Biological and Computational Perspectives on the Emergence of Social Phenomena: Shared Understanding and Collective Power

  • Jan Treur
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 7430)


Shared understanding and collective power are social phenomena that serve as a form of glue between individual persons. They easily emerge and often involve both cognitive and affective aspects. As the behaviour of each person is based on complex internal mental processes involving, for example, own goals, emotions and beliefs, it would be expected that such sharedness and collectiveness is very hard to achieve. Apparently, specific mechanisms are required to tune the individual mental processes to each other in order to enable the emergence of shared mental states and collective behaviour. Having knowledge about these mechanisms in a biological context provides a basis to modelling corresponding mechanisms in a compuational setting. From a biological perspective, mirror neurons and internal simulation are core concepts to explain the mechanisms underlying such social phenomena. In this paper it is discussed how based on such neurological concepts computational mechanisms can be identified to obtain human-like social agent models. It is discussed how these social agent models indeed are an adequate basis for the emergence of shared understanding and collective power in groups of agents.


Agent Model Shared Understanding Mirror Neuron Mirror Neuron System Prepared Action 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Bechara, A., Damasio, H., Damasio, A.R.: Role of the Amygdala in Decision-Making. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 985, 356–369 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Becker, W., Fuchs, A.F.: Prediction in the Oculomotor System: Smooth Pursuit During Transient Disappearance of a Visual Target. Experimental Brain Research 57, 562–575 (1985)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Bickmore, T.W., Picard, R.W.: Towards Caring Machines. In: Dykstra-Erickson, E., Tscheligi, M. (eds.) Proceedings of CHI 2004, pp. 1489–1492. ACM (2004)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Bosse, T., Duell, R., Memon, Z.A., Treur, J., van der Wal, C.N.: A Multi-agent Model for Emotion Contagion Spirals Integrated within a Supporting Ambient Agent Model. In: Yang, J.-J., Yokoo, M., Ito, T., Jin, Z., Scerri, P. (eds.) PRIMA 2009. LNCS (LNAI), vol. 5925, pp. 48–67. Springer, Heidelberg (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bosse, T., Hoogendoorn, M., Klein, M.C.A., Treur, J., van der Wal, C.N.: Agent-Based Analysis of Patterns in Crowd Behaviour Involving Contagion of Mental States. In: Mehrotra, K.G., Mohan, C.K., Oh, J.C., Varshney, P.K., Ali, M. (eds.) IEA/AIE 2011, Part II. LNCS (LNAI), vol. 6704, pp. 566–577. Springer, Heidelberg (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Bosse, T., Memon, Z.A., Treur, J.: A Cognitive and Neural Model for Adaptive Emotion Reading by Mirroring Preparation States and Hebbian Learning. Cognitive Systems Research 12, 39–58 (2012), doi:10.1016/j.cogsys.2010.10.003.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Brass, M., Spengler, S.: The Inhibition of Imitative Behaviour and Attribution of Mental States. In: Striano, T., Reid, V. (eds.), Social Cognition: Development, Neuroscience, and Autism, pp. 52–66. Wiley-Blackwell (2009)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Butz, M.V.: Intentions and Mirror Neurons: From the Individual to Overall Social Reality. Constructivist Foundations 3, 87–89 (2008)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Cacioppo, J.T., Berntson, G.G.: Social neuroscience. Psychology Press (2005)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Cacioppo, J.T., Visser, P.S., Pickett, C.L.: Social neuroscience: People thinking about thinking people. MIT Press, Cambridge (2006)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Cochin, S., Barthelemy, B., Roux, S., Martineau, J.: Observation and Execution of movement similarities demonstrated by quantified electroencephalography. European Journal of Neuroscience 11, 1839–1842 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Combs, A., Krippner, S.: Collective Consciousness and the Social Brain. Journal of Consciousness Studies 15, 264–276 (2008)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Damasio, A.: Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain. Papermac, London (1994)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Damasio, A.: The Somatic Marker Hypothesis and the Possible Functions of the Prefrontal Cortex. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences 351, 1413–1420 (1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Damasio, A.: The Feeling of What Happens. Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness. Harcourt Brace, New York (1999)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Damasio, A.: Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain. Vintage books, London (2003)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Damasio, A.R.: Self comes to mind: constructing the conscious brain. Pantheon Books, NY (2010)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    De Vignemont, F., Singer, T.: The empathic brain: how, when and why? Trends in Cogn. Sciences 10, 437–443 (2006)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Decety, J., Cacioppo, J.T. (eds.): Handbook of Social Neuroscience. Oxford University Press (2010)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Decety, J., Ickes, W.: The Social Neuroscience of Empathy. MIT Press (2009)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Fried, I., Mukamel, R., Kreiman, G.: Internally Generated Preactivation of Single Neurons in Human Medial Frontal Cortex Predicts Volition. Neuron 69, 548–562 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Gallese, V.: The Roots of Empathy: The Shared Manifold Hypothesis and the Neural Basis of Intersubjectivity. Psychopathology 36, 171–180 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Gallese, V., Fadiga, L., Fogassi, L., Rizzolatti, G.: Action Recognition in the Premotor Cortex. Brain 119, 593–609 (1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Gallese, V., Goldman, A.: Mirror neurons and the simulation theory of mind-reading. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 2, 493–501 (1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Gastout, H.J., Bert, J.: EEG changes during cimatographic presentation. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology 6, 433–444 (1954)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Goldman, A.I.: Simulating Minds: The Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience of Mindreading. Oxford Univ. Press, New York (2006)Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Grafton, S.T., Arbib, M.A., Fadiga, L., Rizzolatti, G.: Localisation of grasp representations in humans by PET: 2. Obervation Compared with Imagination. Experimental Brain Research 112, 103–111 (1996)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Harmon-Jones, E., Winkielman, P. (eds.): Social neuroscience: Integrating biological and psychological explanations of social behavior. Guilford, New York (2007)Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Hendriks, M., Treur, J.: Modeling Super Mirroring Functionality in Action Execution, Imagination, Mirroring, and Imitation. In: Pan, J.-S., Chen, S.-M., Nguyen, N.T. (eds.) ICCCI 2010, Part I. LNCS (LNAI), vol. 6421, pp. 330–342. Springer, Heidelberg (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Hesslow, G.: Conscious thought as simulation of behaviour and perception. Trends Cogn. Sci. 6, 242–247 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Hickok, G.: Eight Problems for the Mirror Neuron Theory of Action Understanding in Monkeys and Humans. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 21, 1229–1243 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Hoogendoorn, M., Treur, J., van der Wal, C.N., van Wissen, A.: Agent-Based Modelling of the Emergence of Collective States Based on Contagion of Individual States in Groups. Transactions on Computational Collective Intelligence 3, 152–179 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Hoogendoorn, M., Treur, J., van der Wal, C.N., van Wissen, A.: Modelling the Interplay of Emotions, Beliefs and Intentions within Collective Decision Making Based on Insights from Social Neuroscience. In: Wong, K.W., Mendis, B.S.U., Bouzerdoum, A. (eds.) ICONIP 2010, Part I. LNCS (LNAI), vol. 6443, pp. 196–206. Springer, Heidelberg (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Iacoboni, M.: Mirroring People: the New Science of How We Connect with Others. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York (2008)Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Iacoboni, M.: Mesial frontal cortex and super mirror neurons. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 31, 30–30 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Iacoboni, M., Molnar-Szakacs, I., Gallese, V., Buccino, G., Mazziotta, J.C., Rizzolatti, G.: Grasping the intentions of others with one’s own mirror neuron system. PLoS Biology 3, e79 (2005)Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    James, W.: What is an emotion. Mind 9, 188–205 (1884)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Keysers, C., Gazzola, V.: Social Neuroscience: Mirror Neurons Recorded in Humans. Current Biology 20, 253–254 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Laan, Y. van der, Treur, J.: An Agent Model for Computational Analysis of Mirroring Dysfunctioning in Autism Spectrum Disorders. In: Mehrotra, K.G., Mohan, C.K., Oh, J.C., Varshney, P.K., Ali, M. (eds.) IEA/AIE 2011, Part I. LNCS, vol. 6703, pp. 306–316. Springer, Heidelberg (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Lipps, T.: Einfühlung, innere Nachahmung und Organempfindung. Archiv für die gesamte Psychologie 1, 465–519 (1903)Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Memon, Z.A., Treur, J.: Designing Social Agents with Empathic Understanding. In: Nguyen, N.T., Kowalczyk, R., Chen, S.