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.

(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.

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.

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!

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.

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

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.

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.

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