Neural representations of situations and mental states are composed of sums of representations of the actions they afford

Mark A. Thornton, Diana I. Tamir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Human behavior depends on both internal and external factors. Internally, people’s mental states motivate and govern their behavior. Externally, one’s situation constrains which actions are appropriate or possible. To predict others’ behavior, one must understand the influences of mental states and situations on actions. On this basis, we hypothesize that people represent situations and states in terms of associated actions. To test this, we use functional neuroimaging to estimate neural activity patterns associated with situations, mental states, and actions. We compute sums of the action patterns, weighted by how often each action occurs in each situation and state. We find that these summed action patterns reconstructed the corresponding situation and state patterns. These results suggest that neural representations of situations and mental states are composed of sums of their action affordances. Summed action representations thus offer a biological mechanism by which people can predict actions given internal and external factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number620
JournalNature communications
Volume15
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy

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