Research projects

Horizon 2020, grant type: Twinning, ID: 952324

This project is aimed at strengthening the interdisciplinary field of research on the emergence, understanding and use of abstract concepts and words in human, and in human-machine interaction through the collaboration between the University of Warsaw, the University of Manchester, Sapienza University of Rome and Aarhus University. At the same time, the goal is to strengthen the research potential and research management skills at the University of Warsaw. The grant partners will jointly develop the field, providing the following expertise:

traincrease graphic, symbols (mathematical signs, words etc.) on the top of interactions (humans, robots, sun, heart etc.)

  • University of Manchester: provides expertise in computational modeling of abstract concepts and words in the context of developmental robotics [1] and in development of early interaction [2].
  • Sapienza University of Rome: provides strong theoretical background and expertise in experimental research, including neuroimaging studies [3].
  • Aarhus University provides a complementary anthropological perspective and expertise in naturalistic research on the social dimension of abstraction [4].
  • University of Warsaw provides expertise in ecological approach to abstraction and in dynamical systems theory and methods, which has integratory potential for the field [5].

The project consists of a series of joint activities logically planned to increase excellence both in the field and in the UW's research and management potential:

  • symposia and workshops focused on theory building and exchange of complementary methods
  • staff, administration and early-stage researchers (ESRs) project-targeted exchanges, including a novel scheme for hands-on training (microtwinning)
  • joint publications and joint grant applications
  • development plans and novel curricula at the University of Warsaw.

The project is aimed to result in the staff's and ESRs' increased research skills in the field, which is envisioned as one of the most crucial for the cognitive sciences and its exchanges with education and AI, stabilization of the improvements through structural and curriculum changes at University of Warsaw, transfer of skills to the grant-managing staff and through development of stable connection within European Research Area and with non-academic stakeholder.

Relevant publications

  1. Cangelosi A., Schlesinger M. (2015). Developmental Robotics: From Babies to Robots. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, Bradford Books.
  2. Cameron-Faulkner, T., Melville, J., & Gattis, M. 2018. Responding to Nature: Natural Environments Improve Parent-Child Communication. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 59, 9-15
  3. Borghi, A.M. & Binkofski, F. (2014). Words As social Tools: An embodied view on abstract concepts. SpringerBriefs in Cognition series. Springer: New York.
  4. Heimann, K. S., & Roepstorff, A. (2018). How Playfulness Motivates – Putative Looping Effects of Autonomy and Surprise Revealed by Micro-Phenomenological Investigations. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 13.
  5. Rączaszek-Leonardi, J., Nomikou, I., Rohlfing, K. J. & Deacon, T. W. (2018). Language Development From an Ecological Perspective: Ecologically Valid Ways to Abstract Symbols. Ecological Psychology, 30:1, 39-73.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 952324

NCN Opus 16, 2018/29/B/HS1/00884

The relation of symbolic cognition to embodied and situated bodily dynamics remains one of the hardest problems in the contemporary cognitive sciences. It directly concerns the fundamental assumptions in theories of such basic cognitive processes as thinking and problem solving or using natural language. The stance one assumes towards this relation has consequences for basic research in these areas as well as applications in such fields as research of cognitive dysfunctions or designing artificial intelligent systems.

The present project aims at elaboration and verifying completeness and coherence of a one of the recent theories of the relation between symbol processing and situated action (Deacon, 1997; Rączaszek-Leonardi, Nomikou, Rohlfing & Deacon, 2018) by the means of agent-based computational modeling. This general theory of symbolic processing in cognitive systems has been proposed on the grounds of ecological psychology, dynamical systems and semiotics and concretized in the domain of natural language acquisition. The novel aspects of the theory are: i) treating informational structures as controls of interaction (rather than representations of the world) and ii) noting that symbolic forms of controls emerge from simpler forms, which are more obviously grounded in action in the environment and iii) basing the proposed mechanisms on data from studying language development processes.

Relevant publications

  • Rączaszek-Leonardi, J., Nomikou, I., Rohlfing, K., & Deacon, T. (2018). Language Development From an Ecological Perspective: Ecologically Valid Ways to Abstract Symbols. ECOLOGICAL PSYCHOLOGY, 30(1), 36–73. doi:10.1080/10407413.2017.1410387

traincrease graphic, symbols (mathematical signs, words etc.) on the top of interactions (humans, robots, sun, heart etc.)

