infants in the imitation condition produced significantly more of the target actions than infants in control groups who were not exposed to the modeling; there was also strong evidence for the imitation of the novel act. From a cognitive perspective deferred imitation provides a means of assessing recall memory and representation in children. From a social-developmental viewpoint the findings illustrate that the behavioral repertoire of infants and their knowledge about objects can expand as a result of seeing the actions of others.
PMCID: PMC4137879  PMID: 25147404
3.  A Claw is Like My Hand: Comparison Supports Goal Analysis in Infants 
Cognition  2011;122(2):181-192.
Understanding the intentional relations in others' actions is critical to human social life. Origins of this knowledge exist in the first year and are a function of both acting as an intentional agent and observing movement cues in actions. We explore a new mechanism we believe plays an important role in infants' understanding of new actions: comparison. We examine how the opportunity to compare a familiar action with a novel, tool use action helps 7- and 10-month-old infants extract and imitate the goal of a tool use action. Infants given the chance to compare their own reach for a toy with an experimenter's reach using a claw later imitated the goal of an experimenter's tool use action. Infants who engaged with the claw, were familiarized with the claw's causal properties, or learned the associations between claw and toys (but did not align their reaches with the claw's) did not imitate. Further, active participation in the familiar action to be compared was more beneficial than observing a familiar and novel action aligned for 10-month-olds. Infants' ability to extract the goal-relation of a novel action through comparison with a familiar action could have a broad impact on the development of action knowledge and social learning more generally.
PMCID: PMC3586806  PMID: 22099543
infancy; cognitive development; action understanding; analogical reasoning
4.  Imitation and the Developing Social Brain: Infants' Somatotopic EEG Patterns for Acts of Self and Other 
A leading question in developmental social-cognitive neuroscience concerns the nature and function of neural links between action perception and production in early human development. Here we document a somatotopic pattern of activity of the sensorimotor EEG mu rhythm in 14-month-old infants. EEG was recorded during interactive trials in which infants activated a novel object using their own hands or feet (“execution” trials) and watched an experimenter use her hands or feet to achieve the same goal (“observation” trials). At central electrodes overlying sensorimotor hand areas (C3/C4), mu rhythm power was reduced (indicating greater cortical activation) during infants' execution of hand acts compared to foot acts. For the central electrode overlying the sensorimotor foot area (Cz), mu power was reduced during the execution of foot versus hand acts. Strikingly similar somatotopic patterns were found in both the action execution and observation conditions. We hypothesize that these somatotopic patterns index an intercorporeal mapping of corresponding body parts between self and other. We further propose that infants' ability to identify self-other equivalences at the level of body parts underlies infant imitation and is an ontogenetic building block for the feelings of intersubjectivity we experience when socially engaged with other people.
PMCID: PMC3923378  PMID: 24533176
Infant; brain; EEG; imitation; neural mirroring; mu rhythm; social cognition; intersubjectivity
5.  Early Imitation Within a Functional Framework: The Importance of Person Identity, Movement, and Development 
Infant behavior & development  1992;15(4):479-505.
Facial imitation was investigated in infants 6 weeks and 2 to 3 months of age. Three findings emerged: (a) early imitation did not vary as a function of familiarity with the model—infants imitated a stranger as well as their own mothers; (b) infants imitated both static facial postures and dynamic facial gestures; and (c) there was no disappearance of facial imitation in the 2- to 3-month age range, contrary to previous reports. Two broad theoretical points are developed. First, a proposal is made about the social and psychological functions that early imitation serves in infants’ encounters with people. It is argued that infants deploy imitation to enrich their understanding of persons and actions and that early imitation is used for communicative purposes. Second, a theoretical bridge is formed between early imitation and the “object concept.” The bridge is formed by considering the fundamental role that identity plays in infants’ understanding of people and things. One of the psychological functions that early imitation subserves is to identify people. Infants use the nonverbal behavior of people as an identifier of who they are and use imitation as a means of verifying this identity. Data and theory are adduced in favor of viewing early imitation as an act of social cognition.
PMCID: PMC4137790  PMID: 25147415
imitation; faces; cross-modal; memory; mental representation; categorization; object identity; mother–infant interaction; theory of mind
6.  Imitation, Objects, Tools, and the Rudiments of Language in Human Ontogeny 
Human evolution  1988;3(1-2):45-64.
