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While the movement toward granting ever more power to users is very real, can we understand it not from the viewpoint of humans, but that of the objects? How can we design the empowerment of both users and objects, but starting from the objects? Could the object then change its status and become a subject, or at least an agent? With that as our starting position, we pose the hypothesis, theoretical and practical, that in order to engage with such prospects, the objects in question must be endowed with behaviors. And rather than resorting to types of expression related to the morphology or dressing of the objects, we want to focus on the expressive capacity of movement, on the objects’ power to act as embodied fundamentally by movement, by actions that give shape to what would then be possible to describe as "behaviors". Our approach is first and foremost a matter of art and design, while entertaining a dialogue between two other disciplines: robotics, to put into practice our reflection, and cognitive science, to better understand and prepare this new form of interaction "object-human" that we are seeking. More specifically we are looking to develop objects that misbehave, as a way for these objects to go against the function they have been designed for, and thus develop a certain subjectivity that could enable an affective relationship that is valid for itself. From a state of knowledge in art and design, and from an analysis of behaviour from the point of view of action perception, we propose a design space based on the behaviours produced and the interpretations they elicit in terms of mental states. This conceptual apparatus is put into practice through workshops during which we propose a form of collective experimentation, with the help of our modular robotics toolkit MisB KIT, open-source and accessible both to non-programmer practitioners and to developers. Following a first series of workshops, in particular the one held at TEI 2014 conference, along with the Tangible Media group from the MIT Medialab, we draw some conclusions and discuss some new perspectives regarding the development of (mis)behavioral objects.
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Chapter 8
(Mis)behavioral Objects
Empowerment of Users Versus Empowerment of
Objects
Samuel Bianchini, Rémy Bourganel, Emanuele Quinz,
Florent Levillain and Elisabetta Zibetti
Abstract While the movement toward granting ever more power to users is very
real, can we understand it not from the viewpoint of humans, but that of the objects?
How can we design the empowerment of both users and objects, but starting from
the objects? Could the object then change its status and become a subject, or at least
an agent? With that as our starting position, we pose the hypothesis, theoretical and
This publication is part of a research program (The Behavior of Things) that is supported,
through the Labex Arts-H2H, by Investissements dAvenir (ANR-10-LABX-80-01) of the
Agence nationale de la recherche (ANR).
S. Bianchini (&)E. Quinz
EnsadLab-Reective Interaction, The École Nationale Supérieure Des Arts Décoratifs,
31 Rue DUlm, 75240 Paris, Cedex 05, France
e-mail: samuel.bianchini@ensad.fr
E. Quinz
e-mail: equinz@univ-paris8.fr
R. Bourganel
EnsadLab-Sociable Media, The École Nationale Supérieure Des Arts Décoratifs,
31 Rue DUlm, 75240 Paris, Cedex 05, France
e-mail: remy.bourganel@ensad.fr
E. Quinz F. Levillain E. Zibetti
University of Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis, 2 Rue de La Liberté, 93526 Saint-Denis, Cedex,
France
e-mail: orent.levillain@lutin-userlab.fr
E. Zibetti
e-mail: ezibetti@univ-paris8.fr
F. Levillain E. Zibetti
The École Pratique Des Hautes Études (EPHE), 4-14 Rue Ferrus, 75014 Paris, France
F. Levillain E. Zibetti
The CitéDes Sciences et de Lindustrie, 30 Avenue Corentin Cariou, 75019 Paris, France
©Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015
D. Bihanic (ed.), Empowering Users through Design,
DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-13018-7_8
129
practical, that in order to engage with such prospects, the objects in question must
be endowed with behaviors. And rather than resorting to types of expression related
to the morphology or dressing of the objects, we want to focus on the expressive
capacity of movement, on the objectspower to act as embodied fundamentally by
movement, by actions that give shape to what would then be possible to describe as
behaviors. Our approach is rst and foremost a matter of art and design, while
entertaining a dialogue between two other disciplines: robotics, to put into practice
our reection, and cognitive science, to better understand and prepare this new form
of interaction object-humanthat we are seeking. More specically we are looking
to develop objects that misbehave, as a way for these objects to go against the
function they have been designed for, and thus develop a certain subjectivity that
could enable an affective relationship that is valid for itself. From a state of
knowledge in art and design, and from an analysis of behaviour from the point of
view of action perception, we propose a design space based on the behaviours
produced and the interpretations they elicit in terms of mental states. This con-
ceptual apparatus is put into practice through workshops during which we propose a
form of collective experimentation, with the help of our modular robotics toolkit
MisB KIT, open-source and accessible both to non-programmer practitioners and to
developers. Following a rst series of workshops, in particular the one held at TEI
2014 conference, along with the Tangible Media group from the MIT Medialab, we
draw some conclusions and discuss some new perspectives regarding the devel-
opment of (mis)behavioral objects.
8.1 Introduction
At a time when users, and even consumers, are increasingly involved in the pro-
duction cycle of products and services, what is the situation for objects? While the
movement toward granting ever more power to users is very real, can we understand it
not from the viewpoint of humans, and in particular of users, but that of the objects,
relative to their power to act, their agency? How can we design the empowerment
of both users and objects, but starting from the objects, and on which purpose? Might
the empowerment of objects contribute to questioning our relationship to them, as
well as the very meaning of their production? How do we experience that reversal of
perspectives in attempting to perceive the world through the eyesand the sensi-
bilityof objects? Could the object then change its status and become a subject, or at
least an agent? Admittedly, objects, from the logic of usage, have an ability to make
us do things, presenting themselves as means for completing taskswith them and
thanks to them. But aside from that utilitarian nature, how can an object establish a
relationship that is valid rst for itself, an experience made possible by an object-
humandialogue of which the object is the initiator? And if the object could initiate a
relationship more emotional than practical, how could that relationship be maintained
and repeated without losing its relevance?
130 S. Bianchini et al.
While this thinking applies to many elds and disciplines, so invasive has been
the interactive dimension in every sphere of our lives, our approach is primarily one
of art and design in dialogue with two other disciplines: robotics, to put our ideas to
the practical test, and the cognitive sciences, to better understand and prepare for
this new form of object-humanrelationship we are pursuing.
With that as our starting position, we pose the hypothesis, theoretical and
practical, that in order to engage with such prospects, the objects in question must
be endowed with behaviors. And rather than resorting to types of expression related
to the morphology or dressing of the objects, we want to focus on the expressive
capacity of movement, on the objectspower to act as embodied fundamentally by
movement, by actions that give shape to what would then be possible to describe as
behaviors.
