Theories and computational models of affordance and mirror systems: an integrative review

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2013 Mar;37(3):491-521. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2013.01.012. Epub 2013 Jan 17.


Neuroscientific and psychological data suggest a close link between affordance and mirror systems in the brain. However, we still lack a full understanding of both the individual systems and their interactions. Here, we propose that the architecture and functioning of the two systems is best understood in terms of two challenges faced by complex organisms, namely: (a) the need to select among multiple affordances and possible actions dependent on context and high-level goals and (b) the exploitation of the advantages deriving from a hierarchical organisation of behaviour based on actions and action-goals. We first review and analyse the psychological and neuroscientific literature on the mechanisms and processes organisms use to deal with these challenges. We then analyse existing computational models thereof. Finally we present the design of a computational framework that integrates the reviewed knowledge. The framework can be used both as a theoretical guidance to interpret empirical data and design new experiments, and to design computational models addressing specific problems debated in the literature.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neurons / physiology*