Human beings are imitative generalists. We can immediately imitate a wide range of behaviors with great facility, whether they be vocal maneuvers, body postures, or actions on objects. The ontogeny of this skill has been an enduring question in developmental psychology. Classical theory holds that the ability to imitate facial gestures is a milestone that is passed at about one year. Before this time infants are thought to lack the perceptual-cognitive sophistication necessary to match a gesture they can see with one they cannot see themselves perform. A second developmental milestone is the capacity for deferred imitation, i.e. imitation of an absent model. This is said to emerge at about 18 months, in close synchrony with other higher-order activities such as object permanence and tool use, as part of a general cognitive shift from a purely sensory-motor level of functioning to one that allows language. Research suggests that the imitative capacity of young infants has been underestimated. Human infants are capable of imitating facial gestures at birth, with infants less than one day old manifesting this skill. Moreover recent experiments have established deferred imitation well before the predicted age of 18 months. Studies discussed here show that 9-month-olds can duplicate acts after a delay of 24 hours, and that 14-month-olds can retain and duplicate as many as five actions over a 1-week delay. These new findings re-raise questions about the relation between nonverbal cognitive development and language development: What aspects, if any, of these two domains are linked? A hypothesis is delineated that predicts certain very specific relations between particular cognitive and semantic achievements during the one-word stage, and data are reported supporting this hypothesis. Specifically, relations are reported between: (a) the development of object permanence and the use of words encoding disappearance, (b) means-ends understanding (as manifest in tool use) and words encoding success and failure, and (c) categorization behavior and the onset of the naming explosion. This research on human ontogeny suggests close and highly specific links between aspects of early language and thought.
PMCID: PMC3758366  PMID: 23997403
imitation; language; object permanence; infants; cognitive development
There has been a revolution in our understanding of infant and toddler cognition that promises to have far-reaching implications for our understanding of communicative and linguistic development. Four empirical findings that helped to prompt this change in theory are analyzed: (a) Intermodal coordination—newborns operate with multimodal information, recognizing equivalences in information across sensory-modalities; (b) Imitation—newborns imitate the lip and tongue movements they see others perform; (c) Memory—young infants form long-lasting representations of perceived events and use these memories to generate motor productions after lengthy delays in novel contexts; (d) Theory of mind—by 18 months of age toddlers have adopted a theory of mind, reading below surface behavior to the goals and intentions in people's actions. This paper examines three views currently being offered in the literature to replace the classical framework of early cognitive development: modularity-nativism, connectionism, and theory-theory. Arguments are marshaled to support the “theory-theory” view. This view emphasizes a combination of innate structure and qualitative reorganization in children's thought based on input from the people and things in their culture. It is suggested that preverbal cognition forms a substrate for language acquisition and that analyzing cognition may enhance our understanding of certain disorders of communication.
PMCID: PMC3629913  PMID: 10466097
Intermodal coordination; Imitation; Memory; Theory of mind; Representation; Language acquisition; Face perception
8.  Neural Correlates of Being Imitated: An EEG Study in Preverbal Infants 
Social neuroscience  2012;7(6):650-661.
A foundational aspect of early social-emotional development is the ability to detect and respond to the actions of others who are coordinating their behavior with that of the self. Behavioral work in this area has found that infants show particular preferences for adults who are imitating them rather than adults who are carrying out noncontingent or mismatching actions. Here we explore the neural processes related to this tendency of infants to prefer others who act like the self. EEG was recorded from 14-month-olds while they were observing actions which either matched or mismatched the action the infant had just executed. Desynchronization of the EEG mu rhythm was greater when infants observed an action that matched their own most recently executed action. This effect was strongest immediately prior to the culmination of the goal of the observed action, which is consistent with recent ideas about the predictive nature of brain responses during action observation.
PMCID: PMC3434237  PMID: 22646701
EEG; mu rhythm; imitation; perception-action; infant
9.  Motor Representation of Actions in Children with Autism 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e44779.
Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are frequently hampered by motor impairment, with difficulties ranging from imitation of actions to recognition of motor intentions. Such a widespread inefficiency of the motor system is likely to interfere on the ontogeny of both motor planning and understanding of the goals of actions, thus delivering its ultimate effects on the emergence of social cognition.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We investigate the organization of action representation in 15 high functioning ASD (mean age: 8.11) and in two control samples of typically developing (TD) children: the first one, from a primary school, was matched for chronological age (CA), the second one, from a kindergarten, comprised children of much younger age (CY). We used nine newly designed behavioural motor tasks, aiming at exploring three domains of motor cognition: 1) imitation of actions, 2) production of pantomimes, and 3) comprehension of pantomimes. The findings reveal that ASD children fare significantly worse than the two control samples in each of the inspected components of the motor representation of actions, be it the imitation of gestures, the self-planning of pantomimes, or the (verbal) comprehension of observed pantomimes. In the latter task, owing to its cognitive complexity, ASD children come close to the younger TD children’s level of performance; yet they fare significantly worse with respect to their age-mate controls. Overall, ASD children reveal a profound damage to the mechanisms that control both production and pre-cognitive “comprehension” of the motor representation of actions.
