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Schippers, M.B.

Author: Marleen Schippers

Graduation Year: 2006

Department: Theoretical Philosophy

Master's Thesis:

A Shared Circuits Model of Language Acquisition



In this thesis, I propose an extension of Susan Hurley’s shared circuits model (Hurley, 2005). This model describes the mechanisms of action control and simulation on the basis of action mirroring. The model consists of five separate layers which increase in complexity. The goal of this extension is to relate the human mirror neuron system (for a review see Rizzolatti and Craighero, 2004) to Tomasello’s language acquisition theory (Tomasello, 2003). Tomasello argues that three behaviors are fundamental for language acquisition: joint attention, understanding communicative intentions and role-reversal imitation. All these behaviors are founded on the skill of intention reading. The shared circuits model is in my opinion not sufficient to describe these behaviors. Therefore, I propose to add an extension which encompasses emotion mirroring. I argue that simulative emotion mirroring is the first step in perceiving other people as intentional beings and opens the possibilities to read intentions in more elaborate ways.

In the second part, which is my master’s thesis Artificial Intelligence, I describe a pilot fMRI study we conducted. In this study, simulation is investigated in abstract geometrical stimuli. Results indicate that in our four subjects, the mirror neuron system is sensitive not only to human action, but also to actions performed by billiard balls or even abstract dots. (Supervisors: Valeria Gazzola and Christian Keysers)

Hurley, S. (2006). Active perception and perceiving action: The shared circuits hypothesis. In Gendler, T. and Hawthorne, J., editors, Perceptual Experience. Oxford University Press.

Rizzolatti, G. and Craighero, L. (2004). The mirror-neuron system. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 27:169–192.

Tomasello, M. (2003). Constructing a Language. A usage-based theory of language acquisition. Harvard University Press.


Laatst gewijzigd:01 november 2013 14:56