The representation selection problem: Why we should favor the geometric-module framework of spatial reorientation over the view-matching framework

Cognition 192 (C):103985 (2019)
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Abstract

Many species rely on the three-dimensional surface layout of an environment to find a desired goal following disorientation. They generally do so to the exclusion of other important spatial cues. Two influential frameworks for explaining that phenomenon are provided by geometric-module theories and view-matching theories of reorientation respectively. The former posit a module that operates only on representations of the global geo- metry of three-dimensional surfaces to guide behavior. The latter place snapshots, stored representations of the subject’s two-dimensional retinal stimulation at specific locations, at the heart of their accounts. In this paper, I take a fresh look at the debate between them. I begin by making a case that the empirical evidence we currently have does not clearly favor one framework over the other, and that the debate has reached something of an impasse. Then, I present a new explanatory problem—the representation selection problem—that offers the pro- spect of breaking the impasse by introducing a new type of explanatory consideration that both frameworks must address. The representation selection problem requires explaining how subjects can reliably select the relevant representation with which they initiate the reorientation process. I argue that the view-matching framework does not have the resources to address this problem, while a certain type of theory within the geometric-module framework can provide a natural response to it. In showing this, I develop a new geometric-module theory.

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