Active Perception

The term ‘enaction’ is used to pick out a few related, but rather distinct strands in contemporary cognitive science.  Here, we address the sensorimotor correspondence theory of visual perception, sometimes misleadingly called a theory of enaction.  Alva Noe has recently come to describe this approach as “Actionism”, which may help to settle the terminological confusion.

In lieu of an introductory video, please watch the first 30 minutes of this talk I gave a few years ago. This should help to get you thinking of perception as a form of activity, essentially comprising both subject and world.

The core reading for this week is this highly influential article. The article itself is long and overly detailed for our purposes, but do try to pick up the main thrust, and recognize the role played by sensorimotor correspondences.  It is followed by many rebuttals and discussion and a response.  You don’t have to read all of those, as it is a lot of material, but it is worth skimming to see if anyone raised any objections that seem obvious to you.

*J. K. O’Regan, A. Noë. A sensorimotor account of vision and visual consciousness, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2001.

*McGann, M. (2010). Perceptual modalities: modes of presentation or modes of interaction?Journal of Consciousness Studies17(1-2), 72-94.

Highly recommended also: This seems like a good time to introduce Sensory substitution and the human-machine interface, by Paul Bach-y-Rita and Stephen Kercel (2003), where the empirical task of learning new sensorimotor correspondences necessarily arises.

If you wish to encounter a trenchant critique of the sensorimotor approach to perception, here you go:

Jesse Prinz provides a dissenting view in Putting the brakes on enactive perception, Psyche, 2006.

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