Our findings suggest that many of the social cognitive impairments manifested by ASD individuals are likely rooted in their incapacity to assemble and directly grasp the intrinsic goal-related organization of motor behaviour. Such impairment of motor cognition might be partly due to an early damage of the Mirror Neuron Mechanism (MNM).
PMCID: PMC3438166  PMID: 22970304
10.  Imitation of Televised Models by Infants 
Child development  1988;59(5):1221-1229.
Studies indicate that infants in our culture are exposed to significant amounts of TV, often as a baby-sitting strategy by busy caretakers. The question arises whether TV viewing merely presents infants with a salient collection of moving patterns or whether they will readily pick up information depicted in this 2-D representation and incorporate it into their own behavior. Can infants “understand” the content of television enough to govern their real-world behavior accordingly? One way to explore this question is to present a model via television for infants to imitate. Infants’ ability to imitate TV models was explored at 2 ages, 14 and 24 months, under conditions of immediate and deferred imitation. In deferred imitation, infants were exposed to a TV depiction of an adult manipulating a novel toy in a particular way but were not presented with the real toy until the next day. The results showed significant imitation at both ages, and furthermore showed that even the youngest group imitated after the 24-hour delay. The finding of deferred imitation of TV models has social and policy implications, because it suggests that TV viewing in the home could potentially affect infant behavior and development more than heretofore contemplated. The results also add to a growing body of literature on prelinguistic representational capacities. They do so in the dual sense of showing that infants can relate 2-D representations to their own actions on real objects in 3-D space, and moreover that the information picked up through TV can be internally represented over lengthy delays before it is used to guide the real-world action.
PMCID: PMC3651023  PMID: 3168638
11.  Infants’ Somatotopic Neural Responses to Seeing Human Actions: I’ve Got You under My Skin 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77905.
Human infants rapidly learn new skills and customs via imitation, but the neural linkages between action perception and production are not well understood. Neuroscience studies in adults suggest that a key component of imitation–identifying the corresponding body part used in the acts of self and other–has an organized neural signature. In adults, perceiving someone using a specific body part (e.g., hand vs. foot) is associated with activation of the corresponding area of the sensory and/or motor strip in the observer’s brain–a phenomenon called neural somatotopy. Here we examine whether preverbal infants also exhibit somatotopic neural responses during the observation of others’ actions. 14-month-old infants were randomly assigned to watch an adult reach towards and touch an object using either her hand or her foot. The scalp electroencephalogram (EEG) was recorded and event-related changes in the sensorimotor mu rhythm were analyzed. Mu rhythm desynchronization was greater over hand areas of sensorimotor cortex during observation of hand actions and was greater over the foot area for observation of foot actions. This provides the first evidence that infants’ observation of someone else using a particular body part activates the corresponding areas of sensorimotor cortex. We hypothesize that this somatotopic organization in the developing brain supports imitation and cultural learning. The findings connect developmental cognitive neuroscience, adult neuroscience, action representation, and behavioral imitation.
PMCID: PMC3813772  PMID: 24205023
12.  Teleological and referential understanding of action in infancy. 
There are two fundamentally different ways to attribute intentional mental states to others upon observing their actions. Actions can be interpreted as goal-directed, which warrants ascribing intentions, desires and beliefs appropriate to the observed actions, to the agents. Recent studies suggest that young infants also tend to interpret certain actions in terms of goals, and their reasoning about these actions is based on a sophisticated teleological representation. Several theorists proposed that infants rely on motion cues, such as self-initiated movement, in selecting goal-directed agents. Our experiments revealed that, although infants are more likely to attribute goals to self-propelled than to non-self-propelled agents, they do not need direct evidence about the source of motion for interpreting actions in teleological terms. The second mode of action-based mental state attribution interprets actions as referential, and allows ascription of attentional states, referential intents, communicative messages, etc., to the agents. Young infants also display evidence of interpreting actions in referential terms (for example, when following others' gaze or pointing gesture) and are very sensitive to the communicative situations in which these actions occur. For example, young infants prefer faces with eye-contact and objects that react to them contingently, and these are the very situations that later elicit gaze following. Whether or not these early abilities amount to a 'theory of mind' is a matter of debate among infant researchers. Nevertheless, they represent skills that are vital for understanding social agents and engaging in social interactions.
PMCID: PMC1693135  PMID: 12689372
13.  Copying You Copying Me: Interpersonal Motor Co-Ordination Influences Automatic Imitation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e84820.