Throughout the 20th century, domestic robotics has evolved within an imagi-
native universe largely dominated by anthropomorphism and zoomorphism, pur-
suing a master-servant relationship that claims to help empower the user. Yet robots
have failed to nd a legitimate place within our habitat. We are working from the
assumption that this is largely due to the uncanny feeling they tend to elicit. We are
interested in exploring a plausible alternative. We hypothesize that endowing
objects with behaviors (or misbehaviors) is a route to facilitating the acceptance of
robotic objects that is worthy of investigation. If animated objects had autonomous
behaviors, they could create a new perspective on our everyday life, and we could
contribute to a shift from a master-servant relationship towards a sort of social
contract between the user and the object. But how can we facilitate the design of an
expressive behavior, with fairly rudimentary technologies and a crude articial
intelligence? How can we endow a non-gurative object with something that can be
construed as a genuine behavior?
In our efforts to provide answers to these theoretical as well as practical ques-
tions, we are developing an interdisciplinary research that is leading us to adopt
empirical and reexive approachessimultaneously or alternatelysupported by
theoretical work. That technique seeks to advance our practice as well as the
associated theoretical understanding. It is part of the current international dynamic
of developing practice-based research in art and design.
While this text has neither the vocation nor the ambition to develop a meth-
odological model for practice-based research in art and design, we shall nonetheless
briey summarize how we organized the multiplicity of our approaches. That
organization also determined the outline of this text.
As in any research project, we must consider the scope of references and state of
knowledge that will allow us to better position our project and to support it. We must
do so within the various disciplines we refer to, but rst in our elds of reference in
art and design. That will therefore constitute the rst part of this essay. Taking a
pragmatic approach, we use as our foundation the current state of knowledge in the
cognitive sciences, and in particular the psychology of action, trying to transform it
into a set of criteria upon which to base the development of our practical experi-
ments. In turn, the observation and analysis of those experiments help consolidate
and develop that set of criteria, the constraints and perspectives that provide us with a
8 (Mis)behavioral Objects 131
context for work and experimentation, a design space. The second and third
sections of our text are dedicated to that two-directional exchange involved in
developing a design space. We understand design spaceto mean a set of con-
straints considered relevant for the tool offered to designers, those constraints being
organized to stimulate creativity.
At the intersection of practical and theoretical approaches, this design space is
also measured in terms of the concrete possibilities it creates. How to create the
conditionsconceptual, of course, but also practicalfor producing experiments
and, consecutively, artifacts relevant to art and/or design, for our research subject:
behavioral objects? The design space is therefore associated with an instrumental
approach aiming to provide us withand, if necessary, to producea set of
practical tools that can satisfy our creative ambitions. That is why we are devel-
oping a hardware and software toolkitMisB KIT
1
of modular robotics that are
open-source and accessible both to non-programmer practitioners and to develop-
ers. The presentation of that instrumental approach and of the toolkit is the subject
of our fourth section.
Finally, to test the practical and conceptual conditions we have set out, we are
creating possibilities for experiments, most often collectiveand, when possible,
publicin the form of workshops. These then become elds of observation that
enrich our thinking both for our design space and, more broadly, for our theories
that aim, rst and foremost, to revive and enrich our practices in art and in design
(Fig. 8.1).
In the fth section of our text we present a workshop that was particularly
stimulating for our work: The Misbehavior of Animated Objects, held in February
2014 in Munich,
2
in dialog with the Tangible Media Group at the MIT Media Lab,
and in particular with its founder and director, Hiroshi Ishii. The experience of that
workshop claried an issue and some hypotheses (a why and a how), in particular
from a design standpoint: how does the empowerment of objects contribute to
1
The MisB Toolkit was developed by the Reective Interaction team, under the direction of
Samuel Bianchini, by Didier Bouchon, Cécile Bucher, Martin Gautron, Benoît Verjat, and Al-
exandre Saunier, in the context of the project The Behavior of Things, coordinated by Emanuele
Quinz on behalf of Labex Arts-H2H. All elements of the MisB KIT, hardware and software, are
under an LGPL license, with the exception of the proprietary Bioloid modules, principally the
Dynamixels motors, and parts from the KNex construction game, used here as structural elements.
This toolkit was initiated with the Sociable Media team (led by Rémy Bourganel) with Émeline
Bruléand Max Mollon in particular, for the workshop The Misbehavior of Animated Objects,
TEI 2014, with support from Labex Arts-H2H and the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation and its
Chair for Innovation & Expertise, and with the participation of Jean-Baptiste Labrune and Nicolas
Nova. We are grateful to Génération Robots for their sensible advice, as well as to Marie Desc-
ourtieux, Hiroshi Ishii, Emmanuel Mahé, and Élodie Tincq. For more information, URL, July 9,
2014: http://diip.ensadlab.fr/fr/projets/article/the-misb-kit.
2
8th International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI 2014).
February 2014, Munich. URL, July 9, 2014: http://www.tei-conf.org/14/studios.php#s9.
132 S. Bianchini et al.
questioning the relationship we maintain with them and the meaning of their pro-
duction? We hypothesize that behavior, and specically misbehavior, offers two
avenues for exploration: 1. The moralizing behavior of the object tends to question
us as users and to make our own behavior change toward a new reexive form of
empowerment of the user. 2. The behavior of the object, which is imperfect, creates
empathy and affect, maintaining interest in it and prolonging the relationship or
even our use of it.
8.2 Behavioral Objects: References and Perspectives in Art
and Design
There is a tradition of behavioral objects in art. Robert BreersFloats (1970), the
nearly animal robot by Edward Ihnatowicz (The Senster 1970), Jeppe Heins ball of
granite (360°Presence 2002), the closed but moving simulator by Fabien Giraud
and Raphaël Siboni (The Outland 2009) are examples of animated objects for
which it is difcult to grasp what accounts for their movements (Fig. 8.2).
In art, parallel to the better-known tradition of anthropomorphic or zoomorphic
animated objectsautomatons, the tradition of which dates back to Hero of
Alexandriathere exists an alternative genealogy at the margins of science and
design: abstract objects with basic, minimal forms (such as cubes or spheres), or
even daily objects (such as tables, chairs, etc.) endowed with movement. By their
shape, but above all through their actions that evoke behaviors, such objects remain
fundamentally enigmatic: the projection of intentionality they inspire is always
biased by doubt. By creating an interruption between animate and inanimate,
between organic and inorganic, between articial and living, between human and
non-human, they are both real and fantastical, they fascinate and unsettle at the
same time. The psychological projection that such objects provoke is essential to
dening them: they are objects we think of as subjects.