The coronavirus pandemic affected not only the public health situation, but also changed our daily rhythms and the way we communicate with each other. Where spontaneous face-to-face communication became impossible, people have started to adapt their social environment, established new channels for communication and the new communication practices have emerged. Within Psychological aspects of the Epidemic (research alliance) we put into live two projects focused on the investigation of rhythms of individuals affected by the forced isolation.

Rhytms of the day: the aim of the project is to learn more about everyday social practices and various ways of using technology during the isolation period. The everyday routines are studied using early momentary assessment (EMA) methods and phenomenological interviews.

Rhytms of Communication: the COVID-19 outbreak has brought with it a drastic shift in the ways people interact and communicate. Professional and student activity as well as private life of many people have partially moved to the Internet. Among the remote working population, the dominant daily remote communication platforms currently include text (e.g. Messenger) and audiovisual (e.g. Zoom) communication platforms. Two research paths are planned: 1) the study of changes detected in written text; 2) the exploratory study of the dynamics of interactions through Zoom/Google Meet.

Laryngeal cancer may lead to the laryngectomy (removal of the larynx) causing multiple structural and functional adaptations of the affected person and their environment. The project, led by our lab member Konrad who is laryngectomee (larynx amputee) himself, is aimed to study those interactions in order to understand the process better and improve the laryngectomees interactions by giving them a subjectivity neceseary for the sucessful design of solutions to their problems.

Currently developed subbprojects concern, among others, the following problems:

graphic: person with the hole in the neck, hands, quotes symbolizing speech

  • theoretical and practical framework for studying everyday interactions utilising first, second and third person perspectives
  • searching for a way to distinguish the most important interactions for larynx amputees putting them in the role of designers of their own communication
  • investigating the role of the body in the process of adaptation after the operation
  • looking for methods to measure the pressure applied by the user using electrolarynx in the ecological setting

The technological part of the project is realized in the collaboration with MedTech UW, a group of students focused on solving medical problems with the use of technology.

Relevant publications

  1. Zieliński, K., Szamburski, R., Biernacka, A., & Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. (2019). Field study as a method to assess effectiveness of post-laryngectomy communication assistive interfaces. Proceedings of the 24th International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces: Companion.
  2. Zieliński, K., Szamburski, R., Machnacz., E. (2019). Post-laryngectomy interaction restoration system. Proceedings of the 24th International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces: Companion.

The project was partially founded by:
  • Najlepsi z Najlepszych 3.0, Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education grant for the best students to present their results at international conferences and competitions.
  • "Lubię mówić z Tobą": badania etnograficzne komunikacji osób laryngektomowanych, Universitatis Varsoviensis Foundation grant for University of Warsaw students with disability.

NCN-DFG Beethoven 1, 2014/15/G/HS1/04536

The main goal of this project is to contribute to the theory of early language development within the emerging embodied, distributed and situated approach to cognition. For decades, the field of language acquisition has been dominated by approaches, which searched for the learning mechanisms for language mainly in the individual mind of a child and focused mostly on word learning as mapping of labels to their referents. However within the emerging approach, in which language is seen as tightly integrated with other cognitive and social skills and inextricably immersed in action, there is a need to redefine language acquisition in terms of an extended set of mechanisms. Congruently with earlier, functionalist theories of language, a child thus learns the controlling power that utterances have in interactions with other people rather than simple correspondences to external objects.

In this project, we propose a series of studies on early interactions between infants (2 to 12 months) and caregivers, aiming at: 1) extending our collaborative work to reveal the background structure of early interactions in which language is immersed; 2) showing the timing and place language assumes in these interactions; 3) demonstrating the difference that language makes in structuring interactions, especially in directing them towards external world; 4) analyzing how language progressively decouples from the ongoing physical activity (decontextualization). Research methods will consist in: A) theoretical analyses within existing frameworks for language development and for linking cognition to action (ecological psychology) and B) empirical methods, which rely on an innovative integration of qualitative microanalysis of existing videocorpora of early interactions, quantitative statistical and novel dynamical analyses of these data, as well as original experimental work.

