(Press-News.org) When researchers asked hundreds of people to watch other people shake boxes, it took just seconds for almost all of them to figure out what the shaking was for.
The deceptively simple work by Johns Hopkins University perception researchers is the first to demonstrate that people can tell what others are trying to learn just by watching their actions. Published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study reveals a key yet neglected aspect of human cognition, and one with implications for artificial intelligence.
“Just by looking at how someone’s body is moving, you can tell what they are trying to learn about their environment,” said author Chaz Firestone, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences who investigates how vision and thought interact. “We do this all the time, but there has been very little research on it.”
Recognizing another person’s actions is something we do every day, whether it’s guessing which way someone is headed or figuring out what object they’re reaching for. These are known as “pragmatic actions.” Numerous studies have shown people can quickly and accurately identify these actions just by watching them. The new Johns Hopkins work investigates a different kind of behavior: “epistemic actions,” which are performed when someone is trying to learn something.
For instance, someone might put their foot in a swimming pool because they’re going for a swim or they might put their foot in a pool to test the water. Though the actions are similar, there are differences and the Johns Hopkins team surmised observers would be able to detect another person’s “epistemic goals” just by watching them.
Across several experiments, researchers asked a total of 500 participants to watch two videos in which someone picks up a box full of objects and shakes it around. One shows someone shaking a box to figure out the number of objects inside it. The other shows someone shaking a box to figure out the shape of the objects inside. Almost every participant knew who was shaking for the number and who was shaking for shape.
“What is surprising to me is how intuitive this is,” said lead author Sholei Croom, a Johns Hopkins graduate student. “People really can suss out what others are trying to figure out, which shows how we can make these judgments even though what we’re looking at is very noisy and changes from person to person.”
Added Firestone, “When you think about all the mental calculations someone must make to understand what someone else is trying to learn, it’s a remarkably complicated process. But our findings show it’s something people do easily.”
The findings could also inform the development of artificial intelligence systems designed to interact with humans. A commercial robot assistant, for example, that can look at a customer and guess what they’re looking for.
“It’s one thing to know where someone is headed or what product they are reaching for,” Firestone said. “But it’s another thing to infer whether someone is lost or what kind of information they are seeking.”
In the future the team would like to pursue whether people can observe someone’s epistemic intent versus their pragmatic intent—what are they up to when they dip their foot in the pool. They’re also interested in when these observational skills emerge in human development and if it’s possible to build computational models to detail exactly how observed physical actions reveal epistemic intent.
The Johns Hopkins team also included Hanbei Zhou, a sophomore studying neuroscience.
People watched other people shake boxes for science. Here’s why
ELSE PRESS RELEASES FROM THIS DATE:
AI finds formula on how to predict monster waves
Long considered myth, freakishly large rogue waves are very real and can split apart ships and even damage oil rigs. Using 700 years’ worth of wave data from more than a billion waves, scientists at the University of Copenhagen and University of Victoria have used artificial intelligence to find a formula for how to predict the occurrence of these maritime monsters. The new knowledge can make shipping safer. EMBARGOED CONTENT UNTIL MONDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2023 3 PM US EASTERN TIME Stories about monster waves, called rogue waves, have been the lore of sailors for centuries. But when a 26-metre-high rogue wave slammed into the Norwegian oil ...
Study reveals bias in AI tools when diagnosing women’s health issue
Machine learning algorithms designed to diagnose a common infection that affects women showed a diagnostic bias among ethnic groups, University of Florida researchers found. While artificial intelligence tools offer great potential for improving health care delivery, practitioners and scientists warn of their risk for perpetuating racial inequities. Published Friday in the Nature journal Digital Medicine, this is the first paper to evaluate fairness among these tools in connection to a women’s health issue. “Machine learning can be a great tool in medical diagnostics, but we found it can show bias toward different ethnic groups,” said Ruogu Fang, an associate ...
Anti-bias police training improved performance and reduced discrimination-based complaints significantly
In recent years, many police departments have mandated or encouraged anti-bias training. This has occurred in response to government-imposed measures such as consent decrees or as a proactive attempt to enhance public perceptions of police following actions that have raised concerns about racially motivated and other discriminatory practices. In a new study, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of an anti-bias training intervention in one Californian jurisdiction. The study found that officers who received the training had improved performance scores (measured by Body Worn Camera footage), decreased disparity in how they treated different groups of people, ...
Analysis of cyberstalking research identifies factors associated with perpetration, victimization
The widespread use of digital technologies and the Internet has spurred a new type of personal intrusion, known as cyberstalking. Incidences of cyberstalking have risen, with the U.S. Department of Justice estimating that more than 1.3 million people experience this type of victimization annually. A new study explored research to identify the factors associated with perpetration and victimization in cyberstalking. The study’s findings can inform the development of efforts to prevent and address cyberstalking. Conducted by a researcher at Sam Houston State ...
Massive 2022 eruption reduced ozone levels
When the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted on January 15, 2022 in the South Pacific, it produced a shock wave felt around the world and triggered tsunamis in Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand, Japan, Chile, Peru and the United States. It also changed the chemistry and dynamics of the stratosphere in the year following the eruption, leading to unprecedented losses in the ozone layer of up to 7% over large areas of the Southern Hemisphere, according to a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National ...
Remarkably detailed view of “teenage galaxies” from just 2 to 3 billion years after the Big Bang revealed by JWST
Pasadena, CA—Galaxies that formed just 2 to 3 billion years after the Big Bang are unusually hot and glow with light from surprising elements, like nickel, according to new work led by Carnegie’s Gwen Rudie and Northwestern University’s Allison Strom. Studying “teenage galaxies” from the ancient universe can teach scientists about how these massive systems of stars mature and evolve. Their findings, published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, are part of the CECILIA (Chemical Evolution Constrained using Ionized Lines in Interstellar Aurorae) ...
Litigating the Pandemic
When the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the United States, healthcare workers faced new demands, childcare and grocery store workers became essential workers, businesses shut down, and churches and school doors closed. The pandemic also arrived amidst protests over police violence. Deep partisan divisions and record natural disasters amplified these challenges. The national government offered new funding for businesses and individuals and public health guidance, and local governments issued guidelines for gathering in public. Litigating the Pandemic (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2023), a new book by Susan Sterett, professor ...
Personalized cancer medicine: humans make better treatment decisions than AI
Treating cancer is becoming increasingly complex, but also offers more and more possibilities. After all, the better a tumor’s biology and genetic features are understood, the more treatment approaches there are. To be able to offer patients personalized therapies tailored to their disease, laborious and time-consuming analysis and interpretation of various data is required. Researchers at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin have now studied whether generative artificial intelligence ...
Genomic study links cannabis abuse to multiple health problems
New Haven, Conn. — A Yale-led analysis of the genomes of more than 1 million people has shed light on the underlying biology of cannabis use disorder and its links to psychiatric disorders, abuse of other substances such as tobacco, and possibly even an elevated risk of developing lung cancer. For the study, researchers examined a genome-wide set of genetic variants in individuals from multiple ancestry groups enrolled in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Million Veteran Program, one of the world’s largest genetic databases, and ...
Younger people are more vulnerable to the effects of cardiovascular risk associated with high blood cholesterol and hypertension
Young people may be more susceptible to the effects of the risk factors for developing atherosclerosis. According to a study carried out at the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares (CNIC), younger people are especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of elevated blood cholesterol and hypertension, two of the major modifiable cardiovascular risk factors. These findings, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, underline the need to implement aggressive control of cardiovascular risk factors at younger ages, requiring a change in primary prevention strategies to include “surveillance of subclinical atherosclerosis ...