Webb: Robot Models -- BBS Call for Commentators

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Jun 29, 2001, 5:51:28 PM6/29/01
Below is the abstract of a forthcoming BBS target article

[Please note that this paper was in fact accepted and
archived to the web in February 2001 but the recent
move of BBS to New York delayed the Call until now.]

Can robots make good models of biological behaviour?


Barbara Webb


This article has been accepted for publication in Behavioral and Brain
Sciences (BBS), an international, interdisciplinary journal providing
Open Peer Commentary on important and controversial current research in
the biobehavioral and cognitive sciences.

Commentators must be BBS Associates or nominated by a BBS Associate. To
be considered as a commentator for this article, to suggest other
appropriate commentators, or for information about how to become a BBS
Associate, please reply by EMAIL within three (3) weeks to:


The Calls are sent to 8000 BBS Associates, so there is no expectation
(indeed, it would be calamitous) that each recipient should comment
on every occasion! Hence there is no need to reply except if you wish
to comment, or to nominate someone to comment.

If you are not a BBS Associate, please approach a current BBS
Associate (there are currently over 10,000 worldwide) who is familiar
with your work to nominate you. All past BBS authors, referees and
commentators are eligible to become BBS Associates. A full electronic
list of current BBS Associates is available at this location to help
you select a name:


If no current BBS Associate knows your work, please send us your
Curriculum Vitae and BBS will circulate it to appropriate Associates to
ask whether they would be prepared to nominate you. (In the meantime,
your name, address and email address will be entered into our database
as an unaffiliated investigator.)

To help us put together a balanced list of commentators, please give
some indication of the aspects of the topic on which you would bring
your areas of expertise to bear if you were selected as a commentator.

To help you decide whether you would be an appropriate commentator for
this article, an electronic draft is retrievable from the online
BBSPrints Archive, at the URL that follows the abstract below.


Can robots make good models of biological behaviour?

Barbara Webb
Centre for Computational and Cognitive Neuroscience
Department of Psychology
University of Stirling
Stirling FK9 4LA
Scotland, U.K.

KEYWORDS: models; simulation; animal behaviour; neuroethology;
robotics; realism; levels.

ABSTRACT: How should biological behaviour be modelled? A relatively
new approach is to investigate problems in neuroethology by building
physical robot models of biological sensorimotor systems. The
explication and justification of this approach are here placed within a
framework for describing and comparing models in the behavioural and
biological sciences. First, simulation models - the representation of a
hypothesis about a target system - are distinguished from several other
relationships also termed 'modelling' in discussions of scientific
explanation. Seven dimensions on which simulation models can differ are
defined and distinctions between them discussed:

(1) Relevance: whether the model tests and generates hypotheses
applicable to biology.

(2) Level: the elemental units of the model in the hierarchy from
atoms to societies.

(3) Generality: the range of biological systems the model can

(4) Abstraction: the complexity, relative to the target, or amount of
detail included in the model.

(5) Structural accuracy: how well the model represents the actual
mechanisms underlying the behaviour.

(6) Performance match: to what extent the model behaviour matches the
target behaviour

(7) Medium: the physical basis by which the model is implemented

No specific position in the space of models thus defined is the only
correct one, but a good modelling methodology should be explicit about
its position and the justification for that position. It is argued that
in building robot models biological relevance is more effective than
loose biological inspiration; multiple levels can be integrated; that
generality cannot be assumed but might emerge from studying specific
instances; abstraction is better done by simplification than
idealisation; accuracy can be approached through iterations of complete
systems; that the model should be able to match and predict target
behaviour; and that a physical medium can have significant advantages.
These arguments reflect the view that biological behaviour needs to be
studied and modelled in context, that is in terms of the real problems
faced by real animals in real environments.


Please do not prepare a commentary yet. Just let us know, after having
inspected it, what relevant expertise you feel you would bring to bear
on what aspect of the article. We will then let you know whether it was
possible to include your name on the final formal list of invitees.



(1) The authors of scientific articles are not paid money for their
refereed research papers; they give them away. What they want is to
reach all interested researchers worldwide, so as to maximize the
potential research impact of their findings.

Subscription/Site-License/Pay-Per-View costs are accordingly
access-barriers, and hence impact-barriers for this give-away
research literature.

There is now a way to free the entire refereed journal literature,
for everyone, everywhere, immediately, by mounting interoperable
university eprint archives, and self-archiving all refereed research
papers in them.

Please see: http://www.eprints.org

(2) All authors in the biobehavioral and cognitive sciences are
strongly encouraged to self-archive all their papers in their own
institution's Eprint Archives or in CogPrints, the Eprint Archive
for the biobehavioral and cognitive sciences:


It is extremely simple to self-archive and will make all of our
papers available to all of us everywhere, at no cost to anyone,

Authors of BBS papers wishing to archive their already published
BBS Target Articles should submit it to BBSPrints Archive.
Information about the archiving of BBS' entire backcatalogue will
be sent to you in the near future. Meantime please see:




(3) Call for Book Nominations for BBS Multiple Book Review

In the past, Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS) had only been able
to do 1-2 BBS multiple book treatments per year, because of our
limited annual page quota. BBS's new expanded page quota will make
it possible for us to increase the number of books we treat per
year, so this is an excellent time for BBS Associates and
biobehavioral/cognitive scientists in general to nominate books you
would like to see accorded BBS multiple book review.

(Authors may self-nominate, but books can only be selected on the
basis of multiple nominations.) It would be very helpful if you
indicated in what way a BBS Multiple Book Review of the book(s) you
nominate would be useful to the field (and of course a rich list of
potential reviewers would be the best evidence of its potential

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PSYCOLOQUY is a refereed electronic journal (ISSN 1055-0143)
sponsored by the American Psychological Association

Submissions are acknowledged automatically.

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