The project relies on integration of the expertise, infrastructure and resources of two major research centers, which evidence a high degree of compatibility and complementarity: the Faculty of Psychology, U. of Warsaw brings in expertise in ecological psychology and quantitative (traditional and dynamical) analyses and the CITEC, U. of Bielefeld specializes in early semantics, language development, qualitative and quantitative analysis of early interaction.


  • Białecka-Pikul, M., Białek, A., Kosno, M., Stępień-Nycz, M., Blukacz, M. & Zubek, J. (2021) Early mindreading scale: From joint attention to false-belief understanding, European Journal of Developmental Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/17405629.2021.1911799
  • Białecka-Pikul, M., Szpak, M., Zubek, J., Stępień-Nycz, M., Kołodziejczyk, A., Bosacki, S., & Homer, B. D. (2021). Measuring advanced theory of mind: Do story-based tasks work? Journal of Adolescence, 93, 28–39.
  • Bielski, K., Adamus, S., Kolada, E., Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. Szatkowska, I. (2021). Parcellation of the human amygdala using recurrence quantification analysis, NeuroImage, 227, 117644. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.117644
  • Dębska, A., Łuniewska, M., Zubek, J., Chyl, K., Dynak, A., Dzięgiel-Fivet, G., Plewko, J., Jednoróg, K., & Grabowska, A. (2021). The cognitive basis of dyslexia in school-aged children: A multiple case study in a transparent orthography. Developmental Science, e13173. DOI: 10.1111/desc.13173
  • Hodges, B. & Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. (2021). Ecological Values Theory: Beyond Conformity, Goal-Seeking, and Rule-Following in Action and Interaction. Review of General Psychology, Vol. 0(0), 1–18. DOI: 10.1177/10892680211048174, SAGE journals.
  • Korbak, T., Zubek, J., Kuciński, Ł., Miłoś, P., & Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. (2021). Interaction history as a source of compositionality in emergent communication. Interaction Studies
  • Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. (2021). Complementarity of Description and the Promise of Semiotics in Dealing with an Eluding Object. Biosemiotics, DOI: 10.1007/s12304-021-09470-8, Biosemiotics
  • Rorot W. (2021). Bayesian theories of consciousness: a review in search for a minimal unifying model. Neuroscience of Consciousness 2021 (2). DOI: 10.1093/nc/niab038.
  • Rorot W. (2021). Explaining “spatial purport of perception”. A predictive processing approach. Synthese 198, 9739–9762. DOI: 10.1007/s11229-020-02678-0
  • Sękowski K., Rorot W. (2021). Intuition-Driven Navigation of the Hard Problem of Consciousness. Review of Philosophy and Psychology. DOI: 10.1007/s13164-021-00533-w
  • Zubek, J., Ziembowicz, K., Pokropski, M., Gwiaździński, P., Denkiewicz, M., Boros, A. (2021). Rhythms of the day: How electronic media and daily routines influence mood during COVID-19 pandemic. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. doi: 10.1111/aphw.12317
  • Popova, Y. B. and Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. (2020). Enactivism and Ecological Psychology: The Role of Bodily Experience in Agency. Frontiers in Psychology.
  • López Pérez, D., Stryjek, R., and Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. (2020). Recurrence Quantification Analysis in the Study of on-line Coordination in Norway Rats (Rattus norvegicus). Journal of comparative psychology. https://10.1037/com0000253
  • Rohlfing, K. J., Leonardi, G., Nomikou, I., Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. & Hüllermeier, E. Multimodal Turn-Taking: Motivations, Methodological Challenges, and Novel Approaches, in IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 260-271, June 2020, doi: https://10.1109/TCDS.2019.2892991.
  • Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. & Rohlfing, K. (2020). Structured ecologies for social and linguistic development. In S. Denison., M. Mack, Y. Xu, & B.C. Armstrong (Eds.), Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 336-337). Cognitive Science Society.
  • Deacon, T. W. and Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. (2019). Abandoning the code metaphor is compatible with semiotic proces. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 42, E224.
  • Korbak, T., Zubek, J., Kuciński, Ł., Miłoś, P., Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. (2019) Developmentally motivated emergence of compositional communication via template transfer. EmeCom workshop within Thirty-third Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS 2019).
