A blog about problems in the field of psychology and attempts to fix them.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Psychology Awards, December 2012

Here are the mock-awards for papers in "top" psychology journals for this month... along with a few real awards! I'm still working on refining the categories and format, but it is starting to feel pretty good. Please, add your own suggestions in the comment section.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

You don't know what you want!

Sometimes discussion on other people's blog get so big, it is time to move at least part to another location. Neuroskeptic had a great post about the trap of extreme scientism, which combines the ideas that A) science can solve all problems and that B) one should not act except based on scientific evidence. The post is "My Breakfast With Scientism", and it starts with a man trying to determine which of two cereals he wants to eat. He realizes he needs some scientific evidence to determine which he should eat.... and things get much, much worse from there. Because an over-worship of science involves significant skepticism of normally routine claims and decisions, you end up in a very similar place to Descartes's over-worship of rationalism. You know:
Hey Descartes! You claim you are doubting everything.... but how can you be sure? }:- P
The comments on Neuro's post got into some really interesting ground that seems more appropriate for this blog... so I'm moving it over here. In particular, a commenter named "DS" asserted that "what he wants" is a scientifically admissible fact of the highest caliber. It isn't. But explaining why is can be difficult....

Monday, December 17, 2012

The APA Publication Manual: How could a good thing go so wrong?

The professional manual in the news right now is the DSM V, which has drawn quite a lot of criticism. However, we shouldn't forget the other major manual, the APA publication manual. As the fall semester ends, with student papers to grade, and manuscripts to revise, we will all be griping about the publication manual in due course. Some recent reviewers informed me in no uncertain terms, for example, that I was a horrible and insensitive person because I referred to people who like to have intercourse with members of the same sex as "homosexual". A quick check of the new APA manual, which they directed me to forcefully, informed be that such people were "gay". It didn't seem to matter that "gay" was a pejorative term not too long ago, nor that people who like to have intercourse with members of the opposite sex were still called "heterosexual". This type of arbitrary rule making, especially when it leads to blatant inconsistencies of style, have caused many of us to question why the hell we let the APA tell us how to write. How did we get into this mess? Who ever thought this was a good idea?

For those who have felt this way, even a little, I highly recommend an article in this month's Review of General Psychology:

Monday, December 10, 2012

Neuroskeptic Part 1 - Misunderstanding Neursocience

For those who don't know, Neuroskeptic is one of the more popular science bloggers in the world. He is a research-active British neuroscientist, who has been highlighting important findings, and criticizing public (and professional) misunderstandings of those findings for several years. He does this anonymously, and even the people in his home department do not know his identity. His blog-icon is what initially appears to be a stupid picture of a disembodied brain with two eye balls; though that is closer to what he looks like than you might think.

I'm going to assume he will be posting about his talk in the near future, but before he gets a chance, I'm going to scoop him a bit, at least by discussing what I thought was the highlight of his talk. The talk was in Philadelphia, at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Neuroscience and Society. It was worth the drive to listen to the talk and get to shake his hand, because once I had wiped the cerebral spinal fluid off with a wet-nap, our discussions covered many topics (hence the "Part 1" for this post). For now, I'll stick to discussing his formal talk, starting with a picture of the talk in progress:

Friday, December 7, 2012

Things worth seeing on the web

I just got back from visiting with Neuroskeptic down in Philidelphia, and have notes for a few posts regarding our discussions and his talks. In the meantime, there are a few things I found on the net I think readers might have a lot of fun with....

The editor of Perspectives on Psychological Science has set up a blog to discuss things from that journal, and in particular the last months issue about the replicability crisis. I don't know if it will take off... but it would probably be a good place to put some thoughts and read the thoughts of others.

Also, Microsoft is trying to set up some cool academic webware, and it is pretty fun to play with. (Note, I reserve judgement on the usefulness... but it is fun.) It is "Academic Search" and is still in beta...
Check out the "co-authors" feature, as well as the "citations" and "cited by" features, both produce pretty cool visualizations (including mapping several paths to your Erdos number).

Monday, December 3, 2012

A behaviorist (and radical empiricist) theory of emotion

Behavior and Philosophy is an odd, but important journal. It has, for four decades now, provided a venue for papers about the philosophy of behaviorism and the relationship between behaviorism and related disciplines. The table of contents for the recent volumes, and more information about the journal, can be found here. Alas, being run by a small group of generous academics, they aren't always on top of the little things you would like a journal to do... like notifying you when your article comes out. Thus, it wasn't until fairly recently that I found out about last year's printing of:
A Behaviorist Account of Emotions and Feelings: Making Sense of James D. Laird's Feelings: The Perception of the Self, by Charles, Bybee, & Thompson
As the title implies, we present a system for explaining the phenomenon of emotions and feelings within a behaviorist tradition. The discussion is set off by the consideration of ideas presented in Jim's book, which build's upon William James's approach to emotion. The short version goes something like this:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The myth of knowledge... and ethics

Lee Rudolph, a topologist I have collaborate with on emotion perception, emailed an inquiry relevant to discussion my blog's continued discussion of the myth of knowledge... in this case knowledge regarding ethics. Recall that they myth of knowledge holds that there is a tight connection between "having learned about", "being able to articulate", "demonstrating capacity for doing", and "doing in the moment". I'm modifying what is below from an email Lee wrote to the K-group (or Kitchen group), an large international research group which centers... for the moment... around activities at Clark University. It is about a good, old-fashioned financial scandal (though it has the scent of some of psychology's recent scandals).

