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How do we understand the behavior of others?: The agency system Clark Barrett UCLA

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1 How do we understand the behavior of others?: The agency system Clark Barrett UCLA barrett@anthro.ucla.edu

2 Heider and Simmel (1944)

3 What is agency? Agency = the capacity to act in a goal-directed (intentional) way Humans use the “intentional stance” (Dennett 1987) to interpret and make predictions about behavior. Main question: What cognitive mechanisms allow us to do this?

4 Talk outline Research goal: searching for building blocks of the agency system 1.Perceptual templates / schemas 2.Conceptual schemas 3.Switching the system on and off 4.Interactions with other systems: agency and social cognition Concluding speculations

5 Why should you care? (Why is the agency system important for culture, norms, and evolution?) A) A security guard fails to detect a terrorist  50 people die. B) A security guard throws a grenade into a plane full of passengers  50 people die. Perhaps understanding intentions gets you more than just looking at outcomes? (Intentions in behavioral econ: Blount, McCabe)

6 Decomposing the agency system [Ultimate] goal: a computational account

7 A “black box” account (non-computational) Perceptual cues Behavior predictions INPUTS “ Theory of mind ”, “ Belief / desire reasoning ”, “ Intentional stance ” OUTPUTS Knowledge Judgments & Decisions ? What’s in here?

8 Inside the black box (a modular, or computational, account) Perceptual cues Predator-prey schema Social Xch schema Etc. Behavior predictions INPUTS Conceptual schemas OUTPUTS Scope restrictors / modifiers John Susan Jim Human Dog Lion IndividualsTaxa Processor (“ToMM”) Knowledge Perceptual templates / schemas Judgments & Decisions (AD, ID)

9 Inside the black box (a modular, or computational, account) Perceptual cues Predator-prey schema Social Xch schema Etc. Behavior predictions INPUTS Conceptual schemas OUTPUTS Scope restrictors John Susan Jim Human Dog Lion IndividualsTaxa Processor (“ToMM”) Knowledge Perceptual templates / schemas Judgments & Decisions

10 Perceptual templates Achieving (many) goals entail certain kinds of motion: e.g., pursuit If intentions have motion signatures, “templates” can be made: detectors Does the mind contain such templates for detecting particular kinds of intentional behavior?

11 What basic motion schemas do people possess?

12 An experimental study of intentional motion perception Todd, Barrett, Miller, & Blythe

13 Question: can people reliably use motion to infer the intentions of agents, and categorize them? Categories: Pursuit, court, lead / follow, guard, fight, play Generated by German adults in game context, evaluated by second set of judges (free descriptions, forced choice) Within categories, no two exemplars alike; must rely on abstract qualities to make judgment

14 6-category study: German adults

15 German 3-5 yr olds

16 But: Are Germans just communicating a culturally shared schema to other Germans? Or are these motion schemas universal?

17 Cross-cultural study: Shuar of Ecuador

18

19 4-category cross-cultural study CategoriesShuarGerman Shuar adults, horticulturalists N=23 Berlin college students N=40 Berlin kindergarteners age 3-5, N=36 ChaseApapéatinVerfolgen FightMániatinKämpfen LeadJintíatinFühren PlayNakurústinSpielen

20 Shuar and German adults

21 Motion perception: summary There appear to exist motion schemas for particular kinds of intention The same templates are present across cultures

22 Conceptual schemas

23 Perceptual cues Predator-prey schema Social Xch schema Etc. Behavior predictions INPUTS Conceptual schemas OUTPUTS Scope restrictors John Susan Jim Human Dog Lion IndividualsTaxa Processor (“ToMM”) Knowledge Perceptual templates / schemas Judgments & Decisions

24 Perceptual cues Predator-prey schema Social Xch schema Etc. Behavior predictions INPUTS Conceptual schemas OUTPUTS Scope restrictors John Susan Jim Human Dog Lion IndividualsTaxa Processor (“ToMM”) Knowledge Perceptual templates / schemas Judgments & Decisions

25 Conceptual schemas Function: making inferences about particular kinds of intentional interaction. May be many, e.g. : –Social exchange, –mating, –parent / offspring, –predator / prey, –kin altruism –Fiske: relational models Is there evidence for them?

