Tuesday, 23 November 2010

What Does Coordinated Rhythmic Movement Have To Do With Anything?

In which I provide an answer to a question I get asked by everyone, including grant reviewers, students and random people who make the mistake of asking what I do for a living.

I've spent numerous recent posts talking about coordinated rhythmic movement. This is my bread-and-butter experimental task, my go-to example for studying all aspects of perception, action and learning. I'm branching out, now I have my own faculty position, but coordination is where it's at. 

The single most common question I get is "why study this? Surely it's just some fake movement task; I mean finger-wiggling, who ever even does that?" I wouldn't mind so much, but I even get this question from grant reviewers, scientists who should know the answer. Doing science properly is important, but communicating that my methods achieve this matters too, not least because today's funding climate demands it.

So, coordinated rhythmic movement: what the hell?

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Life and Other Vague Categories

Awhile back I proposed that the distinction between what is cognitive and what is non-cognitive is problematic because of the types of categories we're dealing with - namely, vague artefact categories rather than clearly bounded natural kinds. I suggested that this causes important problems for the study of cognition itself (because we have no principled method for deciding what counts as cognitive) and for philosophical arguments related to cognition (e.g., the coupling-constitution fallacy) because these also depend on having some idea of what counts as cognitive.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Brief Note: Daryl Bem and Precognition

In case you missed it, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a flagship APA journal, published a study by Daryl Bem containing evidence for psi (precognition). I didn't really want to post in too much detail about this study (which has been doing the rounds online all week) because I'm not that interested in being a science journalist. But I did feel it was worth posting a few links and some brief comments to this provocative paper, because it raises a lot of interesting questions about the business of doing psychological science.Should a paper on precognition be published in a major social psychology journal? How did Bem get his results? How seriously should we take what seems to be evidence for something that a lot of other science suggests is impossible?

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

A Perception/Action Model of Coordination

Other coordination posts are here.

The role of perception in the dynamic leading to the HKB phenomena has been made clear by the work so far. But the exact form of this dynamic had yet to be modelled; the HKB model only consists of two cosine functions superimposed on each other to produce the two attractors at 0° and 180°, and the dynamic pattern hypothesis it embodies made predictions which did not held up empirically. It was now time to take an explicitly perception/action approach to modelling the task, which means it's finally time to turn to (my PhD advisor) Geoff Bingham's model (2001, 2004a, 2004b). This model is a fully perception/action model, and the modelling strategy Bingham lays out is, I think, a masterclass in how to go about building models of this kind.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Stuff on the Internet (12 November 2010)

This will be an occasional post whenever we've accumulated enough links of interest to things on the internet. These were just two things I wanted to link to but not make full posts about.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Establishing the Role of Perception in Coordination: Proprioception and Action Measures

Other coordination posts are here.

The dynamic pattern hypothesis had led to some predictions which, when tested, turned out not to be true. Instead, it seemed that the way in which we perceive relative phase (i.e. the coordination between two things) was the limiting factor. Visual judgments, in the absence of the need to produce an action, produced results that mirrored the movement stability data.

There were two immediate objections to these results, which we addressed empirically in the following way.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

On being (briefly) unimanual - and worse, right handed!

Six weeks ago I broke my left wrist playing soccer. For the first two weeks I was in the temporary cast from the Accident & Emergency ward. It was only supposed to be a couple of days, but I had to travel to the US before my appointment to get a proper cast. I therefore had this unwieldy cast on while everything was sore, rendering me effectively one handed. The real cast was lighter and gave more support, and enabled me to use my arm more; the wrist was still constrained, though, and so I still had to rely on my (non-preferred) right hand for many tasks. I'm out of the cast as of Tuesday, although I need to rehabilitate the muscles back before I'll be 100%.

The experience has been quite interesting (in between being very boring). I've observed transfer of learning, recalibration of my arm as effector, and adaptation of numerous actions to the point where I can't really remember what it felt like to do them prior to the injury. I'm going to have to spend some time going back again now the cast has come off, and these things all touch on the topics I'm interested in covering on this blog.

A caveat: the plural of anecdote is not data. I'm not trying to convince anyone of my interpretations here, just thinking about my experience through the lens of my theoretical understanding of perception/action.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Gibson vs Physics: Gibson Wins, at the Ecological Scale

One of the interesting questions that popped out of our discussions with Ken Aizawa about Runeson and the Ames Room is this: did Gibson and his followers banish physics and geometry from his psychology? And if so, is Runeson breaking this prohibition by talking geometrically about the Ames Room? And how can you banish physics anyway - what the hell?

I think I've convinced Ken that there is no such prohibition in the comments at the posts linked to above (I think). But it's a topic of fairly central importance to the ecological approach, so I wanted to summarise some of these ideas and examples here.