Friday, November 30, 2012

Psychchology Awards, November 2012

Previously I mentioned my long-unfulfilled plan to give monthly awards to papers that struck me as odd in top journals. CM made a great comment asking for clarification about my choices, and I tried to explain. I'm gonna give a shot at it for this month's journals in the last day of the month, with the hope to clarify the game, and encourage others to join in. Feel free to suggest other awards, and share things from other venues.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mind-Body Dualism is Bad for your Health!

Hey, you know all that pop-psych BS coming out of positive psychology and similar movements? Things like: "Try forgiveness, your cholesterol level will thank you!"*

Thanks to the good people at Psychological Science, I finally found a result I can support! October's issue brought us: "The mind is willing, but the flesh is week": The effects of mind-body dualism on health behavior by Forstmann, Burgmer, & Mussweiler from the University of Cologne. This clever little study found out that being a mind-body dualist is actually bad for your health. This is great! No more bothering with logical arguments or historic discussions, no more focus on incoherence, no more two part posts. You should all stop being dualist because it will make you gain weight and die young. Problem solved. And this isn't a all a joke, their methods were pretty clever, and the results pretty clear. The researchers start with a simple hypothesis:
Specifically, we hypothesized that the more people perceive their minds and bodies to be distinct entities, the less they engage in behaviors that protect their bodies.
In testing this hypothesis, they present six studies, with a few hundred participants between them. It all went something like this:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Psychological Science isn't all bad

When I first started this blog, one of my ideas was to digitize my "most absurd article" and "most incoherent title" awards for articles in Psychological Science. This was a game I played with office mates back in grad school. For example, I just jumped back to May 2003 and found: 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tautology Part 1: Cognitive psychology and going to hell

One of the many problems with cognitive psychology, as practiced, is the frequent use of tautological explanations - a 'tautology' occurs when a thing is used to explain itself, and it is often called a 'circular definition'. The problem was mentioned in the comments section on this other blog, and Mike Samsa said:

For example, positing that the impulsivity in ADHD is caused by an impaired executive function - this doesn't really tell us anything useful when we define the executive function as something which governs self-control and the ability to resist impulsive urges.

This is a great example! In class, however, I have a really hard time getting my students to understand the problem. Alas, no matter how many examples I provide from psychology, about half the class still thinks the tautological claims seem reasonable. However, I have come up with an example that seems to work for all the students. I live in a somewhat religious area, but I suspect this would work just about anywhere.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Templeton's brilliant application process

Alright, my final post about Templeton. Let's put aside discussion of what they fund, and focus on the application process itself. I don't know how much of this will be novel for my foreign readers, but Templeton's system is much, much better than any US Federal agency I have applied to, and better than the small number of other foundations I have applied to. Admittedly, it is better in ways that I found annoying in the moment, but only because I wasn't used to them. When I was finished, I felt confident that I had been asked to provide the information that mattered, in a format that made it easy for them to evaluate. How did this work? Well...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pinker should worry about things that exist! (Election Day Special)

In anticipation of today's election (with polls to open in 6 hours or so), I thought I would use this opportunity to complain about Stephen Pinker. Pinker wrote a recent editorial in the New York times that has been making the rounds. In it, he speculates about the causes for the "red state" vs. "blue state" segregation in our country - a familiar "T" shaped pattern in which the central and northern parts of the country vote solid conservative and the coasts vote liberal. The article is actually interesting... but it has one big problem.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Eco and Embodied Special Session

Continuing to try to organize interested people:
Next year ICPA will be in Lisbon and APA will be in Hawaii.

At ICPA I would love to try to work with people to put some special sessions together. I have heard some interest in putting together a session on ecological psychology and social psychology. Andrew and Sabrina (over at Two Scientific Psychologists) " have been making a compelling argument that ecological psychologists should "pull together" to attack a particular problem or set of problems, and a workshop/discussion on that might be very useful. I also think there would also be interest in a session on "allied approaches" (e.g., embodied cognition, enactivism, PCT). As many of the latter seem to have a stronger showing in Europe than in the US, Lisbon might be a particularly good opportunity.