References
and state of knowledge Observation / reflection / theorization
Design Space Tools: instruments, apparatus, devices, toolkit,
writing models (for editing, interaction, etc.)
Experiments (workshops)
Production (“publication”) of knowledge, tools,
artifacts: social impact
Fig. 8.1 Behavioral objects: organization of work for practice-based research in Art and Design
8 (Mis)behavioral Objects 133
We must look back to the early 20th century, to the experimental proliferation of
the avant-gardes, to nd the rst examples of moving objects, the rst kinetic
sculptures. But it was in the 1950s that the rst dysfunctional machines were
produced, no longer as examples of the functionalist myth of the industrial revo-
lution, but as instruments critical of that very myth: from Bruno MunarisMacchine
inutili (1953) to Jean Tinguelys immense self-destructive mechanism, Homage to
New York (1960). At that time, art was crossing paths with research in cybernetics,
which was then developing computer programming, robotics, and articial intel-
ligence: in that domain, the notion of behavior played a central role in the denition
of the relationship between human and machine. Cybernetics, like the philosophical
stage, developsin the words of Andrew Pickering—“an ontological theater
between human and non-human.(Pickering 2009) As a result, interest in behav-
ioral machines began to spread, as illustrated by many iconic exhibitions: Men,
Machine, Motion (curated by Richard HamiltonIndependent Group, London,
ICA, 1955), The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age (curated by
Pontus Hulten, New York, MoMA, 1968), Cybernetic Serendipity (curated by Jasia
Reichardt, London, ICA, 1968), Software (curated by Jack Burnham, New York,
Jewish Museum, 1970).
3
Fig. 8.2 Robert Breer, Float, 19702000Fond régional dart contemporain (Frac) Franche-
ComtéCollection. Robert Breer Exbition view, Frac Franche-Comté, Besançon, 2007 (courtesy gb
agency, Paris; photo C. H. Bernardot)
3
A selection of works from those exhibitions was shown recently in Ghost in the Machine
(curated by Massimiliano Gioni, New York, New Museum, 2012), which demonstrates the
renewed interest in the mythology of the machine.
134 S. Bianchini et al.
The concept of the bachelor machine, invented by Duchamp in the 1910s, was
at the heart of Harald Szeemanns exhibition of the same name (The Bachelor
Machines, Kunsthalle Berne, Biennale di Venezia, etc., 1975) that reconstructed a
parallel history of the machine, not of high-performance machines, but of useless,
parasitic, disturbing ones, by way of Kafka, Roussel, and Jarry. Even if they cannot
function in reality, bachelor machines produce, as Szeemann said, a genuine
movement in the imagination.(Szeemann 1975)
Those exhibitions constitute a repertory of images and projects that question the
projections autonomous objects arouse in the imaginationfrom allegory to myth,
by way of fantasy.
In analyzing the fantastical projection dimension that animated objects conjure
up, Jean Baudrillard, in The System of Objects, wrote: To the collusion of form and
function is substituted a symbolism that is no longer that of primary functions, but
of superstructural functions: man no longer projects his gestures, his energy, his
needs, the image of his body onto automated objects, but the autonomy of his
conscience, his power to control, his very individuality, the idea of his person.
(Baudrillard 1968)
In Baudrillards system of objects, this automated object, embodied by the robot,
occupies a special position surrounded by an aura of fascinationlike a mythical
gure that unites absolute functionalism and absolute anthropomorphism. In its
triumphalism, the myth of the robotwhich is superimposed upon the myth of the
machineturns out to be disturbing and ambiguous through its mimesis, and
summons again the romantic gure of the double, which is always a source of
anxiety, of the uncanny (Das Unheimliche) identied by Freud when he discussed,
in point of fact, an almost-perfect, and therefore almost-human, automaton.
If we adopt a functionalist perspective, the robot indeed embodies the ideal
object because, as Baudrillard again explains using the conceptual matrixes of the
era, it actually embodies the slave. It has every human qualitywith the single
exception of sexuality (the machine is always a bachelor)but is entirely in the
service of man. However, alongside positive (and positivist) images, we see a
multiplication of threatening ctions and gures: the subjectivity that haunts
autonomous objects can turn to subversion, to revolt, and to destruction. It is a
recurring theme in science ction that also feeds artistic experimentation: in the
1960s, images of rebellious machines emerged to counterbalance the triumphalism
of a socio-economic system of production, opposing instead a system of psycho-
logical projection.
Today it is more a system of communication and information, of generalized
interactivity, that is inltrated and questioned by behavioral objects. Their agency
once again makes them disturbing, vaguely threatening.
Worried and worrying, like the hysterical robots presented in Technological
Dreams (2007) by English designers Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby: not high-
performance robots, but pathological oneslike the strange funnel system that
cries desperately when you go near it. In Dunne and Rabys vision, these strange
objects are pretexts for stimulating debate about a possible future, for
8 (Mis)behavioral Objects 135
dramatizingour interactions with machines, in order to make visible the dark
side of their psychological impact.(Dunne and Raby 2001)
To that end, the posture that Dunne and Raby dened as Critical Design (an
attitude that, in reality, dates back to the radical Italian design of the 1960s, and
even further: Dunne 2005; Dunne and Raby 2013)namely a conceptual design
that borrows the instruments of art and cinemauses ctional and narrative uni-
verses, and presents more than just objects. There are also behaviors and a whole
repertoire of transgressive uses, abuses, and diversions. The goal of such design is
to criticize the values conveyed by industry and authorities. And in that context, the
behavioral objectby nature dysfunctional and subversiveis endowed with a
critical mission, that of provoking doubt, a discrepancy, or a state of consciousness
(Fig. 8.3).
8.3 How to Dene Behavior, How to Design
a Misbehavioral
To include our approach in these non-functionalistindeed dysfunctionalartistic
approaches, we have chosen to work primarily on misbehavioral objects, whose
action serves primarily to assert personality rather than to serve some productive
efciency. But how, then, to dene and implement such misbehavior in an object?
To insure that a robotic object demonstrates misbehavior, it rst must demon-
strate any behavior. Ideally, one needs to know what a behavior is and the
Fig. 8.3 Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, Technological Dreams Series: No. 1, Robots, 2007.
