New Psyche on ‘action in perception’

wider_than_the_sky.jpgA new edition of Psyche, the journal of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness, has just been published online, and is a special issue on ‘action in perception’.

The edition is curated by philosopher Alva Noë and takes a novel approach to understanding conscious perception.

The main idea of this book is that perceiving is a way of acting. Perception is not something that happens to us, or in us. It is something we do. Think of a blind person taptapping his or her way around a cluttered space, perceiving that space by touch, not all at once, but through time, by skillful probing and movement. This is, or at least ought to be, our paradigm of what perceiving is. The world makes itself available to the perceiver through physical movement and interaction.

This has some similarities with the later work of psychologist J. J. Gibson, who argued in his book The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception that perception could only be understood by accounting for the way in which in an organism uses vision to act within its environment.

Link to Psyche.

Week 3 book draw

A couple of weeks ago, I posted some thoughts on Mind Performance Hacks, a new book from Ron Hale-Evans and O’Reilly (there are sample hacks online and you can browse the support site for it).

When I made that post, we got hold of some copies from the publisher, and we’ve been having a weekly give-away since. There have been 4 winners so far, and we’re looking for another 2 this week.

If you’d like a chance of winning one of 2 copies of Mind Performance Hacks, send an email to mphdraw3 at mindhacks dot com. Good luck!

Next Sunday evening, UK time, I’ll choose 2 emails randomly and, if you’re a winner, I’ll be in touch to get your address. Please include your name in the email; if my email to you bounces I’ll choose a different one; cheaters will be excluded; organiser’s decision is final; void where prohibited; etc. You don’t have to be in the UK, and emails are deleted if you’re not a winner (if you entered last week and didn’t win, you’re welcome to enter again). Please note that the email address is different from last time. And next Monday… we’ll run the final draw.

Unknown White Male under the microscope

UnknownWhiteMalePoster.jpgCognitive Daily and The Washington Post cast a sceptical eye over the recently released documentary Unknown White Male which claims to depict two years in the life of someone with a curious form of amnesia.

Cognitive Daily examines the representation of memory in the film, and how closely it accords with what is known about the psychology of knowledge and remembering.

Reporting on the controversy over the film’s truthfulness, The Washington Post analyses the inconsistencies in the film, and the opinions of those who support and doubt the main character’s condition.

The Post quotes memory and amnesia researcher Hans Markowitsch and, rather endearingly, calls him a ‘neural psychologist’.

Link to discussion from Cognitive Daily.
Link to ‘A Trip Down Memory Lane’ from The Washington Post.

Zombie t-shirt

zombie_tshirt.jpgIs the person next to you conscious? It might be impossible to tell, and they could be a zombie – someone who acts exactly like a conscious being, but who has no conscious experience at all.

Philosophers have devised this idea, not necessarilly because they believe zombies exist, but to show that if they did, we currently don’t have the ability to tell them apart from genuinely conscious people.

This is a way of both highlighting the difficulty of defining consciousness, and of having an interesting conceptual tool for exploring the limits of the conscious mind (not everyone agrees, however).

Now, t-shirt company Sebei Industries have created a nifty zombie t-shirt remixed from the Run DMC logo, so you can advertise the fact that you’re actually an unconscious zombie, and save everyone the trouble of having to work it out.

Or maybe you just suffer from walking zombie syndrome?

Link to zombie t-shirt.

Is religion a product of mind and evolution?

blue_angel.jpgThere’s been a lot of interest about naturalistic approaches to religion recently, largely related to the release of Daniel Dennett’s new polemical book Breaking the Spell.

In a similar vein, the New Times has an in-depth article about much of the empirical research that’s fuelling the debate.

Crucially, this research is not simply tackling the idea that biblical ideas such as creation are incorrect, but arguing that the belief in God or other supernatural forces, itself is a product of evolution.

The article focuses on the work of psychologist Jesse Bering, whose work we’ve featured before on Mind Hacks.

Unlike with the wider evolution debate, however, reaction to such work seems to be muted, even among the religious community.

Even when their afterlife study was featured prominently in a recent Atlantic Monthly article written by Paul Bloom, a professor of psychology and linguistics at Yale, and titled provocatively “Is God an Accident?,” there was scant response.

“I tell you, a couple of years ago, there was a science article on a dog, Rico, that could obey verbal commands,” Bloom tells New Times. “That got me ten times more angry e-mails than this. Souls and gods are one thing, but people care a lot about their dogs. So my rule is: I can write about God but not dogs.”

I suspect, however, that as the issue becomes more widely known (especially with Dennett turning up the ante) this will quickly change.

Link to article ‘The God Fossil’ from New Times.

Circadian rhythms of human copulation

Circadia has a post about a brief study on how patterns of human love-making change during the day. Unsurprisingly, the most common times are before going to sleep and after waking up.

Notably, the original paper uses the scientific term ‘nycthemeral’ (meaning daily). This must be one of the most lovely sounding words I’ve discovered in quite some time.