Thursday 28 February 2013

The affordances of objects and pictures of those objects

People interested in how perception and action affect cognition have begun talking about affordances. This should be great news; the ecological approach suggests that affordances are the properties of the world that we perceive that enable us to control our actions, so if you are interested in how action can ground, say, memory or language, then discussing affordances should enable real progress.

The term 'affordance', however, is a technical term, and it refers to very particular properties of an organism's environment. There are methods for experimentally identifying exactly how these properties are composed, and there are methods for testing our perception of them. If you aren't using these methods, and if you aren't using the term correctly, then you aren't studying affordances.

Tuesday 12 February 2013

'Embodied Cognition Is Not What You Think It Is' - the paper!

Whoops, we did it again - a paper based on the blog! This time we are in press at Frontiers in Psychology, in a Research Topic on embodied cognition, with a paper we somehow got away with calling 'Embodied Cognition is Not What You Think It Is'. 

This paper
draws from a lot of posts on the blog on embodied cognition, perception-action and language. We have used this opportunity to tackle some key issues head on, and we like this paper a lot :) We cover all the important issues and we set up what we think is the way forwards for embodied cognitive science. In addition, it sets up the ground work that we want to build on with our own Research Topic on Radical Embodied Cognitive Neuroscience. We've laid out what we think is the task facing the brain; this is what the brain is engaging with, and so this is what we think neuroscience needs to work with in order to understand what the brain is doing.

It's the kind of paper that will either land with a splash or vanish without trace. We want it to make some serious waves, and we're hoping that we can encourage people to publish free Commentaries on it at Frontiers, to challenge us or pick up our challenges, and, most fun for all, to come work with us to take all this forwards! We want this to be the basis of an empirical research programme and we want you all to work with us on it :) At the very least, feel free to pepper us with questions; this paper is the start of something for us, not the end and we're interested in the response to this paper to frame the next step.

Friday 8 February 2013

Learning the affordances for maximum distance throwing

Over the last couple of posts, I have reviewed data that shows people can perceive which object they can, in fact, throw the farthest ahead of time by hefting the object. Both the size and the weight of the object affect people's judgements and the distance thrown; however, only weight affects the dynamics of throwing (release angle and velocity are unaffected by changes in size). This rules out the smart perceptual mechanism proposed by Bingham et al (1989), which proposed that both size and weight changes affect hefting and throwing the same way. So how are people perceiving this affordance?

Friday 1 February 2013

Newton International Fellowships 2013

If you from anywhere other than the UK and are looking for a post-doc opportunity in the UK, and are trained in perception, action, language or embodied cognition type research, then this is an excellent funding stream and we are both very interested in hearing from you to come and work in our labs. Please feel free to contact us if interested, and please spread the word to other interested parties!  

We are primarily interested in supporting a post-doc who is interested in helping us advance our work on an ecological approach to language and issues relating to how information gets its meaning, within our embodied cognition framework. These fellowships are highly competitive so you need to be good at what you do, and you need to work with us to develop an independent project so we can be sure we can support it.

A new round of Newton International Fellowships - an initiative to fund research collaborations and improve links between UK and overseas researchers - has now opened.

The Newton International Fellowships are funded by the British Academy and the Royal Society and aim to attract the most promising early-career post-doctoral researchers from overseas in the fields of the humanities, the natural, physical and social sciences. The Fellowships enable researchers to work for two years at a UK research institution with the aim of fostering long-term international collaborations.

Newton Fellows will receive an allowance of £24,000 to cover subsistence and up to £8,000 to cover research expenses in each year of the Fellowship. A one-off relocation allowance of up to £2,000 is also available.

In addition, Newton Fellows may be eligible for follow-up funding of up to £6,000 per annum for up to 10 years following completion of the Fellowship to support activities which will help build long term links with the UK.

The scheme is open to post-doctoral (and equivalent) early-career researchers working outside the UK who do not hold UK citizenship. Early career means having held no more than one or two brief post doc positions.

Applications are to be made via the Royal Society’s online application system which is available at The closing date for applications is Wednesday 10th April 2013 but you should aim to get it to the host organisation at least a week in advance.

Further details are available from the Newton International Fellowships website: