Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

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67 posts · 46,683 views

Andrew D Wilson & Sabrina Golonka are two psychologists who are interested in developing a more coherent, naturalised approach to the scientific study of human behaviour. Andrew studies the perceptual control of action, with a special interest in learning. Sabrina studies similarity and categorisation. We're both interested in exploring non-representational theories in psychology, including dynamical systems and ecological psychology.

Andrew Wilson
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  • July 2, 2013
  • 04:30 AM
  • 382 views

Grounded vs. embodied cognition: a (hopefully uncontentious) note on terminology

by Andrew Wilson in Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

Our Frontiers paper made the case that embodied cognition is, by definition, a fairly radical affair. We argue ...if perception-action couplings and resources distributed over brain, body, and environment are substantial participants in cognition, then the need for the specific objects and processes of standard cognitive psychology (concepts, internally represented competence, and knowledge) goes away...We argue that this is compulsory; as soon as you allow the perceived environment to play........ Read more »

  • June 13, 2013
  • 04:07 AM
  • 131 views

The embodied cognition of Tesco's gendered toys

by Andrew Wilson in Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

 Update: giving them information in a useful way changed their behaviour! Tesco got in trouble on the internet last week for having toy chemistry sets labelled as being for boys, not girls in their online store. There's a lot of noise about how inappropriate all this gender labelling is (and rightly so - it's everywhere and it's awful). Lots of potential customers are being very annoyed all over Twitter: so why does Tesco do this? Why is this sort of thing so very common? Oddly, I think an ........ Read more »

  • June 6, 2013
  • 08:37 AM
  • 244 views

Misperceiving the affordances in anorexia nervosa

by Andrew Wilson in Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

Alice had a few problems with doors tooIt's always hard to evaluate the impact of your research, although funding bodies are increasingly asking that we do so. I always struggle a bit, because the connection between studying, say, the perception of affordances and impact on policy or clinical practice is rarely a straight forward story. My problem is that I think that, if you ask a question the right way the answer will always come in handy to someone at some point, and that this is a big part o........ Read more »

  • April 26, 2013
  • 04:45 AM
  • 249 views

The Information Available in Pictures

by Andrew Wilson in Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

I've become fascinated with the problem of pictures and how they relate to the things they are pictures of. One reason is the regular use of pictures of objects to study how the affordances of those objects might ground cognition; this, I think, is a major problem. A more positive reason is that, like language, pictures contain information about something they themselves are not (see Sabrina's information taxonomy). I have a hunch that an ecological study of picture perception might help gu........ Read more »

  • April 18, 2013
  • 08:10 AM
  • 87 views

Embodied cognition in practice - some thoughts and an open invitation

by Andrew Wilson in Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

Since our Frontiers paper on embodied cognition came out, Sabrina and I have been giving talks and fielding questions in emails about what we're trying to achieve. People first ask us 'why should we do this?' and the answer, from the paper, is because it works really really well. Research in this field has produced extremely powerful explanations of behaviours with extraordinary predictive power; no more small effect sizes plus a successful research programme for as long as you want to run it! W........ Read more »

  • March 20, 2013
  • 05:49 AM
  • 324 views

Bojana Danilovic, the woman who sees the world upside down

by Andrew Wilson in Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

I came across an utterly fascinating case study on Twitter the other day (via Mo Costandi; see this video too):Rare brain condition leaves woman seeing world upside downBojana Danilovic has what you might call a unique worldview. Due to a rare condition, she sees everything upside down, all the time.The 28-year-old Serbian council employee uses an upside down monitor at work and relaxes at home in front of an upside down television stacked on top of the normal one that the rest of her family wat........ Read more »

Mon-Williams, M., & Bingham, G. (2007) Calibrating reach distance to visual targets. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 33(3), 645-656. DOI: 10.1037/0096-1523.33.3.645  

  • February 28, 2013
  • 09:11 AM
  • 330 views

The affordances of objects and pictures of those objects

by Andrew Wilson in Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

People interested in how perception and action affect cognition have begun talking about affordances. This should be great news; the ecological approach suggests that affordances are the properties of the world that we perceive that enable us to control our actions, so if you are interested in how action can ground, say, memory or language, then discussing affordances should enable real progress. The term 'affordance', however, is a technical term, and it refers to very particular properties of ........ Read more »

