Tuesday 13 December 2022

Trip Report from the Uncontrolled Manifold

I've spent the past few months getting a new paper to the 'complete first draft' stage (you can find a copy here in the meantime; it's still got some work to do though). It's about affordances, using targeted long-distance throwing as the task, and it's my first dip into the world of the uncontrolled manifold. I collected this data over five years ago, and it's been deeply satisfying to actually use it after all this time.

Part of what's taken so long is that I've had to learn the details of the uncontrolled manifold analysis. I blogged some about it here and here but this was the year I finally had the time and data to actually get into the maths. I still really like it as an approach to analysing human movement, but learning the details and trying to figure out how to get affordances into it has raised a lot of interesting questions about how it gets used right now and what this all implies for how we think movement is controlled. I'm raising a bunch of these issues in the paper but I wanted to sketch some out here for comment.

Broadly (and this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone really) I've realised that UCM is only a method, not a theory, and it's therefore not able to serve as a 'guide to discovery' about movement control. However, it's being used as if it can, and to be honest I was quite shocked at how carelessly it's being used in the literature. 

Tuesday 27 September 2022

Are Illusions Even a Thing?

Traditional vision science is very excited about illusions. These are cases when perception seems to break down; there is a mismatch between what is out there and what we experience, and traditional approaches consider these breakdowns as clues to how vision has to work, given what it is working with. 

Ecological psychologists don’t like illusions. Typically, they occur when information is either made ambiguous or faked, and in general we think these are the wrong situations to study perception in. We sometimes engage with the literature on these effects, but usually to show how the trick is the result of not thinking ecologically. 

Rogers (2022) has taken this basic analysis but gone one interesting step further. He’s argued that the notion of ‘visual illusion’ is simply not a clear category; it’s not a useful way to describe any of the effects people study. He argues that there simply is no sufficient definition of what an illusion is that works, and that what we call illusions are just either tricks (as above) or inevitable consequences of how the visual system works. 

I am broadly on board with this additional step, and it’s made me think hard about what illusions are and how best to respond when people use them against direct perception. 

Thursday 30 June 2022

Lecture 8: The Space Enigmas I: Berkeley (Turvey, 2019, Lectures on Perception)

One of the big problems that emerges from all the proceeding discussions of perception is how we are able to perceive space. Space has been considered as a mathematical concept (in terms of Euclidean geometry), as a psychological concept (a construction of the mind) but never really as a biological, ecological concept. This first chapter about space perception is focused on one mathematical conception, some of it's implications, and one specific attempt to deal with those implications (Berkeley's New Theory of Vision).