Colloquium Cognitive Systems

An Integrative, Event-Predictive Perspective on Cognition
Prof. Dr. Martin Butz, University of Tübingen


Abstract: I propose an integrative theory of cognition, derived from the principle of anticipatory behavior. Acknowledging that in the end all neural activities and encodings should serve homeostasis-oriented, behavioral control purposes – including abilities of adaptation, directing attention, social interaction including communication, versatile planning, and reasoning – behavior is controlled by desired future states. However, in order to make future state imaginations tractable, compact encodings of events and event transitions are essential. When augmenting formalizations of active inference – essentially minimizing anticipated free energy – with event-oriented abstractions, useful hierarchical, event-predictive encodings can develop. I show behavioral evidence that such encodings indeed exist and dynamically unfold in our minds. Moreover, I show several computational neuro-cognitive models that learn hierarchical, event-predictive encodings from sensorimotor experiences for the purpose of optimizing flexible and highly adaptive, interactive goal-directed behavior. I end with evidence that suggests
that the joint activation of event-predictive states and successions of such may indeed make us language-ready.

Bio. Prof. Martin Butz is a full professor at the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Psychology at the University of Tübingen. While his main background lies in computer science (Diploma and PhD in Computer Science), and in machine learning in particular, he has been collaborating with cognitive psychologists, computational neuroscientists, roboticists, and linguists for many years. His research focusses on neuro-computational, cognitive modeling and cognitive science more generally. Currently, he is investigating the  evelopment of conceptual, cognitive language structures from sensorimotor experiences, pursuing an event-predictive approach. Moreover, he is relating these structures to the hippocampus, including the built-up of cognitive maps as well as the formation of episodic memory. He has published more than sixty peer-reviewed journal articles and more than one hundred peer-reviewed conference papers, as well as three monographs and seven edited volumes. The most recent monograph, called “How the Mind Comes Into Being: Introducing Cognitive Science from a Functional and Computational Perspective” was published by Oxford University Press in 2017. Also since 2017, Butz has been part of the Humboldt Network.