By means of the computational approach the present study investigates the difference between observation of functional behaviour (i.e., actions involving necessary integration of subparts) and non-functional behaviour (i.e., actions lacking necessary integration of subparts) in terms of prediction error. Non-functionality in this proximal sense is a feature of many socio-cultural practices, such as those found in religious rituals private and social, as well as pathological practices, such as ritualized behaviour found among people suffering from Obsessive Compulsory Disorder (OCD). A recent behavioural study has shown that human subjects segment non- functional behaviour in a more fine-grained way than functional behaviour. This increase in segmentation rate implies that non-functionality elicits a stronger error signal. To further explore the implications, two computer simulations using simple recurrent networks were made and the results are presented in this article. The simulations show that non-functional action sequences do indeed increase prediction error, but that context representations, such as abstract goal information, can modulate the error signal considerably. It is also shown that the networks are sensitive to boundaries between sequences in both functional and non-functional actions.
Recommended citation: Nielbo, K.L. & Sørensen, J. (2013). "Prediction Error During Functional and Non-Functional Action Sequences: A Computational Exploration of Ritual and Ritualized Event Processing." Journal of Cognition and Culture. 13.