Reading list for Embodied Cognition

[Edit 19/7 2013: I am getting quite a lot of traffic to this post, so I thought I’d point you to my thesis reference list instead as this post is a bit messy and incomplete.]

I am collecting my readings on Mendeley, in a group called Embodied Cognition (should be the only one so far..). I figured I needed somewhere to collect all readings I go through, however, since I have yet to find a way to add books to the group, and thought I may as well put them here in case anyone else has any utility for it. Will update the post as I’ve read articles/books etc. Also, please feel free to comment with additional readings that you’ve found valuable in understanding EC.

(in the order I read them)

Added on 14/3 2013
Larry Shapiro – The embodied cognition research program (article)
Louise Barrett – Beyond the brain (book)
Alva Noë – Out of our heads (book)
Wilson & Golonka’s blog (all entries)
Wilson & Golonka – Embodied cognition is not what you think it is (article)
Tim van Gelder – What might cognition be if not computation (article)
Montagne, Laurent, Durey & Bootsma – Movement reversals in ball catching (article)
Pfeifer & Bongard – How the body shapes the way we think (book)
Gerd Gigerenzer – Rationality for mortals (book)

Added on 16/3 2013
Haller & Krauss – Misinterpretations of significance (article)
Ziliak & McCloskey – The cult of statistical significance (article)

Added on 19/3 2013
Anthony Chemero – Radical embodied cognitive science (book)

Added on 8/4 2013
Semin & Smith – Embodied grounding (book)
Gibson – The ecological approach to visual perception (book)

In progress;
Pan, Bingham & Bingham – Embodied memory: Effective and stable perception… (article)
Holmes & Heath – Goal-directed grasping: The dimensional properties of an object… (article)
Mann, Dicks, Cañal-Bruland & van der Kamp – Neurophysiological studies may provide… (article)
Gray, Sims, Fu & Schoelles – The soft constraints hypothesis: A rational analysis approach… (article)
Hayhoe & Ballard – Eye movements in natural behavior (article)
Hayhoe – Vision using routines: A functional account of vision (article)

Russel and Norvig 1995   (article)
Pfeifer and Scheier 1991   (article)
Pfeifer and Scheier 1999   (article)
O’Regan and Noë 2001   (article)
McFarland and Bisser 1993   (article)
Monteliore and Noble 1989   (article)
Thompson 1996   (article)
Bird and Layzell 2002   (article)
Schelling 1969   (article)
Epstein and Axtell 1996 (article)
Bo{r/v}et & Pfeifer 2005   (article)
Bartlett 1932   (article)
Ashby 1956   (article)
Freeman 1991   (article)
Clancy 1997   (article)
Neath and Suprenant 2003 (article)
Dewey, ?. (1896). ?   (article)
Titchener, ?. (1895). ?   (article)
Kahneman and Tversky, 1996   (article)
Gilovich, Griffin and Kahneman, 2002,   (article)
Tversky and Kahneman, 1986   (article)
Wason and Johnson-Laird 1972   (article)
Thriver 2002   (article)
Cosmides 1989   (article)
Wundt 1912, 1973   (article)
Shaffer and McBeath, 2002   (article)
Fillenbaum, 1977   (article)
Sweetser 1990   (article)
Sher and McKenzie, 2006   (article)
Shaffer, 2004   (article)
Fodor and Pylyshyn   (article)
Chomsky   (article)
Kuhn 1962   (article)
Feyerabend 1963, 1965   (article)
Titchener, 1895   (article)
Titchener and Lange   (article)
Dewey, 1896   (article)
Fodor, 1981   (article)
Gibson, 1979   (article)
Barwise and Perry, 1981, 1983   (article)
Brooks (1991, 1999)   (article)
Clark (2001)   (article)
Thelen and Smith, 1994   (article)
Thelen 1995   (article)
Kirsh and Maglio 1994   (article)
Clark 1997   (article)
Adams and Aizawa (2008)   (article)
Beer 2003   (article)
van Rooii, Bongers & Haselages (2002)   (article)
Markman and Dietrich 2000a   (article)
Markman and Dietrich 2000b   (article)
Dietrich and Markman 2003   (article)
Grush, 1997,   (article)
Grush, 2004,   (article)
Turvey, 1981   (article)
Michaels and Carello, 1981,   (article)
Heft 1989   (article)
Heft 2001   (article)
Turvey 1992   (article)
Michaels 2000   (article)
Read 1996   (article)
Dennett 1998   (article)
Cosmelli, Lachaux and Thompson 2007   (article)
Thompson and Varela 2001   (article)
Bickle, 2003,   (article)
Churchland, Neurophilosophy, (book)
Thelen and Smith 1994 (article)
Pfeifer and Scheier 1999 (article)
Edelman 1987  (article)
Searle 1980  (article)
Schwanen and Plugel 1991  (article)
Barsalou 1999  (article)
Glenberg 1997 (article)
van Orden, Holden and Turvey 2005 (article)
Montessori 1967 (article)

Only read articles available on Mendeley. Books available on loan, from me, if you fancy a visit to Lund, Sweden, otherwise they’re available in bookstores online.

