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Hypothesis & Theory ARTICLE

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Front. Psychol., 22 October 2013 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00766

Learning autonomy in two or three steps: linking open-ended development, authority, and agency to motivation

  • 1Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Engineering (ALICE), University of Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands
  • 2Special Needs Education and Youth Care, University of Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands

In this paper we connect open-ended development, authority, agency, and motivation through (1) an analysis of the demands of existing in a complex world and (2) environmental appraisal in terms of affordance content and the complexity to select appropriate behavior. We do this by identifying a coherent core from a wide range of contributing fields. Open-ended development is a structured three-step process in which the agent first learns to master the body and then aims to make the mind into a reliable tool. Preconditioned on success in step two, step three aims to effectively co-create an optimal living environment. We argue that these steps correspond to right-left-right hemispheric dominance, where the left hemisphere specializes in control and the right hemisphere in exploration. Control (e.g., problem solving) requires a closed and stable world that must be maintained by external authorities or, in step three, by the right hemisphere acting as internal authority. The three-step progression therefore corresponds to increasing autonomy and agency. Depending on how we appraise the environment, we formulate four qualitatively different motivational states: submission, control, exploration, and consolidation. Each of these four motivational states has associated reward signals of which the last three—successful control, discovery of novelty, and establishing new relations—form an open-ended development loop that, the more it is executed, helps the agent to become progressively more agentic and more able to co-create a pleasant-to-live-in world. We conclude that for autonomy to arise, the agent must exist in a (broad) transition region between order and disorder in which both danger and opportunity (and with that open-ended development and motivation) are defined. We conclude that a research agenda for artificial cognitive system research should include open-ended development through intrinsic motivations and ascribing more prominence to right hemispheric strengths.

Keywords: motivation, agency, autonomy, open-ended development, co-creation, authority, complexity, lateralization

Citation: Andringa TC, van den Bosch KA and Vlaskamp C (2013) Learning autonomy in two or three steps: linking open-ended development, authority, and agency to motivation. Front. Psychol. 4:766. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00766

Received: 17 May 2013; Accepted: 30 September 2013;
Published online: 22 October 2013.

Edited by:

Gianluca Baldassarre, Italian National Research Council, Italy

Reviewed by:

Matthew Schlesinger, Southern Illinois University, USA
Geoffrey Chern-Yee Tan, National Healthcare Group, Singapore
Kathryn E. Merrick, University of New South Wales, Australia

Copyright © 2013 Andringa, van den Bosch and Vlaskamp. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Tjeerd C. Andringa, Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Engineering, University of Groningen, PO Box 407, 9700 AK Groningen, Netherlands e-mail: tjeerd@ai.rug.nl

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