Research Topic

Robots and Bionic Systems as Tools to Study Cognition: Theories, Paradigms, and Methodological Issues

About this Research Topic

Robots have often been used as experimental tools to understand cognition in animals and humans. During the Cybernetic era, mechanistic theories of learning, memory, and sensory-motor coordination were developed using robotic models. After the cognitive revolution, robots were used to model problem-solving and general intelligence.

From the last decades of the XX century on, a multitude of hypotheses on the cognition of invertebrate and vertebrate animals, including humans, have been addressed using so-called biorobots and biologically inspired robots. More recently, bionic systems – connecting artificial devices with biological tissues – and interactive robots have been used to model social cognition and cognitive-motor control.

Despite the richness of empirical studies, the idea that robots and bionic systems (R&BS) can be used as experimental platforms in cognitive science has not gained widespread consensus, and many scholars maintain that R&Bs provide idealized and distorted, hence scientifically useless, models of animal and human cognition.

The goal of this Research Topic is to take some steps towards understanding what R&BS can offer to the study of cognition. More specifically:

● What research questions, within psychology and cognitive science, can be sensibly addressed using R&BS from now on?

● What important scientific results have been obtained using R&BS in the study of cognition?

● Can R&BS help in the modeling, explanation, prediction, or even discovery of new cognitive phenomena? When should R&BS be preferred to more conventional tools for modeling and intervention?

● What R&BS-supported experimental paradigms and methods can be adopted for the study of cognition? Is it possible to formulate methodological guidelines for the setting-up and running of “good” cognitive experiments using R&BS?

● What levels of idealization, approximation, and biomimicry should be chosen in R&BS implementation?

● Under what theoretical, methodological, conceptual, and philosophical assumptions can the behavior of R&BS be brought to bear on cognition?

These questions are best addressed with reference to concrete examples of R&BS-supported studies on cognition.

We encourage a variety of article types, including (but not limited to) the following:

● Original research using empirical studies to address the questions above, or illustrate interesting methodological issues.

● Methods papers on methodological analyses of R&BS-supported studies, experimental strategies, and paradigms.

● Reviews and meta-analyses on the use of R&BS in cognitive science, or on their role in understanding cognitive phenomena.

● Hypothesis and Theory submissions on philosophical reflections on the nature of the scientific knowledge acquired through R&BS, supported by examples taken from the literature.


Keywords: Robots, Bionic Systems, Cognition, Tools, Theories, Paradigms, Methodological Issues


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Robots have often been used as experimental tools to understand cognition in animals and humans. During the Cybernetic era, mechanistic theories of learning, memory, and sensory-motor coordination were developed using robotic models. After the cognitive revolution, robots were used to model problem-solving and general intelligence.

From the last decades of the XX century on, a multitude of hypotheses on the cognition of invertebrate and vertebrate animals, including humans, have been addressed using so-called biorobots and biologically inspired robots. More recently, bionic systems – connecting artificial devices with biological tissues – and interactive robots have been used to model social cognition and cognitive-motor control.

Despite the richness of empirical studies, the idea that robots and bionic systems (R&BS) can be used as experimental platforms in cognitive science has not gained widespread consensus, and many scholars maintain that R&Bs provide idealized and distorted, hence scientifically useless, models of animal and human cognition.

The goal of this Research Topic is to take some steps towards understanding what R&BS can offer to the study of cognition. More specifically:

● What research questions, within psychology and cognitive science, can be sensibly addressed using R&BS from now on?

● What important scientific results have been obtained using R&BS in the study of cognition?

● Can R&BS help in the modeling, explanation, prediction, or even discovery of new cognitive phenomena? When should R&BS be preferred to more conventional tools for modeling and intervention?

● What R&BS-supported experimental paradigms and methods can be adopted for the study of cognition? Is it possible to formulate methodological guidelines for the setting-up and running of “good” cognitive experiments using R&BS?

● What levels of idealization, approximation, and biomimicry should be chosen in R&BS implementation?

● Under what theoretical, methodological, conceptual, and philosophical assumptions can the behavior of R&BS be brought to bear on cognition?

These questions are best addressed with reference to concrete examples of R&BS-supported studies on cognition.

We encourage a variety of article types, including (but not limited to) the following:

● Original research using empirical studies to address the questions above, or illustrate interesting methodological issues.

● Methods papers on methodological analyses of R&BS-supported studies, experimental strategies, and paradigms.

● Reviews and meta-analyses on the use of R&BS in cognitive science, or on their role in understanding cognitive phenomena.

● Hypothesis and Theory submissions on philosophical reflections on the nature of the scientific knowledge acquired through R&BS, supported by examples taken from the literature.


Keywords: Robots, Bionic Systems, Cognition, Tools, Theories, Paradigms, Methodological Issues


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

16 January 2021 Abstract
16 May 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

16 January 2021 Abstract
16 May 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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