Throughout its interactions with the environment, the agent will receive new perceptions and interpret them. This process results in new social contexts that will guide the adjustment of the agent’s cognition. The connection between the social context and the agent’s cognition is represented by the concept of cognitive social frame. Although the agent holds a collection of possible CSFs, at a certain moment, only a subset of those is considered appropriate for the social context, called salient cognitive social frames. Each CSF identifies the proper cognitive resources to deploy when it is salient. The architecture does not impose limitations regarding the internal processes of each cognitive resource. However, some restrictions regarding the knowledge accessibility are established. Figure 1 provides a high-level view of the interaction of the cognitive social frames with the remaining concepts of the model. The following sections elaborate on each concept and how they contribute to the agent’s loop.
The proposed computational model’s goal is to enable the creation of socio-cognitive agents that have the capability to adapt their cognition according to the social context, i.e., their interpretation of the social world. The model fulfils this goal, by introducing a mechanism based on the concept of cognitive social frame, which work as the link between the agent’s social context and its cognition.
Aligned with the design principle of socially situated cognition, the main motivation of cognitive social frames is to establish a link between the agent’s situation, formally represented in the social context and its cognition, encapsulated in its cognitive resources. As such, the agent is sensitive to the view of the surrounding world when deploying its cognitive resources. However, it is important to note that this sensitivity to the social context should not be confused with dependency. Although the agent takes into account the social context, using the model, its cognition’s deployment is also influenced by its own preferences.
A socio-cognitive agent implementing the mechanism can interpret the world, as stated in the social context and construal principle, rather than just perceiving it. The second stage of the mechanism allows a socio-cognitive agent to construct a mental representation, the social context, describing its relationship with perceived elements. This social context is the set of social perceptions that result from the application of each salient cognitive social frame construal function. This function is responsible for filtering the agent’s perceptions and then applying a social layer on top of them. As such, the social context enables the observer to allow its cognition to reason about the meaning of the elements of the physical world instead of the elements by themselves.
Additionally, in the interpretation phase, the agent can construct a social context. This process is also influenced by the salient cognitive social frames. Therefore, the interpretation of the reality is performed from the agent’s frame of reference with regard to its relevance to the agent’s cognition. As stated in the social affordances principle, a socio-cognitive agent should perceive what is worth paying attention to and identify social interaction opportunities in the social context. The proposal supports this suggestion since it only applies the construal function of the salient CSFs relevant for the cognition, to create the social context. A socio-cognitive agent should recognize what is socially affordable. In line with this remark, a cognitive social frame represents the cognitive resources that are associated with a particular social context and, to a certain degree, it also dictates how the agent can interact with the world. Moreover, while building the social context, CSFs are attributed to other social actors as well. This supports the identification of social affordances, but at the same time is a mechanism that enables certain mind-reading capabilities in the agent.
Finally, one of the most promising aspects of the proposal is related to the principle of social categorization and identity. The concept of cognitive social frames supports the appearance of the concept of social identity by enabling a socio-cognitive agent to identify its and others’ social categories. When placed in a world with other social actors, an agent capable of representing the concept of CSF can also assign to others their salient CSFs. Furthermore, it can also reason about its beliefs regarding others’ salient CSF and their social categories. However, this principle also claims that not only should a socio-cognitive agent recognize others’ group memberships but also be able to construct its own social identity based on its relationship with the social category, by defining personal preferences over some identities. Regarding the first, a cognitive social frame can be used as the concept that enables the categorization of social actors and, therefore, defines groups of social actors that share similar CSFs. With interest to the second, the mechanism allows the cognitive resources to reason about the concept of cognitive social frames and project into others’ salient CSFs, modeling others’ categories. With this information, an agent can explore its relationship with other social actors, considering their memberships, towards defining its own social identity.
In addition, by considering the salient CSFs of other social actors with its own cognition, an agent is capable of reasoning about others’ deployed cognitive resources and, therefore, acknowledge their beliefs, goals, mechanisms, and others. This mind-reading capability can enhance the social dimension of such agents since they can now expect and predict others’ actions based on their salient cognitive social frames. Furthermore, this mind-reading capability can be extended from the recognition of what cognitive resources are deployed to how another social actor interprets the physical world, thus creating social contexts from other frames of reference. Combining the two, the social context and cognitive social frames, a socio-cognitive agent has, to an extent, a mind-reading mechanism that allows it to understand the world from others’ perspectives and potentially anticipate others’ behaviors.
The ability to mind-read other social actors can help an agent establish relationships with other social actors. Instead of looking at the environment as a mere collection of opportunities for interaction, focusing on the interpersonal relationship with others creates agents that are more socially capable. When interacting with other social actors, an agent has a better chance of successfully engaging with them if it is aware of their drives, beliefs, norms, and other aspects that can be derived from their salient cognitive social frames. With this information, when interacting with other social actors, a socio-cognitive agent can search for common grounds with its interlocutors, thus strengthening their interpersonal relationship. CSFs can be used to explore the discrete (based on categories) nature of social relationships that are often treated as a continuous variable in multi-agent systems. For example, a CSF can be defined for friends and another for acquaintances and define in each the social norms that apply when the agent meets other actors that fit the CSF.
Additionally, agents with mind-reading capabilities can use their knowledge about others’ interpretation of the reality to manipulate the constructing of their social context, in particular, the identity (e.g., salient CSF) that others ascribe to the agent. Managing others’ impressions about itself requires a socio-cognitive agent to reason about others’ construction of the social context. Looking forward to inducing perceptions that will influence other’s views about itself, an agent can either adjust the information exchanged with others or modify the environment such that their construction of the social context alters the other’s interpretation of the social reality.
Finally, models for emotions and affect have also been researched towards creating better socio-cognitive agents. Indeed, considering that the goal is to create better human-agent interactions, emotional responses should also be focused when deploying such agents. However, the model does not enforce a specific emotional appraisal approach. Instead, the contribution focuses on identifying the adequacy of a behavior to the interpretation of the surrounding environment. Nonetheless, the inclusion of emotional appraisal mechanisms as cognitive resources can contribute to the identification of affordable emotional responses based on the social context.