Sharing a public language facilitates particularly efficient forms of joint perception and action by giving interlocutors refined tools for directing attention and aligning conceptual models and action. We hypothesized that interlocutors who flexibly align their linguistic practices and converge on a shared language will improve their cooperative performance on joint tasks. To test this prediction, we employed a novel experimental design, in which pairs of participants cooperated linguistically to solve a perceptual task. We found that dyad members generally showed a (...) high propensity to adapt to each other’s linguistic practices. However, although general linguistic alignment did not have a positive effect on performance, the alignment of particular task-relevant vocabularies strongly correlated with collective performance. In other words, the more dyad members selectively aligned linguistic tools fit for the task, the better they performed. Our work thus uncovers the interplay between social dynamics and sensitivity to task affordances in successful cooperation. (shrink)
Cognitive science has wholeheartedly embraced functional brain imaging, but introspective data are still eschewed to the extent that it runs against standard practice to engage in the systematic collection of introspective reports. However, in the case of executive processes associated with prefrontal cortex, imaging has made limited progress, whereas introspective methods have considerable unfulfilled potential. We argue for a re-evaluation of the standard ‘cognitive mapping’ paradigm, emphasizing the use of retrospective reports alongside behavioural and brain imaging techniques. Using all three (...) sources of evidence can compensate for their individual limitations, and so triangulate on higher cognitive processes. (shrink)
It is a great pleasure to introduce this collection of papers on the use of introspective evidence in cognitive science. Our task as guest editors has been tremendously stimulating. We have received an outstanding number of contributions, in terms of quantity and quality, from academics across a wide disciplinary span, both from younger researchers and from the most experienced scholars in the field. We therefore had to redraw the plans for this project a number of times. It quickly became clear (...) to us that the collection would expand beyond the scheduled double issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies. A triple issue was then drafted, but the number of excellent contributions continued to grow. We therefore had to reconsider the publication plans again, and the decision was made to publish an extended collection of papers in discrete instalments. At present substantial progress has been made towards determining the content of a second double issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies, due summer 2004. A third instalment now appears to be a real possibility. We welcome enquiries from authors interested in submitting to later instalments, especially those offering a novel perspective that is not otherwise represented. However, we do not intend continue this collection indefinitely. In putting together the first major interdisciplinary collection on this topic, we view our task as that of providing a starting point. Sufficient outlets exist to support ongoing debate. (shrink)
What is the role of language in social interaction? What does language bring to social encounters? We argue that language can be conceived of as a tool for interacting minds, enabling especially effective and flexible forms of social coordination, perspective-taking and joint action. In a review of evidence from a broad range of disciplines, we pursue elaborations of the language-as-a-tool metaphor, exploring four ways in which language is employed in facilitation of social interaction. We argue that language dramatically extends the (...) possibility-space for interaction, facilitates the profiling and navigation of joint attentional scenes, enables the sharing of situation models and action plans, and mediates the cultural shaping of interacting minds. (shrink)
The distinction between bottom-up and top-down control of action has been central in cognitive psychology, and, subsequently, in functional neuroimaging. While the model has proven successful in describing central mechanisms in cognitive experiments, it has serious shortcomings in explaining how top-down control is established. In particular, questions as to what is at the top in top-down control lead us to a controlling homunculus located in a mythical brain region with outputs and no inputs. Based on a discussion of recent brain (...) imaging experiments, we argue for the need to factor the interaction between the experimenter and the experimental participant into a realistic understanding of top-down control. We suggest these interactions involve a ‘sharing of scripts’ for perception and action that may be described as ‘top-top processes.’ We thereby expand the understanding of the homunculus to include elements of social cognition. This conceptual reconfiguration may grant some sort of asylum for a—not very omnipotent—homunculus. (shrink)
The ‘self’ is increasingly used as a variable in cognitive experiments and correlated with activity in particular areas in the brain. At first glance, this seems to transform the self from an ephemeral theoretical entity to something concrete and measurable. However, the transformation is by no means unproblematic. We trace the development of two important experimental paradigms in the study of the self, self-face recognition and the adjective self ascription task. We show how the experimental instrumentalization has gone hand in (...) hand with a simplification of the self-concept, and how more conceptual and theoretical reflections on the structure, function and nature of self have either disappeared altogether or receded into the background. We argue that this development impedes and complicates the interdisciplinary study of self. (shrink)
Predictive processing models of cognition are promising an elegant way to unite action, perception, and learning. However, in the current formulations, they are species-unspecific and have very little particularly human about them. I propose to examine how, in this framework, humans can be able to massively interact and to build shared worlds that are both material and symbolic.
