CogSci 213
Embodied Models of Development (Fall 2002)

Gedeon Deák,
CSB 162
Jochen Triesch,
CSB 143
(858) 822-3317

Tuesday&Thursday 12:30-2:00, CSB 272
Grading options: A to F
Credits: 4 credit units

Assignment Links: proposal, manifesto, leading discussion


This seminar will explore the role that embodied models (e.g. robots) may play in developmental theorizing. It aims at bringing together scholars with different backgrounds ranging from developmental psychology to computer science or anybody else interested in development and embodied models of cognitive phenomena. Although participants are not required to have experience in computational modeling, they are expected to read papers from the areas of computational modeling and robotics. During the first three weeks we will read the book "Being There" by Andy Clark (around $20 but also available online) and go over some background material. Then we will look at some special topics in more depth, reading some classic and recent papers on the topics.

Assignments and Grading

Next to required readings, every participant will be asked to actively participate in the group discussions. Also, you will be asked to present one or two papers to the group. Finally, you will prepare a research proposal in the area of embodied models of the development of cognition.

The primary criterion for evaluation is regularly attending, having read the assignments and being prepared to enthusiastically, constructively participate in discussions. This will count for 50% of the course grade. The balance of your grade will be based on:

Contributing to the manifesto: 10%

Leading class lectures/discussions: 10%

Final group proposal: 30%


Related Things

  • Please check out the seminar series of the Center for Human Development.
  • Bruno Olshausen talks in the INC seminar series:
    Tuesday October 29, 2002 12:00 Noon
    Center for Neuroscience
    University of California, Davis
    "Sparse Coding of Time-Varying Natural Images"
    Room 003, Cognitive Science Building

click on image to enlarge,
book available online


In the first three weeks we will review relevant material from the areas of brain development, developmental psychology, computational modeling, and development in order to "establish a common basis" for the diverse audience. In subsequent weeks we will cover the following main topic areas: learning visual representations (V1, higher areas, faces), sensorimotor development (gaze control), early social development (pointing, gaze following), imitation.

Foundation Weeks (10/3 - 10/15) :

10/1 Infant development: Integration with a social world

G.D. lectures

10/3 Biological foundations of brain development

Guest Lecture: Prof. Leslie Carver (Psychology and Human Development)

10/8 Unsupervised learning, power point slides,

J.T. lectures

10/10 Reinforcement learning, power point slides,

J.T. lectures

10/15 Embodiment: Relating brain, behavior, social environment, & infant development.
Discussion of Clark chs. 1-8: What counts as an explanation? What makes theories and embodied models worthwhile?
This meeting will be central to your assignment to produce Manifesto on the Desiderata for Modeling of Behavioral Development. Form groups and pick area of proposal.

Special Topic Weeks (10/17 - 11/26) :

I. Development of sensory representations (10/17 - 10/24)

Keywords: early and higher visual representations, faces.
Guest Lecture: Prof. Garrison Cottrell (CSE)

How do visual representations develop in the young infant? What are the roles of nature and nurture? Current modeling approaches typically focus entirely on the statistical properties of natural visual scenes. These approaches have been successful in accounting for the emergence of very early visual representations, but the emergence of higher representations remains mysterious. Is a fundamental problem of these approaches that they are neglecting the purposeful interaction with the environment? Can embodied models provide a better understanding of the development of visual representations?

  • 10/17 : Early Visual Representations [Daphne C. leads discussion]
    • Simoncelli & Olshausen, Ann. Rev. Neurosci. (2001) pdf
    • Lee & Seung, Nature (1999) pdf
  • 10/22 : Face Representations [Alan R. leads discussion]
    • J. Bednar, Report AI-01-291, pdf
    • optional: C.A. Nelson (2001), pdf
  • 10/24 : Guest lecture
    • Dailey & Cottrell (1999), pdf
    • Sugimoto & Cottrell (2001), pdf
    • Further reading: Simion (1998). (see references)
    • Further reading: Morton, J., Johnson, MH (1991). (see references)

II. Emergence of complex responses to complex environments (10/29 - 11/5)

Keywords: Sensorimotor control, oculomotor system, locomotion, attention
Guest Lecture: Jeff McKinstry (The Neurosciences Institute)

How do infants learn to control their body and interact with their environment? For example, how do they learn to make coordinated head and eye movements? The proper control of the eyes relies on a complex network of neural structures. How do these structures become coordinated? Can embodied models of these learning processes give us any new insights? Beyond "simple" sensorimotor control, is the ability of locomotion a prerequisite for the emergence of higher cognitive functions?

