Towards a social

idea of perception

Photo by Saketh Garuda on Unsplash

The project moves from two different suggestions. On the one hand, our perception of the world depends both on the incoming sensory information, and on our prior knowledge. Even the judgment of the duration of an interval of time or of the length of a segment is influenced by our previous experience and by our expectations. On the other hand, our perspective on the world is not static and individualistic at all: it might change during social interaction, where two agents dynamically influence each other, often achieving a high level of coordination.

Starting there, wHiSPER proposes to study for the first time how basic mechanisms of spatial and temporal perceptual inference are modified during interaction.

Our five main objectives

  • determine how being involved in an interactive context influences perceptual inference;
  • assess how perceptual priors generalize to the observation of other’s actions;
  • understand whether and how individual perception aligns to others’ priors;
  • assess how is it possible to enable shared perception with a robot;
  • determine whether perceptual inference during interaction is modified with aging, when lowered sensory acuity could \ priors relevance.


WHiSPER will exploit rigorous psychophysical methods, Bayesian modeling and human-robot interaction, by adapting well-established paradigms in the study of visual perception to a novel interactive context.

According to this, in several experiments the humanoid robot and the participants will be shown simple temporal or spatial perceptual stimuli that they will have to perceive either to reproduce them or to perform a coordinated joint action (as passing an object). The measures of the reproduced intervals and of the kinematics of the actions will allow to quantify through Bayesian modeling how social interaction influences visual perception.

ERC Starting Grant
Principal Investigator: Alessandra Sciutti
Period: 3/2019- 2/2024. G.A: 804388

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