Ouija board sessions are illustrious examples of how subjective feelings of control – the Sense of Agency - can be manipulated in real life settings. We present findings from a field experiment at a paranormal conference, where Ouija enthusiasts were equipped with eye trackers while using the Ouija board. Our results show that participants have a significantly lower probability at visually predicting letters in a Ouija board session compared to a condition in which they are instructed to deliberately spell out (...) words with the Ouija board planchette. Our results also show that Ouija board believers report lower SoA compared to sceptic participants. These results support previous research which claim that low sense of agency is caused by a combination of retrospective inference and an inhibition of predictive processes. Our results show that users in Ouija board sessions become increasingly better at predicting letters as responses unfold over time, and that meaningful responses from the Ouija board can only be accounted for when considering interactions that goes on at the participant pair level. These results suggest that meaningful responses from the Ouija board may be an emergent property of interacting and predicting minds that increasingly impose structure on initially random events in Ouija sessions. (shrink)
In a range of contexts, individuals arrive at collective decisions by sharing confidence in their judgements. This tendency to evaluate the reliability of information by the confidence with which it is expressed has been termed the ‘confidence heuristic’. We tested two ways of implementing the confidence heuristic in the context of a collective perceptual decision-making task: either directly, by opting for the judgement made with higher confidence, or indirectly, by opting for the faster judgement, exploiting an inverse correlation between confidence (...) and reaction time. We found that the success of these heuristics depends on how similar individuals are in terms of the reliability of their judgements and, more importantly, that for dissimilar individuals such heuristics are dramatically inferior to interaction. Interaction allows individuals to alleviate, but not fully resolve, differences in the reliability of their judgements. We discuss the implications of these findings for models of confidence and collective decision-making. (shrink)
One of the best gimmicks on the cognitive science conference circuit is the demonstration of inattentional blindness. Many readers of this journal must have already been exposed to it. For the rest we will briefly describe a striking and popular demonstration. It typically evolves during a conference talk, where the presenter provides the audience with a stimulus in the form of a small video clip of six people, three in white, three in black, who pass two basket balls around. The (...) instruction is to count the number of passes made by the players in white. When the movie is over, the presenter asks for a response, someone provides it, and he then goes on to elicit a report: 'Did anyone notice something strange during the film?' Usually, only those who have seen the film before have, but they are not allowed to answer. The film is then replayed, but this time, the audience is instructed to look out for anything unusual. Muted, surprised laughter goes through the auditorium when someone dressed as a gorilla enters into the scene of kids playing, confronts the spectators, bangs his chest, and slowly walks out again. It seems incredible that it went unnoticed the first time around, and yet those who have been exposed to the experiment before can testify that the gorilla was indeed there in both showings of the film. (shrink)
This introduction to the Common Knowledge symposium titled “Comparative Relativism” outlines a variety of intellectual contexts where placing the unlikely companion terms comparison and relativism in conjunction offers analytical purchase. If comparison, in the most general sense, involves the investigation of discrete contexts in order to elucidate their similarities and differences, then relativism, as a tendency, stance, or working method, usually involves the assumption that contexts exhibit, or may exhibit, radically different, incomparable, or incommensurable traits. Comparative studies are required to (...) treat their objects as alike, at least in some crucial respects; relativism indicates the limits of this practice. Jensen argues that this seeming paradox is productive, as he moves across contexts, from Lévi-Strauss's analysis of comparison as an anthropological method to Peter Galison's history of physics, and on to the anthropological, philosophical, and historical examples offered in symposium contributions by Barbara Herrnstein Smith, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, Marilyn Strathern, and Isabelle Stengers. Comparative relativism is understood by some to imply that relativism comes in various kinds and that these have multiple uses, functions, and effects, varying widely in different personal, historical, and institutional contexts that can be compared and contrasted. Comparative relativism is taken by others to encourage a “comparison of comparisons,” in order to relativize what different peoples—say, Western academics and Amerindian shamans—compare things “for.” Jensen concludes that what is compared and relativized in this symposium are the methods of comparison and relativization themselves. He ventures that the contributors all hope that treating these terms in juxtaposition may allow for new configurations of inquiry. (shrink)
In responding to Barbara Herrnstein Smith's article, “The Chimera of Relativism: A Tragicomedy,” this essay addresses a number of recently published research papers attempting to identify the neuronal correlates of cultural selves. However, underlying these studies of the “cultures of human nature” are some very strong assumptions about the nature of human culture. Current discussions of cultural effects on the brain are therefore not simply about reducing identity to brain states; they also show how a notion of identity is transformed (...) and reconfigured by its relation to a brain domain of knowledge making. Understanding these dynamics, both at a discourse level and at a brain level, this piece suggests, may provide a useful case for a contemporary discussion of relativism. (shrink)
A central claim of biosemiotics is the ascription of semiotic competence to nonhumans. For strange historical reasons, this claim has been quite controversial in much of standard biological discourse. An analysis of ethnographic material from Greenland demonstrates that people regard animals as nonhuman "persons". i.e., as sensing and thinking beings. Like humans. animals are supposed to have knowledge about their environment. Taking this semiotic competence as a fact beyond any doubt enables skilled hunters and fishermen to rely not only on (...) their own interpretation of the environment. but also on the animals' interpretation of their environment The behaviour of fish, seals, and land animals, meditated by their acknowledged semiotic competence, can thus be interpreted as giving signs about the behaviour, e.g., of whales and icebergs. This a priori ascription of semiotic competence is also apparent in discussions about management and regulation of animals. Rather than discussing whether "the stock" is depleted, much of the discourse among fishermen and hunters focuses on whether animals can be semiotically disturbed by what people are doing. (shrink)
‘Op zeker moment in de loop van die stille dagen besliste ik dat dat was wat ik wilde: de geest in al haar complexiteit bestuderen [...] Ik lees in mijn dagboek dat een handschrift, door mij ternauwernood herkend als het mijne, schrijft met heel de kwetsbare overmoed van een haast twintigjarige: ‘Volgens mij is het observeren van het leven, het brein, de ziel enzovoort, net zoiets als het bestuderen van elektronen: de gevolgde methode, de aanvangssituatie, die bepalen de uitslag. Een (...) andere methode kan een andere uitslag opleveren, waarvan je niet kunt zeggen dat die fout is.’. (shrink)
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