  • Rączaszek-Leonardi, J., Krzesicka, J., Klamann, N., Ziembowicz, K., Denkiewicz, M., Kukiełka, M. and Zubek, J. (2019) Cultural Artifacts Transform Embodied Practice: How a Sommelier Card Shapes the Behavior of Dyads Engaged in Wine Tasting. Front. Psychol. 10:2671.
  • Rączaszek-Leonardi, J., Rossmanith, N., Nomikou, I., Rohlfing, K. (2019). Levels of coordination in early semantic development. Psychology of Language and Communication, 23, 1, 212-237.
  • Rohlfing, K. J., Leonardi, G., Nomikou, I., Ra̧czaszek-Leonardi, J., & Hüllermeier, E. (2019). Multimodal Turn-Taking: Motivations, Methodological Challenges, and Novel Approaches. IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems, 1–1.
  • Zieliński, K., Szamburski, R., Biernacka, A., & Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. (2019). Field study as a method to assess effectiveness of post-laryngectomy communication assistive interfaces. Proceedings of the 24th International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces: Companion.
  • Zieliński, K., Szamburski, R., Machnacz., E. (2019). Post-laryngectomy interaction restoration system. Proceedings of the 24th International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces: Companion.
  • Białek, A., & Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. (2018). Semiotic Relations as Controls of Interactions. Proceedings of the 8th Joint IEEE International Conference on Development and Learning and on Epigenetic Robotics, p. 97-98.
  • Dębska, A., & Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. (2018). What Makes Us More Egocentric in Communication? The Role of Referent Features and Individual Differences. Discourse Processes, 55(1), 1–11.
  • Raczaszek-Leonardi, J., & Deacon, T. W. (2018). Ungrounding symbols in language development: Implications for modeling emergent symbolic communication in artificial systems. 2018 Joint IEEE 8th International Conference on Development and Learning and Epigenetic Robotics (ICDL-EpiRob), 232–237.
  • Rączaszek-Leonardi, J., Nomikou, I., Rohlfing, K. J., and Deacon, T. W. (2018). Language development from an ecological perspective: Ecologically valid ways to abstract symbols. Ecological Psychology, 30(1), 39–73.
  • Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. and Frédéric Vallée-Tourangeau (2018). Language As A Part Of Action: Multidimensional Time-Scale Integration Of Language And Cognition, Psychology of Language and Communication, Vol. 22, 1, pp. 281-286.
  • Pérez, D. L., Radkowska, A., Raczaszek-Leonardi, J., Tomalski, P., & The TALBY Study Team. (2018). Beyond fixation durations: Recurrence quantification analysis reveals spatiotemporal dynamics of infant visual scanning. Journal of Vision, 18(13), 5.
  • Zubek, J., & Kuncheva, L. (2018). Learning from Exemplars and Prototypes in Machine Learning and Psychology.
  • López Pérez, D., Leonardi, G., Niedźwiecka, A., Radkowska, A., Rączaszek-Leonardi, J., & Tomalski, P. (2017). Combining Recurrence Analysis and Automatic Movement Extraction from Video Recordings to Study Behavioral Coupling in Face-to-Face Parent-Child Interactions. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 2228.
  • Nomikou, I., Leonardi, G., Radkowska, A., Rączaszek-Leonardi, J., & Rohlfing, K. J. (2017). Taking up an active role: Emerging participation in early mother–infant interaction during peekaboo routines. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 1656.
  • Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. (2017). Time Scales for Understanding the Agency of Infants and Caregivers: In: N. J. Enfield and Paul Kockelman (eds.). Distributed Agency: The Sharing of Intention, Cause, and Accountability, (p. 161-167), Oxford University Press: N.Y. 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190457204.003.0017
  • Tatjewski, M. Bańko, M., Kucińska, A., Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. (2017). Computational distributional semantics and free associations: a comparison of two word-similarity models in a study of synonyms and lexical variants, in: Language, Corpora and Cognition, P. Pęzik, J. Waliński, K. Kosecki (eds.). Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, pp. 57-72.
  • Zubek, J., Denkiewicz, M., Barański, J., Wróblewski, P., Rączaszek-Leonardi, J., & Plewczynski, D. (2017). Social adaptation in multi-agent model of linguistic categorization is affected by network information flow. PloS One, 12(8), e0182490.