Robot 3:Sentinel (Photo Per Tingleff)
136 S. Bianchini et al.
properties that exemplify it in an organism; then to endow a robot with those
properties; and nally to see to it that they are deviated or frustrated so that the
robotized object engages in misbehavior. The difculty is that it is not easy to
know, a priori, what a behavior is and what the properties are that demonstrate it.
As Levitis et al. (2009) indicate, though the notion of behavior is intuitive, it is
difcult to create a denition that does justice to the advances in behavioral biology
over the last 50 years. We could say, somewhat laconically, that behavior is
everything observable when external stimuli trigger responses from the organism.
Certain authors do not go much further: behavior is the observable activity of an
organism; anything that an organism does that involves action and/or response to
stimulation(Wallace et al. 1991); or behavior is the externally visible activity of
an animal, in which a coordinated pattern of sensory, motor and associated neural
activity responds to changing external or internal conditions.(Beck et al. 1991)
Through these two denitions we see that the notion of behavior implies a certain
level of integration of sensory information to produce a response. In addition, that
response is something observable, something that can be noted, and it is most often
identied as a motor response. Such a simple denition, however, excludes many
organisms and activities about which it would be interesting to enquire if they show
behavior. Like the notion of failure, of difculty performing, of dysfunctioning, the
concept of misbehavior seems to broaden the denition of behavior to borderline
cases that could enrich it. Does the fact of an animal (to say nothing of plants) doing
nothing constitute a behavior? Should actions that do not succeed be considered in
the same way as those that do succeed? And what about misconduct, the fact of
intentionally doing wrong?
The formal denition of behavior is dependant upon the mutations of the science
that studies it, recording its advances and limitations, and is therefore constantly
being adjusted, which could make using it difcult when it comes to bestowing a
behavior upon a robotized object. Another approach is to take an interest in the
intuitions of observers about what constitutes a behavior. In that case, behavior
would be the ensemble of visible transformations that generate an impression of
behavior in the observer. The apparent circularity of that denition can be avoided
by targeting more precise attributions, asking, for example, if the object seems to be
moving in relation to a goal it is pursuing, or to what extent it appears to control its
actions. It is then possible to make connections between the parameters of trans-
formation and their impact on the interpretations that they give rise to in the
observer. This tactic corresponds to the study of the perception of action. That
domain of the cognitive sciences studies the intuitions of human observers about the
movement produced by a living creature (Scholl and Tremoulet 2000), attempting
to dene the systems of cognitive analysis that allow the human observer, on the
basis of spontaneously produced inferences, to go beyond what is directly obser-
vable and to return to the source of visible behavior through the beliefs, intentions,
and personality traits that the movement seems to demonstrate (Heider and Simmel
1944; Gergely et al. 1995; Luo and Baillargeon 2005).
8 (Mis)behavioral Objects 137
8.4 Toward a Misbehavioral Objects Design Space
To empower objects, we need to explore the design of interactions from the objects
point of view. We need to imagine objects with a certain autonomy, able to initiate
interaction with the user and even to engage in misbehaviors in order to claim their
own share of individuality. In order to develop a toolkit for designers, we have been
exploring the different ways a (mis)behavioral object could promote interaction
with humans, and how the little quirks in its behavior could nurture a relationship
with the user. Ultimately, we have to address the sustainability of the perception of
its misbehavior over time, rather than as a one-off experience.
The concept of misbehavior can have a weak meaning and a strong meaning. In
the weak sense, it corresponds to what we dont expect, to what causes surprise.
When a robot vacuum cleaner suddenly starts spinning in place, without managing
to move forward, its behavior is not what we expect from it; it behaves badly in the
sense that it is not accomplishing its function (which is to roam around the room to
clean it), but also in the sense that this dysfunctioning, perhaps only temporary,
creates an interruption of routine, of the normal course of things. In the strong
sense, the misbehavior has to do with the social value of the behavior. In certain
circumstances, the misbehavior corresponds to a desire to do wrong, to violate
certain social rules. Our robot vacuum cleaner, that we are now presuming to be
endowed with free will, takes pleasure in rolling between the legs of guests,
throwing them off balance. Its behavior is dysfunctional, but unlike in the rst
example, that dysfunctioning is not accidental, it is the manifestation of a (bad)
intention. We see here that the misbehavior has very different meanings depending
on the more or less intentional value we attribute to it. Many nuances are possible
depending on the agents level of awareness of the social or moral rules it is
violating, or the consequences of those actions. For example, someone can behave
badly without intending to do harm; his action is voluntary, but the damage it
causes is not.
To instill misbehavior in an object, we are proposing an initial design space
including three features: character, intention, movement (Fig. 8.4).
To design an object that demonstrates personality through the way it behaves,
we assume that the designer will begin by imagining a personality trait or mood,
will wonder what intention or motivation reects that character trait, and nally will
Character
Mood
Intention
Motivation
Movement
Choreography
Mis-Behaviours
Fig. 8.4 Character, intention and movement: a part of our design space to develop misbehavioral
objects
138 S. Bianchini et al.
dene the observable characteristics of the behavior that best express that intention.
From the observers point of view, the path is reversed: the rst observable element
is the behavior, the way the object moves; from that behavior it will be possible to
infer an intention, and then to construct a representation of the objects personality.
The work of Silvia Ruzanka, Ben Chang, and Dmitry Strakovsky (created in
2003) illustrates these three characteristics. The Insecurity Camera, instead of
tracking visitors, systematically avoids their eyes when they approach it (Figs. 8.5
and 8.6). The behavior observable by the visitors is the action of always turning
away when someone approaches, and based on that behavior, the visitor can deduce
that the camera is trying to avoid the visitors eyes, and in the end the personality
trait that emerges is shyness.
This framework provides a design guide, but also serves to verify that the
designers intentions coincide with the way the objects behavior is perceived. To
go more into detail about the psychological interpretations underlying the com-
prehension of the robotized objects behavior, it is possible to distinguish three
levels of complexity. Those three levels represent the way we spontaneously
interpret a perceived behavior and how much sophistication we are ready to ascribe
to an object engaged in a behavior (Fig. 8.7).
To determine whether a behavioral artifact possesses certain psychological
characteristics, we can ask the following three questions: Is it alive? Does it have
intentions? Can it interact socially with other agents? Seeing an object as alive
suggests that its behavior cannot be reduced to external causes and that we perceive
the object as having a certain autonomy with respect to its environment. Adding an
Shy Avoiding staring
into faces
Long and slow,
ease-out,
shaking
Fig. 8.5 From the object point of view, the trajectory from a personality trait to an intention that
reects this personality, which in turn denes some observable characteristics
8 (Mis)behavioral Objects 139
intentional component to its behavior implies that we perceive the behavior as
directed toward the realization of some specic actions that we can evaluate based
on our own naive psychology. Finally, an object identied as having intentional
properties may also be able to engage in social interactions. At this level, an agent is
not only seen as related to the properties of the environment it can perceive, but also
to the values of a social context.
Shy Avoiding staring
into faces
Long and slow,
ease-out,
shaking
Fig. 8.6 From the human point of view, the observed behavior gives some insights about the
objects intention, which may lead to infer a stable personality trait
Fig. 8.7 How much complexity are you ready to ascribe to a behavioral object? We describe here
the properties associated to three different levels of complexity, as well as some examples of
personality traits that might be attributed to an object based on the way it behaves
140 S. Bianchini et al.
Certain personality traits corresponding to those three categories will emerge
depending on the behavioral cues we can gather from the way the object moves and
interacts with its surroundings. While it may be difcult to ascribe personality traits
to an object that is merely seen as alive, some psychological dimensions are
automatically related to the way an object behaves intentionally, how motivated it
looks or how effective it is in the accomplishment of an action. At the social level,
additional psychological components emerge related to the prociency with which
an agent interacts socially, or to its propensity to engage in positively or negatively
valued behaviors.
Whether an object is perceived as engaged in misbehavior will depend on the
level at which the observer locates the object in terms of psychological complexity.
This is why, in order to elicit the proper interpretation and emotion, the designer has
to keep in mind how elaborate the objects behavior should seem, and which
behavioral cues are most relevant to achieving that.
8.5 New Criteria for Enriching Our Methods
of Observation and Our Design Space
Starting from the idea that, to bring about a misbehavior, an observer must be able
to recognize the traces of a behavior in the transformations manifested by the
robotized object, we have elaborated behavioral criteria. Those criteria can both
guide the implementation of movements signicant in terms of a robots action and
to provide objective elements for evaluating the implemented behavior. We have
therefore created eight evaluation scales (Fig. 8.8) to capture certain attributes
critical in the psychological elaboration of a behavior. We are seeking to evaluate to
what extent the movement of the robot appears controlled and to what extent it is in
Fig. 8.8 The eight evaluation scales we devised to evaluate and guide the process of behavior
interpretation
8 (Mis)behavioral Objects 141
reaction to its environment (Action/Perception). We want to know if the robots
movement gives the impression of being directed by goals, by the intention of
completing an action (Intention/Motivation). Finally, we want to determine if the
perceived behavior of the robot has emotional valence (Emotion). These parameters
do not in themselves dene a misbehavior, but they allow for sufcient structuration
of the transformations manifested by the robot so that these can be considered to be
misbehavior. So, for example, to give the impression that a robot is reluctant to
perform a task, the robot must have already demonstrated the ability to perform the
task, whatever it may be, and its behavior must be sufciently organized and
directed for the observer to recognize the specic intention not to perform an action.
Here is a detailed description of the various criteria used to guide the imple-
mentation of the behavior and to evaluate its interpretation:
Does it look alive?
This very general parameter is used to verify if the movements and/or transfor-
mations manifested by the artifact give the impression of a living entity or of a
mechanical entity.
*Action/Perception
Does it appear to be in control of its movements?
This parameter may be the simplest to the extent that it can be evaluated inde-
pendently of the context in which the robot may be found. It is related to the general
appearance of the robots movements. Do changes in its movement occur com-
pletely randomly, or are they organized in time and space? Maintaining a trajectory
and a given speed over a signicant period of time gives the impression of control
over movement, whereas erratic movement leaves one to believe that the robot
cannot withstand certain impulses.
Does it appear to be aware of its environment?
This parameter relates both to the characteristics of movement and to the possi-
bilities of relating movement to elements in the robots immediate environment.
Does the robot take certain environmental limitations into account as it adjusts its
behavior? For example, is it able to avoid certain obstacles? A positive answer
indicates that the robot possesses some perceptual abilities, whereas a negative
answer implies that the robot is not sensitive to its environment, or in any case that
it does not possess the capacity to translate the sensory stimulation it receives into
coordinated movements.
Does it appear to be reactive to external events?
Compared to the previous parameter, this one indicates the quality of the reaction to
specic events in the environment. Does the robot react rapidly to a change in its
environment, or is it slow to produce an appropriate response? Depending on the
speed and intensity of the response to an event, the robot will seem lively, quick to
react to the slightest signal, or on the contrary will seem indifferent to what is
happening around it.
142 S. Bianchini et al.
*Intention/Motivation
Does it appear to be goal-oriented?
In relation to the previous parameters, this one introduces the targeted dimension of
the behavior. Do the robots movements appear to be organized in relationship to a
goal? Does it give the impression of accomplishing a goal? Based on the degree of
organization of the movements, we will see a robot that seems to know more or less
where it is going, what it is supposed to do, and for what purpose.
Does it appear to be motivated?
Following the previous parameter, this one measures the degree of the robots
commitment to a task that it is perceived to be accomplishing. A high score on this
scale could be associated with the impression that the robot is persistent in per-
forming a task, while a lower value could be associated with the impression that the
robot is capricious.
*Emotion
Does it appear to be emotionally aroused?
This parameter is used to assess the extent to which the behavior expresses emotional
values. It is a question of whether the overall behavior of the robot indicates a given level
of excitement. A robot could, for example, give the impression that it is in a hurry, that it
is rushing to nish a task, or that it is moving in an irrational way, as if overcome by
anger. Or the robot could appear self-controlled and moderate as it performs an action.
Does it appear to be stressed by external events?
Here we seek to highlight the quality of the robots responses to external stimuli.
Does the robot react emotionally, does it seem frightened, for example, or excited
by something it has noticed in its environment? A low score on this scale could
indicate that the robot seems apathetic, devoid of emotional reaction.
8.6 MisB Toolkit: A Prototyping Toolkit to Experiment
with Behavioral Objects
If we want to put our projects to the test of reality, and to do so rapidly, so as not to be
dependent on a form of linearity that would lead us from theory to action, from design to
production, it is important to engage in a practicaland therefore technicalexplor-
atory phase, to build our tools and dene the most suitable experimental conditions.
