Promises and challenges of human computational ethology


The movements an organism makes provide insights into its internal states and motives. This principle is the foundation of the new field of computational ethology, which links rich automatic measurements of natural behaviors to motivational states and neural activity. Computational ethology has proven transformative for animal behavioral neuroscience. This success raises the question whether rich automatic measurements of behavior can similarly drive progress in human neuroscience and psychology? New technologies for capturing and analyzing complex behaviors in real and virtual environments enable us to probe the human brain during naturalistic dynamic interactions with the environment that were beyond experimental investigation so far. Inspired by nonhuman computational ethology, we explore how these new tools can be used to test important questions in human neuroscience. We argue that the application of this methodology will help human neuroscience and psychology extend on limited behavioral measurements such as reaction time and accuracy, permit novel insights into how the human brain produces behavior, and ultimately reduce the growing measurement gap between human and animal neuroscience.