  • Leonardi, G., Nomikou, I., Rohlfing, K. J., & Raczaszek-Leonardi, J. (2016). Vocal interactions at the dawn of communication: The emergence of mutuality and complementarity in mother-infant interaction. 2016 Joint IEEE International Conference on Development and Learning and Epigenetic Robotics (ICDL-EpiRob), 288–293.
  • Nomikou, I., Leonardi, G., Rohlfing, K. J., & Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. (2016). Constructing interaction: The development of gaze dynamics. Infant and Child Development, 25(3), 277–295.
  • Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. (2016). How does a word become a message? An illustration on a developmental time-scale. New Ideas in Psychology, 42, 46–55.
  • Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. (2016). Reconciled with complexity in research on cognitive systems. AVANT. The Journal of the Philosophical-Interdisciplinary Vanguard, VII(2), 117–138.
  • Rączaszek-Leonardi, J., Fusaroli, R., & Caramelli, N. (2016). Rethinking Meaning: An Ecological Perspective on Language. Psychology of Language and Communication, 20(2), 92–97.
  • Tuller, B., & Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. (2016). A Phase Transition in Theories of Speech: A Metalogue. Ecological Psychology, 28(3), 166–170.
  • Zubek, J., Denkiewicz, M., Dębska, A., Radkowska, A., Komorowska-Mach, J., Litwin, P., Stępień, M., Kucińska, A., Sitarska, E., Komorowska, K, Fusaroli, R., Tylén, K., Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. (2016). Performance of language-coordinated collective systems: A study of wine recognition and description. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1321.
  • Rączaszek-Leonardi, J., & Nomikou, I. (2015). Beyond mechanistic interaction: Value-based constraints on meaning in language. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1579.
  • Fusaroli, R., Rączaszek-Leonardi, J., & Tylén, K. (2014). Dialog as interpersonal synergy. New Ideas in Psychology, 32, 147–157.
  • Plewczynski, D., Łukasik, M., Kurdej, K., Zubek, J., Rakowski, F., & Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. (2014). Generic framework for simulation of cognitive systems: A case study of color category boundaries. In Man-Machine Interactions 3 (pp. 385–393). Springer.
  • Rączaszek-Leonardi, J., Dębska, A., & Sochanowicz, A. (2014). Pooling the ground: Understanding and coordination in collective sense making. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1233.
  • Tylén, K., Fusaroli, R., Bjørndahl, J. S., Raczaszek-Leonardi, J., Østergaard, S., & Stjernfelt, F. (2014). Diagrammatic reasoning: Abstraction, interaction, and insight. Pragmatics & Cognition, 22(2), 264–283.
  • Rączaszek-Leonardi, J., Nomikou, I., & Rohlfing, K. J. (2013). Young children’s dialogical actions: The beginnings of purposeful intersubjectivity. IEEE Transactions on Autonomous Mental Development, 5(3), 210–221.
  • Migdał, P., Rączaszek-Leonardi, J., Denkiewicz, M., & Plewczynski, D. (2012). Information-sharing and aggregation models for interacting minds. Journal of Mathematical Psychology, 56(6), 417–426.
  • Pattee, H. H., & Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. (2012). Laws, language and life: Howard Pattee’s classic papers on the physics of symbols with contemporary commentary (Vol. 7). Springer Science & Business Media.
  • Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. (2012). Language as a system of replicable constraints. In Laws, language and life (pp. 295–333). Springer.
  • Rączaszek-Leonardi, J.(2012). Types of integration in a theory of language. Psychology of Language and Communication, 16(2), 79–88.
  • Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. (2011). Symbols as constraints. Benjamins Current Topics, 161.
  • Rączaszek-Leonardi, J. (2010). Multiple time-scales of language dynamics: An example from psycholinguistics. Ecological Psychology, 22(4), 269–285.
  • Rączaszek-Leonardi, J., & Kelso, J. S. (2008). Reconciling symbolic and dynamic aspects of language: Toward a dynamic psycholinguistics. New Ideas in Psychology, 26(2), 193–207. https://10.1016/j.newideapsych.2007.07.003
  • Rączaszek-Leonardi, J., Shapiro, L. P., Tuller, B., & Kelso, J. S. (2008). Activating basic category exemplars in sentence contexts: A dynamical account. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 37(2), 87–113.