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3.3b. Ecological Approaches to Perception (Ecological Approaches to Perception on PhilPapers)

See also:
Alm, Jan (2008). Affordances and the nature of perceptual content. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 16 (2):161 – 177.   (Google)
Abstract: According to John McDowell, representational perceptual content is conceptual through and through. This paper criticizes this view by claiming that there is a certain kind of representational and non-conceptual perceptual content that is sensitive to bodily skills. After a brief introduction to McDowell's position, Merleau-Ponty's notion of body schema and Gibson's notion of affordance are presented. It is argued that affordances are constitutive of representational perceptual content, and that at least some affordances, the so-called 'conditional affordances', are essentially related to the body schema. This means that the perceptual content depends upon the nature of the body schema. Since the body schema does not pertain to the domain that our conceptual faculties operate upon, it is argued that this kind of perceptual content cannot be conceptual. At least some of that content is representational, yet it cannot feature as non-demonstrative conceptual content. It is argued that if it features as demonstrative conceptual content, it has to be captured by private concepts. Since McDowell's theory does not allow for the existence of a private language, it is concluded that at least some representational perceptual content is non-conceptual
Berm, (1998). Ecological perception and the notion of a nonconceptual point of view. In The Body and the Self. Cambridge: MIT Press.   (Cited by 21 | Google)
Bickhard, Mark H. & Richie, D. Michael (1983). On The Nature Of Representation: A Case Study Of James Gibson's Theory Of Perception. Ny: Praeger.   (Cited by 66 | Google)
Boynton, David M. (1993). Relativism in Gibson's theory of picture perception. Journal of Mind and Behavior 14 (1):51-69.   (Cited by 1 | Google)
Bruce, Vicki & Green, Patrick (1985). Visual Perception: Physiology, Psychology, and Ecology. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.   (Google)
Chemero, Anthony (2003). An outline of a theory of affordances. Ecological Psychology 15 (2):181-195.   (Cited by 44 | Google | More links)
Abstract: The primary difference between direct and inferential theories of perception concerns the location of perceptual content, the meaning of our perceptions. In inferential theories of perception, these meanings arise inside animals, based upon their interactions with the physical environment. Light, for example, bumps into receptors causing a sensation. The animal (or its brain) performs inferences on the sensation, yielding a meaningful perception. In direct theories of perception, on the other hand, meaning is in the environment, and perception does not depend upon meaning- conferring inferences. Instead the animal simply gathers information from a meaning- laden environment. But if the environment contains meanings, then it cannot be merely physical. This places a heavy theoretical burden on direct theories of perception, a burden so severe that it may outweigh all the advantages to conceiving perception as
Chemero, Anthony & Turvey, Michael T., Gibsonian affordances for roboticists.   (Google)
Abstract: Using hypersets as an analytic tool, we compare traditionally Gibsonian (Chemero 2003; Turvey 1992) and representationalist (Sahin et al. this issue) understandings of the notion ‘affordance’. We show that representationalist understandings are incompatible with direct perception and erect barriers between animal and environment. They are, therefore, scarcely recognizable as understandings of ‘affordance’. In contrast, Gibsonian understandings are shown to treat animal-environment systems as unified complex systems and to be compatible with direct perception. We discuss the fruitful connections between Gibsonian affordances and dynamical systems explanation in the behavioral sciences and point to prior fruitful application of Gibsonian affordances in robotics. We conclude that it is unnecessary to re-imagine affordances as representations in order to make them useful for researchers in robotics
Chemero, Tony (forthcoming). Information and direct perception: A new approach. In Priscila Farias & Jo (eds.), Advanced Issues in Cognitive Science and Semiotics.   (Google)
Abstract: Since the 1970s, Michael Turvey, Robert Shaw, and William Mace have worked on the formulation of a philosophically-sound and empirically-tractable version of James Gibson
Chemero, Tony (2003). Review of ecological psychology in context: James Gibson, Roger Barker, and the legacy of William James' radical empiricism. Contemporary Psychology.   (Google | More links)