We have to produce testing objects for our project in order to progressively
adjust design and building methods. To organize and stimulate that approach, we
have identied existing techniques that might best meet our needs. To animate
objects independently, the relevant technique is primarily robotics, and more spe-
cically modular robotics, which can be adapted to various forms and movements.
8 (Mis)behavioral Objects 143
We identied four possibly suitable modular robotics products: Lego Mindstorms,
Cubelets, Arcbotics, Bioloid. To select the technology or technologies with which
to work, we decided upon a few criteria: modularity, sturdiness, hardware and
software openness (open source or offering the possibility of interfacing with open
source software and hardware components), ease of use, quality of components, and
cost. Cubelets and Arcbotics soon proved to be inadequate: the rst is very closed,
and the other very fragile, ineffective, and presents major challenges for supply and
support. Lego Mindstorms is very interesting, but is too closed and rooted in the toy
sector, lacking the power and sturdiness needed for our projects. Bioloid, from the
Korean brand Robotis, is the technology we selected because it meets most of our
criteria, with one additional advantage: it allows for a change of scale, moving from
playful or service robotics to industrial robotics in the same software environment.
Indeed, a wide range of motors is available, all drivable with the same control board
and the same software environment. From the Bioloid technology we have pri-
marily maintained the motorization and control system: robust, precise, Dynamixel
motors, easily controllable with the CM09 control board, which is powerful, open,
and built like an Arduino board, perfectly compatible with auteur-oriented open-
source software environments like Processing. In addition, the control board
(CM09) is based on an open-source LeafLabs board under an MIT license, a board
that Robotis modied to support its Dynamixels motors (Fig. 8.9).
Fig. 8.9 The MisB KIT realized by EnsadLab to prototype behavioral objects
144 S. Bianchini et al.
We then combined that system with a set of building blocks we created: solid pieces
and structural elements entirely covered in Velcro, making it possible to assemble
models and modify the assemblages very quickly, like a kind of high-denition
Lego. This principle is as simple as it is powerful, since it makes it possible to create
prototypes in a few minutes with great freedom of action, and other materials can be
associated with the base as long as they also contain Velcro. For instance, structural
units taken directly from KNex building sets have been added to the toolkit, as has a
set of shells and skins for covering our robots, dissociating them from their technical
condition (motorized mechanics) and allowing them to be seen simply as objects.
Along with those choices of materials, we have developed software that provides
simple but open possibilities for the design and production of behaviors. We were
able to develop the software in a technical framework familiar to and mastered by
our community (Art and Design), basing ourselves on the Processing software
environment. Our software makes it possible to drivein real time, via a basic
interface (MIDI console)the objects we have built, to record the movements, to
publish them and create a library that is itself programmable. Movements prepared
in that way are assigned to motors in order to be played, in a linear mode as well as
in conditions relative to the data from sensors onboard the created object, which is
to say interactively (Fig. 8.10).
In order to adjust the movements, they are saved as sound les (WAV), tracing
the dynamics of their motorization, and are therefore publishable as such, in any
existing audio softwareAudacity, for example (Fig. 8.11). Once published and
saved, always in the same WAV format, they can be returned to the movement
library, thereby enriching it.
Like our original approach, these various levels and stages of work allow for rapid
and progressive access, from the simplest (direct manipulation, the object being
remote-controlled) to the most complex (programming, to allow the object to interact
directly with its environment). The open-source software environment is geared to the
broadest audience, making workshops possible for very different groups, from
accompanied beginners to experts.
Fig. 8.10 Interface of the MisB KIT software, developped by EnsadLab
8 (Mis)behavioral Objects 145
8.7 Workshops: The Example of the Misbehavior
of Animated Objects at TEI 2014
Experimentation is at the heart of our project, and it is through experimentation that
we can move forward practically as well as theoretically: it allows us to test our
ideas in an uncontrolled environment and with participants exterior to the project.
To experiment the construction and evaluation of behavioraland even misbe-
havioralobjects collectively, we are developing a series of workshops (Fig. 8.12),
inaugurated by The Misbehavior of Animated Objects
4
at TEI 2014 (8th Inter-
national Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction) in Feb-
ruary 2014, in Munich.
As at TEI, our workshops can currently be organized for a maximum of 18
participants, divided into teams of 23 individuals, experts and beginners. They can
last from one to several days.
At TEI, seating charts had been planned ahead of time, allocating participants for
a maximum of complementarity among engineers, designers, artists, and specialists
in other disciplines, as well as for institutional diversity, to avoid having col-
leaguesat the same table.
Fig. 8.11 How to edit a behavior as a sound inside the framework of the MisB KIT
4
The workshop The Misbehavior of Animated Objects, for TEI 2014, was developed as part of
the collaboration between the Reective Interaction team (directed by Samuel Bianchini) and the
Sociable Media team (directed by Rémy Bourganel), with support from Labex Arts-H2H and the
Bettencourt Schueller Foundation and its Chair for Innovation & Expertise, in dialogue with the
Tangible Media Group of the MIT Medialab (group founded and directed by Hiroshi Ishii) and
with the participation of Jean-Baptiste Labrune and Nicolas Nova. See, URLs, July 9, 2014: http://
www.tei-conf.org/14/studios.php#s9;http://misbehaviour.ensadlab.fr;http://diip.ensadlab.fr/en/
article/axe-5-the-behavior-of-things.
146 S. Bianchini et al.
The workshops are organized into ve stages:
1. Overview of historical and relevant productions for inspiration.
2. Presentation of the creative issues at hand: how to design and make misbe-
havioral objects? Presentation of our design space in relation to those issues, to
stimulate and compel. Introduction to our toolkit via a live demo.
3. Begin handling the toolkit, experimenting and creating animated objects with
misbehaviors in relationship to their context, including the people present.
Materials to dress-up the object are also offered. Facilitators and technology
experts are available for support.
4. Halfway through, each group presents its rst experiments, with its results and
questions as well as its process. During this phase, we invite participants to
simplify, even radicalize their initial idea, then to use different materials to dress
up the objects in order to distance them from their mechanical systems.
5. The last half hour is dedicated to a 3-min demo for each group, in front of all the
other participants. Each demo is lmed and followed by interaction with the
audience (Fig. 8.13).
