Humans excel at recognizing (or inferring) another's distal intentions, and recent experiments suggest that this may be possible using only subtle kinematic cues elicited during early phases of movement. Still, the cognitive and computational mechanisms underlying the recognition of intentional (sequential) actions are incompletely known and it is unclear whether kinematic cues alone are sufficient for this task, or if it instead requires additional mechanisms (e.g., prior information) that may be more difficult to fully characterize in empirical studies. Here we present a computationally-guided analysis of the execution and recognition of intentional actions that is rooted in theories of motor control and the coarticulation of sequential actions. In our simulations, when a performer agent coarticulates two successive actions in an action sequence (e.g., "reach-to-grasp" a bottle and "grasp-to-pour"), he automatically produces kinematic cues that an observer agent can reliably use to recognize the performer's intention early on, during the execution of the first part of the sequence. This analysis lends computational-level support for the idea that kinematic cues may be sufficiently informative for early intention recognition. Furthermore, it suggests that the social benefits of coarticulation may be a byproduct of a fundamental imperative to optimize sequential actions. Finally, we discuss possible ways a performer agent may combine automatic (coarticulation) and strategic (signaling) ways to facilitate, or hinder, an observer's action recognition processes.
Sensorimotor coarticulation in the execution and recognition of intentional actions
Frontiers Research Foundation, Switzerland
Frontiers in Psychology 8 (2017): 237–248. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00237