Moving in a co-ordinated fashion with another individual changes our behaviour towards them; we tend to like them more, find them more attractive, and are more willing to co-operate with them. It is generally assumed that this effect on behaviour results from alterations in representations of self and others. Specifically, through neurophysiological perception-action matching mechanisms, interpersonal motor co-ordination (IMC) is believed to forge a neural coupling between actor and observer, which serves to blur boundaries in conceptual self-other representations and causes positive views of the self to be projected onto others. An investigation into this potential neural mechanism is lacking, however. Moreover, the specific components of IMC that might influence this mechanism have not yet been specified. In the present study we exploited a robust behavioural phenomenon – automatic imitation – to assess the degree to which IMC influences neural action observation-execution matching mechanisms. This revealed that automatic imitation is reduced when the actions of another individual are perceived to be synchronised in time, but are spatially incongruent, with our own. We interpret our findings as evidence that IMC does indeed exert an effect on neural perception-action matching mechanisms, but this serves to promote better self-other distinction. Our findings demonstrate that further investigation is required to understand the complex relationship between neural perception-action coupling, conceptual self-other representations, and social behaviour.
PMCID: PMC3877322  PMID: 24391976
14.  Inhibition of imitative behaviour and social cognition 
There is converging evidence that the observation of an action activates a corresponding motor representation in the observer through a ‘mirror-matching’ mechanism. However, research on such ‘shared representations’ of perception and action has widely neglected the question of how we can distinguish our own motor intentions from externally triggered motor representations. By investigating the inhibition of imitative response tendencies, as an index for the control of shared representations, we can show that self–other distinction plays a fundamental role in the control of shared representations. Furthermore, we demonstrate that overlapping brain activations can be found in the anterior fronto-median cortex (aFMC) and the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) area for the control of shared representations and complex social-cognitive tasks, such as mental state attribution. In a functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment, we functionally dissociate the roles of TPJ and aFMC during the control of shared representations. Finally, we propose a hypothesis stating that the control of shared representations might be the missing link between functions of the mirror system and mental state attribution.
PMCID: PMC2865080  PMID: 19620107
imitation; inhibition; prefrontal cortex; temporo-parietal junction; mentalizing
15.  Minimalist Approach to Perceptual Interactions 
Work aimed at studying social cognition in an interactionist perspective often encounters substantial theoretical and methodological difficulties: identifying the significant behavioral variables; recording them without disturbing the interaction; and distinguishing between: (a) the necessary and sufficient contributions of each individual partner for a collective dynamics to emerge; (b) features which derive from this collective dynamics and escape from the control of the individual partners; and (c) the phenomena arising from this collective dynamics which are subsequently appropriated and used by the partners. We propose a minimalist experimental paradigm as a basis for this conceptual discussion: by reducing the sensory inputs to a strict minimum, we force a spatial and temporal deployment of the perceptual activities, which makes it possible to obtain a complete recording and control of the dynamics of interaction. After presenting the principles of this minimalist approach to perception, we describe a series of experiments on two major questions in social cognition: recognizing the presence of another intentional subject; and phenomena of imitation. In both cases, we propose explanatory schema which render an interactionist approach to social cognition clear and explicit. Starting from our earlier work on perceptual crossing we present a new experiment on the mechanisms of reciprocal recognition of the perceptual intentionality of the other subject: the emergent collective dynamics of the perceptual crossing can be appropriated by each subject. We then present an experimental study of opaque imitation (when the subjects cannot see what they themselves are doing). This study makes it possible to characterize what a properly interactionist approach to imitation might be. In conclusion, we draw on these results, to show how an interactionist approach can contribute to a fully social approach to social cognition.
PMCID: PMC3348522  PMID: 22582041
perceptual crossing; imitation; recognition of intentionality; interaction; minimalism
16.  Sensorimotor cortex as a critical component of an 'extended' mirror neuron system: Does it solve the development, correspondence, and control problems in mirroring? 
A core assumption of how humans understand and infer the intentions and beliefs of others is the existence of a functional self-other distinction. At least two neural systems have been proposed to manage such a critical distinction. One system, part of the classic motor system, is specialized for the preparation and execution of motor actions that are self realized and voluntary, while the other appears primarily involved in capturing and understanding the actions of non-self or others. The latter system, of which the mirror neuron system is part, is the canonical action 'resonance' system in the brain that has evolved to share many of the same circuits involved in motor control. Mirroring or 'shared circuit systems' are assumed to be involved in resonating, imitating, and/or simulating the actions of others. A number of researchers have proposed that shared representations of motor actions may form a foundational cornerstone for higher order social processes, such as motor learning, action understanding, imitation, perspective taking, understanding facial emotions, and empathy. However, mirroring systems that evolve from the classic motor system present at least three problems: a development, a correspondence, and a control problem. Developmentally, the question is how does a mirroring system arise? How do humans acquire the ability to simulate through mapping observed onto executed actions? Are mirror neurons innate and therefore genetically programmed? To what extent is learning necessary? In terms of the correspondence problem, the question is how does the observer agent know what the observed agent's resonance activation pattern is? How does the matching of motor activation patterns occur? Finally, in terms of the control problem, the issue is how to efficiently control a mirroring system when it is turned on automatically through observation? Or, as others have stated the problem more succinctly: "Why don't we imitate all the time?" In this review, we argue from an anatomical, physiological, modeling, and functional perspectives that a critical component of the human mirror neuron system is sensorimotor cortex. Not only are sensorimotor transformations necessary for computing the patterns of muscle activation and kinematics during action observation but they provide potential answers to the development, correspondence and control problems.