  • 10/29 : Gaze Control [Eric W. leads discussion]
    • Aslin
    • Grossberg
    • Freedman
  • 10/31 : Guest lecture by Jeff McKinstry: "Operant Conditioning, Synchrony and Binding in a Brain-Based Device"
    • G. Tononi, et al. (1992) (kitchen shelf)
    • J.L. Krichmar, G.M. Edelman (2002), pdf
  • 11/5 : A critical look at Embodiment, more on value systems [John S. leads discussion]

III. Emergence of social communication and inference (11/7 - 11/14)

Keywords: attention sharing: gaze following, pointing, speech acts to language
Guest Lecture: Prof. Jeff Elman (COGSCI)

Some theorists cast social interactions (of certain kinds) as the hallmark of human intelligence (and perhaps its reason for being). Certainly the first year hosts dramatic shifts in social relations and participation in social events.? How much are social routines rooted in the infant's specialized capacities (cognitive?), and how much in extensive learning in a social environment?? What makes a social infant?

IV. Emergence of higher-order social representations (11/19 - 11/26)

Keywords: imitation: modeling multimodal mirrors
Guest Lecture: Christine Johnson

Even if social interactions can be learned without extensively specialized cognitive processors, at some point we are able to represent and reason about other people's thoughts, emotions, and predilections. How can we do this? What light does a comparative perspecive shed? What role does simulation play? Is a 'Theory of Mind' module a meaningful construct?

  • 11/19 : Imitation in babies and robots [Luke J. and Nathan R. lead discussion]
    • M. Mataric
    • S. Schaal
  • 11/21 : Imitation & Deception [Jing Jing E. leads discussion: powerpoint]
    • Russon
    • TBD
  • 11/26 : Guest lecture: Christine Johnson

Final Week (12/3 - 12/5) :

12/3 Presentation of Research Proposals I

12/5 Presentation of Research Proposals II, Conclusion, Course Critique


We'd like to thank our guest speakers for agreeing to enrich this seminar with their presentations. Thank you.

Annotated References

Aslin, R. , Woodward, J., LaMendola, N., & Bever, T. (1996). Models of word segmentation in fluent maternal speech to infants. In J. Morgan & K. Demuth (Eds.), Signal to syntax. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Atkinson, J. (2000). The developing visual brain (ch. 8, pp. 107-134). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Comment: Provides up-to-date information about typical and atypical development of visual capabilities in infants. Describes some neuropsychological underpinnigs. Very descriptive; not much connection to theoretical models of development or to embodiment.

Bednar J.A. and Miikkulainen, R. (2001) Learning innate face preferences Report AI-01-291.

Bertenthal, B., Campos, J., & Barrett, K. (1984). Self-produced locomotion: An organizer of emotional, cognitive, and social development in infancy. In R. Emde & R. Harmon (Eds.), Continuities and discontinuities in development. New York: Plenum.

Churchland, P. S., & Sejnowski, T. J. (1992). The computational brain (ch. 3-5, pp. 61-329). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. [Further reading]< br> Comment: Sure it's a decade old, but it's still an information-packed, readable intro to neural computation. A good warm-up for Dayan & Abbot.

Clark, A. (1997). Being there: Putting brain, body, and world together again. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Comment: This will be a quasi-textbook for the course, as it covers embodiment, modeling, and a little developmental psychology. A lot of fun to read.