As examples, we will briey present three projects from the TEI workshop. The
rst is a hemisphere (Fig. 8.14), initially positioned on its rounded side, where it
rocks, picks up speed, seems to want to move, even to turn over, which it succeeds
in doing after a time. So then it nds itself on its at side, unable to move, though it
still tries. The ipping over was described by the young researchers as a radical
Fig. 8.12 Workshop The misbehavior of animated objectsorganized by EnsadLab at the 8th
international conference on tangible, embedded and embodied interaction, February 2014, Munich
8 (Mis)behavioral Objects 147
action (suicide was even mentioned), aiming at a violent change in the ability to
move and therefore in behavior, and aiming also at provoking a kind of empathy
among those watching it and who are able to help it.
A second project uses an object from daily life, a small reusable fabric bag
(Fig. 8.14), like those given away during eco-themed promotions. But the bag is
upside down, it is full, and it moves. When we move towards it, perhaps to pick it
Fig. 8.13 Workshop The misbehavior of animated objectsorganized by EnsadLab at the 8th
international conference on tangible, embedded and embodied interaction, February 2014, Munich
Fig. 8.14 Demo of behavioral objects at the end of the Workshop The misbehavior of animated
objectsorganized by EnsadLab at the 8th international conference on tangible, embedded and
embodied interaction, February 2014, Munich
148 S. Bianchini et al.
up, it tries to catch us, and closes in on itself. In its form, this object eludes our
initial restrictions (neither anthropomorphism nor zoomorphism), as did several
ideas, by giving it an amplied zoomorphic appearance via a behavior that implies a
mouth when the bag closes.
The third object reproduces an everyday object: a garbage can (Fig. 8.14). As
soon as we move closer to take off its cover, it turns around, blocking any access to
its opening and therefore keeping us from putting anything in it. The participants
presented it as an eco garbage can that questions the very act of throwing away.
In addition to the work stages outlined above, we asked participants at the
beginning and at the end of the TEI workshop to write down their denition of
misbehavior in an object. Denitions seem to settle on four dimensions: unex-
pected behavior,socially unacceptable behavior,surprising/poetic(only one
vote), doing differently, intentionally, with an unexpected goal, aiming speci-
cally (as in the garbage can example) at changing the behavior of the audience.
The rst case presented above (the hemisphere) is a good illustration of that last
denition since the ambition is to provoke empathy in the viewer for the object in
difculty. The same is true for the last example (the garbage can) that attempts to
question us about our consumerist behavior. The example of the bag that becomes
an aggressive animal responds to the rst denition more directly, and the second
one in part. The 4 denitions are of interest, but doing differently with a goalis
particularly promising due to its aptitude to transform the public when it is con-
fronted with an object having adopted such a way of being. An experiment like that
one also seems more reproducible, capable of maintaining a sustainable relationship
by being both coherent and unpredictable, displaying autonomy, motivation, and a
form of irrationality.
Based on these rst experiments and analyses, we think misbehavior can be
explored along two main axes, each offering an alternative to a purely utilitarian
relationship: (1) objects whose behavior (possibly moralizing) tends to question users
about their own behavior and thus induce a change of attitude, thereby creating a new
form of empowerment for users; (2) imperfect, clumsy, perhaps handicapped objects
that arouse empathy, able thereby to create a stimulating affect and to hold our
interest. These two approaches point to an answer, from a design point of view, about
how the misbehavior of objects could stimulate a renewed form of habitability in the
world: the empowerment of the object can bring about a favorable subject-subject
relationship from either a moral or an empathic point of view.
That workshop provided an opportunity to test an initial framework for struc-
turing our design space (character/intention/movement). While it proves robust
when output is evaluated, some participants did not follow the model, starting rather
from an exploration of movement, trying it out and then rationalizing it afterwards,
a posteriori, in line with our model. The model nonetheless made it possible to
quickly test if the projects conception is structured and consistent with our
expectations. The 3-level organization of our rst design spacefrom the most
basic form (the demonstration that the object appears to be alive) towards agency
and then social agencymade it possible to protably limit the expectations of the
workshop by focusing on the rst level: trying to give lifeby simulating
8 (Mis)behavioral Objects 149
misbehavior. In light of the results, that rst design space provides a foundation that
encourages us to continue. The second and, even more so, the third level of our
design space presents a complexity that seemed difcult to address in the context of
such a workshop with the toolkit as it was then. But the fact of having dened the
three levels, and, more broadly, of offering a rst design space for our toolkit
allowed us to raise several essential questions that encourage us to conclude with
new perspectives for research and creation.
8.8 Conclusion
The goal of our project is to address the subject of (mis)behavioral objects by
bringing together several points of view and methods, in order to balance reection
and practical engagement. Our historical approach, taking the current situation into
account, therefore aims to position us and to clarify our subject in relation to what
already exists. The contribution of the cognitive sciences takes advantage of those
existing elements by studying the most convincing cases.
5
At the same time, based
on the analysis of those cases, of our practical intentions, and of their testing
through experimentation, researchers in the cognitive sciences can propose models
to guide our analysis and design, as for our rst attempts at the design space.
From the very rst implementations, models are tested in experiments, and then
give riseafter observation and analysis using an iterative methodologyto
adjustments and to new implementations. Starting this way from the rst models,
we will progressively adjust our design space as well as our toolkit. However, we
are aware that this attempt at modeling must primarily constitute a foundation for
design, but denitely not a simplistic grid that would only validate projects able to
conform to it.
It is clear that the tools developed (the design space and the toolkit) are con-
ceived generatively, in the sense that their vocation is to inspire creation through
practice. If reection and hands-on participation are to be combined, it is above all
to stimulate creativity and not at all to restrict or inhibit it.
After these rst steps through which we developed the project using different
approaches, we are confronted with many questions that should have an impact on
the way we adjust our research in practice and in theory. Among these, we retain
one that took form during our exchanges with Hiroshi Ishii during preparation for
our TEI workshop: if an object could include the ability to demonstrate
5
We recently organized an in situ study, meaning in the exhibition itself, of Céleste Boursier-
Mougenots work Off Road (2013), when it was shown in the spring of 2014 at the Abattoirs,
musée d'art contemporain de Toulouse. The study aiming to establish the psychological prole
of this behavioral work, based on the perceptions of the public, is being carried out by Florent
Levillain, under the direction of Elisabetta Zibetti in the context of the research project The
Behavior of Things, and in collaboration with sociologist Naoko Abe (as part of his post-doc with
the Gepetto Team at the LAAS-CNRS, Toulouse).
