The German Research Foundation (DFG) has issued a funding opportunity for researchers to study the self and ideas of self-perception. The opportunity, called “Priority Programme ‘The Active Self,’” brings together behavioral scientists from psychological science and robotics to explore these questions.
The development and availability of virtual reality and affordable robots that have human characteristics have fueled recent interest in supporting research on the self and self-perception. The new DFG opportunity will support explorations of the effects of immediate and past experiences on self-representation and of what degree these can be established in artificial agents. The goal of the opportunity, briefly, is to understand the behavioral indicators of selfhood and how they can be applied to cognitive skill development in robotics.
DFG will support research that addresses five key questions:
- To which extent is the self plastic? (e.g., how and how much is self-representation affected by, and emerges from, sensorimotor experience, sociocultural, and situational factors)
- To which degree does the sensorimotor impact on the self rely on or interact with internal, endogenous constraints? (e.g., self-concept, body image)
- What are the roles of body ownership and agency? (e.g., are they independent factors or both emerge from event control)
- How does creating and having a self work back on sensorimotor skills and cognitive processes? (e.g., can particular kinds of self-perception increase or reduce cognitive abilities)
- What are the mechanisms and prerequisites that allow an agent to develop a self? (e.g., can robots develop a self)
At least one of the five key questions must be addressed in a successful research proposal.
The deadline to submit proposals to DFG is January 27, 2021.
A few key points from DFG’s announcement:
This Priority Programme focuses on the minimal (rather than the narrative) self; empirical approaches (rather than conceptual analyses), including theory-driven experimental studies, modelling, and simulation approaches; the sensorimotor basis and phenomenal experience of self; and the actual functional mechanisms underlying the construction of a self (rather than existence proofs or brain activity, situational factors, or behaviour merely correlated with aspects of self).