Cole, M., & Cole, S. (1998). The development of children (3rd Ed.). New York: W.H. Freeman.
Comment: A good human development textbook. Our chapters review perceptual, cognitive, and social changes in the first year of infancy.

Dailey, Matthew N. and Cottrell, Garrison W. (1999). Organization of face and object recognition in modular neural network models. Neural Networks 12(7-8):1053-1074.

Dayan, P. & Abbott, L.F. (2001). Theoretical neuroscience: Computational and mathematical modeling of neural systems. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press

Elman, J. L., Bates, E. A., Johnson, M. H., Karmiloff-Smith, A., Parisi, D., & Plunkett, K. (1996). Rethinking innateness: A connectionist perspective on development (ch. 3-4, pp. 107-238). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Comment: Wonderful, thoughtful discussion of the problem of innateness and theories of development. Makes compelling argument for connectionist models of development. Highly recommended; not much on embodiment, though.

Fasel, I., Deák, G. O., Triesch, J., & Movellan, J. (2002). Combining embodied models and empirical research for understanding the development of shared attention.? Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Development and Learning. IEEE.


Gibson, E. J., & Pick, A. D. (2000). An ecological approach to perceptual learning and development (ch. 2, 5-7; pp. 14-25; 52-133). New York: Oxford University Press. [Further reading]


Harnad, S. (1990). The symbol-grounding problem.Physica D

Jusczyk, P. W. (1997). The discovery of spoken language (ch. 4-6; pp. 73-166). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. [Further reading]

Kaye, K. (1982). The mental and social life of babies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Comment: Kaye eloquently argues that human infants are adapted to pick up on the predictable structure of events governed by adult caregivers.

J.L. Krichmar, G.M. Edelman, (2002) Machine Psychology: Autonomous Behavior, Perceptual Categorization and Conditioning in a Brain-Based Device, Cerebral Cortex 12:818-830.[pdf]. (this can be obtained from our website:

Lee, D. and Seung, H.S. (1999) Learnng the parts of objects by non-negative matrix factorization. Nature 401:788-791.


Morton, J., Johnson, MH (1991). Conspec and Conlearn: a two-process theory of infant face recognition. Psychological Review, 98, 164-181.

Nelson, C.A. (2001) The Development and Neural Bases of Face Recognition. Infant and Child Development 10:3-18.


Ruff, H., & Rothbart, M. K. (1996). Attention in early development (ch. 4). Oxford University Press.

Russon, A. E., Mitchell, R. W., Lefebre, L. & Abravanel, E. (1998).The comparative evolution of imitiation. In J. Langer & M. Killen (Eds.), Piaget, evolution, and imitation (pp. 103-143). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.


SIMION, F., VALENZA, E., UMILTĄ, C. Mechanisms underlying face preference at birth, in Butterworth, G., Simion, F. (Eds.) The development of sensory, motor and cognitive capabilities in early infancy, Hove, Psychology Press, 1998, pp. 87-101.

Simoncelli & Olshausen (2001). Natural Image Statistics and Neural Representation. Ann. Rev. Neurosci., 24:1193-1216.

Sporns, O. (2002) Embodied Cognition. In: MIT Handbook of Brain Theory and Neural Networks, M. Arbib, Ed., MIT Press, Cambridge, MA

Sporns, O. and Alexander, W.H. (2002). Dopamine, Reward Conditioning, and Robot Behavior. In: Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Development and Learning. IEEE.

Steels, L.

Sugimoto, Maki and Cottrell, Garrison W. (2001). Visual Expertise is a General Skill. In Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Cognitive Science Conference, Edinburgh, Scotland. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Sutton, R.S., & Barto, A.G. (1998). Reinforcement learning. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Tomasello, M. (1999). The cultural origins of human cognition. Cambridge: Harvard U Press.

G. Tononi, et al., (1992) Reentry and the Problem of Integrating Multiple Cortical Areas: Simulation of Dynamic Integration in the Visual System., Cerebral Cortex 2:310-335.

Wilson, Margaret (in press). Six Views of Embodied Cognition. University of California, Santa Cruz

Jochen Triesch's home page