Social and Cognitive Interactions Lab 


The Social and Cognitive Interactions Lab (PI: Eva Wiese) at George Mason University examines how humans interact with other human and nonhuman agents, such as animals, robots or avatars. In particular, we examine the behavioral and neuronal bases of human-human and human-nonhuman interactions and try to understand how interacting with humans differs from interacting with nonhuman entities, both socially and cognitively. Insights from this research are used to inform the design of artificial agents and embodied products.

The main focus of the SCI Lab is on investigating the causes and effects of mind perception, in particular in the context of social interactions with artificial agents such as robots. The goal is to unravel what physical and behavioral features nonhuman agents need to have in order to being perceived as having a mind, and what effects ‘having a mind’ has on performance, learning or attitudes in social interactions. The effects of mind perception on real-time human-robot interaction are examined using behavioral and neurophysiological methods, such as reaction times, EEG, fMRI and brain stimulation.

The second focus of the SCI Lab is on examining embodied cognition, in particular to what extent humans incorporate their environment when solving problems together with others. The goal is to identify situations in which humans benefit from incorporating their social and nonsocial environment into cognitive processing, and to investigate whether humans make effective use of both their internal and external resources.

Insights from both research areas are used to inform the design of embodied social technology, in particular social robots. The goal is to design robots that are perceived as agents with a mind, and trigger social brain areas in the same way human interaction partners do.