November 24, 2013

A tiny example of logical abstraction being unequal to EcoPsy

I had issues coming up with a title for this because it is only a tiny example I use when speaking with undergraduates (usually first-years) about the inadequacy of logic to account for human behaviour. I link it to Gigerenzer's arguments on this matter.

If this example may be useful for you to use, awesome, otherwise; you can always use it to tire people out and make something easy more of a burden (for no reason at all, which is always a fun pastime).

Imagine a round pillar with four plaques in each cardinal direction, you are to read all four. You may choose to either; walk one cardinal direction clockwise for the entire procedure, or; three cardinal directions counter-clockwise for the entire procedure. However, regardless of which one you choose you would read the plaques, gaining the same information, in the same order. Logically, abstracted from the procedure, you walk away with the same information. Ecologically, obviously, they are different because movement is different. The larger the pillar, the larger the difference.

The point here can then be elaborated further upon depending on the exact idea you are wanting to teach. I find it quite useful for undergraduates, as for postgraduates however, the example is often too basic and Gigerenzer's 'Wason four-card task argument' I find more useful.

If you have any fun techniques or examples you use to teach these ideas, please enrich the comment field!

September 28, 2013

Ecological Psychology and Locke(d) Doors

A point of entry in the free will debate concerns Locke's example (no reference I'm afraid, I've lost it) of a person entering a room, closing the door behind hier [ɪə]. In situation A hie [i:] just makes a decision to stay or leave, in situation B hie is unaware of the door locking behind hier. Now, my own take on this example is that it neatly shows subjective and objective 'knowledge' [and its impact on considering free will existent or not]. Hie makes a decision based on free will in the first case and hie only believes hie does in the second. From a subjective perspective there is free will, from an objective there isn't.

Ecological Psychology does not like this at all. EcoPsy would probably decide that in both cases there is free will because perception, belonging to the observer, does not include the information that the door is locked. Or? EcoPsy is positioned with embodied, embedded and often extended cognition, including dynamicism. This would entail that movement and active exploration is an important aspect of being human. Therefore, the decision to stay in the room can either be classified as free will in both cases or defined a non-decision. The reason for the latter would be that, at that point in time, the perceiver has not actively explored the environment enough to be able to make the decision to begin with. Even a half-arsed exploration of hies [i:z] environment allows perception of which options are available. As I see it, the original example assumes naivité and passivity on part of the observer, and this is unfair.

The most important point however is that the original example also defines decision-making in a strict computational manner; at one point in time, without temporal perspective, in a very strict fashion. It does not take into consideration how we explore, find out and perceive in the real world -how decisions unfold over time and do not boil down to single points in time. In my perspective, there are several more philosophical examples that are conundrums simply because of the distinct connectionist/computationalist ignorance of temporal flow.

September 18, 2013

Retraction of exemplification of 'virtual affordances' in "Cognitive Psychology in Crisis" (2/2)

This reminded me of something that I have been struggling with in psychology in general for a very long time.

The issue I have is that, in my previous blog post, the exemplification by League of Legends (LoL) specifics (p. 37-38), can be used as conceptually equal to the definition of virtual affordances. This is why I didn't spot the fallacy to begin with.

On a conceptual level, LoL does indeed contain virtual affordances, but, ontologically, the programming is too weak for it to be anything else -it is not ontologically equal. Another distinction is needed here; of course virtual affordances will not be defined exactly the same as affordances ontologically, they consist of different matter. However, in the realm of virtual environments -the ontological definition comes down to programming, 010101011s and eventually computer chips and electricity. As an abundance of philosophers argue, it is not down to the hardware (and I will refrain from getting into this argument here, worthy of books and hours of deliberating). This may sound representationalist also by the way. I assure you it is not. The point is; the programming code, the 010111s and so on is the environment in the sense that it is what it reduces down to, but, it is not when considering virtual agents/objects/environments interactivity (the epistemological stuffs). This is so for the exact same reason Gibson defines the ecological level for most organisms, and not the physics or astronomical levels.

That said, should each programmed virtual environment be treated as a "full" virtual environment, and that, virtual affordances are to be defined depending on the perspective from each virtual environment? Or should the virtual environments all be defined as "weaker" or "stronger" programmed when compared to the environment, essentially, defining the environment as the strict criteria to which virtual environments are to be judged?

As for psychology in general, it seems to me that they lack a connection between epistemology and ontology, but EcoPsy doesn't. As usual, correct me if I am wrong.

Retraction of exemplification of 'virtual affordances' in "Cognitive Psychology in Crisis" (1/2)

I must admit a mistake. Virtual affordances, as defined in "Cognitive Psychology in Crisis: Ameliorating the Shortcomings of Representationalism" reads "invariants programmed in environment, objects and agents, allowing, limiting or disallowing virtual behaviours, interactions and coupled systems between those environments, objects and agents" (p. 37). By this definition, the examples used; League of Legends specifics, do not strictly hold up to this definition.

As one example, abilities usable by buttons lack one, very important, aspect of the traditional definition of affordances. Reciprocality. Abilities in LoL do not essentially display virtual agent interaction with virtual object/environment such as throwing corresponds to organism interaction with object/environment. An example of one that would count belongs to two characters named Volibear and Singed, who can run up to an enemy and toss over their shoulders. But even then, it is a stretch to count this as a virtual affordance. Since there are no universal laws of physics programmed into the game, even this activity does not strictly live up to the definition; it is simply a virtual behaviour visualised to mimic what would be an affordance had it been enacted in the environment.

There are better examples from even the earliest FPS-games such as Quake, where you can aim your rocket launcher towards the floor and fire (called rocketjumping) to overcome gravity and reach high altitude plateaus not otherwise reachable. Here, however, there would be debate about how much the virtual agent actually is a virtual agent or not, details, details...

In sum, Human Computer Interface type stuff, still involves human organisms and what they are able and not depending on what is depicted on a screen (which is what my thesis experiment would come closer to). Virtual agents in virtual environments however, requires more from programming than is currently displayed (in general) for me to feel comfortable calling them virtual affordances.

August 23, 2013

An ecological approach to psychology. (7/19)

Article 7 of 19 in Eric Charles' Special Issue of Review of General Psychology
Author, Harry Heft; in Review of General Psychology, 2013, 17(2), p. 162-167.

My own conviction that EP can be used in a unified psychological discipline had to take a back seat here. Perhaps one thing that this article cleared up for me, is its place in such a unification. I have begun to build a taxonomy for how such a combined psychological discipline would look. It is for now only a perception to me, but I am going to, after devouring all the articles, paint it out and share. I am beginning to understand the value of combination through Eric Charles' special issue, it is what will characterise my own solution.

"...Psychological inquiry begins with the adoption, often tacitly, of a frame by which its core concerns are bracketed. The standard frame used in psychological inquiry brackets the individual. As a result, at different points in its history, experimental psychology has been defined as the study of the conscious contents of mind, of behavior, of mental processes, of the brain, of the genetic and biological basis of behavior and thought, and so on..." (p. 163). I find this an important statement because it showcases that even though we can agree on "the individual" as our subject matter, it is where we find "the individual", due to our underlying theoretical conviction, that determines what and how we research psychology.

One of the core strengths of EP comes from it being a 'relational' perspective, as opposed to putting the isolated individual in our central focus. However we may like the idea of being separate, autonomous entities, we cannot escape being a part of a world and perceiving an umwelt that affects what we do. This is, by the way, how, amongst others physics and biology, have evolved in the past and EP does a fantastic job to keep to the rigour demanded of a science but allowing for both individuating and generalising approaches to research. "A relational frame gains considerable momentum many centuries later from two 19th century advances in science: the development of field theories in the physics (e.g. , electromagnetism) and, especially, the theory of evolution by natural selection in the life sciences. From the latter standpoint, it is recognized that the characteristics of living things are best understood historically in relation to changing environing circumstances. The starting point for the life sciences now becomes the individual organism in a field of relations." (p. 163).

The article itself makes a good case for why EP is one of the strongest candidates to keep central in a unified psychology, it lacks however in its discussion of this theme. Unfortunately also, it joins a few of the other articles in that it demotes other areas of inquiry, however, the actual criticism is justified (I use the same arguments when comparing to other theories -this is by the way not the reason for why it is justified, this is) and I am beginning to wonder if not there will have to be collateral damage regardless of how we decide to unite our discipline.

August 20, 2013

Statistics > Philosophy ... I disagree, sir, I disagree.

Mathematics preferred over creativity and critical thinking, I'm sad to announce.

Last year I tutored students in Philosophy of Science in Psychology, I did it because I wanted to, because I love teaching, because I had taken the class the previous semester and saw peers struggle, because I wanted to learn from my own tutor and gain experience for my (hopefully) future job. All students in the class passed and I received excellent feedback from students.

I attempted to get paid for my services this year since I can't take student loans any more and need to get a "real job"... so sent e-mails to the right people and received a response; "while we appreciate the effort you have put into the course, we are focusing on the statistics-part of the three courses A, B and C and there is unfortunately no room in the economy for tutors in Philosophy of Science in Psychology".