26 Predator-prey schema  Pre-contact  Predator Mutual Prey detects preydetectiondetects predator  (  )  () ApproachWait / FleeWait / Hide Hide / Ambush  Pursuit Key Agents Parameters  predator  knowledge relation prey  action relation death

27 Study of children’s inferences about predator-prey interactions Barrett, Cosmides, & Tooby Shuar (N=28) and German (N=38) 3 to 5 year olds Simulated predator-prey encounter with plastic models (Jaguar / horse; Lion / zebra) At each stage, children predict what will happen next Also infer mental states of predator and prey

28 Example question: When the lion sees the zebra, what does the lion want to do ? Schema-consistent: –Chase zebra –Catch zebra –Bite zebra –Eat zebra –Kill zebra Inconsistent: –Go away (N=1 german) –Eat grass (N=1 shuar) Rest DK or no response 3 yrs4 yrs5 yrs

29 Q: When the lion catches the zebra, what will happen? Schema-consistent: –Lion hurts zebra –Lion kills and / or eats zebra Inconsistent: –German 3yr: "then he wants to go to the hospital" (not clear if lion or zebra –German 3 yr: "lion climbs up to the window and falls down“ But: Few unrealistic or “fantasy” answers German + Shuar similar: surprising on cultural view 3 yrs4 yrs5 yrs

30 3 yrs4 yrs5 yrs Summary of responses on predator-prey questions

31 Predator-prey schema: Summary Predator-prey schema is present at an early age across cultures Leads to realistic inferences about predator and prey behavior Similar in very different cultures, uncontaminated by cultural inputs like fairy tales and cartoons Other schemas?

32 Perceptual cues Predator-prey schema Social Xch schema Etc. Behavior predictions INPUTS Conceptual schemas OUTPUTS Scope restrictors John Susan Jim Human Dog Lion IndividualsTaxa Processor (“ToMM”) Knowledge Perceptual templates / schemas Judgments & Decisions

33 Development of social exchange schema Barrett, Keller, Takezawa, Wichary Examined children’s judgments of violations of bilateral social contracts And predictions of reactions of different parties to violations German 1 st and 4 th graders

34 Children’s judgments of contract violations

35 Predicted reactions of victim of contract violation

36 Predicted reactions of violator

37 Social contract schema: Summary Even young children can identify contract violations Ability to predict other’s reactions in social exchange situations may be useful for moderating one’s own behavior Future research: what other schemas are there? When do they schemas develop? (e.g. mating?)

38 Switching the agency system on and off

39 Agency detection Some things are agents, and some are not Agents require vigilance, and figuring out what they are trying to do Assuming everything is an agent entails costs Selects for discrimination between agents and non-agents

40 Agency detection activates appropriate inference systems AGENTNON- AGENT Activate agency system Activate other object system (e.g. substance) Inferences licensed: can move, will react if touched, can hurt you… etc Inferences licensed: can’t move, will not react if touched, can be subdivided into pieces that retain properties, etc… Different patterns of inference:

41 What about dead things?

42 Death as the cessation of agency Barrett and Behne Hypothesis: Agency detection system contains a “remapping” routine AGENT  SUBSTANCE COWSTEAK Activate agency system Activate substance system ALIVEDEAD Different inference patterns Deactivate agency system, activate substance system

43 Cross-cultural test of cessation of agency hypothesis 3 to 5 year old German and Shuar children Sleep vs death: Animals and people Target questions: –Can it move? –If you touched it, could it move? –Could it hurt you? –If you made a noise, could it know you were there? –Could it be afraid? Sleep / death is a strong test