Exploding boxes and affordances

If I have understood this correctly, there is an issue with two boxes being identical but only one having a specific affordance -in this case being “pick-up-able” or “touch-able”. Both boxes, to us, are perceived to have the affordance but this is not the case. Therefore, we can’t rely on perception to decide which affordances are available to us.

I am not sure this makes sense. The central point of the masses of words beneath is, does it not assume us to be constant naive explorers of the world? And is this a fair assumption? (Now you don’t have to read all the details, you’re welcome.)

It strikes me however that, the consequence of trying to explore a possible affordance, gives information on which affordances are available to us. Because we are explorers/seekers, we navigate our environment and find out what is, and isn’t. We rely on perception to do so. Is ice walk-on-able? Sometimes. How do we go about finding out? We poke the ice infront of us with a stick, indirectly finding out if the ice is walk-on-able. So we use secondary mechanisms to find out if something has an affordance, if it is not directly perceptible to us, but this relies on that we have seen evidence of it not being able to be relied on by direct perception of our environment. The assumption in the issue may be that we are constant naive explorers, which we aren’t.

Is it not true that both boxes still persist in holding the affordance, only that, in one case we end up exploded and the other we don’t? A big enough box provides the affordance of sitting, regardless of what the consequence of sitting on it is?

It seems to me that this is a classic case of philosophy of mind issues -where we can’t rely on direct perception to perceive what is “actually out there”. For all its worth, if we are to be assumed to be naive explorers, I posit that we will always sit on the exploding chair, touch the exploding box, walk on what is perceived as a solid and rigid surface and so on -because the visual properties, surface and rigidity and so on, lend us to perceive the existence of such an affordance.

So it depends on reliance then. If we rely solely on direct perception (making us constant naive explorers) then objects retain their perceived affordances, regardless of which affordances actually are available to us. If two objects are identical in all perceptible ways, then we can not rely on direct perception to know which affordances are available to us. However. We are not constant naive explorers. We see others interact with objects, get burned on stoves that look like they are turned off. So what do we do? We quickly touch the stove, or look at the knob or hold our hand above the stove.

As for objects, without the involvement of interaction with other things, it is my view that they retain, many, finite number of affordances. These affordances will be available to other objects, but not all affordances to all other objects. Which ones are, will only be realised when another thing, with its own affordances, interact with it, perceive it. With this said, affordances are not the actual relationship between things, it is the fit between one objects affordance and another objects affordance. If they are compatible, then to the specific object, the other object has the specific affordance. They form a relationship, but importantly, both have their affordances retained in the non-presence of each other, if, the affordances are available when interacting with each other.

Example, the structure of DNA contains four characters, only A can bind to B but not C and D and vice versa, in A and Bs absence of each other they both retain the affordance of being able to bind to one other and they both do not have the affordance of binding to C and D. In A and Bs presence of each other they can bind to each other, and thereby realise both of their affordances. In essence, they retain their separate affordances in absence because they can be realised in presence.

No wonder social relationships are so damn important evolutionarily, seeing others being blown up by boxes would surely rule out to me going near any box even similar in visual makeup to the one that exploded!

Ugh.. always feel I lack knowledge when I finish a thought. Either way, these are thoughts associated to and

What in the world is the brain necessarily up to?

Some simple reflections on ‘necessariness’

How we consciously experience the world is not necessarily a reflection of what the brain is doing. While it is fully possible to assume that the brain does a bunch of things, I find it a better way of going about things to notassume that the brain does more than necessary. Is it possible that we internalize the world and represent it in our mind? Yes. Is it necessarily so? No. What then are the most basic abilities our brain necessarily has in order for us to function successfully in the world? In my perspective, it is necessary for our brain to perceive change in a meaningful way across all sensory modalities, inform each other and produce motor-movement.

·         Change here is defined as whatever is discernible to our senses from something else.