I think philosophy is at least as important as statistics. Philosophy taught me (amongst a massive number of things) how to look at a study and then neatly pick out what the actual arguments and conclusions are based on which data and analyses are presented (and not presented). Statistics taught me to mass-produce those arguments and conclusions, and reading (even published) articles it is not clear that everyone understands what they are producing..

It's like .. I'm having a hard time thinking of a metaphor.. Sigh.. It's like anything else you do.. Just because you can do it doesn't mean you can.. Oh nevermind. No example. My point is, it would have been reassuring to see other parts than statistics be prioritised and valued by higher-ups, could have given a broader base to stand on and larger understanding of the tools (including statistics) we use in psychological research.

August 18, 2013

Pragmatic case studies as a source of unity in applied psychology. (6/19)

Article 6 of 19 in Eric Charles' Special Issue of Review of General Psychology
Author, Daniel Fishman and Stanley Messer; in Review of General Psychology, 2013, 17(2), p. 156-161.

A very interesting perspective put forward here, and from an angle that I have little insight into but am fascinated by.

To exemplify that pluralism benefits all involved perspectives, four different therapeutic processes/techniques are discussed. It is clear that they have benefits and drawbacks and that they complement each other and are appropriate situationally. A parallel can be drawn here to the different philosophical backdrops used in psychology; social constructionism is an excellent diplomat in that it takes into consideration all opinions, critical realism is humble in its acknowledgement that we may not be perceiving reality for what it is and so on, and so forth. It thus forms valuable insight into the perspective from applied psychology.

"Thus, as mentioned above, treating theories as complementary conceptual tools, rather than as competitors for a single truth, can enhance the effectiveness of applied psychological interventions, like psychotherapy." (p. 158).  This is a neat idea for the unification of applied psychology. I would be very interested to read about how it would relate to basic psychology. Simply multiple-theory-based perspectives? The danger I think is that it might be more clear cut in applied psychology.

"It emerges from a search for a third way out of psychology’s present “culture wars” between modern/positivist and postmodern/constructivist visions of psychology. These culture wars undermine unity in applied psychology and draw resources away from practical problem-solving (i.e. , directed toward today’s pressing psychological and social issues)" (p. 158). Well this certainly applies to basic psychology also, considering for example quantitative and qualitative psychology (an example of this can actually be found in the previous article).

It is proposed that "the ultimate purpose of applied psychological knowledge is to improve the condition of actual clients within the complexities of their reality" (p. 159) and that case studies in applied psychology should form a large database and knowledge be built up inductively. I can't help but think here that in medical science this works great, how would it fare in a discipline with few agreed upon tenets? Also, how does this suggestion apply to less clearly practically applied psychological areas? Those interested in the most basic theoretical work in psychology can only by several steps come down to a practical level and if focus is pragmatist, will they be able to pursue their interest? It is however a fantastic idea and I hope this last concern could be adressed.

The only other issue I can think of is that I believe we still need a shared ontological basis, otherwise the keywords in the database will confuse when one concept has several definitions. How could this be controlled for? Agreed upon?

"The long journey to unity in applied psychology (and perhaps in basic psychology also) starts with a single, individual case." (p. 160) I can understand that this most definitely could work in applied psychology, it mimics the medical science recipe in part. Can we have this in basic psychology? Single cases count for little because of the types of questions asked, methodology used and statistics applied -how would basic psychology have to change?

The Fragmented Object: Building Disciplinary Coherence Through a Contextual Unit of Analysis (5/19)

Article 5 of 19 in Eric Charles' Special Issue of Review of General Psychology
Author, Joshua W. Clegg; in Review of General Psychology, 2013, 17(2), p. 151-155.

There are some very interesting perspectives on unification in this article, for one, it is proposed that there are three approaches to unification; reductionism, pluralism and specialisation. This is a valuable categorisation, as is the later proposal, to combine pluralism and reductionism, however, I disagree with what the solution to a unified psychology would be: One of the arguments in the article "is that fragmentation is written into our discipline at the most basic level, -namely, in our objectivist unit of psychological analysis- and so, any hope for a coherent approach to psychological knowledge must begin with a move toward a more contextual way of framing our phenomena." (p. 151). Dr. Clegg makes the point that we can't understand without context and that the current, decontextualised, unit of psychology doesn't do the job. The opposite argument has been proposed for quite some time now (that we have to be as objective as possible to do science) and it is not the best argument, neither is the opposite..

There are other curious quotes and ideas that I agree or disagree with, but it is outside the scope of unifying psychology, so I will leave the article with the above reflection.

Radical embodied cognitive science. (4/19)

Article 4 of 19 in Eric Charles' Special Issue of Review of General Psychology
Author, Anthony Chemero; in Review of General Psychology, 2013, 17(2), p. 145-150.

I agree with Chemero's theoretical perspective, and I believe rECS built on top of Gibson's Ecological Psychology complements the latter. I believe it does so because questions asked in EP seem to me to be more about the absolute basis on how animals exist in the world (why, is answered by evolution), questions in rECS ask more specifically how we interact with stuffs in the world and why. Neat.

However, specific to the article, I only have one point of disagreement. The last paragraph. "Is Radical Embodied Cognitive Science the Right Way to Do Psychology?" (p. 149). I don't understand the question.

"It seems prudent to adopt a pluralistic stance toward theorizing in psychology." "The mind, I submit, is just as complicated as the Mississippi River, and it would be shocking if just one style of explanation could account for all of it." I am partly stumped for words. Where is the full avant garde against representations and that we can do just as well without them? I'm not advocating dismissing a perspective outright, and while I agree that there are issues calling things right and wrong, it can impossibly be correct both to stipulate the non-existence of representations to be a core value and also state that it is an alternative to use in psychology. Ontologically even, it cannot both be and not be (unless representations are Schrodinger's cat). On the other hand, it may be easier to explain more complex cognitive experiences with representations, but here I believe empiricism has to supercede pragmatism. How else can we become a unified paradigm?

It seems to me that Dr. Chemero has come to the conclusion that all we have in psychology are perspectives, different ways of seeing the same thing.. I am not ready to concede to this quite yet.

August 13, 2013

Psychology: The empirical study of epistemology and phenomenology. (3/19)

Article 3 of 19 in Eric Charles' Special Issue of Review of General Psychology
Author, Eric Charles; in Review of General Psychology, 2013, 17(2), p. 140-144.

Already in the abstract I realised something that has felt like a missing puzzle piece since I began reviewing literature for my Master Thesis on the philosophical backdrop of representationalism. Why is language so important to claim for themselves ontologically? Well, it struck me that current cognitive psychology hasn't come very far away from behaviourist ideas after all. They still base experiments off of observable behaviour, the only difference is that it is used as inferences towards assumed, unobservable, inner entities. It is not an excellent assumption (although it has to be said that it is an utterly brilliant and ingenious step by, amongst others, Fodor). No wonder then that language became so central to claim, it can be seen as a bridge between inner stuff and observable stuff. Descartes' ideas about the pituitary gland being the place where matter and non-matter interacted pales in comparison. Representationalists needs language to be inner stuff so that representations gain a tangible, corporeal basis. It is necessary to be able to call representations a monist/realist, and not a dualist/idealist, assumption. This fails however when seeing language as verbal behaviour.

Apologies for the side-tracking.

Eric Charles' article also evoked another line of thought, what does it actually mean to unify psychology? What is it that needs to be shared between all divisions? Methodology? Concepts under study? It seems to me to need a discussion on a meta-level of what we think needs and wants uniting. My own answer to this is relatively simple, we need to share ontological assumptions, the rest is a matter of individual interest (but admittedly, I am constantly questioning this idea also). This is where Eric Charles' article comes in.

The title aptly captures what is argued for to be the overarching goal of psychologists and I can't help but wonder if a goal on this level of philosophy is exactly what is needed. As Eric Charles argues for in the article, it allows psychologists to pursue their individual interests, but under one overarching goal.

Although I will not give specific examples here (read the article!), my opinion is that Eric Charles arguments support his conclusion strongly. The conclusion I come to is that having "The empirical study of epistemology and phenomenology" as a unifier can become very productive as a top-down definition for a future unified field. This is one of the parts that needs to be in place for us to have one paradigm at all.

The only snag I feel worth mentioning, is essentially a very basic one. Dividing epistemology and phenomenology into two concepts, has the possibility to misguide. Phenomenology, or experience of the world, has historically led to dualistic concepts and ideas and while I understand that this is most definitely not the intention with this division, it may perpetuate that undertone. This is of course easily remedied by clarifying the definition of experience, just that, given as a question to different fields of study, we will end up with different definitions. This is why I believe we need a common ontological basis to stand on, but, I have already mentioned that the top-down definition is one of several parts that need to be in place and so is not to blame for other areas of inquiry.

August 12, 2013

A Natural Science of Behaviour (2/19)

Article 2 of 19 in Eric Charles' Special Issue of Review of General Psychology
Author, A. Charles Catania; in Review of General Psychology, 2013, 17(2), p. 133-139.

