Intersubjectivity and turn-taking
We introduce a simulation study designed to develop a “synthetic psychology” (Braitenberg, 1984). Instead of studying real human/animal behavior, we study autonomous behavior of mobile agents that have virtual sensors to “see” the world and move around with virtual “wheels.” The autonomous behavior is synthesized by the agent's internal dynamics, which evolve using a genetic algorithm. A purpose of synthetic psychology is to create a new concept in order to understand an essential psychological phenomenon. Therefore, the simulation framework has to use models sufficiently simple to analyze the behavior, but sufficiently complex to provide a theory to understand the psychological experiments.
As an example of synthetic psychology, we describe a simulation study of turn-taking using coupled dynamical recognizers. Studying turn-taking phenomena in robot experiments (e.g. Brooks et al., 1999; Dautenhahn, 1999; Steels and Kaplan, 2001; Miyake et al., in press) stresses the importance of embodiment and situatedness. In particular, MIT AI Lab's well-designed face robot, Kismet (Kismet project, 2000), can make use of human social protocols to stimulate natural emotions and social responses in humans. Even conversational turn-taking is established with a human subject. To do this, Kismet relies on subtle cues of human expression and interaction dynamics. Dautenhahn et al. used a mobile robot and a small humanoid robot to investigate the use of robotic toys in therapy and education of children with autism (Dautenhahn et al., 2002; AuRoRA project, 2005). These robots engage in playing a game with autistic children to elicit turn-taking and imitation.