44 Patterns of inference for sleep vs death Move?If touched?Hurt you?Detect you?Be afraid? GERMAN SHUAR

45 Mean # correct responses by population and age GermanShuar

46 Cessation of agency: summary Agency inferences can be switched on and off for a particular object This aspect of agency detection present by age 4 or earlier Same developmental trajectory across cultures: suggests core feature of agency system

47 Agency and social cognition Is a norm violated if it is violated by mistake?

48 Intentions and social contract violation Cosmides (1989: social contracts are agreements to exchange benefits Cheating = accepting benefit without paying cost But: Suppose you agree to give your friend $1000 if he will give you his car next week. However, his car is stolen. Has he cheated you? Perhaps intentions are an important part of social contracts.

49 Social contract Wason Social contract rule: “If you give me your watch, then I will give you $10” Watchno watch$10$5 P~pq~q About 75% of people pick violation cards

50 Manipulating intent, incentive, ability Cover story manipulated so that potential violator either had: 1.Intent to violate, or violated by mistake 2.Incentive to violate, or no incentive 3.Ability to violate, or no ability (except at random) How do the presence or absence of these factors affect subject’s vigilance for cheaters (card turning patterns)?

51 Benefit / Intent / Ability: You supervise four women who volunteered to help out at the local Board of Education. Your volunteers were supposed to follow certain rules for assigning students from various towns to the appropriate school district. Each volunteer is the mother of a teenager who is about to enter high school, and each processed her own child’s documents. You overheard that some of your volunteers intended to break the rules when it came to assigning their own children to a school. Here is the situation: Although both communities are equally prosperous, the parents in Dover City have always cared about the quality of their schools, including Dover High, and have been willing to pay for it. In contrast, the parents in the neighboring town of Hanover have never wanted to spend the money, and have opposed any taxes to improve Hanover High. The Board of Education created this rule: “If a student is to be assigned to Dover High School, then that student must live in Dover City.” A. Dover High School B. Dover City C. Hanover High School D. town of Hanover Operationalizing intent

52 Without intent Benefit / Ability You supervise four women who volunteered to help out at the local Board of Education. Your volunteers were supposed to follow certain rules for assigning students from various towns to the appropriate school district. Each volunteer is the mother of a teenager who is about to enter high school, and each processed her own child’s documents. You know your volunteers are honest, but you suspect that they may have made some innocent mistakes: they may have broken the rules for assigning each child to a particular school...

53 Operationalizing incentive, ability Incentive: parents sort their own students into schools, or only students of others Ability: students names are written on sheet, or students identified only by code numbers

54 ~20%

55 Agency and social contracts: summary Vigilance for cheating affected ~ 20% for each factor Additive The difference between intentional and accidental violation of norms may be important in many other contexts as well: killing, politeness, fairness, etc..

56 Conclusion

57 Summary of findings The agency system is not a single “ability,” but is comprised of many components Perceptual templates for identifying agents and specific intentions of agents Conceptual schemas for reasoning about intentions: provide the content for theory of mind Agency system can be turned on and off Agency system can influence social attribution and decision making processes

58 Perceptual cues Behavior predictions INPUTS “ Theory of mind ”, “ Belief / desire reasoning ”, “ Intentional stance ” OUTPUTS Knowledge Judgments & Decisions ? What’s in here? Eventually, we will need a fully computational account…

59 (Which might or might not look something like this.) Perceptual cues Predator-prey schema Social Xch schema Etc. Behavior predictions INPUTS Conceptual schemas OUTPUTS Scope restrictors John Susan Jim Human Dog Lion IndividualsTaxa Processor (“ToMM”) Knowledge Perceptual templates / schemas Judgments & Decisions

60 Understanding the agency system might have many implications for understanding social evolution. How important is the ability to understand intent for the evolution of cooperation, norms, etc?

61 The end


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