Chemero, Tony (2001). What we perceive when we perceive affordances: Commentary on Michaels (2000), Information, Perception and Action. Ecological Psychology 13 (2):111-116.   (Cited by 3 | Google | More links)
Abstract: In her essay --?Information, Perception and Action--, Claire Michaels reaches two conclusions that run very much against the grain of ecological psychology. First, she claims that affordances are not perceived, but simply acted upon; second, because of this, perception and action ought to be conceived separately. These conclusions are based upon a misinterpretation of empirical evidence which is, in turn, based upon a conflation of two proper objects of perception: objectively with properties and affordances
Fodor, Jerry A. & Pylyshyn, Zenon W. (1981). How direct is visual perception? Some reflections on Gibson's 'ecological approach'. Cognition 9:139-96.   (Cited by 197 | Google)
Gibson, James J. (1976). The myth of passive perception: A reply to Richards. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 37 (December):234-238.   (Cited by 6 | Google | More links)
Gibson, James J. (1950). The Perception Of The Visual World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.   (Cited by 10 | Google)
Gibson, James J. (1968). The Senses Considered As Perceptual Systems. Allen & Unwin.   (Cited by 7 | Google)
Givner, David A. (1982). Concepts, percepts and perceptal systems: The relevance of psychology to epistemology. Metaphilosophy 13 (July-October):209-216.   (Google)
Givner, David A. (1982). Direct perception, misperception and perceptual systems: J. J. Gibson and the problem of illusion. Nature and System 4 (September):131-142.   (Google)
Glotzbach, Philip A. (1992). Determining the primary problem of visual perception: A Gibsonian response to the correlation' objection. Philosophical Psychology 5 (1):69-94.   (Cited by 3 | Google)
Abstract: Fodor & Pylyshyn (1981) criticize J. J. Gibson's ecological account of perception for failing to address what I call the 'correlation problem' in visual perception. That is, they charge that Gibson cannot explain how perceivers learn to correlate detectable properties of the light with perceptible properties of the environment. Furthermore, they identify the correlation problem as a crucial issue for any theory of visual perception, what I call a 'primary problem'—i.e. a problem which plays a definitive role in establishing the concerns of a particular scientific research program. If they are correct, Gibson's failure to resolve this problem would cast considerable doubt upon his ecological approach to perception. In response, I argue that both Fodor & Pylyshyn's problem itself and their proposed inferential solution embody a significant mistake which needs to be eliminated from our thinking about visual perception. As part of my response, I also suggest a Gibsonian alternative to Fodor & Pylyshyn's primary problem formulation
Glotzbach, Philip A. & Heff, Harry (1982). Ecological and phenomenological contributions to the psychology of perception. Noûs 16 (March):108-121.   (Google | More links)
Hatfield, Gary (1990). Gibsonian representations and connectionist symbol-processing: Prospects for unification. Psychological Research 52:243-52.   (Cited by 5 | Annotation | Google)
Heil, John (1981). Gibsonian sins of omission. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 11 (3):307–311.   (Google | More links)
Heil, John (1979). What Gibson's missing. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 9 (3):265–269.   (Google | More links)
Klaassen, Pim; Rietveld, Erik & Topal, Julien (2010). Inviting complementary perspectives on situated normativity in everyday life. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 9 (1):53-73.   (Google)
Abstract: In everyday life, situations in which we act adequately yet entirely without deliberation are ubiquitous. We use the term “situated normativity” for the normative aspect of embodied cognition in skillful action. Wittgenstein’s notion of “directed discontent” refers to a context-sensitive reaction of appreciation in skillful action. Extending this notion from the domain of expertise to that of adequate everyday action, we examine phenomenologically the question of what happens when skilled individuals act correctly with instinctive ease. This question invites exploratory contributions from a variety of perspectives complementary to the philosophical/ phenomenological one, including cognitive neuroscience, neurodynamics and psychology. Along such lines we try to make the normative aspect of adequate immediate action better accessible to empirical research. After introducing the idea that “valence” is a forerunner of directed discontent, we propose to make progress on this by first pursuing a more restricted exploratory question, namely, ‘what happens in the first few hundred milliseconds of the development of directed discontent?’
