Are robots present? From motor simulation to "being there"

Giuseppe Riva, Andrea Gaggioli, Fabrizia Mantovani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Even if the most sophisticated robot now available is unable to learn and move in the same way as humans, two decades of research in artificial intelligence and cognitive systems introduced the concept of embodiment: the mind has to be understood in the context of its relationship to a physical body that interacts with the world. One of the main outcomes of this vision is the dynamic sensorimotor account of conscious experience. Following this vision, the key feature of a cognitive robot should be the possession and exercise of sensorimotor knowledge. The main criticism against this argument is that such a robot will still lack self-awareness. In this paper, we suggest that a psychology of "presence" can offer new insights to overcome this point. In particular, we argue that in humans the evolutive role of presence is the control of agency through the unconscious separation of "internal" and "external" and the transformation (enaction) and/or recognition (reenaction) of intentions in action. How can we develop presence in robots? If we follow the development of presence in humans, we must use an evolutive process. First, the robot must learn to differentiate itself from the external world by correctly coupling perceptions and movements. Then the robot must learn to clearly separate perception and action planning, even if both share the same language: motor code. Finally, it is through social and cooperative activities that the robot may improve its intentional action and interaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)631-636
Number of pages6
JournalCyberpsychology and Behavior
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Applied Psychology
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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