150 S. Bianchini et al.
misbehaviors, how to make certain that these remain unexpected, since once we
understand their motivations, and the way they are manifested, those behaviors no
longer seem unexpected and provocative? How to preserve an unpredictable
character that would qualify the misbehaviors over time? Several strategies are
possible; the main one is certainly to be found in the programming of robotized
objects, thereby joining in the pursuit of articial intelligenceand its many
endeavors that consist of providing adaptiveand perhaps emergentabilities to
objects controlled by programs.
If we must inevitably have recourse to some of the results of that research, we do
not wish toand cannotset ourselves up in competition with it. Instead, we want
to try to nd other solutions more in line with the DIYspirit present in the
development of our toolkit. So rather than contributing the indeterminate through a
software angle, it is to the materials side that we are now looking. How to integrate
materials that produce actions, reactions, and unpredictable movements? Because as
soon as one adds materials to variable physical behaviors(including ordinary
materials such as rubber, for example), then the whole of the objects movement
will be transformed if the material is skillfully employed. Incorporating that form of
open-ended plasticity, the object will necessarily react with movements as unex-
pected as they are uncontrollable. Of course, beyond the implementation of that
plasticity, we could consideronce again from a more technological point of view
integrating materials with open but reactive behaviors, meaning whose reactions
are partially controlled, or at least their activation and perhaps their movementso-
called intelligentmaterials. This consideration of the plasticity of materials may
allow for the combining of the psychologicaland the materialbehavioral
dimensions. That will be a next stage in our work.
Finally, to continue and to our broaden reection on the attribution of behaviors
to objects, we might look into behaviors from a moralapproach. In that case,
behavioral objects would no longer be understood only in terms of how people
ascribe intentions, beliefs, or goals to them, but in how values specic to objects, by
virtue of their autonomy and their inherent capacity for afrmation and action,
might emerge in the human world.
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Some researchers have suggested that infants' ability to reason about goals develops as a result of their experiences with human agents and is then gradually extended to other agents. Other researchers have proposed that goal attribution is rooted in a specialized system of reasoning that is activated whenever infants encounter entities with appropriate features (e.g., self-propulsion). The first view predicts that young infants should attribute goals to human but not other agents; the second view predicts that young infants should attribute goals to both human and nonhuman agents. The present research revealed that 5-month-old infants (the youngest found thus far to attribute goals to human agents) also attribute goals to nonhuman agents. In two experiments, infants interpreted the actions of a self-propelled box as goal-directed. These results provide support for the view that from an early age, infants attribute goals to any entity they identify as an agent.
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Today designers often focus on making technology easy to use, sexy, and consumable. In "Speculative Everything," Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby propose a kind of design that is used as a tool to create not only things but ideas. For them, design is a means of speculating about how things could be -- to imagine possible futures. This is not the usual sort of predicting or forecasting, spotting trends and extrapolating; these kinds of predictions have been proven wrong, again and again. Instead, Dunne and Raby pose "what if" questions that are intended to open debate and discussion about the kind of future people want (and do not want). "Speculative Everything" offers a tour through an emerging cultural landscape of design ideas, ideals, and approaches. Dunne and Raby cite examples from their own design and teaching and from other projects from fine art, design, architecture, cinema, and photography. They also draw on futurology, political theory, the philosophy of technology, and literary fiction. They show us, for example, ideas for a solar kitchen restaurant; a flypaper robotic clock; a menstruation machine; a cloud-seeding truck; a phantom-limb sensation recorder; and devices for food foraging that use the tools of synthetic biology. Dunne and Raby contend that if we speculate more -- about everything -- reality will become more malleable. The ideas freed by speculative design increase the odds of achieving desirable futures. © 2013 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. All rights reserved.
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Cybernetics is often thought of as a grim military or industrial science of control. But as Andrew Pickering reveals in this beguiling book, a much more lively and experimental strain of cybernetics can be traced from the 1940s to the present. The Cybernetic Brain explores a largely forgotten group of British thinkers, including Grey Walter, Ross Ashby, Gregory Bateson, R. D. Laing, Stafford Beer, and Gordon Pask, and their singular work in a dazzling array of fields. Psychiatry, engineering, management, politics, music, architecture, education, tantric yoga, the Beats, and the sixties counterculture all come into play as Pickering follows the history of cybernetics’ impact on the world, from contemporary robotics and complexity theory to the Chilean economy under Salvador Allende. What underpins this fascinating history, Pickering contends, is a shared but unconventional vision of the world as ultimately unknowable, a place where genuine novelty is always emerging. And thus, Pickering avers, the history of cybernetics provides us with an imaginative model of open-ended experimentation in stark opposition to the modern urge to achieve domination over nature and each other.
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This paper reports a habituation study indicating that 12-month-old infants can take the "intentional stance" in interpreting the goal-directed spatial behavior of a rational agent. First, we examine previous empirical claims suggesting that the ability to attribute intentions to others emerges during the second half of the first year. It is argued that neither the perceptual evidence (concerning the early ability to discriminate agents), nor the behavioral data (indicating the use of communicative gestures for instrumental purposes) are sufficient to support such claims about the early appearance of a theory of mind, as there are alternative explanations for these phenomena in terms of simpler psychological processes. It is then suggested that to show that an infant indeed attributes an intention to interpret the goal-directed behavior of a rational agent, one needs to demonstrate that the baby can generate an expectation about the most rational future means action that the agent will perform in a new situation to achieve its goal. We then describe a visual habituation study that meets this requirement. The results demonstrate that based on the equifinal structure of an agent's spatial behavior, 12-month-old infants can identify the agent's goal and interpret its actions causally in relation to it. Furthermore, our study indicates that infants of this age are able to evaluate the rationality of the agent's goal-directed actions, which is a necessary requirement for applying the intentional stance. In closing, we discuss some of the theoretical and methodological implications of our study.
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Certain simple visual displays consisting of moving 2-D geometric shapes can give rise to percepts with high-level properties such as causality and animacy. This article reviews recent research on such phenomena, which began with the classic work of Michotte and of Heider and Simmel. The importance of such phenomena stems in part from the fact that these interpretations seem to be largely perceptual in nature - to be fairly fast, automatic, irresistible and highly stimulus driven - despite the fact that they involve impressions typically associated with higher-level cognitive processing. This research suggests that just as the visual system works to recover the physical structure of the world by inferring properties such as 3-D shape, so too does it work to recover the causal and social structure of the world by inferring properties such as causality and animacy.
Life, an introduction to biology
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