Pecher, D., de Klerk, R., Klever, L., Post, S., van Reenen, J., & Vonk, M. (2013) The role of affordances for working memory for objects. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 25(1), 107-118. DOI: 10.1080/20445911.2012.750324  

  • February 12, 2013
  • 05:11 AM
  • 232 views

'Embodied Cognition Is Not What You Think It Is' - the paper!

by Andrew Wilson in Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

Whoops, we did it again - a paper based on the blog! This time we are in press at Frontiers in Psychology, in a Research Topic on embodied cognition, with a paper we somehow got away with calling 'Embodied Cognition is Not What You Think It Is'. This paper draws from a lot of posts on the blog on embodied cognition, perception-action and language. We have used this opportunity to tackle some key issues head on, and we like this paper a lot :) We cover all the important issues and we set up........ Read more »

  • February 8, 2013
  • 06:26 AM
  • 335 views

Learning the affordances for maximum distance throwing

by Andrew Wilson in Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

Over the last couple of posts, I have reviewed data that shows people can perceive which object they can, in fact, throw the farthest ahead of time by hefting the object. Both the size and the weight of the object affect people's judgements and the distance thrown; however, only weight affects the dynamics of throwing (release angle and velocity are unaffected by changes in size). This rules out the smart perceptual mechanism proposed by Bingham et al (1989), which proposed that both size and we........ Read more »

  • January 24, 2013
  • 05:30 AM
  • 236 views

Is hefting to perceive the affordance for throwing a smart perceptual mechanism?

by Andrew Wilson in Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

In the last post, I reviewed Geoff's first paper looking at whether people can perceive the affordance for throwing an object to a maximum distance and a first swing at identifying the information specifying the affordance. People can perceive the affordance. Bingham et al then identified an invariant relation between the timing of the motions of the wrist and elbow when people hefted the balls they chose as optimal for throwing, and showed that this kinematic pattern specified a peak in ........ Read more »

Zhu, Q., & Bingham, G. (2008) Is hefting to perceive the affordance for throwing a smart perceptual mechanism?. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 34(4), 929-943. DOI: 10.1037/0096-1523.34.4.929  

Bingham, G., Schmidt, R., & Rosenblum, L. (1989) Hefting for a maximum distance throw: A smart perceptual mechanism. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 15(3), 507-528. DOI: 10.1037//0096-1523.15.3.507  

  • January 21, 2013
  • 04:46 AM
  • 224 views

Hefting for a Maximum Distance Throw

by Andrew Wilson in Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

From the task dynamic analysis of throwing for maximum distance, we've identified the fact that for a given release angle and maximum release velocity, there is an object whose size and weight optimises the distance it will travel when thrown. Can people perceive this combination ahead of time? More specifically, can people identify the object which affords throwing to a maximum distance, and if so, how?Bingham, Schmidt & Rosenblum (1989) is the first paper investigating this question. It is........ Read more »

Bingham, G., Schmidt, R., & Rosenblum, L. (1989) Hefting for a maximum distance throw: A smart perceptual mechanism. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 15(3), 507-528. DOI: 10.1037//0096-1523.15.3.507  

  • January 14, 2013
  • 04:27 AM
  • 373 views

Do our fingers wrinkle in the wet to improve our grip?

by Andrew Wilson in Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

If you sit in the bath for more than 10 minutes or so, you'll notice that your fingers get wrinkled like a prune. People thought for a while that this was a local response to the wet conditions, but it turns out the wrinkling is an active, neurally controlled process. In 1936 two scientists observed a boy who had suffered some temporary damage to the median nerve; he lost feeling in his thumb, index and middle finger and, surprisingly, those fingers didn't wrinkle in the wet. There's a great pos........ Read more »

Changizi, M., Weber, R., Kotecha, R., & Palazzo, J. (2011) Are Wet-Induced Wrinkled Fingers Primate Rain Treads?. Brain, Behavior and Evolution, 77(4), 286-290. DOI: 10.1159/000328223  

Kareklas, K., Nettle, D., & Smulders, T. (2013) Water-induced finger wrinkles improve handling of wet objects. Biology Letters, 9(2), 20120999-20120999. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2012.0999  

