First conference talk and proceedings publication!

Going to CogSci17 in London this summer for my first research presentation, the paper is to be published in the proceedings (and can be found here). Here’s the abstract:

The actualization of affordances can often be accomplished in numerous, equifinal ways. For instance, an individual could discard an item in a rubbish bin by walking over and dropping it, or by throwing it from a distance. The aim of the current study was to investigate the behavioral dynamics associated with such metastability using a ball-to-bin transportation task. Using time-interval between sequential ball-presentation as a control parameter, participants transported balls from a pickup location to a drop-off bin 9m away. A high degree of variability in task-actualization was expected and found, and the Cusp Catatrophe model was used to understand how this behavioral variability emerged as a function of hard (time interval) and soft (e.g. motivation) task dynamic constraints. Simulations demonstrated that this two parameter state manifold could capture the wide range of participant behaviors, and explain how these behaviors naturally emerge in an under-constrained task context.

Keywords: affordances, dynamic systems, cusp catastrophe, dynamic modeling, simulations, constraints


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.

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.

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.

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.

Matthew Lieberman’s response and solution

There was a solution posted in a recently started blog by Matthew Lieberman that focuses on direct/conceptual replications. His solution is indeed a very interesting one; add to the curriculum of graduate students in their first or second year that they replicate findings of studies previously nominated to be so. While comments on it are pessimistic (with justified reasoning), I do hope it resonates within the scholarly psychology community.

A personal take on Lieberman’s response is that I probably would not have minded to see this added to my own curriculum. I may not be all too pleased but considering how much one would learn by replicating something that has worked before, I may not be too peeved about it. Also, getting a name on a publication would be a pretty sweet bonus. Of my severely limited insight into other universities ‘caring and nurturing’ of aspiring scientists, some are better (and some worse) in picking up their students and involving them in the ongoing research. Maybe Lieberman’s idea would go a decent amount of the way to attenuate this issue as well.

Ed Yong’s response and a few comments

Ed Yong’s initial coverage* of Doyen’s** and Bargh’s*** study was, in my opinion, quite brutal. I have been taught through my undergraduate to criticise constructively and I do not think the initial post has the depth to do so. For example, a close look at Doyen’s study indicates that one of the few last alternatives at explaining participant’s slower walking speed was experimenter expectation (and a very well conducted piece of research to demonstrate it). The difference in the walk-fast/expect-fast condition was explained by the difference between manual and automatic measuring, not so in the walk-slow/expect-slow condition. I wrote this in my previous blog entry too, but with a different emphasis. This finding means that an environmental stimuli (experimenter expectation manifested in subtle behaviour) was internalised by the participants and subsequently affected observable behaviour (walking slower). This entails that the Doyen study, in fact, supports the original proposition of the Perception-Behaviour Link. This mitigates my criticism of Bargh’s work, since, the theory from which he based his 1996 experiment was conceptually replicated in the Doyen study. The PBL is not mentioned in Ed Yong’s initial coverage.

In Ed Yong’s reply**** to Bargh, he mentions Doyen to “[have] timed volunteers with infrared censors rather than a stopwatch” But they timed both with sensors and manually. This was one of the central reasons that they came to the conclusion that experimenter expectation was the only alternative left to explain their result.

It does strike me from having reviewed large parts of the literature surrounding priming that the published articles are all conceptual replications. The studies following Bargh et al. (1996) have differences in methodology to that study. The issue that has been raised in comments to Bargh’s reply to Ed Yong is that “purer” replications that have not given the same results are subject to the file-drawer phenomenon. I.e. publishers have not accepted them and so they’ve been put in the file-drawer. The issue with this statement is obviously that it is very hard to know (for an outsider like myself) if publishers have denied these studies because they show null-results (not very exciting and from comments it seems there are other rather valid reasons for them not to publish these) or if they contain errors of various types (making them unpublishable).