·         Meaningful here is defined as; Experiments where we do not see change, it is often in situations where change would not matter for our safety or well-being. Changing words in a text when someone isn’t looking and other change-blindness experiments, is non-threatening and not a part of the current goal of the situation, thus, non-meaningful. Even in repeating a pattern of coloured blocks, and changing the colour of completed blocks, is non-meaningful in the sense that, in a first person perspective a part turns non-meaningful when it has been completed (but obviously not in an objective sense, where the overarching goal is to create the same pattern of colour for all parts of the picture).

Change is something that could be universal within the brain and wherever our sensory organs connect with the brain, enables cells to activate on change, as well as connect to all other modalities. Detecting change is necessary, because without it we could not navigate through the environment. This all necessarily needs to be connected to motor-movement of our bodies, because without it we couldn’t respond to these changes. Why then aren’t representations necessary? Because of the simple fact that we do not need to internalize the world in order to successfully navigate in it. The Portia spider and Webb’s crickets in Louise Barrett’s Beyond the Brain exemplifies this. Does all of this mean that we don’t internalize the world and create “representations”? No. However, in order for us to conduct science, we need to criticize and reflect upon the assumptions we make about ourselves –even the ones that seem to make sense in regard to conscious experience as well as the concepts standing for invisible inner processing.
I believe it too indulgent to see the brain as an infinitely complex organ, I just do not believe it to be the pinnacle of evolution. We just make far too many mistakes. I also believe that internalizing every single object that exist through our contact with them makes little sense too. The amount of cognitive load that this requires, in terms of representations, computation, memory and other concepts created by traditional cognitive literature, seems to me to be all too overwhelming. While it is true our brain allows us to act in ways afforded to few other animals, we are still animals and we are not too different from other animals either. In my mind then, it is simply more probable that our brain evolved to sufficiently solve navigating our environment in a cost-effective way, rather than overkill with extreme specialisation. Evolution should have selected for the simplest possible way to achieve, shouldn’t it?

Subjective experience of embodied cognition

Two examples in handball and rugby enabling me to subjectively understand continuous reciprocal interaction with one’s environment, without a need to invoke representations.

Handball (large sport in northern, central and eastern European countries)
Playing handball as an outfielder, when I receive the ball in an attacking position, in my visual field are three or so opponents, number doesn’t really matter. What I perceive is a wall with gaps in it, I begin moving towards one of the gaps and as I do it minimizes as a consequence of two defenders moving closer together. I need to get to the gap that I perceive opening up to the side instead and take a quick step towards it sideways and perceive the gap to still be there so I take two steps forward, altering my bodily posture to further avoid the wall I had just stepped past. When thinking about this sequence, there is no real thought, I simply perceive the environment in front of me, attempt to navigate in it, react bodily to the environmental changes occurring. It signifies to me a dynamically reciprocal relationship between the environment and my body, where my brain fills the task of perceiving the changes in the environment and as a consequence alters my motor-movement in response to those changes. I know which movement-possibilities I am able to employ because through training very similar situations, very many times, I have narrowed down which affordances are available to me in other similar situations. If I perceive, in the second instant in the situation that the second gap also is closing in front of me, the only two alternative motor-movements are to either pass the ball on to a teammate or find myself pacified by a defender holding me down. (The second alternative here being non-desirable because it means the energy spent on the previous movements were in vain and I will have to start over from a still-standing position.)

In rugby, much the same type of situation can occur, holding the ball on any given spot on the field, running forward, you perceive the obstacles that you have to move around. Just that, everything in this situation is dynamic because the environment changes depending on your movement and your movement changes the way the environment changes (not unlike the Watt governor). By that, you have to continuously rearrange your movements according to real-time demands. In the subjective experience there is simply no time to even begin explaining complex action-perception movements like this in representationalist terms. Now, this obviously doesn’t mean we don’t have representations at all, or that you can’t express it in those terms, but the point is that I don’t need to invoke them in the subjective experience of the situation, nor do I need to use them in a verbal explanation of it. While they may exist, it is an extra assumption about the world and can we do without extra assumptions, I believe we are getting a better explanation of the world.

While subjective experience itself may be misleading, what I am trying to get across is what a dynamic situation may look like. The type of continuously reciprocal relationship between environment, body and brain, all acting on each other and changing in response to each other, all in real-time. Tim van Gelder in What Might Cognition Be, If Not Computation? provides an elaborate explanation however of systems that do not even seem to make sense to put in computational terms. It goes far deeper than the simple idea that I am trying to get across here and is worth a read.