PMCID: PMC2577683  PMID: 18928566
17.  Teach to Reach: The Effects of Active Versus Passive Reaching Experiences on Action and Perception 
Vision research  2010;50(24):2750-2757.
Reaching is an important and early emerging motor skill that allows infants to interact with the physical and social world. However, few studies have considered how reaching experiences shape infants’ own motor development and their perception of actions performed by others. In the current study, two groups of infants received daily parent guided play sessions over a two-week training period. Using “Sticky Mittens”, one group was enabled to independently pick up objects whereas the other group only passively observed their parent’s actions on objects. Following training, infants’ manual and visual exploration of objects, agents, and actions in a live and a televised context were assessed. Our results showed that only infants who experienced independent object apprehension advanced in their reaching behavior, and showed changes in their visual exploration of agents and objects in a live setting. Passive observation was not sufficient to change infants’ behavior. To our surprise, the effects of the training did not seem to generalize to a televised observation context. Together, our results suggest that early motor training can jump-start infants’ transition into reaching and inform their perception of others’ actions.
PMCID: PMC2991490  PMID: 20828580
Infant perception; motor development; perception-action; sticky mittens
18.  Neural Mirroring Systems: Exploring the EEG Mu Rhythm in Human Infancy 
How do human children come to understand the actions of other people? What neural systems are associated with the processing of others’ actions and how do these systems develop, starting in infancy? These questions span cognitive psychology and developmental cognitive neuroscience, and addressing them has important implications for the study of social cognition. A large amount of research has used behavioral measures to investigate infants’ imitation of the actions of other people; a related but smaller literature has begun to use neurobiological measures to study of infants’ action representation. Here we focus on experiments employing electroencephalographic (EEG) techniques for assessing mu rhythm desynchronization in infancy, and analyze how this work illuminates the links between action perception and production prior to the onset of language.
PMCID: PMC3081582  PMID: 21528008
19.  The role of prediction in social neuroscience 
Research has shown that the brain is constantly making predictions about future events. Theories of prediction in perception, action and learning suggest that the brain serves to reduce the discrepancies between expectation and actual experience, i.e., by reducing the prediction error. Forward models of action and perception propose the generation of a predictive internal representation of the expected sensory outcome, which is matched to the actual sensory feedback. Shared neural representations have been found when experiencing one's own and observing other's actions, rewards, errors, and emotions such as fear and pain. These general principles of the “predictive brain” are well established and have already begun to be applied to social aspects of cognition. The application and relevance of these predictive principles to social cognition are discussed in this article. Evidence is presented to argue that simple non-social cognitive processes can be extended to explain complex cognitive processes required for social interaction, with common neural activity seen for both social and non-social cognitions. A number of studies are included which demonstrate that bottom-up sensory input and top-down expectancies can be modulated by social information. The concept of competing social forward models and a partially distinct category of social prediction errors are introduced. The evolutionary implications of a “social predictive brain” are also mentioned, along with the implications on psychopathology. The review presents a number of testable hypotheses and novel comparisons that aim to stimulate further discussion and integration between currently disparate fields of research, with regard to computational models, behavioral and neurophysiological data. This promotes a relatively new platform for inquiry in social neuroscience with implications in social learning, theory of mind, empathy, the evolution of the social brain, and potential strategies for treating social cognitive deficits.
PMCID: PMC3359591  PMID: 22654749
predictive coding; social interaction; forward models; prediction error; sensorimotor control; social learning; imitation; social decision-making
20.  Inferring on the Intentions of Others by Hierarchical Bayesian Learning 
PLoS Computational Biology  2014;10(9):e1003810.