Catania argues strongly for "Treating language as verbal behavior [because that] brings it within the purview of a unified account of human action." (p. 133) and "My argument here is that psychological science cannot survive other than as a science of behavior; further, if it is a science of behavior it must be intimately tied to the biological sciences." (p. 134). One of the reasons believed to be why we are reluctant to see language as a behaviour is that "We are all so immersed in language that we find it difficult to treat it as a variety of behavior, and yet the functions of verbal behavior are crucial to our understanding of human behavior." (p.137), and I fully agree. It is often argued that psychology cannot be studied like other sciences because we have a "subjective" view of our subject matter, I just don't believe that to be the case. What I do accept however is that since we are humans and are accustomed to being humans, it is easy to oversee assumptions we make about ourselves due to this very subjective perspective. I therefore agree in full that a large reason for many different criticisms against language as a behaviour, stems from an unwillingness to realise that we are creatures of habit, and as such can oversee the "simple" assumptions that shape the way we see ourselves.

A central argument in why we should view language as a behaviour is that it enables us to draw parallels to biology; "The verbal behavior that survives within the members of a group is part of that group’s culture, but the sharing of cultural elements need not be correlated with genetic relatedness; one need not be closely related to Darwin or to Skinner to repeat their words. Viewing verbal behavior as selected has the advantage of involving units with measurable dimensions comparable to units selected at the other levels." (p. 137). This is to me a strong reason to use such a perspective. It puts a framework around verbal behaviour that is parallel to the mechanics of evolution -Catania makes a convincing empirical case for the successes of this perspective.

Lastly, I am unsure if I misunderstand or not, but at times there is a very strong push on behaviour as a central focus. Coming from an ecological background, it seems to me to make less sense to focus on one part of a process spanning environment, body and brain. At other places in the article however, it seems as though the author would agree to this. I believe that this perspective is brilliant to use if you want to study behaviour over phylogenetic, ontogenetic and cultural perspectives as reinforced/extinct/etc. The specific questions answered by this perspective seems to be defined by the timeframe you are seeking to adress, very interesting indeed!

In light of the previous article in the series (and my previous blogpost), are they compatible with each other? The focus in Anderson's article is on a specific process, one that is a part of many different psychological divisions. My conclusion was that it is less of a unifier but universally applicable. I fear that Catania's perspective seems to join it, because, although behaviour is a central concept regardless of which perspective is taken, it will most probably always be claimed as a part of a larger process. With that said, Catania's perspective on behaviour aligns it very nicely with biology, something it has in common with ecological psychology and embodied cognition, very useful.

August 11, 2013

Unified Psychology Based on Three Laws of Information Integration (1/19)

Article 1 of 19 in Eric Charles' Special Issue of Review of General Psychology
Author, Norman Henry Anderson; in Review of General Psychology, 2013, 17(2), p. 125-132.

The first concern I have of the three laws of information integration, is that it seems to me to make the same assumptions Titchener (1895) made and that Dewey (1896) criticised. Benefit 2 (p. 126) uses almost identical language to Titchener; "The observable R is a true (linear) measure of unobservable p". This in turn reminded me of the criticism lobbied against representations, in that unobservables can be found by observables. This topic is returned to on page 131 and I can't help but feel that we have to leave this line of thinking to get anywhere. Like representations, we have to resort to Entity Realism and this works well in disciplines where measurement is extremely specific (like the use of "gravity" in physics). In psychology however, I just do not believe we are specific enough to know what it is we are actually positing to exist that we cannot observe. I am not saying we should ignore the brain or stuff we cannot observe, but language used in the article portrays it's tenets to be quite exact, but do not seem to be very exact when looking at the presented graphs. An example of this is found on p. 130 "The parallelism of these four curves supports an adding-type model, one of many ingenious experiments on IIT in India by Ramadhar Singh (see Singh, 2011)." This quote accompanies Figure 4, which by the way appears to be a very clean piece of research, I enjoy it. Acquiring unobservables by use of observables is a very neat idea, but I do not think we understand human enterprise enough to make any concrete claims.

My second concern about this area is that it does indeed seem as if it could study it's subject matter under a unified paradigm, however, can it actually unify it?

Ending on a positive note; "Judgement and decision operate in every field of psychology. They are universal cognitive activities. Judgement–decision theory can thus provide a unifying influence for our field." (p. 131) Just because a specific process can be found in all areas doesn't mean it can unite those areas, it can however account for results in all those different areas, which obviously is awesome! The surface knowledge I have of the theory leads me to assume that it is compatible with Ecological Psychology and Embodied Cognition, and if it indeed can do what the author claims it can, then it will be a very valuable addition to the new psychological paradigm.

July 28, 2013

Issue Editor's Foreword in Rev. of Gen. Psy. 2013, 17(2), p.124

"Most readers will readily accept and value conclusive research." is what I took to heart today, something I know is true for myself as well, but perhaps is easily forgotten in a sometimes near-chaotic discipline. In the foreword to a series of "manifestos, vision statements and wishlists", Eric Charles, explains the motivation behind gathering them. The focus is usually on criticising dogmatic theories, then explaining theory and lastly the, often exciting, empirical findings. I wish I could say I was an exception to the rule. My whole Master Thesis holds that exact structure. The shame. Eric Charles is entirely correct in his reflections surrounding why the opposite order of presentation is much, much, more productive. This is however not a day of shame, because, I enjoy the feeling of being proven wrong, or having my ideas and methods contested and criticised (indirectly, well, directly too, but admittedly indirectly is a more pleasant encounter). Instead then, the series of articles focus on empirical accomplishments with positive tones and forward-looking. Will most likely be a fascinating read.

[The following 19 blogposts will reflect the 19 approaches represented in this review.]

July 21, 2013

Ecological Psychology and Everyday Conflicts

EP has given me a few thoughts about some issues I've had in philosophy. The first one being that of seeing the world in one's subjective sense compared to an objective sense. This is often up for debate when discussing anything involving the question; what really happened? Because, as everyone will assure you of, their own subjective version of a story is the, at least more so, correct one. As many have found though, "truth" (considered using "truthiness" here... again... pass for now... again...), is often found somewhere in between the two accounts. So why is this important when involving EP and philosophy?

Well, roughly, social constructionism (SC) will tell you that both versions are correct and will, practically, end in some form of compromise (good) or further polarisation (not so good) of the two parties. There is no use in deciding which is more correct or delving deeper into the actual accounts, just that each version is correct in their own right because that was the experience of each of the two parties.

Critical realism (CR) will state that there was a reality to the situation but both accounts are skewed in each party's own favour -so it would be necessary to try and extract an objective version out of the two subjective versions. Doing this, in my perspective, rather entails creating a third subjective perspective -more so than one being objective (however a side-note in my argument because it becomes important to define subjective and objective and what they entail and why I would define the third perspective as subjective rather than objective. However. As with much in philosophy, definitions aren't clear cut and will most probably be a long and pointless discussion with exceptions to the rule).

Instead, what insight can EP give us into the practical application of philosophy in our lives? EP would focus on the perspective of each of the two accounts and validate both, like SC. However, with the addition of each perspective being unique, relying on the mechanisms of perception, there is some ground to actually state that they are both valid (unlike SC, which demands validity outright). The consequence here is that with EP one is allowed to reconcile the two perspectives on the same level as they are stated -CR here needs to abstract the two subjective versions to one objective version. I believe then, that due to the non-existence of an objective/subjective dichotomy -one is forced by EP to acknowledge the experience of both parties and look at cause and effect between the two accounts through the process of the situation as it unfolded. The to and fro, if you will. One is not forced to do this, if guided by either SC or CR. SC is too egalitarian and naive in its supposition and has a hard time consolidating two very different perspectives, especially when they are very specific. CR on the other hand entails the assumption that neither account holds the "correct" version as there is an objective version that is superior.

My conclusion then, is that EP doubles back into philosophy and gains us a fuller account of 'what really happened', gives more information about how a specific situation unfolded, and in turn, gives you more leads to use when attempting to resolve the dispute.

A first note; CR, I find, is used most often in everyday life and also most often works decently well. EP gives you an extra edge in all parts of the process however.

A secondary note; it is quite fun (and easy) to define, in any type of dispute in real life, what philosophical backdrop people use when resolving, maintaining or escalating a conflict. Every philosophical perspective has its merits and flaws and de-escalating a conflict can be quite an easy task if you can identify and practically use to your advantage the specific perspective taken by other parties. Add pedagogy and conflict de-escalation/resolution is within reach.

A last note; positivism is not brought up simply because at that level of abstraction (even further than CR), it is of even less help (than for example CR) -although, as has been written, each perspective has its merits and flaws, and are usable situationally.

A second last note; I miss teaching (and research, although I have available many journals), won't this summer vacation ever end?

July 13, 2013

Ecological Psychology and Occam's Razor

Occam's Razor (OR) isn't usually applied between competing theories, but there are known examples of this also; some astrophysics mathematical equation was found by an American and was simpler (and accurate enough) than one by a Russian and so the former was/is used. Apologies for the lack of reference and specificity in the example. OR is also not an irrefutable principle of logic, or so Wikipedia says.

