Sensory substitution constitutes an interesting domain of study to consider the philosopher’s classical question of distal attribution: how we can distinguish between a sensation and the perception of an object that causes this sensation. We tested the hypothesis that distal attribution consists of three distinct components: an object, a perceptual space, and a coupling between subjects’ movements and stimulation. We equipped sixty participants with a visual-to-auditory substitution device, without any information about it. The device converts the video stream produced by a head-mounted camera into a sound stream. We investigated several experimental conditions: the existence or not of a correlation between movements and resulting stimulation, the direct or indirect manipulation of an object, and the presence of a background environment. Participants were asked to describe their impressions by rating their experiences in terms of seven possible “scenarios”. These scenarios were carefully chosen to distinguish the degree to which the participants attributed their sensations to a distal cause. Participants rated the scenarios both before and after they were given the possibility to interrupt the stimulation with an obstacle. We were interested in several questions. Did participants extract laws of co-variation between their movements and resulting stimulation? Did they deduce the existence of a perceptual space originating from this coupling? Did they individuate objects that caused the sensations? Whatever the experimental conditions, participants were able to establish that there was a link between their movements and the resulting auditory stimulation. Detection of the existence of a coupling was more frequent than the inferences of distal space and object.
Predictive coding is possibly one of the most influential, comprehensive, and controversial theories of neural function. While proponents praise its explanatory potential, critics object that key tenets of the theory are untested or even untestable. The present article critically examines existing evidence for predictive coding in the auditory modality. Specifically, we identify five key assumptions of the theory and evaluate each in the light of animal, human and modeling studies of auditory pattern processing. For the first two assumptions – that neural responses are shaped by expectations and that these expectations are hierarchically organized – animal and human studies provide compelling evidence. The anticipatory, predictive nature of these expectations also enjoys empirical support, especially from studies on unexpected stimulus omission. However, for the existence of separate error and prediction neurons, a key assumption of the theory, evidence is lacking. More work exists on the proposed oscillatory signatures of predictive coding, and on the relation between attention and precision. However, results on these latter two assumptions are mixed or contradictory. Looking to the future, more collaboration between human and animal studies, aided by model-based analyses will be needed to test specific assumptions and implementations of predictive coding – and, as such, help determine whether this popular grand theory can fulfill its expectations.
We suggest that music perception is an active act of listening, providing an irresistible epistemic offering. When listening to music we constantly generate plausible hypotheses about what could happen next, while actively attending to music resolves the ensuing uncertainty. Within the predictive coding framework, we present a novel formulation of precision filtering and attentional selection, which explains why some lower-level auditory, and even higher-level music-syntactic processes elicited by irregular events are relatively exempt from top-down predictive processes. We review findings providing unique evidence for the attentional selection of salient auditory features. This formulation suggests that ‘listening’ is a more active process than traditionally conceived in models of perception.
McGann M. (2010) Perceptual modalities: Modes of presentation or modes of interaction? Journal of Consciousness Studies 17: 72–94. https://cepa.info/782
Perceptual modalities have been traditionally considered the product of dedicated biological systems producing information for higher cognitive processing. Psychological and neuropsychological evidence is offered which undermines this point of view and an alternative account of modality from the enactive approach to understanding cognition is suggested. Under this view, a perceptual modality is a stable form of perception which is structured not just by the biological sensitivities of the agent, but by their goals and the set of skills or expertise which they are deploying at a given time. Such a view suggests that there is no such thing as an experience that is purely visual, auditory, or otherwise modal and that our attempts to understand consciousness and the mind must be conducted within a framework that provides an account of embodied, goal-directed adaptive coping with the world. Relevance: This paper provides an enactive analysis of perceptual modality, and argues for a more constructivist view of how consciousness is analysed, specifically according to the skilled activities in which an agent is engaged.
Moore E. T. (2018) The experience of reading. Consciousness and Cognition 62: 57–68.
What do people consciously experience when they read? There has been almost no rigorous research on this question, and opinions diverge radically among both philosophers and psychologists. We describe three studies of the phenomenology of reading and its relationship to memory of textual detail and general cognitive abilities. We find three main results. First, there is substantial variability in reports about reading experience, both within and between participants. Second, reported reading experience varies with passage type: passages with dialogue prompted increased reports of inner speech, while passages with vivid visual detail prompted increased reports of visual imagery. Third, reports of visual imagery experiences, inner speech experiences, and experiences of conscious visual perception of the words on the page were at best weakly related to general cognitive abilities and memory of visual and auditory details.