  • January 3, 2013
  • 05:41 AM
  • 256 views

Using coordination to study learning across the lifespan

by Andrew Wilson in Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

What happens to our ability to learn new movement skills as we age? There is surprisingly little research on this topic; a relatively recent review (Voelcker-Rehage, 2008) found only 25 articles about learning in old age, and no systematic programme of work. The answer to this question matters a lot; rehabilitation after events such as a stroke pretty much always entail (re)learning movement skills, and if our ability to learn gets worse with age, rehabilitation faces an uphill struggle.  I........ Read more »

Coats, R. O., Snapp-Childs, W., Wilson, A. D., & Bingham, G. P. (2012) Perceptuo-motor learning rate declines by half from 20s to 70/80s. Experimental Brain Research. DOI: 10.1007/s00221-012-3349-4  

  • December 6, 2012
  • 05:12 AM
  • 447 views

The Task Dynamics of Throwing to a Maximum Distance

by Andrew Wilson in Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

In my last post I went over the formal concept of task dynamics as a way of analysing a task to identify the affordances in that task. This post will examine the task dynamics of projectile motion and relate these to throwing to a maximum distance.This version of the task has been studied in detail over the last few years. There is another version of the task, namely throwing to hit a target (same dynamic, different parameters, therefore same task) and we will get to that later; we're working no........ Read more »

  • November 30, 2012
  • 09:18 AM
  • 233 views

Task Dynamics And The Information They Create

by Andrew Wilson in Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

Over the next weeks I want to turn my attention to a detailed account of the process by which you go about studying affordances (formalised as task dynamics) and the perception of affordances (via the kinematic consequences of those task dynamics) using throwing for maximum distances and for accuracy as the task. This post will introduce the basic research programme. Future posts will work through papers from my colleagues Qin Zhu & Geoff Bingham in order (I've done a couple already), as we........ Read more »

  • November 15, 2012
  • 05:36 AM
  • 446 views

Psychological Science...meet me at camera 3

by Andrew Wilson in Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

Psychological Science, I think we need to talk. I was reading this farewell from your outgoing editor, and it would all be nice enough if I hadn't also just read your latest offering to the altar of 'embodied' cognition. Frankly, it made me wonder whether you actually read all the things you publish.Robert Kail, the outgoing editor, had this to say about the ideal Psychological Science paper:...the ideal Psychological Science manuscript is difficult to define, but easily recognized — the topi........ Read more »

  • November 9, 2012
  • 09:19 AM
  • 438 views

How do we perceive which objects afford throwing the farthest?

by Andrew Wilson in Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

Previous work has established that people with throwing experience can perceive the affordance of 'throwability'. If you let these people heft objects with a range of sizes and weights, they will confidently select the one they think they can throw the farthest, and they tend to be correct. It's a very natural task, one you have probably done yourself on a beach or lakeside looking for stones to throw into the water. This is only the first, and relatively easy step in any ecological task an........ Read more »

  • October 24, 2012
  • 09:10 AM
  • 454 views

Giving children with movement problems a leg up with robots

by Andrew Wilson in Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

Developmental coordination disorder (DCD) is a surprisingly common problem; it's thought that 6-8% of school aged children are diagnosable. DCD is a motor disorder, where children have great difficulty in producing skilled actions, especially anything requiring fine motor control. Handwriting, tying your shoelaces, sports of any kind are all huge problems for these children. One key question about DCD is why does it occur. Part of the problem in answering this is that it is a behavioural di........ Read more »

  • October 16, 2012
  • 07:12 AM
  • 480 views

Why does linguisitic information mean what it does?

by Andrew Wilson in Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

Sabrina has been working on a series of posts on an ecological analysis of language (here, here and here, plus more on the way). Her focus has been on the nature of the information for language, and the similarities and differences this information has with the information for perception. We're working some of this analysis into a paper, and writing that got me thinking about this in a little more detail.Our main move on language is to reject the assumption that language is a qualitatively diffe........ Read more »

  • October 5, 2012
  • 06:13 AM
  • 459 views

A Way Forward on Specification

by Andrew Wilson in Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

It's been a while since we've blogged; it's been a crazy summer and we've been insanely busy, but things are settling back down. We have a lot planned for the blog, there's much work to be done on a variety of topics in perception, action, embodied cognition and language. First I want to get back on track with my specification project, so that maybe this can start to move forward.*****************************I've been reviewing work that has been undermining the concept of specification in perce........ Read more »

Prinz, A., Bucher, D., & Marder, E. (2004) Similar network activity from disparate circuit parameters. Nature Neuroscience, 7(12), 1345-1352. DOI: 10.1038/nn1352  

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