Inferring on others' (potentially time-varying) intentions is a fundamental problem during many social transactions. To investigate the underlying mechanisms, we applied computational modeling to behavioral data from an economic game in which 16 pairs of volunteers (randomly assigned to “player” or “adviser” roles) interacted. The player performed a probabilistic reinforcement learning task, receiving information about a binary lottery from a visual pie chart. The adviser, who received more predictive information, issued an additional recommendation. Critically, the game was structured such that the adviser's incentives to provide helpful or misleading information varied in time. Using a meta-Bayesian modeling framework, we found that the players' behavior was best explained by the deployment of hierarchical learning: they inferred upon the volatility of the advisers' intentions in order to optimize their predictions about the validity of their advice. Beyond learning, volatility estimates also affected the trial-by-trial variability of decisions: participants were more likely to rely on their estimates of advice accuracy for making choices when they believed that the adviser's intentions were presently stable. Finally, our model of the players' inference predicted the players' interpersonal reactivity index (IRI) scores, explicit ratings of the advisers' helpfulness and the advisers' self-reports on their chosen strategy. Overall, our results suggest that humans (i) employ hierarchical generative models to infer on the changing intentions of others, (ii) use volatility estimates to inform decision-making in social interactions, and (iii) integrate estimates of advice accuracy with non-social sources of information. The Bayesian framework presented here can quantify individual differences in these mechanisms from simple behavioral readouts and may prove useful in future clinical studies of maladaptive social cognition.
Author Summary
The ability to decode another person's intentions is a critical component of social interactions. This is particularly important when we have to make decisions based on someone else's advice. Our research proposes that this complex cognitive skill (social learning) can be translated into a mathematical model, which prescribes a mechanism for mentally simulating another person's intentions. This study demonstrates that this process can be parsimoniously described as the deployment of hierarchical learning. In other words, participants learn about two quantities: the intentions of the person they interact with and the veracity of the recommendations they offer. As participants become more and more confident about their representation of the other's intentions, they make decisions more in accordance with the advice they receive. Importantly, our modeling framework captures individual differences in the social learning process: The estimated “learning fingerprint” can predict other aspects of participants' behavior, such as their perspective-taking abilities and their explicit ratings of the adviser's level of trustworthiness. The present modeling approach can be further applied in the context of psychiatry to identify maladaptive learning processes in disorders where social learning processes are particularly impaired, such as schizophrenia.
PMCID: PMC4154656  PMID: 25187943
21.  Do Domestic Dogs Understand Human Actions as Goal-Directed? 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e106530.
Understanding of other’s actions as goal-directed is considered a fundamental ability underlying cognitive and social development in human infants. A number of studies using the habituation-dishabituation paradigm have shown that the ability to discern intentional relations, in terms of goal-directedness of an action towards an object, appears around 5 months of age. The question of whether non-human species can perceive other’s actions as goal-directed has been more controversial, however there is mounting evidence that at least some primates species do. Recently domestic dogs have been shown to be particularly sensitive to human communicative cues and more so in cooperative and intentional contexts. Furthermore, they have been shown to imitate selectively. Taken together these results suggest that dogs may perceive others' actions as goal-directed, however no study has investigated this issue directly. In the current study, adopting an infant habituation-dishabituation paradigm, we investigated whether dogs attribute intentions to an animate (a human) but not an inanimate (a black box) agent interacting with an object. Following an habituation phase in which the agent interacted always with one of two objects, two sets of 3 trials were presented: new side trials (in which the agent interacted with the same object as in the habituation trial but placed in a novel location) and new goal trials (in which the agent interacted with the other object placed in the old location). Dogs showed a similar pattern of response to that shown in infants, looking longer in the new goal than new side trials when they saw the human agent interact with the object. No such difference emerging with the inanimate agent (the black box). Results provide the first evidence that a non-primate species can perceive another individual’s actions as goal-directed. We discuss results in terms of the prevailing mentalisitic and non-mentalistic hypotheses regarding goal-attribution.
PMCID: PMC4167693  PMID: 25229452
22.  e-Health, m-Health and healthier social media reform: the big scale view 
In the upcoming decade, digital platforms will be the backbone of a strategic revolution in the way medical services are provided, affecting both healthcare providers and patients. Digital-based patient-centered healthcare services allow patients to actively participate in managing their own care, in times of health as well as illness, using personally tailored interactive tools. Such empowerment is expected to increase patients’ willingness to adopt actions and lifestyles that promote health as well as improve follow-up and compliance with treatment in cases of chronic illness. Clalit Health Services (CHS) is the largest HMO in Israel and second largest world-wide. Through its 14 hospitals, 1300 primary and specialized clinics, and 650 pharmacies, CHS provides comprehensive medical care to the majority of Israel’s population (above 4 million members). CHS e-Health wing focuses on deepening patient involvement in managing health, through personalized digital interactive tools. Currently, CHS e-Health wing provides e-health services for 1.56 million unique patients monthly with 2.4 million interactions every month (August 2011). Successful implementation of e-Health solutions is not a sum of technology, innovation and health; rather it’s the expertise of tailoring knowledge and leadership capabilities in multidisciplinary areas: clinical, ethical, psychological, legal, comprehension of patient and medical team engagement etc. The Google Health case excellently demonstrates this point. On the other hand, our success with CHS is a demonstration that e-Health can be enrolled effectively and fast with huge benefits for both patients and medical teams, and with a robust business model.
