Mind perception describes the process of ascribing internal states such as intentions or emotions to other agents. Attributing internal states to others is not limited to agents that actually have a mind, such as humans, but also occurs when interacting with entities that do not have minds, such as robots or whose mind status is ambiguous, such as animals. Mind perception influences how we interpret the behavior of others, and determines the degree of trust, morality and pro-sociality in social interactions. The SCI Lab investigates under which conditions mind is perceived in nonhuman agents and what impact mind perception has on performance, learning and attitudes in social interactions with nonhuman agents.
Robots are increasingly envisaged as our future companions. While considerable progress has been made in recent years in terms of their technological realization, the ability of robots to interact with humans in an intuitive and social way is still quite limited. The challenge is to determine how to design robots that can perceive the user’s needs, feelings and intentions, and attune to users over a broad range of cognitive abilities. The SCI lab uses behavioral and neurophysiological measures, such as reaction times, event-related potentials and time frequency analysis (using EEG) and brain stimulation to examine the effect of mind perception on social cognitive processes in real-time human-robot interaction. The goal is to identify physical and behavioral marker related to mind perception that activate social brain areas to a similar extent as human interaction partners.
Theories on embodied cognition state that cognitive actions occur both internally (i.e., brain) and externally (i.e., body and environment), thereby stretching a distributed representation space for problem-solving. Not much is known about how internal and external representations are used for cognitive processing and what is processed internally and what externally. The SCI Lab investigates what cognitive functions can be offloaded, how metacognitive processes affect cognitive offloading and which factors influence whether a problem is solved internally or externally.
Social and embodied products foster intuitive interactions by allowing users to apply interaction schemes from human-human interaction to human-product interaction, and support problem solving by allowing users to offload internal resources onto external representations in an intuitive way. The SCI Lab uses insights from mind perception and embodied cognition to derive design recommendations that allow for intuitive, engaging and facilitating product use. A special focus is on the development and design of social robots.