Možina M. (2019) Epistemology of hallucinations and hearing voices: The contribution of constructivism and neurophenomenology. Slovenska revija za psihoterapijo Kairos 13(3–4): 27–71. https://cepa.info/6838
This review article focuses on the debate which is once again resurfacing in western culture: is hearing voices (“auditory verbal hallucinations” (AVH) in psychiatric vocabulary) a symptom of mental disorder or valuable resource? What is the appropriate reaction to voice hearers and their social context: endeavours to silence the voices with medication or acceptance and their utilization for recovery? The author is contributing to this debate from the viewpoint of cybernetic or constructivist epistemology as it was defined by Gregory Bateson (1904–1980). After a short summary of the history of voice hearing the epistemological problems with the definition of AVH are presented. With neuroscientific discoveries and epidemiological data it is shown that we are all potential voice hearers. Then the neurophenomenological project is presented in a more detailed way, which could connect first- and third-person research of AVHs. Additionally this is explained with the presentation of possibilities for the coexistence of objectivist nomothetic, hermeneutic constructivist and transformative epistemology. The article concludes with a consideration of not only how this coexistence could be helpful for a better quality of response to voice hearers, but also in a broader sense for the development of science and correction of pathologies of epistemology which are threatening ourselves, our close relatives, society and indeed the whole ecology of our planet.
Petitmengin C. & Bitbol M. (2009) The validity of first-person descriptions as authenticity and coherence. In: Petitmengin C. (ed.) Ten years of viewing from within: The legacy of Francisco Varela.. Imprint Academic, Exeter: 363–404. https://cepa.info/2377
This article is devoted to the description of the experience associated with listening to a sound. In the first part, we describe the method we used to gather descriptions of auditory experience and to analyse these descriptions. This work of explicitation and analysis has enabled us to identify a threefold generic structure of this experience, depending on whether the attention of the subject is directed towards (1) the event which is at the source of the sound, (2) the sound in itself, considered independently from its source, (3) the felt sound. In the second part of the article, we describe this structure. The third part is devoted to a discussion of these results and the paths they open up in various fields of theoretical and applied research.
Sandini G., Metta G. & Vernon D. (2007) The iCub cognitive humanoid robot: An open-system research platform for enactive cognition. In: Lungarella M., Iida F., Bongard J. & Pfeifer R. (eds.) 50 Years of AI. Springer-Verlag, Berlin: 358–369. https://cepa.info/7235
This paper describes a multi-disciplinary initiative to promote collaborative research in enactive artificial cognitive systems by developing the iCub: a open-systems 53 degree-of-freedom cognitive humanoid robot. At 94 cm tall, the iCub is the same size as a three year-old child. It will be able to crawl on all fours and sit up, its hands will allow dexterous manipulation, and its head and eyes are fully articulated. It has visual, vestibular, auditory, and haptic sensory capabilities. As an open system, the design and documentation of all hardware and software is licensed under the Free Software Foundation GNU licences so that the system can be freely replicated and customized. We begin this paper by outlining the enactive approach to cognition, drawing out the implications for phylogenetic configuration, the necessity for ontogenetic development, and the importance of humanoid embodiment. This is followed by a short discussion of our motivation for adopting an open-systems approach. We proceed to describe the iCub’s mechanical and electronic specifications, its software architecture, its cognitive architecture. We conclude by discussing the iCub phylogeny, i.e. the robot’s intended innate abilities, and an scenario for ontogenesis based on human neo-natal development.
Steffe L. P. & Glasersfeld E. von (1985) Helping children to conceive of number. Recherches en Didactique des Mathématiques 6: 269–303.
Number is presented as a uniting operation that can have collections of sensory items as material and a unit of units as the result. One thesis of the paper is that children who have constructed this uniting operation have not necessarily constructed number sequences. Problem situations are suggested for such children that might encourage the internalization of counting and the concomitant construction of the iterable unit of one. Situations are then suggested in which the child can use the number sequence that is based on the iterable unit of one to construct other iterable units and their corresponding number sequences. A second thesis of the paper is that for children who are yet to construct the uniting operation, counting is a sensory-motor scheme that should be coordinated with spatial, finger, and auditory patterns. Problem situations are suggested for these coordinations. While a teacher cannot give a child the uniting operation, the suggested situations can encourage its construction by the child.
Trainor L. J. (2012) Predictive information processing is a fundamental learning mechanism present in early development: Evidence from infants. International Journal of Psychophysiology 83: 256–258. https://cepa.info/6590
Evidence is presented that predictive coding is fundamental to brain function and present in early infancy. Indeed, mismatch responses to unexpected auditory stimuli are among the earliest robust cortical event-related potential responses, and have been measured in young infants in response to many types of deviation, including in pitch, timing, and melodic pattern. Furthermore, mismatch responses change quickly with specific experience, suggesting that predictive coding reflects a powerful, early-developing learning mechanism.