CHS e-Health core components
They include:
1. The personal health record layer (what the patient can see) presents patients with their own medical history as well as the medical history of their preadult children, including diagnoses, allergies, vaccinations, laboratory results with interpretations in layman’s terms, medications with clear, straightforward explanations regarding dosing instructions, important side effects, contraindications, such as lactation etc., and other important medical information. All personal e-Health services require identification and authorization.
2. The personal knowledge layer (what the patient should know) presents patients with personally tailored recommendations for preventative medicine and health promotion. For example, diabetic patients are push notified regarding their yearly eye exam. The various health recommendations include: occult blood testing, mammography, lipid profile etc. Each recommendation contains textual, visual and interactive content components in order to promote engagement and motivate the patient to actually change his health behaviour.
3. The personal health services layer (what the patient can do) enables patients to schedule clinic visits, order chronic prescriptions, e-consult their physician via secured e-mail, set SMS medication reminders, e-consult a pharmacist regarding personal medications. Consultants’ answers are sent securely to the patients’ personal mobile device.
On December 2009 CHS launched secured, web based, synchronous medical consultation via video conference. Currently 11,780 e-visits are performed monthly (May 2011). The medical encounter includes e-prescription and referral capabilities which are biometrically signed by the physician. On December 2010 CHS launched a unique mobile health platform, which is one of the most comprehensive personal m-Health applications world-wide. An essential advantage of mobile devices is their potential to bridge the digital divide. Currently, CHS m-Health platform is used by more than 45,000 unique users, with 75,000 laboratory results views/month, 1100 m-consultations/month and 9000 physician visit scheduling/month.
4. The Bio-Sensing layer (what physiological data the patient can populate) includes diagnostic means that allow remote physical examination, bio-sensors that broadcast various physiological measurements, and smart homecare devices, such as e-Pill boxes that gives seniors, patients and their caregivers the ability to stay at home and live life to its fullest. Monitored data is automatically transmitted to the patient’s Personal Health Record and to relevant medical personnel.
The monitoring layer is embedded in the chronic disease management platform, and in the interactive health promotion and wellness platform. It includes tailoring of consumer-oriented medical devices and service provided by various professional personnel—physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dieticians and more.
5. The Social layer (what the patient can share). Social media networks triggered an essential change at the humanity ‘genome’ level, yet to be further defined in the upcoming years. Social media has huge potential in promoting health as it combines fun, simple yet extraordinary user experience, and bio-social-feedback. There are two major challenges in leveraging health care through social networks:
a. Our personal health information is the cornerstone for personalizing healthier lifestyle, disease management and preventative medicine. We naturally see our personal health data as a super-private territory. So, how do we bring the power of our private health information, currently locked within our Personal Health Record, into social media networks without offending basic privacy issues?
b. Disease management and preventive medicine are currently neither considered ‘cool’ nor ‘fun’ or ‘potentially highly viral’ activities; yet, health is a major issue of everybody’s life. It seems like we are missing a crucial element with a huge potential in health behavioural change—the Fun Theory. Social media platforms comprehends user experience tools that potentially could break current misconception, and engage people in the daily task of taking better care of themselves.
CHS e-Health innovation team characterized several break-through applications in this unexplored territory within social media networks, fusing personal health and social media platforms without offending privacy. One of the most crucial issues regarding adoption of e-health and m-health platforms is change management. Being a ‘hot’ innovative ‘gadget’ is far from sufficient for changing health behaviours at the individual and population levels.
CHS health behaviour change management methodology includes 4 core elements:
1. Engaging two completely different populations: patients, and medical teams. e-Health applications must present true added value for both medical teams and patients, engaging them through understanding and assimilating “what’s really in it for me”. Medical teams are further subdivided into physicians, nurses, pharmacists and administrative personnel—each with their own driving incentive. Resistance to change is an obstacle in many fields but it is particularly true in the conservative health industry. To successfully manage a large scale persuasive process, we treat intra-organizational human resources as “Change Agents”. Harnessing the persuasive power of ~40,000 employees requires engaging them as the primary target group. Successful recruitment has the potential of converting each patient-medical team interaction into an exposure opportunity to the new era of participatory medicine via e-health and m-health channels.
2. Implementation waves: every group of digital health products that are released at the same time are seen as one project. Each implementation wave leverages the focus of the organization and target populations to a defined time span. There are three major and three minor implementation waves a year.
