Psychologists and philosophers have recently been exploring whether the mechanisms which underlie the acquisition of ‘theory of mind’ (ToM) are best charac- terized as cognitive modules or as developing theories. In this paper, we attempt to clarify what a modular account of ToM entails, and why it is an attractive type of explanation. Intuitions and arguments in this debate often turn on the role of develop- ment: traditional research on ToM focuses on various developmental sequences, whereas cognitive modules are thought (...) to be static and ‘anti-developmental’. We suggest that this mistaken view relies on an overly limited notion of modularity, and we explore how ToM might be grounded in a cognitive module and yet still afford development. Modules must ‘come on-line’, and even fully developed modules may still develop internally, based on their constrained input. We make these points con- crete by focusing on a recent proposal to capture the development of ToM in a module via parameterization. (shrink)
In three experiments, subjects attempted to track multiple items as they moved independently and unpredictably about a display. Performance was not impaired when the items were briefly (but completely) occluded at various times during their motion, suggesting that occlusion is taken into account when computing enduring perceptual objecthood. Unimpaired performance required the presence of accretion and deletion cues along fixed contours at the occluding boundaries. Performance was impaired when items were present on the visual field at the same times and (...) to the same degrees as in the occlusion conditions, but disappeared and reappeared in ways which did not implicate the presence of occluding surfaces (e.g. by imploding and exploding into and out of existence, instead of accreting and deleting along a fixed contour). Unimpaired performance did not require visible occluders (i.e. Michotte’s tunnel effect) or globally consistent occluder positions. We discuss implications of these results for theories of objecthood in visual attention. (shrink)
What makes an object the same persisting individual over time? Philosophers and psychologists have both grappled with this question, but from different perspectives—philosophers conceptually analyzing the criteria for object persistence, and psychologists exploring the mental mechanisms that lead us to experience the world in terms of persisting objects. It is striking that the same themes populate explorations of persistence in these two very different fields—e.g. the roles of spatiotemporal continuity, persistence through property change, and cohesion violations. Such similarities may reflect (...) an underlying connection, in that psychological mechanisms of object persistence (especially relevant parts of mid-level visual object processing) may serve to underlie the intuitions about persistence that fuel metaphysical theories. This would be a way for cognitive science to join these two disparate fields, helping to explain the possible origins and reliability of some metaphysical intuitions, and perhaps leading to philosophical progress. (shrink)
Do we see more than we can report? Psychologists and philosophers have been hotly debating this question, in part because both possibilities are supported by suggestive evidence. On one hand, phenomena such as inattentional blindness and change blindness suggest that visual awareness is especially sparse. On the other hand, experiments relating to iconic memory suggest that our in-the-moment awareness of the world is much richer than can be reported. Recent research has attempted to resolve this debate by showing that observers (...) can accurately report the color diversity of a quickly flashed group of letters, even for letters that are unattended. If this ability requires awareness of the individual letters’ colors, then this may count as a clear case of conscious awareness overflowing cognitive access. Here we explored this requirement directly: can we perceive ensemble properties of scenes even without being aware of the relevant individual features? Across several experiments that combined aspects of iconic memory with measures of change blindness, we show that observers can accurately report the color diversity of unattended stimuli, even while their self-reported awareness of the individual elements is coarse or nonexistent — and even while they are completely blind to situations in which each individual element changes color mid-trial throughout the entire experiment. We conclude that awareness of statistical properties may occur in the absence of awareness of individual features, and that such results are fully consistent with sparse visual awareness. (shrink)
We can perceive not only low-level features of events such as color and motion, but also seemingly higher-level properties such as causality. A prototypical example of causal perception is the ”launching effect’: one object moves toward a stationary second object until they are adjacent, at which point A stops and B starts moving in the same direction. Beyond these motions themselves --- and regardless of any higher-level beliefs --- this display induces a vivid visual impression of causality, wherein A is (...) seen to cause B’s motion. Do such percepts reflect a unitary category of visual processing, or might there be multiple distinct forms of causal perception? While launching is often simply equated with causal perception, researchers have sometimes described other phenomena such as ”triggering’ and ”entraining’. We used psychophysical methods to determine whether these labels really carve visual processing at its joints, and how putatively different forms of causal perception relate to each other. Previous research demonstrated retinotopically specific adaptation to causality: exposure to causal launching makes subsequent ambiguous events in that same location more likely to be seen as non-causal ”passing’. Here, after replicating this effect, we show that exposure to triggering also yields retinotopically specific adaptation for subsequent ambiguous launching displays, but that exposure to entraining does not. Collectively, these results reveal that visual processing distinguishes some types of causal interactions. (shrink)
