Journal article Open Access

Prospection in cognition : The case for joint episodic-procedural memory in cognitive robotics

David Vernon

Prospection lies at the core of cognition: it is the means by which an agent — a person or a cognitive robot — shifts its perspective from immediate sensory experience to anticipate future events, be they the actions of other agents or the outcome of its own actions. Prospection, accomplished by internal simulation, requires mechanisms for both perceptual imagery and motor imagery. While it is known that these two forms of imagery are tightly entwined in the mirror neuron system, we do not yet have an effective model of the mentalizing network which would provide a framework to integrate declarative episodic and procedural memory systems and to combine experiential knowledge with skillful know-how. Such a framework would be founded on joint perceptuo-motor representations. In this paper we examine the case for this form of representation, contrasting sensory-motor theory with ideo-motor theory, and we discuss how such a framework could be realized by joint episodic-procedural memory. We argue that such a representation framework has several advantages for cognitive robotics. Since episodic memory operates by recombining imperfectly recalled past experience, this allows it to simulate new or unexpected events. Furthermore, by virtue of its associative nature, joint episodic-procedural memory allows the internal simulation to be conditioned by current context, semantic memory, and the agent's value system. Context and semantics constrain the combinatorial explosion of potential perception-action associations and allow effective action selection in the pursuit of goals, while the value system provides the motives that underpin the agent's autonomy and cognitive development. This joint episodic-procedural memory framework is neutral regarding the final implementation of these episodic and procedural memories, which can be configured sub-symbolically as associative networks or symbolically as content-addressable image databases and databases of motor-control scripts.

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