3. Change-Support Arrow: a structured infrastructure for every implementation wave. The sub-stages in this strategy include:
Cross organizational mapping and identification of early adopters and stakeholders relevant to the implementation wave
Mapping positive or negative perceptions and designing specific marketing approaches for the distinct target groups
Intra and extra organizational marketing
Conducting intensive training and presentation sessions for groups of implementers
Running conflict-prevention activities, such as advanced tackling of potential union resistance
Training change-agents with resistance-management behavioural techniques, focused intervention for specific incidents and for key opinion leaders
Extensive presence in the clinics during the launch period, etc.
The entire process is monitored and managed continuously by a review team.
4. Closing Phase: each wave is analyzed and a “lessons-learned” session concludes the changes required in the modus operandi of the e-health project team.
PMCID: PMC3571141
e-Health; mobile health; personal health record; online visit; patient empowerment; knowledge prescription
23.  What can other animals tell us about human social cognition? An evolutionary perspective on reflective and reflexive processing 
Human neuroscience has seen a recent boom in studies on reflective, controlled, explicit social cognitive functions like imitation, perspective-taking, and empathy. The relationship of these higher-level functions to lower-level, reflexive, automatic, implicit functions is an area of current research. As the field continues to address this relationship, we suggest that an evolutionary, comparative approach will be useful, even essential. There is a large body of research on reflexive, automatic, implicit processes in animals. A growing perspective sees social cognitive processes as phylogenically continuous, making findings in other species relevant for understanding our own. One of these phylogenically continuous processes appears to be self-other matching or simulation. Mice are more sensitive to pain after watching other mice experience pain; geese experience heart rate increases when seeing their mate in conflict; and infant macaques, chimpanzees, and humans automatically mimic adult facial expressions. In this article, we review findings in different species that illustrate how such reflexive processes are related to (“higher order”) reflexive processes, such as cognitive empathy, theory of mind, and learning by imitation. We do so in the context of self-other matching in three different domains—in the motor domain (somatomotor movements), in the perceptual domain (eye movements and cognition about visual perception), and in the autonomic/emotional domain. We also review research on the developmental origin of these processes and their neural bases across species. We highlight gaps in existing knowledge and point out some questions for future research. We conclude that our understanding of the psychological and neural mechanisms of self-other mapping and other functions in our own species can be informed by considering the layered complexity these functions in other species.
PMCID: PMC3406331  PMID: 22866032
reflective processing; reflexive processing; social cognition; empathy; comparative cognition; evolution; motor resonance
24.  Imitation, Memory, and the Representation of Persons 
Infant behavior & development  1994;17(1):83-99.
Imitation was tested both immediately and after a 24-hr retention interval in 6-week-old infants. The results showed immediate imitation, which replicates past research, and also imitation from memory, which is new. The latter finding implicates recall memory and establishes that 6-week-olds can generate actions on the basis of stored representations. The motor organization involved in imitation was investigated through a microanalysis of the matching response. Results revealed that infants gradually modified their behavior towards more accurate matches over successive trials. It is proposed that early imitation serves a social identity function. Infants are motivated to imitate after a 24-hr delay as a means of clarifying whether the person they see before them is the same one they previously encountered. They use the reenactment of a person’s behavior to probe whether this is the same person. In the domain of inanimate objects, infants use physical manipulations (e.g., shaking) to perform this function. Imitation is to understanding people as physical manipulation is to understanding things. Motor imitation, the behavioral reenactment of things people do, is a primitive means of understanding and communicating with people.
PMCID: PMC4137868  PMID: 25147416
imitation; memory; mental representation; faces; cross-modal; motor coordination; self; identity; communication; theory of mind; development
25.  Infant Joint Attention, Neural Networks and Social Cognition 
Neural network models of attention can provide a unifying approach to the study of human cognitive and emotional development (Posner & Rothbart, 2007). This paper we argue that a neural networks approach to the infant development of joint attention can inform our understanding of the nature of human social learning, symbolic thought process and social cognition. At its most basic, joint attention involves the capacity to coordinate one’s own visual attention with that of another person. We propose that joint attention development involves increments in the capacity to engage in simultaneous or parallel processing of information about one’s own attention and the attention of other people. Infant practice with joint attention is both a consequence and organizer of the development of a distributed and integrated brain network involving frontal and parietal cortical systems. This executive distributed network first serves to regulate the capacity of infants to respond to and direct the overt behavior of other people in order to share experience with others through the social coordination of visual attention. In this paper we describe this parallel and distributed neural network model of joint attention development and discuss two hypotheses that stem from this model. One is that activation of this distributed network during coordinated attention enhances to depth of information processing and encoding beginning in the first year of life. We also propose that with development joint attention becomes internalized as the capacity to socially coordinate mental attention to internal representations. As this occurs the executive joint attention network makes vital contributions to the development of human symbolic thinking and social cognition.
PMCID: PMC2963105  PMID: 20884172

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