Tuesday 24 November 2020

An (Draft) Ecological Approach to Hallucinating

Sabrina and I are planning our next papers, and in typical style she's been thinking about how to tackle a hard problem - this time, hallucinations. These are one of those go-to topics for representational people, because hallucinations by definition are not based in the detection of perceptual information. They are a kind of perceptual experience, however, and so seem to be a good candidate for identifying how perceptual experience is constructed internally. 

We've never let a little thing like a topic being hard stop us before, so it looks like this is next on our list. The goal is to lay out an ecological analysis and see where we end up. We are going to build on the work we did in the Ecological Representations paper, in which we considered how to understand (at least some) neural activity as the selection of consequent neural actions (pg 243 and on). This is the first of a few papers we have in mind where we apply our ecological analyses as worked examples to interesting topics (verbal instruction in coaching is on my mind too, as are cells making blood vessels). 

In this post, I'm going to do my usual thinking-out-loud about my notes from our first chat; all conclusions are works in progress! At this point, I am just assembling the resources our ecological approach provides us, and lining them up in their proper places so we can use them rigorously.

Monday 16 November 2020

Verb Your Nouns

One of the things that makes it hard to communicate with people about the ecological approach is that it is actually a radically different way of thinking about cognition. That means we are often literally not talking about the same things (this is why Hobbes is so concerned).

One of the ways this shows itself over and over is nouns vs verbs. Information-processing cognitive science studies nouns; memory, attention, perception. Describing things with nouns drives your science in very particular directions. For example, as soon as you talk about memory as a thing, you naturally ask questions such as 'where is it?' and 'how do you access it?'. 

In contrast, the ecological approach studies verbs; remembering, attending, perceiving. Verbs also guide your science in particular directions, but instead of talking about things that must be somewhere, we talk about processes that happen at times, in places.

Ecological types are often challenged to explain nouns cognitive psychologists are interested in. Memory is the big one; language is the other. I've realised, we can't, but only because we don't study nouns. So whenever I encounter this challenge now, my very first move is to verb all the nouns. While this doesn't provide an answer, it immediately makes me ask ecological style questions about the topic at hand, and now it can help you too.

Monday 9 November 2020

Turvey, Lectures on Perception: The Story So Far

I have now reviewed the first 7 Lectures on Perception from Turvey' textbook (posts indexed here). I feel like I've reached a natural pause point before carrying on with the rest of the lectures, and I wanted to summarise what I thought has been going on so far.

These are lectures on perception, quite generally. While Turvey will explain the ecological approach, that's not what is currently going on. Right now Turvey is laying out the scope of the question 'what kind of material system could be a perceiving system?' and reviewing the typical, non-ecological answers to that question.

The main takeaway at this point is that we have been trying to answer that question using 17th century notions of material systems, specifically Newtonian mechanics. This has placed what turn out to be unacceptable restrictions on the kinds of properties we are allowed to invoke, and theories of perception have had to fill the gaps with unpayable 'loans of intelligence'. 21st century physics, however, has more on offer; complexity science and quantum mechanics teach us many valuable lessons on how to expand our horizons so that perception becomes possible, rather than miraculous. 

Thursday 5 November 2020

Verbal Instruction in Sports Coaching

A few days ago I posted a Twitter thread about the role of verbal instruction in sports coaching. It's a thing that comes up a lot as a key point of contention between ecological and non-ecological types, so I wanted to think it through. This post collects what I said in the thread, and adds a few things that have occurred to me since. 

Coaches want to be able to give their athletes instructions. Usually, this is about technique; ‘place your feet here’, ‘angle your club like this’, etc. This fits with the idea of coaching as imparting knowledge. Ecological coaching approaches tend to veer away from verbal instruction like this, and focuses on creating constrained environments players find their own way through. This becomes a key point of contention. From the traditional point of view, it makes no sense to not verbalise instructions. 

So what’s the ecological motivation for avoiding this?