Ecological Psychology (EP), with both less assumptions and simpler rules guiding scientific discovery should be supported by the principle when comparing to computational theories. Even within EP, a goal is to try and find the most simple heuristic or rule-governed process for a given behaviour, maintaining the principle.

It should be said that OR has obvious issues, the foremost perhaps being that it does not guarantee truth (considered using "truthiness" here.. pass for now..) or correctness. It just says that the simpler explanation is more often the likely case.

Accepting that computationalism doesn't really provide an explanation of the human condition, or at least that it does a worse job than EP, then we can be (at the very least, temporarily) justified to rely on EP based on this logical principle instead of computationalism.

June 20, 2013

(4/4) Contrasting Computational and Ecological Strategy in a Virtual Interception Task.

Thesis experiment. Flying Spaghetti Monster I love research!

I have already alluded to the main finding of the study in this post. So I will solely give you the link to my thesis experiment document here (13 pages). For any correspondence feel free to either comment here or e-mail me at sf985 at live dot com.

Reference list for entire thesis found here.

Plus, lastly, the entire Master Thesis as .pdf can be downloaded from here. It has been publicised also through Lund University's LUP service and should be publicly available from their database as soon as it is accepted. I'll try and update this post with a direct link later.

Happy Midsummer Eve! Dancing around the Midsummer Pole pretending to be a frog obligatory!

[Edit 1/7: Thesis is now published and live at Lund University Publications]

(3/4) Cognitive Psychology in Crisis: Ameliorating the Shortcomings of Representationalism. EcoPsy and rECS.

After a few more e-mails to a few people, I received my feedback. It was mostly general structuring issues and broader aspects of the thesis. Valuable and informative comments overall, so no change in posting the last two chapters as planned.

This chapter is to me a bit of an anti-climax. It mainly contains definitions and concepts, explanations and examples. So, if you already know your way around Gibson’s Ecological Psychology, Chemero’s radical Embodied Cognitive Science, van Gelder’s Watt Governor example for Dynamic Systems Theory and Wilson and Golonka’s four-point task analysis, there is not too much to gain from this chapter. You can find the whole 21 page chapter here. One thing of importance however, is that in this chapter I attempt to ontologically and epistemologically define affordances, something I have not seen in the literature before. However, I have already posted my ontological query here. The last section in this chapter does bring up a novel area of interest to EcoPsy however. It is called “Electronic Sports and Computer Resistance” and brings in the curious aspect of affordance/information from depictions. I have written about this in a previous blog post also, but have extended and reworked it a bit. So the following is a summary of that section;

Gibson, Chemero and Wilson discuss if affordances actually exist when perceiving depictions. This is quite curious because it is not intuitively simple to decide whether depictions actually afford something, or inform of something. Wilson is currently intellectualising about this, so we will have to wait to see what comes out of that. The official understanding (most likely to change) is that depictions do not afford us anything. This in turn impacts computer-screen research if you wish to stick to EcoPsy because the broad genres of computer gaming and on-screen research rely on it. If we immerse ourselves in virtual environments, are we dealing with affordances? Virtual affordances? Not affordances at all? Information? Virtual information? Do virtual environments inform us and not afford us? Does a virtual environment offer virtual affordances to virtual agents? This could easily be a point of criticism against EcoPsy in a philosophy-journal, but there’s no fun in that, is there? Instead I attempt to define virtual affordances and virtual environments as separate concepts, at least until their possible integration depending on the work of Wilson. The simplest core concept here is the verbal notation virtual which should be seen as a working definition.

I am going to try and summarize and post the last chapter, my thesis experiment, as soon as possible. If not today, then probably during the weekend seeing as Midsummer’s Eve is upon Sweden tomorrow! So, Happy Midsummer's Eve and don't forget to dance around the Midsummer Pole pretending you are a frog.

June 16, 2013

(2/4) Cognitive Psychology in Crisis: Ameliorating the Shortcomings of Representationalism. Representationalism.

I have yet to hear back from my examinators, so the following has not been officially critiqued. I did want to receive this before I posted it here, but alas, here we are.

This chapter is devoted to critiquing the principles of representations and clarifies and exemplifies that the map you follow when embracing representationalism is misguiding. It is 14 pages long, and you can find it here.

Historically, Titchener (1895) proposed stimuli to cause linear series of mental acts, at the end of which is a behavioural response. Which mental acts occur, and in which order, are for the experimenter a matter of speculation. It was critiqued by Dewey (1896) already the year after as being subject to the "empiricist fallacy". This term is used in a broader sense in the thesis concerning unobservable events.

Chemero (2007) argues that Hegelian Arguments (arguments marshalled in an attempt to constrain empirical research and close down developing research programs a priori) shut down alternative interpretations, even ones that hold promise to give satisfying explanations. In my own view, cognition is often treated as the pinnacle of evolution and it enforces an arbitrary argument but powerful consequence. It heightens the credit towards the subject matter of psychology, a discipline often under fire from competing disciplines for being non-scientific. It is a left-over from the establishment of psychology as its own discipline, Unfortunately, many still live within the perspective that brain and mind are separate or “just different perspectives of the same thing”. Nonsense. Science necessarily relies on materialistic monism, no room for dualism.

The issue presents itself when we are unaware that this is excluding other alternatives and theorists act through a theoretical filter, biasing assumptions and interepretations in experimentation. If we assume that everything is represented in the brain then we will only look in the brain and interpret results on this basis also. An example of this is the curious case of mirror neurons. Barrett (2011) proposes that mirror neurons are difficult entities to account for without representations. Their function has been severely de-dramatised as of late, but observations made state that they fire both on others’ specific movement as well as one’s own. This finding is not contrary to Ecological Psychology, for example, but because of ignorant theory-ladenness, explanations given and research on, link them with representations. Instead, ignoring what contemporary cognitive theory forces us to believe, what could explain their function? It may just be simultaneous activation between stimulated sensory modalities and/or movement, and due to strengthening of simultaneous neuronal activation, they are just more so activated, or activated in different ways, than other neurons due to their multiple sources. Explanations like these are however more than discouraged due to Hegelian arguments and theory-laden contemporary cognitive psychology.

Because of the unfounded assumption that language is an abstract symbolic system following laws of grammar, we came to the false conclusion that it would be easy to construct what was supposedly so easily accomplished in our brain. Under a representationalist understanding of human enterprise, it really should have been simple, and justified, to put resources to projects like CYC and DARPA. When failed, it should have given some indication on that perhaps underlying theory is not correct in its assumptions.

A person is led into a room, seated and asked to read a list of words. After some time, the same person is asked to write down as many of the words as possible. The conclusion to this type of experiment is that the invisible process underlying the explanation of recall is called memory, and consists of representing the words in the brain, storing them, to later pull them out and write them down. Popper (1963) had the idea of theories to be non-scientific if any result could be explained in terms proposed by the theory. Posit that a participant in the above experiment does not write down any, or very few, words. Is the theory to blame and a rejection of representationalism in order? No, and in all honesty, it would not be justified to do so because the participant’s result does not directly falsify the claim. The first issue with this is that empirical observation cannot falsify the claim, and secondly, it cannot falsify it because the claim does not strictly deal with what is observed, but rather, what is not. It would be claimed that the participant failed, but not only, it would also be claimed that the participant failed to live up to the already assumed unobservable process posited to exist.How can a methodology be accepted that, without anything else to refute alternative explanations on than Hegelian arguments, posits an unobservable process to exist and then compare any observable behaviour to live up to its presumptuous ideals? Instead, the question needs to be, what is it that actually is observed? There are two behaviours, reading the list and writing down words previously on that list. Everything else is an assumption.

To exemplify that logic is without perspective and not a reasonable norm, the classic four card task (Wason, 1966) residing on truth-table logic will be used. Trivers’s model was introduced to this task, yielding the if-then statement “If a previous employee gets a pension from the firm, then that person must have worked for the firm for at least 10 years.”. The four cards read, “got a pension”, “worked for 10 years”, “no pension” and “worked for 8 years”. Perspective, as mentioned earlier, is crucial. When participants were told they were an employee, they turned up “worked for 10 years” and “no pension”. When told they were an employer, they turned up “got a pension” and “worked for 8 years”. The latter situation renders choices of participants consistent with both Trivers’s model of cheater detection and the laws of the truth table. The former situation however, is not consistent with truth-table logic, but is explained by Trivers’s social contract theory. Gigerenzer (2008) argues that this is essentially a frame-of-reference problem and it is unfair to set up (albeit, perhaps, unintentionally) an experiment in this way in order to confirm a hypothesis. In contrast, it is important to note that logic can be appropriate as a criteria, but its domain is restricted (Gigerenzer, 2008). Truth-table logic experiments have not explained human enterprise, but rather, explored the limits of logic as criteria.

Challenging traditional cognitive psychology is an uphill battle against tradition, norm, life works, unfair criteria, Hegelian arguments, the Empiricist Fallacy, theory-ladenness and non-falsifiability. However, on a theoretical basis it has, thus far, little to stand on.

It is not with neuropsychologists I lay blame, they often know of all the issues inherent in methodology and apparatus, it is with those who draw unfounded conclusions from this field. First of all, it is not a natural environment for humans to lie frozen in an enclosed area fixating on a screen, but more so to a general point; can we ultimately say that performing no task is a valid baseline to compare with performing a task? The assumption is that it is, but again, it only comes about because of the restrictions on methodology because of the practical restraints in testing participants. What other baseline is possible? A second issue is that the difference in activation between the two conditions, depending on particular method, shows a maximum of 5% difference in activation. The remaining 95% of the activation is at the same levels under both conditions (Pfeifer and Bongard, 2007). What are those 95%? Contemporary cognitivists tend to ignore them and usually only point to the difference (for example Ochsner & Gross, 2008, or see Logotheitis, 2008, for a discussion on fMRI-techniques), which is clearly all too simplistic. A third issue is brought to our attention through Naghavi and Nyberg (2005), whom caution against too much enthusiasm by stating that “functional neuroimaging techniques can at best specify the coincidence of regional brain activations with specific cognitive demands. These methods cannot determine which brain regions are essential for a specific cognitive process.” (Pfeifer and Bongard, 2007, p. 321). It is important that we do not let unwarranted assumptions and generalisations taint the neuropsychological field, turning it into a modern version of phrenology where different brain parts do different things in isolation. A fourth important aspect is the assumption that the images show “thoughts” or other vague definitions of cognition. What we in fact see, taking fMRI as an example, is firstly an inference between ‘more thoughts’ and ‘more activation’, secondly an inference from ‘amount of activation’ to ‘amount of blood flow’, and thirdly, an inference from blood flow to an averaged out numeric value between spatial areas, participants and timeframes. There are thus three steps of inferential logic which makes it vulnerable to both a priori and ad hoc assumptions of what it is we are actually looking at when we are presented with these images. There is thus little support gained, at the present moment in time, from the maturing field of neuropsychology. We simply do not yet have enough knowledge, specific or enough controlled techniques to confidently state what the brain is doing. What are we actually looking at?

Although representations are unobservable entities with only assumptions to rely on, yet are essential for contemporary cognitive psychology, and thus needs to physically exist, the only thing left to deal with in representationalism, is that of Entity Realism. This is the proposition that you can still be justified in assuming a realist standpoint for theoretical entities (and representations fits this bill), if one has pragmatic use for them as tools in experimental investigation of other entities (Chemero, 2007). As in the case of asking participants to recall a list of words, the explanation given for their current behaviour is by reference to a previous behaviour, but, what went on in participants have not actually been observed, the word ‘memory’ is just used to fill this gap (Barrett, 2011). In other words, the issue with this proposition is that, because representations are necessary for the internalist account, yet have not been established empirically to actually exist, the assumption does not really explain anything. It is merely stating that, this is one possible process that may occur because it would fit the criteria for linking one behaviour to another. There is doubt that cognitive scientists would resort to this however, since the power of the concept is drastically reduced, and in all right.

All we have done is named unobservable, hypothetical processes, leading us down a garden path, away from the core subject of psychology. We want to understand why humans behave the way they do, we want to understand what the brain does. Representationalism does not provide these answers. “...if we cannot do any better than this, we should stop using the word...” (Gibson, 1986, p. 254).

June 13, 2013

(1/4) Cognitive Psychology in Crisis: Ameliorating the Shortcomings of Representationalism. Introduction and Abstract.

This is the shortened abstract/introduction to my thesis, the full version of the abstract and introduction (2 pages) are available here.

Essentially, traditional cognitive psychology relies on concepts bordering idealism. This issue was highlighted over a century ago, but Hegelian arguments, Theory-ladenness and ostensible predictive value have deterred competing paradigms. Ecological Psychology and radical Embodied Cognitive Science gets rid of the non-sequiter that “it is all in the brain”. Organisms are born into an ever-changing environment, which we constantly interact with, perceive ourselves in, constantly changes and are changed by. The first two chapters concern refuting the existence of representations, explaining the consequences that the paradigm has brought with it, introducing Ecological Psychology and radical Embodied Cognitive Science, lay out one step on the way to a clearer ontological and epistemological basis, and lastly, attempt to contrast computational/representational assumptions about the brain with ecological assumptions in a virtual interception task. Hypothesis is that participants will favour an ecological strategy over a computational. Results speak in favour of the hypothesis, however mainly an ecological validity issue necessitates further empirical investigation.

            Keywords: representationalism, ecological psychology, screen-presented research

('Arguments against Representationalism' to follow this blog post within the next couple of days.)

June 8, 2013

Contrasting Ecological and Computational Strategy in a Virtual Interception Task 1/5

Well, it looks like my master thesis will be admitted and graded. They brought in an extra examiner on my thesis since its philosophically heavy, so it'll take a few more days to get it graded. When it is, I am going to correct some errors and format it properly (as luck had it, I was following a previous APA-style guideline, it was not appreciated). And I figured, I'll post the whole thing here in three chunks. The arguments against representationalism, the basic definitions of ecological psychology and radical embodied cognitive science, and lastly, my research paper.

As I have been invited to speak at the Social Sciences Master Graduation Ceremony, I have that to focus on, as well as, wait for critique from my second examiner. Roughly, I'll be able to post my stuff a few days after the 11th.

May 22, 2013

Ecological Strategy Favoured Over Computational

I am in the process of writing up my master thesis experiment but can reveal that in this specific task, participants use ecological strategy 53% of trials, computational strategy 26%, a second ecological type strategy 13% and other/non-distinguishable 8%. Also, accuracy is higher when using ecological strategy (63%) compared to computational (32%) and the other two. Inter-rater reliability ~.85. Exciting! It may support the ideas that screen-based research can indeed yield empirical results in Ecological Psychology (and add to that, in favour of Ecological Psychology). I have however yet to analyze the data statistically, to be continued!

May 9, 2013

We can't just treat everything as mental disorders and we can't solve everything with drugs.

I may consider myself to belong to the tough school when it comes to experiences and life lessons. For example, falling in love and getting your miserable self dumped is painful and debilitating but the experience is invaluable. I've been taught to cope with the loss, even grief and severely depressive emotions. I couldn't have without the natural life-experiences and the natural reactions to them.

With this said, in the introduction to "Addicted to love: What is love addiction and when should it be treated?" (Earp, Wudarczyk, Foddy & Savulescu, under review) we find statistics such as "In 2011, over 10% of the murders committed in the United States were committed by the victim’s lover (FBI 2011).". Firstly, this is a correlation, not a causal relationship. The structure of their paper however leads one to believe that these ten percent are caused by "addictive love". Later on, however, they suggest diagnostic criteria contain "(2) the person would want to use the technology, so there would be nonproblematic violations of consent". I doubt they are going to lower the 10% by recruiting people who already want help, as it is conceivable that the ones who would want to already have sought help by being offered the technology in the first place.

In their paragraph on "Implications for treatment" (before which, they go through different theoretical models for, among others, well-being and love) we find another curious quote "Although it is that case that, on this view, everyone who loves is technically addicted, only some subset of cases should be judged to be appropriate candidates for treatment because of their effect on other aspects of our well-being.". The reason this comes out is because they have a "broad view" of addiction, in that, "the state of being in love" is connected (by them through scarce empirical research) to the same neurotransmitters, and in some cases neural substrates, as in other addictions. Here, we are seeing yet another turn to diagnosing normal, but perhaps extreme, reactions as mental disorders (in light of grief being diagnosable after two weeks in DSM 5).

"In this article, we have argued that there is now abundant behavioral, neurochemical and neuroimaging evidence to support the claim that love is (or at least that it can be) an addiction, in much the same way that chronic drug-seeking behavior can be termed an addiction. And we have argued that no matter how we interpret this evidence, we should conclude that people whose lives are negatively impacted by love ought to be offered support and treatment opportunities analogous to those that we extend to substance abusers.". First of all, anything can become an addiction, secondly, if there is abundant evidence, then the article needs more empirical sources to convince me. The last sentence is also part redundant as those people should (and are) offered support, there is counselling, CBT, psychoanalysis available for example (and this is mentioned in the paper) -but why on earth would we want treatment to be analogous to substance abuse users opportunities? To push pills.

The trend seems to be to classify any strong emotion, regardless if it is a natural reaction, as mental disorders. And not only that. The proposed solution? Push pills. It's degrading, at best. Natural fluctuations and reactions in people's lives are treated as sickness and instead of teaching valuable coping methods (which lead to life-long ability to deal with similar situations) we should just wish the sickness away with pills.

Paper available here (it's on the website).

May 7, 2013

Disappointment as a consequence of EP. Good riddance, I say.

I believe many will be disappointed to find out that there is no entity called consciousness. There is no entity called self. There is, in fact, nothing of any of this kind. All there is is a half-assed semi-reproduction of sensory input. Reproduction here almost misleads one however, it is not production, it just is perception. Conscious cognitive acts, just are perceptions. There is nothing over and above perception to be had. Creativity is just the rearrangement of perceptions. Imagination is just the semi-production of perceptions.

Our brain doesn't store anything in that sense, it is solely repeated exposure to specific parts of the ambient energy array, allowing perception to continue past the now and lend itself to re-perception without the need for the concurrent exposure in the environment. It solely speaks to the persistence of environment, objects and agents. We are truly active explorers, and what we explore the most, we become able to more so specifically explore. It is about perceiving what is there to be perceived, what was there to be perceived before but because of repeated exposure we are more and more able to discriminate between smaller and smaller changes in that ambient energy array. Indeed it is what experience is. Perception and movement is all there is. "All". It gets us very far.

Perceived sense of control, is just that. Perceived. Ecological Psychology or rECS leads to discussions on free will, and rightly so. Many proponents of free will argue that we need it to be able to be held accountable for offenses. I argue we still can even without. It is enough that we perceive our actions to be of free will, it doesn't have a bearing on the metaphysical account of free will. As long as humans experience the world as if we control our actions in it, we can still be held accountable.

April 30, 2013

Unofficial lecture on representations, intro to rECS and Master Thesis

So I'm writing my thesis on abandoning representations and replacing it with ecological psychology, and this is bits and pieces of what I'm writing. To fit one lecture I obviously had to leave out a whole lot of information. Even information that would change some of the subject matter. The idea I had was to introduce, not even all of, the basic stuff I have in my thesis and was hoping to get some critique and comments on it.

Link to video;

Most sources used in the video;

Blogs and blogposts
Scandinavia And The World (illustrations);
Eric Charles blog post;
Wilson and Golonka's blog;

James Gibson - The ecological approach to visual perception
Anthony Chemero - Radical embodied cognitive science
Pfeifer and Bongard - How the body shapes the way we think
Gerd Gigerenzer - Rationality for mortals
Bem and de Jong - Theoretical issues in psychology

Tim van Gelder - What might cognition be if not computation
Fodor and Pylyshyn - Connectionism and cognitive architecture: A critical analysis

April 26, 2013

Virtual affordances. Electronic Sports (and Computer Resistence).

I've grown up with computers since birth, in fact, one of the first generations to do so. The virtual world needs to be accounted for, but I accept the non-affordance of pictures, depictions, movies and thus screens overall (but see for very recent, in-depth, information) I believe it is enough to denote this with the word virtual. This is something I go to some length with in my thesis and the beneath is the preliminary version of that section. While there is some revision still to take place, the main content is there and should provide enough clarity as to what I mean by it.

The world of electronic sports (henceforth; e-sports) is a largely unexplored area even within traditional cognitive psychology. In rECS it is discounted, essentially, because it is performed on a screen and as such does not provide affordances per say. In agreement with this, you still cannot just ignore this massive field. It is not only entertainment, it is for some a way of life and it is for others their monthly income -both as creators as well as players. In an attempt to refrain from legitimising the field further, it stands for itself in the amount of hours played, the number of games produced, the amount of profit for gaming-companies and the prize-pools for e-sports players. One aspect however, that is unstated in the relevant literature, is that unbeknownst to producers and programmers of games, their absolute central aspects, follow exactly that of ecological psychology and rECS. Gibson (1986) made the same analogy, however with greater depth, for the fields of architecture and design.

A programmer creates the environment in which a player is to exist and, hopefully, immerse herself. The virtual environment is created in respect to contain virtual affordances for the player, or for the player to explore and act within. The evolution of computers, as well as the games played on these computers, have increasingly dealt with the fact that players expect more and more virtual affordances to be available to them. There is an expectation to be able to do more things, to increase the complexity of the virtual environment, virtual objects and other virtual agents. When expansions are released for already popular games, they account for this fact by not only adding new items, for example in MMORPGS (massively multiplayer online role-playing games), but also by creating new virtual affordances to players through new game modes (changing virtual affordances of the already known game), allowing completely new virtual behaviours and thus making the virtual environment increasingly complex. For games that insist on reflecting reality, the expectation is that virtual affordances should more and more closely resemble the environment. This is thus an essential area to account for when it comes to rECS and psychology in general. It is necessary however to introduce the term virtual affordances, because as stated, pictures, depictions and even movies do not present affordances (Gibson, 1986 and Wilson & Golonka, 2013). Nevertheless, computer gaming industry works with manipulation of virtual affordances, and thus, virtual affordances are defined as invariants programmed in environment, objects and agents, allowing, limiting or disallowing virtual behaviours, interactions and coupled systems between those environments, objects and agents.

The game of choice for exemplification, is League of Legends (launched 2009, by Riot Games, formed in 2006). It is played by 32 million unique players every month, 12 million of which play daily, racking up 1+ billion hours of play each month making it the most played computer game in the world (Riot Games, 2012). They have created a virtual environment in which there is an economic system; killing AI-agents and opponents grants money, from which you may buy items to further enhance your characters basic, level-dependent, properties. The virtual environment affords movement in two dimensions but also limits movement by walls and shrubbery. Each character, 110+ to choose from, is afforded five specific abilities (one passive, meaning it is not “usable” by pressing a button and four active abilities assigned to one key each) plus the choice of two out of thirteen that are common to all players. Some abilities modify movement capability of oneself, of other agents, amount of damage given, amount of damage taken and/or regeneration of vitals (health, mana or for a few characters, a specific other vital coupled to its offensive and/or defensive abilities). Two teams with five players on each team thus comprises (10*5*2) 100 agent-specific virtual affordances, coupled with the dynamic variety in which the virtual environment lends itself to each specific character. Needless to say, perceiving one’s own and other characters’ virtual affordances, in which sequence they are used, and in which situation, the dynamic relationship all these variables have in conjunction with where one is situated in the environment and your, and their, vitals, is what counts as skill in this game. It is a visual perception heavy game but auditory perception enables you to gain information on parts of the environment not currently in your virtual visual field but that may have an impact on your virtual behaviour. The mentioned variables are far from an exhaustive list; there are quite many more virtual affordances to be described, but these should be enough for even the most computer-illiterate to understand that it is far from a simple virtual environment to navigate through successfully. Thus, this complexity gives rise to a vast range of behaviours and emotions, one of the most extreme of which is called “rage-quitting”. It is when you are sufficiently angry, regardless of why, that you exit the game before completion and leave your team severely underpowered against the opponents. Similarly, it is what can be seen in real life interviews when interviewees physically leave the interview prematurely.

Computer-gaming, although not adhering to the strict definitions of rECS, needs to be accounted for and it is suggested that it is sufficient to discriminate between real life and gaming by the verbal notation virtual. When experimentally reporting on computer games or screen-dependent research, it is of great importance to include an exhaustive list of variables and virtual affordances in the previously mentioned task analysis. This leads on to the study at hand, where an attempt is made to follow this task analysis for rECS experimentation, in order to show its practical application; to try and create headway for computer-screen experimentation by refuting the unwillingness within the embodied perspective towards it; discriminate between predictive and prospective strategies in problem-solving to discriminate between computational and ecological strategies; and illuminate how lucrative future research can be on the basis of both the process under observation and, more generally, to produce knowledge about it through rECS.

April 7, 2013


The traditional misperception of the brain as infinitely complex perpetuates unfounded credit towards it when rationalising behaviours. Participants compare their strategy in retrospect to that of mathematical capability of a computer. That is, the participant is not capable of mathematically computing rapidly enough an interception point, thus explaining their failure to live up to a clear predictive strategy. "If only we could realise the full potential of our brain." Nonsense. The fallacy of the brain as the pinnacle of biological evolution, is used as a norm and blamed in an explanation of failure. It is thus perpetuated in every aspect of rationalising, but not for the observable behaviour. If you have a doctrine that constantly explains failure on the same terms, both a priori and a posteriori, there is good reason to examine it even closer. Observable behaviour is supposed to be the basis of assumption, indication and generalisation. I propose that traditional psychology does not. I propose it solely deals with antecedent assumptions and consequential rationalisation. Behaviour is only a means to the end of perpetuating the doubtful conclusions already postulated in the assumptions. There is a strong need for reinvention, to say the least.

April 5, 2013

Non-(?)necessary discrimination between actualisation and realisation

In Gibson's perspective, are they not really the same thing? Perception in Gibson's terms seem to imply that "acting on" is implied by perception. I am confused with how this unfolds in practice. Take the definition I outlined in a previous post, that realisation is the perception of a possible interaction as opposed to actualisation which is the instantiation of an interaction. Perception is interaction?!

I think of studies on mirror neurons (if they exist, if it is assumed they do not do what trad. cog. sci. say they do and instead are simple sensory modality + movement overlap/association -happenstancily, not predeterminally- neurons/cluster of neurons/areas) in that, 'visual perception of' and 'engaging in' is the same thing physiologically -since, as I suppose Gibson would have it, perception (regardless of which kind) includes oneself always. If one is not separated from the environment, then one perceives what others and oneself do as the same thing (obviously, humans distinguish between self and others, but, even then, not innately -which in itself doesn't have to decide in the matter, but may inform). Maybe this could be seen as the process behind empathy or sympathy for example. I feel disgust if I perceive rotting meat, because perception is that of systems and parallel modalities and not separate "input pathways".

They may however have a practical, communicationally, significant aspect to them since it makes it easier to explain perspective or experience of a situation in those terms. Though I also get the feeling that they refer to the false dichotomy of conscious/unconscious perception. Something superfluous to the ecological model. Indeed, it perpetuates the false assumption of consciousness per se. Note here however that "how we consciously experience" situations, is central to psychiatry, for example, and can be useful to navigate within in therapy. Experimental psychology however, should refrain from allowing this massive source of frame-of-reference error to guide theory too heavily.

April 3, 2013

Temporary conclusion on subjective/objective perspective and affordances (3/3)

I should stop writing "Temporary" in front of my titles. It should be presupposed that all theory is always temporary.

I may have gained an understanding leading on from the previous posts on subjective and objective perspectives, on the definition of affordances and perception, relating Gibsons ecological view with traditional philosophy and cognitive psychology.

As Gibson defines perception of the environment and oneself as the same thing at the same point in time, neither a subjective nor objective perspective discriminates between what is perceived and not. Both are perceived, always, for any point of location of observation. This is true for both an objective perspective and a subjective perspective. Since both are perceived, any concept related to perception will necessarily imply this conclusion. If one assumes a non-static observation point (as we almost never have a static one, we move), then the experience of perceiving affordances are of both environment and self always coupled, non-separable, always pointing in both directions. This conclusion is then perpetuated by direct perception.

The only issue I am facing with this is that when one wants to begin defining from a philosophical perspective, one immediately wants to ground theory in realism, inviting subjective and objective perspectives, mind-dependence and independence, since, it is a way in which we can discriminate between dualism and monism for one. Coming from a strictly ecological perspective, or perhaps, Gibsonian ecological perspective, and grounding theory from ecology, one does not need these perspectives since they do not discriminate between anything, they do not show any difference when either perspective is subsumed. It should then be for this reason that Gibson confuses me when he speaks of nothing being subjective nor objective or both, because the meaning of those perspectives do not have a bearing on experience or theory, i.e. change the perspective per se. They are presumably brought in because of tradition and norm, because they are words used widely in the classic literature -and are most fitting in philosophically (Hegelian argumentally) founded perspectives like traditional cognitive psychology.

Are affordances retained? 42.

You see, it doesn't really matter. We are not in the area of discussing the physical world. We are not concerned with matter in the ontological sense at this point (although we, as written about in several previous posts, obviously take a realist stance if forced to define things in traditional linguistics and perspectives). The reason the answer is 42, then, is because we perceive and act in the "coupled" perspective (self & environment) always. We assume affordances are retained, that the ground affords walking if we should want to walk tomorrow on that surface. But the question is misleading, because it forces upon the answerer to provide an explanation from a physical perspective. It forces one to deal with terms in a traditional cognitive language. It forces discussion on words like realism, objective, subjective, memory (for past) and imagination (for future). When I am lead to believe Gibson would rather speak of perception, movement, senses and affordances.

On subjectivity/objectivity of affordances... (2/3)

Building on the previous post.. Reading Gibson.. I think, unfortunately, that there is good use of communicating an objective and subjective perspective to clarify what there is and isn't. This is an objective perspective in itself. Besides that, consider the point of which misperception of affordances comes into play, just by the word "misperception" there is an implication that -in a subjective perspective we may perceive an affordance, that in actual fact, is not there. Then, it has to have not been there in an objective sense to begin with.

I appreciate the fact that Gibson tries intently to explain and visualise the non-subjective/objective nature of affordances themselves -I am on board here. It's only that, the dichotomous relationship of subj.-obj. bears on the information communicated and is entrenched in the linguistics. I do not think we can escape them unless we resort to dualism in some sense. Each time an affordance exists and not exists it must be said in a subjective sense. Unless, we wish to abandon that specific set of philosophical underpinnings.. is that possible?

[Edit, 12:17, 3/4-2013]
[Gibson also seems to confuse me at times in this area, he speaks of affordances very strictly as relationships in an initial definitional sense, but goes on saying that objects always afford their affordances to actors in a .. behavioral sense? But this is not entirely true, it is not only in a behavioural sense that he speaks of them as retained. He doesn't speak of them differently in separate philosophical terms either (ontologically/epistemologically).. Could it be the distinction between realisation and actualisation that separates Koffka's and Gibson's view here? That Gibson picks up on but doesn't mention explicitly?]

March 28, 2013

Communicationally necessary separation of objective and subjective perspectives (in rECS) (1/3)

I began writing the situated relationships between the concepts (mentioned in my previous post) and realised something terribly important. Even in the simplified taxonomy, I haven't separated out subjective from objective, and I found out just how important that is when writing about the specific relationships. They exist in different realms (akin to the ontological and epistemological issues I have been writing about), also, communicating subjective relationships will depend on the specific organism and its umwelt (Louise Barrett). I have, for now, had human activity in mind, in an effort to keep it simple. This will guide the way I henceforth communicate about relationships in rECS where necessary to specify, unless someone has a good reason not to...

Objectively, here, refers to a mind-independent, theoretical perspective. I am not concerned here on how we come in contact, how we experience the world, but rather on the relationships between the concepts in how they affect each other, separated from how they are experienced (or might be experienced). It is not to do with separating ontology from epistemology, but there are surface similarities. For example, talking about Realisation and Actualisation, in an objective perspective you cannot have Actualisation without Realisation (I have written otherwise in other places, and should be revised on the basis of not separating objective and subjective perspectives clearly). This is so because Realisation is defined as perception of affordances, and, you cannot interact, act on, Actualise, affordances without perceiving them. The same goes for Limitations, which may be present and affect Actualisation, but not necessarily be experienced.

But. In a subjective perspective, here defined as experiential, i.e. how we experience the world. We can Actualise affordances without "paying attention" or consciously or deliberately perceive, we just act. An example can be very quick decisions, we need not experience the Realisation of the acted on affordances. Again, in a theoretical sense, an objective perspective, it is clear that we have to have Realisation (perception of) on some level, whatever level that is, for us to be able to Actualise the intersituational-affordances-relationships. Reflexive behaviour could exemplify this, since they are usually experientially Realised after one begins Actualising, after the affordances have been Actualised or not at all.

Thus, it is important to create two separate taxonomies for experiential, subjective, relationships (which will become mostly an empirical endeavour to sort out experimentally) and another for theoretical, objective, relationships. The theoretical perspective will necessarily incorporate more aspects, more relationships and be truer to dynamic systems theory than the experiential perspective. This is explained by the examples above and by that what we experience is dependent on our senses, which obviously are "limited" (put in quotation marks because I do not wish to support the view that we ought to be ideal agents, should be measured on the basis of ideals or are heading that way through evolution, since this imposes a frame-of-reference error. We are humans, and have developed under the pressures of our environment, and this is what we are, nothing more and nothing less).

If I find the time to explicate those taxonomies is another question...

March 25, 2013

Simplified taxonomy of modified rECS (5/5)

Well well, this is how far I've come in trying to visualise the whole tree of concepts in the modified version of rECS (Chemero), with additions from Golonka & Wilson and myself.

Starting out in the bottom right, with energy array and physical properties, it is worth mentioning that an energy array also could be said to be physical properties since we are talking about for example visually, light particles/waves. They are separated due to their function.

Energy array + Physical properties give rise to Structure.

Structure, non-perceived, is not information.

Structure + Perception give rise to Information.

Information give rise to Affordances of the object/agent and the Limitations.

Limitations + Affordances can be Realised and/or Actualised.

Affordances can be Realised and/or Actualised (without the need of perceiving Limitations).

Affordances can be Realised which can give rise to Actualisation.

Affordances can be Actualised giving rise to Realisation.

These are not static one-way relationships, change in one, changes the others down to Perception. Practically, there should be arrows from Affordances, Realisation, Actualisation, Limitations, Information and Perception, to each other.. My MS Paint skills need a bit of retouching for that to happen. I am on my way of separating out all the concepts one by one and link them to their implicated and or necessary concepts. This is meant as a simple overview.

Watch this space as I will try and post a new blog post each day (roughly) for each concept.

March 22, 2013

Temporary conclusion on affordance definitions (my head will explode if I don't give this a rest for a while). (4/5)

I've been entirely engulfed by ontology, epistemology and affordances the past days. My head is about to explode. But I've reached a temporary conclusion. A conclusion that is generally applicable, follow most of the "traditional" ideas from ecological cog, embodied cog and rECS. They depart in some aspects, but I believe them to be necessary to live up to the philosophical demands.

Affordances, need to be, or to be grounded in, [perceived]* physical properties. The reason I have is that there is no other possible way to define it without departing from realism. Please prove me wrong, I am staring myself blind at this.

Epistemologically, affordances are perceptible through information.

Information, [any] structure of [any] energy array (brilliantly defined by Sabrina Golonka)

Epistemologically, sensory modalities discriminate between and within structures.

Perception, "the apprehension of [information] where 1) the structure is specific to an event or property in the world, 2) where the meaning of the structure (for that organism in that task) is about that event or property (i.e., a dog's bark is about the event of a barking dog), and 3) where the meaning of the structure must be learned (or, more correctly, where an organism must learn how to coordinate action with respect to this structure)." (stolen again from Sabrina Golonka).

Realisation, perception of affordances.

Epistemologically, perceiving information and coming to an understanding (need not be conscious, obviously... as if there is a black and white divide of conscious and non-conscious...) of some/all/the situationally relevant agent/objects' affordances.

Actualisation, agent/object(s) affordance(s) interaction with agent/object(s) affordance(s).

Epistemologically, bodily movement between and/or within agents/objects affordances and can be either compatible (by the agent(s) affordances or by extension, like using a stick or something) or not (like lifting the earth, the earth does not lend itself to be lift-able).

Constraints, boundaries of realisation and actualisation.

Epistemologically, restrict compatibility of affordances between and/or within agent(s)/object(s). The knee does not afford the leg to bend backwards. A local constraint that has consequences for bodily movement in the global environment. Being dynamically coupled to environment/objects/other agents, constraints vary depending on the current situationally available affordances.

*Edit 25/3

March 21, 2013

Ontological meanderings for the definition of affordance. (3/5)

Ontology deals with questions concerning what entities exist or can be said to exist.

Proposed rule: An ontological definition of affordances cannot include, in full or in part, a relationship between two entities, if we wish to adhere to a realist account of said concept.

Reason: Relationships imply mono-dependence or co-dependence.

Reasoning: An ontological definition of a concept including a relationship, implicates 'mono- or co-dependence' with 'what exists'.

Premise A1: If either entity is dependent on the other, and
Premise A2: dependence is required for existence,
Conclusion A: then, there will be situations where either will not exist.

Premise B1: If both entities are dependent on each other, and
Premise B2: dependence is required for existence,
Conclusion B: then there will be situations where neither will exist.

Consequence: If affordances are in full or in part defined ontologically as a relationship, then affordances will align itself with idealism, since we will have situations where one or both entities do not exist.

March 20, 2013

Ontological and epistemological definitions of affordances (as per previous post). (2/5)

The ontology of affordances (based on my previous post), then, defines affordances as physical properties inherent to the object/agent that may be acted upon only by other compatible objects/agents.

The specific affordance to-be-explained is derived from the specific physical properties with the object/agent and they are necessarily constrained/restricted by both the body of the object/agent and the physical properties of the environment. For example, our legs are able to move in some ways but not others, we are restricted in the movement of our legs by a) the physical properties of the make-up of our leg (the knee puts the most obvious restriction) and b) the physical properties of the make-up of the environment in which it is currently in (living in a gas allows relatively free movement of the leg -compared to living in water, for example, but gravity will "restrict" -probably more accurate to say control here- us in one sense, whereas, say direct physical constraint -someone holding your feet down- restricts us in another sense). Here, thus, it should be obvious to see that Physics, Chemistry and Biology are necessarily implicated as the basis upon which determines what is a restriction and what is a constraint.

The most important part; defining affordances minimalistically ontologically, avoids many of the ontological consequences faced when defining affordances as relationships (by leading to some form of idealism), although, as I will argue, affordances within objects/agents depend on each other epistemologically. I believe this is also the consequence by using the definitions of realisation and actualisation for the epistemological reliance of affordances.

Realisation and actualisation is the, how we come in contact with, how we gain knowledge of, what affordances do. What we do. How we do them. Since (if I've got this right) (radical) embodied cognitive science posits that, consciousness, cognition, memory (and many other representationalist terms) are not properties of the brain -but things we do- then I think it appropriate to the central ideas of rECS. I use "radical Embodied Cognitive Science" instead of embodied cognition due to the well argued taxonomy that Chemero presents in his book. Radical does not get a capitol letter however, to make the point that the theory is not radical in and of itself (like Chemero argues) but is merely a distinction from Embodied Cognition. This distinction seems to me necessary because of Chemero's arguments.

Affordances rely on the mechanisms of realisation and actualisation.

Realisation is to do with what Wilson & Golonka discusses on their blog, that which is perceptible necessarily contains information, if I understood it correctly (energy array etc., their definition is brilliant and me rewriting it would not do it justice, it also serves my purposes well).

Actualisation is to do with the coupling, when we act on the perceived affordances.

Objects exist when we are not there to perceive them; realisation, but not actualisation. It should be obvious that once we have perceived an object and some of its affordances, the realisation is retained by virtue of the compatible affordances of both the affordances of the object and the affordances of the agent. As of yet however, I believe the affordances of the agent are necessary (we can realise the affordance we need in an object in order to actualise the affordance perceived of our body).

Failing when doing; I don't see this as an issue, why would it be? This type of reasoning belongs to Evil Philosopher type arguments, in that, because we "get it wrong" then it somehow reflects on the actual mechanism of perception and/or action. I do not believe this is so. Direct perception gives us the information that we are able to perceive and act upon, but in my mind there has to be a perturbance or something not yet perceived to disrupt our ability to actually carry out, actualise, affordances. And, objections like that seem to assume that we are perfect beings. As I see it, our sensory modalities are limited, we are not the pinnacle of "creation", we will get things "wrong" -but like all other philosophy of mind objections it doesn't have a bearing on ontology, solely epistemology. We evolved to perceive to survive and reproduce, not to gain a perfect perception of the environment. And that's ok. Doesn't have a bearing on affordances since they are defined ontologically without the requirement of being accurate.

Ontology; Affordances, thus, are not defined as realisation and actualisation, but as (simplified here) physical properties reflected by Wilson & Golonka's definition of information.
Epistemology; Affordances rely on the mechanisms of realisation and actualisation. All three are necessarily constrained by physical properties of themselves individually as well as each other. Objects and agents can be realisable but not actualisable, both in presence and in absence of each other; actualisable only in presence of each other.

March 19, 2013

On the definition of affordances. (1/5)

This is most definitely a work under progress. These thoughts came from criticising Anthony Chemero's "Radical Embodied Cognitive Science, ch. 7 "Affordances etc." and concludes with the (in)famously ambiguous quote from Gibson on what affordances are defined as.

If affordances are defined as the relation between (or, the relation between is a part of the definition). Then an object need not exist if an agent is not perceiving it. It can, but it needn't. This will incorporate idealism in full or in part and this is unsatisfactory.

If affordances are defined as the individual ability of an agent and the property of an object, then neither are necessarily coupled. Also unsatisfactory.

However, if abilities and properties are given a compatibility value (a, metaphorical, mathematical/numerical range), which, if in perception of each other are [also] within each others' range and can thus be combined/actualised/realised. Then, if this is what we wish to call an affordance, is inherent individually in the object and the agent (and thus exist without the presence of each other) but can only be actualised in presence of each other (or by other agents/objects within the same range). Thus, an affordance is neither solely subjective, nor objective, at the same point in time. Or both, if you will. (I hope I got at least a chuckle from this rephrasing of Gibson.)

This view is compatible with evolutionary aspects, ecological aspects but is not selectionist [things Chemero makes a good point of what we should want]. In short and simple, there are many, albeit finite, number of affordances and those that have been directly linked to survival and reproduction (which are temporally and situationally dependent, although this specific aspect falls under biology to explore/have explored) have thus determined our phylogenetic development.

I suggest following terminology (although I have to admit that I am slightly confused by all the existing definitions and so reserve myself for the mistake of reifying someone else's definition. Should this be the case, I apologize and will credit you accordingly)

Actualised: object/agent in a physically coupled, mutual, dynamic relationship that is temporally bound. (Temporally bound refers to that actualizations of affordances do not last forever, in the most extreme case, we die, but, the temporal aspect is necessary, for development, evolution and dynamicism more generally. Although it can be argued that someone else can keep actualizing what I did before death, this is still another instance, another coupling, that can be simultaneous to my coupling. This thus also holds for collective behaviour.)

Realised: object/agent in a perceptually coupled, mutual, dynamic relationship. (Perceptually bound, spatially bound, geographically bound. Referring to the necessary perception of the object and its affordances and (but not necessarily) the agents affordances and the compatibility range of both. Basically, we need direct perception, and perception at all to be able to realise that there are objects at all etc..)

Both these terms are necessarily physically bound, both by their individual physical properties (body of the agent and shape, density etc. of the object) and the physical constraints of the environment (gravity, exemplifying a more so global constraint, and situationally specific things for example social norms, etc.).
This, allows us realisations in absence of the relevant object but actualizations only in presence. It also allows us to avoid Evil Philosopher arguments, examples of cases when we don't actualise although we can and failing an attempted actualization.

Arriving at the terribly mundane conclusion that we can interact with things when they are there and they are retained when we are not. To be continued... ...probably in my master thesis...


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