At APA, the possibility of a massive number of official talks is slim. However, there is the possibility of doing some really innovative stuff in the Division Suit - on the scale of having in reserved for several hours each day for talks and discussion on embodiment issues, etc. This would effectively create a mini-conference. It could also be combined with some sort of formal session towards the end of the conference. Having just been teaching my class about Titchener's experimentalists and the Psychology Roundtable (both of which featured James Gibson, by the way), it would be really cool if people were interested in this.

If any of those possibilities sound interesting to you, reply below.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Is Templeton "Philosophy's Bite"?

Recently, I wrote about my grant submission to the Templeton Foundation. In the time since, I have also submitted a "letter of intent" to Templeton for a much more ambitious project to bring together those currently working on the variants of embodied cognition. I promised to write something about Templeton's really smart application process, but that will wait for now. Here I wanted to respond, at least a bit, to those who believe Templeton should be shunned. I'm inspired to do so by a recent pair of articles in The Chronicle of Higher Education. In the most recent one, philosophers react to Freeman Dyson question, "When and why did philosophy lose its bite? How did become a toothless relic of past glories?" While the earlier article doesn't answer that exact question, it draws out the conflicting interpretations of "The Templeton Effect" on philosophy: Many are concerned that Templeton is "buying philosophy", but there is also little doubt that Templeton is motivated by concerns similar to Dyson's... and while Dyson is talking about it... Templeton is aggressively making things better.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Perception-action Publishing Opportunity

Greetings noble readers!
As you surely know, the International Conference on Perception and Action is in Lisbon, Portugal, July of next year. That's the big conference that happens every other year, bringing together an international group of researchers interested in understanding motor control, intentional dynamics, perception-action linkages, affordances and affordance-based-control, as well as other topics, empirical and theoretical, that fit under the perception-action or ecological psychology umbrellas. For every conference, a book is published based on the presented posters. Last year's conference, in Brazil, generate Studies in Perception and Action XI, edited by Jay Smart and myself. The president of ISEP, Bill Mace, has asked if I would be willing to work on the book for the Lisbon conference. It would be the first time they have ever had an experienced editor working on the project (probably a good idea in general).

I told Bill I would be happy to lead a team, but wasn't interested in doing the project solo. Then... after some contemplation... I thought it would be good to reach out to this network. We are looking for one, or preferably a few, people willing to sign on with me. I think a three or four person team would be ideal to spread out the work, while not putting too many cooks in the kitchen. This is an excellent opportunity for very senior graduate students, post-docs, new professors - for whom this could act as a career advancement - or anyone more senior who was feeling noble-minded - for whom this would be an admirable act of service. You will get exposed to a vast range of research, interact with several senior members of the field, and establish yourself as a contributing member of the profession.

Obviously, I can't make any promises on who will ultimately be put on the project, but if you would be willing to help out, and would like to be considered, please drop me a line. A call for papers and posters will likely go out soon. There will be an early May deadline for getting the finished product to the publisher. So most of the work will happen in bits and spurts between January and May.

Many thanks,


P.S. And of course, this is also a publishing opportunity for those who attend, as all presented posters also become (very brief) book chapters.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"We are" Penn State... apparently

Some readers might know that I teach at a branch campus of Penn State. In the context of a high ranking research institution, I am at a 4,000 person campus trying to transition from being a 2-year "feeder" school just over a decade ago, to a bachelor's granting institution in the liberal arts mold. In that context, Nicholas Rowland (a sociology prof.) and and I have been co-running an undergraduate research lab here for the past three years.

We have supervised a massive number of student presentations at conferences (N > 30) at venues ranging from regional meetings like the Pennsylvania Sociology Society to international meetings like Developmental Psychobiology. We also have quite an impressive number of publications with student authors. Most of the lab projects are student driven, so we have given student's CV lines on studies ranging from video games and violent behavior, to U.S. attitudes towards atheists, to the founding of African American Studies at Penn State, and more, plus a good number of book reviews in professional journals. This while I have maintained my own line of research regarding Ecological Psychology and New Realism, and Nicholas become a key player in Actor-Network Theory and started making waves in the State Theory literature.

At any rate... Recently, there have been efforts to re-emphasize the academic and educational sides of Penn State, and part of this is a "Faces of Penn State" campaign, highlighting prized faculty and staff. In the latest round of updates to come out today, they Nicholas and I. My pic is 4th in on the top line, with a direct link here. They solicited nominations over the summer, and... despite being on a branch campus... Nicholas and I received the most nominations of anyone. This is a major accomplishment for us, but also a crucial step forward for the promotion of research on our campus.