Attempts to understand visual attention have produced models based on location, in which attention selects particular regions of space, and models based on other visual attributes . Previous studies of inattentional blindness have contributed to our understanding of attention by suggesting that the detection of an unexpected object depends on the distance of that object from the spatial focus of attention. When the distance of a briefly flashed object from both fixation and the focus of attention is systematically varied, detection (...) appears to have a location-based component. However, the likelihood that people will detect an unexpected event in sustained and dynamic displays may depend on more than just spatial location. We investigated the influence of spatial location on inattentional blindness under precisely controlled, sustained and dynamic conditions. We found that although location-based models cannot fully account for the detection of unexpected objects, spatial location does play a role even when displays are visible for an extended period. (shrink)
This chapter explores a way in which visual processing may involve innate constraints and attempts to show how such processing overcomes one enduring challenge to nativism. In particular, many challenges to nativist theories in other areas of cognitive psychology have focused on the later development of such abilities, and have argued that such development is in conflict with innate origins. Innateness, in these contexts, is seen as antidevelopmental, associated instead with static processes and principles. In contrast, certain perceptual models demonstrate (...) how the very same mental processes can both be innately specified and yet develop richly in response to experience with the environment. This process is entirely unmysterious, as shown in certain formal theories of visual perception, including those that appeal to spontaneous endogenous stimulation and those based on Bayesian inference. (shrink)
Some of the evidence for a “magical number 4” has come from the study of visual cognition, and Cowan reinterprets such evidence in terms of a single general limit on memory and attention. We evaluate this evidence, including some studies not mentioned by Cowan, and argue that limitations in visual processing are distinct from those involved in other memory phenomena.
Is innate cognitive modularity consistent with a lack of innate neural modularity? Quartz & Sejnowski's implicit negative answer to his question fuels their antinativist and antimodular cognitive conclusions. I attempt here to suggest a positive answer and to solicit discussion of this crucial issue.
We suggest that the sensorimotor “theory” of vision is really an unstructured collection of separate ideas, and that much of the evidence cited in its favor at best supports only a subset of these ideas. As an example, we note that work on change blindness does not “vindicate” (or even speak to) much of the sensorimotor framework. Moreover, the ideas themselves are not always internally consistent. Finally, the proposed framework draws on ideas initially espoused by James Gibson, but does little (...) to differentiate itself from those earlier views. For even part of this framework to become testable, it must specify which sources of evidence can support or contradict each of the component hypotheses. (shrink)
Recent evidence suggests that performance on reasoning tasks may reflect the operation of a number of distinct cognitive mechanisms and processes. This paper explores the implications of this view of the mind for the descriptive and normative assessment of reasoning. I suggest that descriptive questions such as “Are we equipped to reason using rule X?” and normative questions such as “Are we rational?” are obsolete—they do not possess a fine enough grain of architectural resolution to accurately characterize the mind. I (...) explore how this general lesson can apply to specific experimental interpretations, and suggest that 'rationality' must be evaluated along a number of importantly distinct dimensions. (shrink)
Even simple geometric shapes are seen as animate and goal-directed when they move in certain ways. Previous research has revealed a great deal about the cues that elicit such percepts, but much less about the consequences for other aspects of perception and cognition. Here we explored whether simple shapes that are perceived as animate and goal-directed are prioritized in memory. We investigated this by asking whether subjects better remember the locations of displays that are seen as animate vs. inanimate, con- (...) trolling for lower-level factors. We exploited the ‘Wolfpack effect’: moving darts (or discs with ‘eyes’) that stay oriented toward a particular target are seen to be actively pursuing that target, even when they actually move randomly. (In contrast, shapes that stay oriented perpendicular to a target are correctly perceived to be drifting randomly.) Subjects played a ‘matching game’ – clicking on pairs of panels to reveal animations with moving shapes. Across four experiments, the locations of Wolfpack animations (compared to control animations equated on lower-level visual factors) were better remembered, in terms of more efficient matching. Thus perceiving animacy influences subsequent visual memory, perhaps due to the adaptive significance of such stimuli. (shrink)