A demonstration of the transition from ready-to-hand to unready-to-hand

Abstract
The ideas of continental philosopher Martin Heidegger have been influential in cognitive science and artificial intelligence, despite the fact that there has been no effort to analyze these ideas empirically. The experiments reported here are designed to lend empirical support to Heidegger’s phenomenology and more specifically his description of the transition between ready-to-hand and unready-to-hand modes in interactions with tools. In experiment 1, we found that a smoothly coping cognitive system exhibits 1/fβ type positively correlated noise and that its correlated character is reduced when the system is perturbed. This indicates that the participant and tool constitute a self-assembled, extended device during smooth coping and this device is disrupted by the perturbation. In experiment 2, we examine the re-organization of awareness that occurs when a smoothly coping, self-assembled, extended cognitive system is perturbed. We found that the disruption is accompanied by a change in attention which interferes with participants’ performance on a simultaneous cognitive task. Together these experiments show that a smoothly coping participant-tool system can be temporarily disrupted and that this disruption causes a change in the participant’s awareness. Since these two events follow as predictions from Heidegger’s work, our study offers evidence for the hypothesized transition from readiness-to-hand to unreadiness-to-hand.
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