Tuesday 17 May 2011

Chemero (2009) Chapter 8: Neurophilosophy Meets RECS

Chemero's book finishes with two chapters on some philosophical consequences of taking a radical, embodied approach to cognitive science. Chapter 8 is about the mind-body problem, and how various attempts to reduce cognitive science to, say, neuroscience, can be vigorously resisted via the RECS approach, without being dualist about the mind. There are many people who think cognitive science can be reduced to neuroscience (intertheoretic reduction), but one plank of any embodied approach is that this won't work. RECS is particularly committed to a more extended notion of cognition and so a strategy for resisting reduction is critical. Chemero's plan won't rely on the usual philosophical manoeuvres such as Martian pain mechanisms or zombies. Like me, Chemero is concerned that these create the impression that philosophers aren't tackling real problems; he wants the philosophical conclusions of RECS to be grounded in data, and I thoroughly endorse this approach.

Sunday 8 May 2011

Perception, Action & Dynamical Systems

Over Easter I visited the Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience at Aarhus University in Denmark, courtesy of the Interacting Minds group. I gave a talk, got the tour, and met some of the faculty and students - some interesting opportunities for future collaborations, I hope - thanks for the hospitality!

I wanted to lay out the basics of the talk I gave. I took the opportunity to present some ideas that have been developing as I work on this blog, reading Chemero and working on coordination experiments. There is a core of people in Aarhus interested in things ecological, as well as dynamical systems, so it was a good audience to try these ideas out and they seemed to go over well. This is also the sketch of a paper Sabrina and I are going to work on over the summer.

The take home message of the talk was simple - dynamical systems is the right kind of mindset for cognitive science, but it is not a theory of behaviour. Dynamics merely provides the right kind of modelling tools - the form of the model must be based on hypotheses about the specific kind of dynamical systems we are or else they are merely an exercise in data-fitting. Ecological psychology is the right theory, and the Bingham model of coordinated rhythmic movement is currently the only example of a genuinely perception-action dynamical systems model. My thoughts here are largely from my response to Chapter 4 of Chemero (on 'the dynamical stance') and Chapter 5, his initial attempt to use dynamics to serve as a guide to discovery which I think fails and which Chemero then replaces with ecological psychology. The description of Bingham's model comes from here.

Saturday 7 May 2011

Failing to Replicate Bem's Ability to Get Published in a Major Journal

I think Daryl Bem has done psychology an enormous favour. Possibly even two.

As you probably  know, Bem is the author of 'Feeling the future: Experimental evidence for anomalous retroactive influences on cognition and affect', a paper with claims to have found evidence for precognition by running standard psychological experiments in reverse and demonstrating small but statistically reliable effects on behaviour of stimuli which came after the response was made. I posted briefly about it here, and otherwise it's been all over all of the internet for months.

It's back on my radar because several psychologists, including Richard Wiseman, recently submitted a failure to replicate the studies to the Journal of Personality & Social Psychology (JPSP), which is where Bem published his work. As reported here, Eliot Smith, the editor, refused to even send this (and another, successful replication as well) out for review. The reason Smith gives is that JPSP is not in the business of publishing mere replications - it prioritises novel results, and he suggests the authors take their work to other (presumably lesser) journals. This is nothing new - flagship journals like JPSP all have policies in place like this. But it's not a good look, and it got me thinking.

Sunday 1 May 2011

Reading Group - Gibson (1979) Chapter 6 Part 2

So, it's been four months, but here's part 2 of Gibson '79 chapter six:

Gibson believes that events are specified in the optic array, just as stationary objects are. In this part of the chapter he describes three classes of events (changes of surface layout, changes of surface colour or texture, and changes in the existence of a surface). He goes on to discuss the types of optical disturbances that can specify these events.