-M. (eds.) ICCCI 2009. LNCS (LNAI), vol. 5796, pp. 279–293. Springer, Heidelberg (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Morrison, S.E., Salzman, C.D.: Re-valuing the amygdala. Current Opinion in Neurobiology 20, 221–230 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Mukamel, R., Ekstrom, A.D., Kaplan, J., Iacoboni, M., Fried, I.: Single-Neuron Responses in Humans during Execution and Observation of Actions. Current Biology 20, 750–756 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Murray, E.A.: The amygdala, reward and emotion. Trends Cogn. Sci. 11, 489–497 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Pineda, J.A. (ed.): Mirror Neuron Systems: the Role of Mirroring Processes in Social Cognition. Humana Press Inc. (2009)Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Preston, S.D., de Waal, F.B.M.: Empathy: its ultimate and proximate bases. Behav. Brain Sci. 25, 1–72 (2002)Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Rifkin, J.: The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis. Tarcher Penguin (2010)Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Rizzolatti, G., Fadiga, L., Gallese, V., Fogassi, L.: Premotor Cortex and the Recognition of Motor Actions. Cognitive Brain Research 3, 131–141 (1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Rizzolatti, G., Fogassi, L., Matelli, M., et al.: Localisation of grasp representations in humans by PET: 1. Obervation and Execution. Experimental Brain Research 111, 246–252 (1996)Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Rizzolatti, G., Craighero, L.: The Mirror Neuron System. Annual Review of Neuroscience 27, 169–192 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Rizzolatti, G., Sinigaglia, C.: Mirrors in the Brain: How Our Minds Share Actions and Emotions. Oxford University Press (2008)Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Seybold, K.S.: Biology of Spirituality. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 62, 89–98 (2010)Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Shamay-Tsoory, S.G.: Empathic processing: its cognitive and affective dimensions and neuroanatomical basis. In: Decety, J., Ickes, W. (eds.) The Social Neuroscience of Empathy, pp. 215–232. MIT Press, Cambridge (2008)Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Shamay-Tsoory, S.G.: The Neural Bases for Empathy. Neurosc. 17, 18–24 (2011)Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Sharpanskykh, A., Treur, J.: Abstraction Relations Between Internal and Behavioural Agent Models for Collective Decision Making. In: Pan, J.-S., Chen, S.-M., Nguyen, N.T. (eds.) ICCCI 2010, Part I. LNCS (LNAI), vol. 6421, pp. 39–53. Springer, Heidelberg (2010); Extended version in: Web Intelligence and Agent Systems (2011) (to appear)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    Sharpanskykh, A., Treur, J.: Behavioural Abstraction of Agent Models Addressing Mutual Interaction of Cognitive and Affective Processes. In: Yao, Y., Sun, R., Poggio, T., Liu, J., Zhong, N., Huang, J. (eds.) BI 2010. LNCS (LNAI), vol. 6334, pp. 67–77. Springer, Heidelberg (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. 57.
    Singer, T., Leiberg, S.: Sharing the Emotions of Others: The Neural Bases of Empathy. In: Gazzaniga, M.S. (ed.) The Cognitive Neurosciences, 4th edn., pp. 973–986. MIT Press (2009)Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Treur, J.: A Cognitive Agent Model Displaying and Regulating Different Social Response Patterns. In: Walsh, T. (ed.) Proceedings of the Twenty-Second International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, IJCAI 2011, pp. 1735–1742. AAAI Press (2011), doi:10.5591/978-1-57735-516-8Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Treur, J.: A Cognitive Agent Model Incorporating Prior and Retrospective Ownership States for Actions. In: Walsh, T. (ed.) Proceedings of the Twenty-Second International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, IJCAI 2011, pp. 1743–1749. AAAI Press (2011), doi:10.5591/978-1-57735-516-8Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    Voss, M., Moore, J., Hauser, M., Gallinat, J., Heinz, A., Haggard, P.: Altered awareness of action in schizophrenia: a specific deficit in predicting action consequences. Brain 133, 3104–3112 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. 61.
    Wolpert, D.M.: Computational approaches to motor control. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 1, 209–216 (1997)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan Treur
    • 1
  1. 1.Agent Systems Research GroupVU University AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations