Modelling Adaptation through Social Allostasis: Modulating the Effects of Social Touch with Oxytocin in Embodied Agents
Social allostasis is a mechanism of adaptation that permits individuals to dynamically adapt their physiology to changing physical and social conditions. Oxytocin (OT) is widely considered to be one of the hormones that drives and adapts social behaviours. While its precise effects remain unclear, two areas where OT may promote adaptation are by affecting social salience, and affecting internal responses of performing social behaviours. Working towards a model of dynamic adaptation through social allostasis in simulated embodied agents, and extending our previous work studying OT-inspired modulation of social salience, we present a model and experiments that investigate the effects and adaptive value of allostatic processes based on hormonal (OT) modulation of affective elements of a social behaviour. In particular, we investigate and test the effects and adaptive value of modulating the degree of satisfaction of tactile contact in a social motivation context in a small simulated agent society across different environmental challenges (related to availability of food) and effects of OT modulation of social salience as a motivational incentive. Our results show that the effects of these modulatory mechanisms have different (positive or negative) adaptive value across different groups and under different environmental circumstance in a way that supports the context-dependent nature of OT, put forward by the interactionist approach to OT modulation in biological agents. In terms of simulation models, this means that OT modulation of the mechanisms that we have described should be context-dependent in order to maximise viability of our socially adaptive agents, illustrating the relevance of social allostasis mechanisms.