In either case, I believe I argue in my literature review, strongly, for the theory underlying priming (the Perception-Behaviour Link) but at the same time believe that researchers are getting ahead of themselves and testing advanced hypotheses, when really what this theory needs is the grunt-work of establishing even its simplest tenets. Be that an actual replication of the methodology in Bargh et al. (1996), even though I believe there exist other research more suitable to exemplify the Perception-Behaviour Link.

I should have chosen another topic to do my 30-page literature review on.


Bargh, Doyen and conclusions thereof.

I have just witnessed an interesting phenomenon.

I am concurrently to writing this blog-post, writing a literature review on priming and the Perception-Behaviour Link*. Another paper whom closely replicated the findings of Bargh et al. (1996)*, Doyen et al. (2012)**, were unable to replicate findings as well as provide an interesting demonstration of experimenter expectation. It is however presumptious to assume that the original literature* then also is explained by this bias. The reason is given in a reply by Bargh*** to the Doyen study, basically stating that the experiment was run as a blind study and so experimenter expectation can be safely ruled out. While Bargh’s reply unfortunately contains personal attacks and evidence towards being technologically unwilling, he is defended by others in that his experiment _has_ been replicated successfully and that one study cannot refute several made on the same topic. The studies given (by others than Bargh -he did not give any studies as support in his criticism) as support for this claim are these; Elderly prime effect on simulated driving speed, Gay male prime effect on hostility, elderly or youth prime effect on walking time and accessibility as precursor to goal-fulfilment and high vs. low self-conscious difference in being primed by an elderly stereotype on walking speed (xps 2 & 3). I have reviewed one of these in my literature review and it is at best a conceptual replication with several issues in methodology and statistical interpretation (specifics available on request).

In my book, it is not enough to conceptually replicate, since one is then stuck with reviewing another piece of research with its own flaws and fallacies. Granted, Doyen comes close to replicating but did differ on the point of blind experimenters (it was one of the manipulations in Doyen). The assumption was that Bargh’s work was non-blind (something I came to the conclusion of as well, although I’ve read the paper a gazillion times). This was not the case, and hence, it is also a conceptual replication. What _is_ interesting with the Doyen study is that it still supports the PBL, albeit unintentionally. The most important statistic presented is the believe-slow-walking speed comparison between automatic and manual measurement. Believe-fast-walking’s significant difference was removed when considering both automatic and manual, not so for believe-slow. A last alternative for this significant difference is then experimenter expectation. The thing is though, experimenter expectation is also an environmental stimuli that is unconsciously internalised and evidently had an effect on observable behaviour! Well, this is what the Preception-Behaviour Link strictly posits.

Again, it is a bit of a shame that many of the arguments Bargh uses in his criticism of the Doyen study are arbitrary, unsupported and, on occasion, false in light of other research (even some from the area of priming)****. It does however not reflect on his prior research. In conclusion, Doyen does not specifically cut Bargh’s research down, but rather, introduces another concept able to be accounted for within the Perception-Behaviour Link’s framework.

On a second note, if you have unpublished research on the replication of Bargh et al.’s 1996 study, I would very much like to read it. I believe it is of central importance to be open-minded to one’s own fallacies and others’ criticism (even if I very much like the Perception-Behaviour Link theory), the only way is forward and it is only obstructed when self-preserving opinions and values are set before empirical research.

*Bargh, J.A., Chen, M., & Burrows, L. (1996). Automaticity of social behaviour: Direct effects of trait construct and stereotype activation on action. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 230-244.
**Doyen, S., Klein, O., Pichon, C., & Cleeremans, A. (2012). Behavioural priming: It’s all in the mind, but whose mind? doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029081
***Bargh, J.A. (2012, March 5). The natural unconscious: Nothing in their heads. [Web log post]. Retrieved from´
****See comment section of Bargh’s blog post, specifically the one referring to Assimilation and Contrasting (which is found in Dijksterhuis, A., Spears, R., Postmes, T., Stapel, D.A., van Knippenberg, A., & Scheepers, D. (1998). Seeing one thing and doing another: Contrast effects in automatic behaviour. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 862-871.)