Brain, child, self and toy robots: enrobotment [Tutorial]

Irini Giannopulu

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherResearch


Development is the result of a complex process with three foci at least, one in the central nervous system, one in the mind and one in the child’s dynamic interactions with the natural vs. artificial environment, which are toy robots. Requiring flexible, powerful, and synergistic dialogues in a coordinated manner, nonverbal/verbal cognition, emotion and consciousness, i.e., the self, develop at the interface between neural processes. Toys have a central role. Toys seem provide an interesting account of “how” physical objects (artificial or not) are able to act as support for the symbolic play of children. They refer to how children embed information to develop knowledge representations. Recent advances in toy robots and human brain development have set the stage to greatly expand collaboration between engineers and neuroscientists. Based on the internalised “object” and using cognitive, clinical, neuro-functional and engineering arguments, this tutorial will analyze the concept of “enrobotment”. Playing with objects/toys robots (including the imperceptible part, i.e., the shadow) implies that the objects/toys are part of the external environment, i.e., the “other”. The enrobotment signifies that object’s internalisation not only reflects the impact of the environment on child’s development but it also reverberates the echo of child’s representations. An intermediate object (including shadow) is conceived in mind by the child him/herself. Having a high emotional value and forming an implicit/explicit autobiographical continuum in memory, it ensures the continuity between the “self” and “other”, it authorises subjectification. The correlated representations allow the invention of ideas and concepts; motor and verbal actions including their intention prosper. Intention attribution to objects/toys constitutes a precursor of self-consciousness, as this intention, a specific anticipation, helps children to understand what it signifies to have a perspective. Recognizing what it implies to be a “self” is a parcel of envisioning mental states of “other”. At the antipode, autism can be considered as an antithesis of self-consciousness. Children with autism cannot mirror the triadic relationship of “object-self-other”.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes
EventInternational Conference on Digital Society and eGovernments - Venice, Italy
Duration: 24 Apr 201628 Apr 2016
Conference number: 10th


ConferenceInternational Conference on Digital Society and eGovernments
Abbreviated titleICDS 2016
Internet address


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