Manfredi, Pat A. (1986). Processing or pickup: Conflicting approaches to perception. Mind and Language 1:181-200.   (Google)
Natsoulas, Thomas (2004). To see things is to perceive what they afford: James J. Gibson's concept of affordance. Journal of Mind and Behavior 25 (4):323-347.   (Google)
Natsoulas, Thomas (1984). Towards the improvement of Gibsonian perception theory. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 14 (2):231–258.   (Google | More links)
Natsoulas, Thomas (1999). Virtual objects. Journal of Mind and Behavior 20 (4):357-377.   (Cited by 2 | Google)
Natsoulas, Thomas (1991). Why do things look as they do? Some Gibsonian answers to koffka's question. Philosophical Psychology 4 (2):183-202.   (Cited by 3 | Google)
Abstract: This article contributes to understanding the relation within Gibson's perception theory between two questions that Gibson raised in the introductory paragraph of his final book, The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception: (a) how we see how to do things and (b) why things look to us as they do (Koffka's question). Although Gibson considered Koffka's question to be a crucial test for any psychological theory of visual perceiving, Gibson did not explicitly defend his ecological approach with reference to Koffka's question. Gibson's entire final book is not, as some Gibsonians would suggest, Gibson's answer to Koffka's question. However, certain subsidiary parts of the book implicitly and almost explicitly suggest a place in Gibsonian perception theory for the phenomenal looks of things that we visually perceive. The present article considers some Gibsonian answers and reactions to Koffka's question, and argues that the phenomenal looks of things play a crucial role in Gibson's account of the visual control of locomotion
Noble, Wiliam G. (1981). Gibsonian theory and the pragmatist perspective. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 11 (1):65–85.   (Google | More links)
Pind, Jörgen (1998). Merits of a Gibsonian approach to speech perception. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21 (2):279-280.   (Google)
Abstract: Neurobiologically inspired theories of speech perception such as that proposed by Sussman et al. are useful to the extent that they are able to constrain such theories. If they are simply intended as suggestive analogies, their usefulness is questionable. In such cases it is better to stick with the Gibsonian approach of attempting to isolate invariants in speech and to demonstrate their role for the perceiver in perceptual experiments
Reed, Edward S. (1988). James J. Gibson And The Psychology Of Perception. New Haven: Yale University Press.   (Cited by 78 | Google)
Richards, Robert J. (1976). James Gibson's passive theory of perception: A rejection of the doctrine of specific nerve energies. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 37 (December):218-233.   (Google | More links)
Rietveld, Erik (2010). McDowell and Dreyfus on Unreflective Action. Inquiry 53 (2):183-207.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: Within philosophy there is not yet an integrative account of unreflective skillful action. As a starting point, contributions would be required from philosophers from both the analytic and continental traditions. Starting from the McDowell-Dreyfus debate, shared Aristotelian-Wittgensteinian common ground is identified. McDowell and Dreyfus agree about the importance of embodied skills, situation-specific discernment and responsiveness to relevant affordances. This sheds light on the embodied and situated nature of adequate unreflective action and provides a starting point for the development of an account that does justice to insights from both philosophical traditions.
Rietveld, Erik (2008). Situated normativity: The normative aspect of embodied cognition in unreflective action. Mind 117 (468):973-1001.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: In everyday life we often act adequately, yet without deliberation. For instance, we immediately obtain and maintain an appropriate distance from others in an elevator. The notion of normativity implied here is a very basic one, namely distinguishing adequate from inadequate, correct from incorrect, or better from worse in the context of a particular situation. In the first part of this paper I investigate such ‘situated normativity’ by focusing on unreflective expert action. More particularly, I use Wittgenstein’s examples of craftsmen (tailors and architects) absorbed in action to introduce situated normativity. Situated normativity can be understood as the normative aspect of embodied cognition in unreflective skillful action. I develop Wittgenstein’s insight that a peculiar type of affective behaviour, ‘directed discontent’, is essential for getting things right without reflection. Directed discontent is a reaction of appreciation in action and is introduced as a paradigmatic expression of situated normativity. In the second part I discuss Wittgenstein’s ideas on the normativity of what he calls ‘blind’ rule-following and the ‘bedrock’ of immediate action. What matters for understanding the normativity of (even ‘blind’) rule-following, is not that one has the capacity for linguistic articulation or reflection but that one is reliably participating in a communal custom. In the third part I further investigate the complex relationships between unreflective skillful action, perception, emotion, and normativity. Part of this entails an account of the link between normativity at the level of the expert’s socio-cultural practice and the individual’s situated and lived normativity.
Rietveld, Erik (2008). The Skillful Body as a Concernful System of Possible Actions: Phenomena and Neurodynamics. Theory & Psychology 18 (3):341-361.   (Google)
Abstract: For Merleau-Ponty,consciousness in skillful coping is a matter of prereflective ‘I can’ and not explicit ‘I think that.’ The body unifies many domain-specific capacities. There exists a direct link between the perceived possibilities for action in the situation (‘affordances’) and the organism’s capacities. From Merleau-Ponty’s descriptions it is clear that in a flow of skillful actions, the leading ‘I can’ may change from moment to moment without explicit deliberation. How these transitions occur, however, is less clear. Given that Merleau-Ponty suggested that a better understanding of the self-organization of brain and behavior is important, I will re-read his descriptions of skillful coping in the light of recent ideas on neurodynamics. Affective processes play a crucial role in evaluating the motivational significance of objects and contribute to the individual’s prereflective responsiveness to relevant affordances.
Scarantino, Andrea (2003). Affordances explained. Philosophy of Science 70 (5):949-961.   (Cited by 15 | Google | More links)
Abstract: I examine the central theoretical construct of ecological psychology, the concept of an affordance. In the first part of the paper, I illustrate the role affordances play in Gibson's theory of perception. In the second part, I argue that affordances are to be understood as dispositional properties, and explain what I take to be their characteristic background circumstances, triggering circumstances and manifestations. The main purpose of my analysis is to give affordances a theoretical identity enriched by Gibson's visionary insight, but independent of the most controversial claims of the Gibsonian movement
Stroll, Avrum (1986). The role of surfaces in an ecological theory of perception. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 46 (March):437-453.   (Cited by 1 | Google | More links)
Thomas, Nigel (1999). Are theories of imagery theories of imagination? Cognitive Science 23:207--45.   (Google)
Abstract: Can theories of mental imagery, conscious mental contents, developed within cognitive science throw light on the obscure (but culturally very significant) concept of imagination? Three extant views of mental imagery are considered: quasi-pictorial, description, and perceptual activity theories. The first two face serious theoretical and empirical difficulties. The third is (for historically contingent reasons) little known, theoretically underdeveloped, and empirically untried, but has real explanatory potential. It rejects the "traditional" symbolic computational view of mental contents, but is compatible with recent situated cognition and active vision approaches in robotics. This theory is developed and elucidated. Three related key aspects of imagination (non-discursiveness, creativity, and seeing as) raise difficulties for the other theories. Perceptual activity theory presents imagery as non-discursive and relates it closely to seeing as. It is thus well placed to be the basis for a general theory of imagination and its role in creative thought.
Thomas, Nigel J. T. (2001). Perceptual systems: Five+, one, or many? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24 (2):241-242.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: Commentary on "On Specification and the Senses," by Thomas A. Stoffregen and Benoît G. Bardy: Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24, 195-261 (2001).
The target article's value lies not in its defence of specification, or the "global array" concept, but in its challenge to the paradigm of 5+ senses, and its examples of multiple receptor types cooperatively participating in specific information pick-up tasks. Rather than analysing our perceptual endowment into 5+ senses, it is more revealing to type perceptual systems according to task.
Turvey, Michael T.; Shaw, R. E.; Reed, Edward S. & Mace, William M. (1981). Ecological laws of perceiving and acting: In reply to Fodor and Pylyshyn. Cognition 9:237-304.   (Cited by 62 | Google)
Ullman, S. (1980). Against direct perception. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3:333-81.   (Cited by 114 | Google)
van Leeuwen, Cees & Stins, John (1994). Perceivable information or: The happy marriage between ecological psychology and gestalt. Philosophical Psychology 7 (2):267-285.   (Google)
Abstract: The ecological realist concept of information as environmental specification is discussed. It is argued that affordances in ecological realism could, in principle, rest on a notion of partial specification of environmental circumstances. For this aim, a notion of Gestalt quality as a hierarchical structure of affordances would have to be adopted. It is claimed that such an account could provide a promising way to deal with problems of intentionality in perception and action, awareness and problem solving
Young, Garry (2005). Ecological perception affords an explanation of object permanence. Philosophical Explorations 8 (2):189-208.   (Cited by 2 | Google | More links)
Abstract: In this paper I aim to present an explanation of object permanence that is derived from an ecological account of perceptually based action. In understanding why children below a certain age do not search for occluded objects, one must first understand the process by which these children perform certain intentional actions on non-occluded items; and to do this one must understand the role affordances play in eliciting retrieval behaviour. My affordance-based explanation is contrasted with Shinskey and Munakata's graded representation account; and although I do not reject totally the role representations play in initiating intentional action I nevertheless maintain that only by incorporating direct perception into an account of object permanence can a fuller understanding of this phenomenon be achieved