So... there it is... shameless self promotion... but after all the hard work we have put into creating the lab, it is really nice to get some recognition. The Penn State slogan is "We are" "Penn State" (shouted in a two-part alternation). This is one of the first times, for me at least, that has seemed true.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Unifying Psychology: On framing a positive message

As some of you may know, I am editing a special issue of the Review of General Psychology. The focus is on potentially unifying theories. There are, of course, many past attempts to bring unity to the field. Most take two forms: First, there are the pipe dreams; bold visions from young Turks or senior scholars. Second, there are those who want us to give up the quest for a unified underlying theory and instead claim that we are already unified sufficiently by our agreed upon subject matter. The latter often come off as apologists, who hope we can learn to revel in our differences. Neither of these approaches is necessarily bad, but I am not sure another special issue with one of those focuses would be helpful, and suspected there was a better way to make progress.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Embodied Cognition and the Direction of Inquiry in Psychology

One aspect of the embodied cognition argument regards the direction in which psychology should proceed. My impression (from sparse readings of works from Plato through the middle ages) is that once upon a time you could start psychology at any point, by wondering about any interesting phenomenon, and proceeding from there however you wanted.

Sometime around Descartes, I’m not sure if he started it or just popularized it, everyone decided that you had to start by figuring out so-called higher mental functions. The idea was that if you got a handle on how that stuff worked, you would automatically understanding how lower mental functions. In those days, hierarchies of being were all the rage, so the higher vs. lower metaphor worked. The modern “offline” vs. “online” distinction, taken from the cog-psych computer metaphor, is basically the same thing. This was not a bad hypothesis, but it really hasn’t worked out. It is not clear that all of our studies of thinking, reasoning, planning, imagining, etc., over the past centuries have told us much about how behavior works and, worse, it is also unclear how much it has told us about thinking, reasoning, planning, and imagining.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Question Re: APS (Association for Psychological Science)

Dear Readers,
The Association for Psychological Science (APS) is holding its annual meeting in Washington DC this year, which makes it easy than usual for me to attend. I am generally not a fan of big conventions (c.f., prior comments on the APA convention). At smaller conferences you can meet new people, have lots of good unplanned conversations, and see lots of things you are interested in. In my general experience at big conferences, you can say "hi" to lots of people, but not really meet them; everything is too anonymous for unexpected good conversations; and there are tons of talks, but few are interesting. I am hoping for advice about whether or not I should give APS a try. In particular, I would like to know what types of positive experiences (if any) people have had there, and/or why you might think APS is worth prioritizing over other options.

Many thanks!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cheating... it just got much easier, and much harder

Fascinating things to think about in a just-released Chronicle article about cheating at Harvard: http://chronicle.com/article/Harvard-Cheating-Scandal/134160

Basically, it is suspected that a bunch of students violated policy by collaborating on a take home, open book, open notes, open internet exam. I'm not so much interested in the details of the case (it was a class in which students were encouraged to collaborate in groups across the semester, but then told to do the exam alone, but there is a grey are where you talk to people a little... but not too much... etc.). Instead, I want to think for a bit about the implications of the "open internet" clause in a "web 2.0" world. Here is the rub: Anything another student posts on the internet is now, by definition, openly available. This has profound implication for how we think about and evaluate cheating on out-of-class assignments, perhaps even undermining our standard criterion for cases when the internet is not allowed! It is almost as bad as the case in Roy Sorenson's insightful essay about what can happen when a professor gives "Permission to Cheat." Why does this such a mess, well:

Monday, September 3, 2012

A "natural design" proposal

Between my wife's major surgery, the start of classes, and a big grant proposal due tomorrow, this blog has been neglected. Rather than try to finish one of the half-written posts, I want to try posting a bit of the grant proposal. It is for the Templeton Foundation, which is a very large private philanthropy in the US. They have a decidedly conservative bent on some issues: They take religion and spirituality (broadly construed) quite seriously, and are concerned with character development, individual freedom, free enterprise, genius, and many other notions that can, at times, seem a bit antiquated. That said, they have these concerns due to an honest commitment to the intent of their founder, who was very concerned with such things. Personally, I like this focus, as it is rare to see such a large foundation that is unwilling to drift in the wind away from their donor's intent. Whatever your thoughts are on those issues, Templeton also has very ambitious programming on what they call the Big Questions, which they are confident we can make progress on through strategic scientifically rigorous investigations. Also very appealing is their encouragement of a "humble approach" in which people are reflective and honest about what they can accomplish, and open to other people's insights.

While I hope in the future to try to engage the Templeton Foundation in funding broad inquiries into embodiment and potentially unifying theories of psychology... at the moment I am proposing something much more modest: A book about design in nature. In addition to the book, I am asking for additional funding to create an accompanying course, related articles, and conference presentations. The book would be based on several of my writings over the past decade, and several writings of Nicholas Thompson over the past four decades. The central premiss is that we can talk about design in a manner that is neutral to how the design came to be, and that the ability to discuss design in that manner will help solve central problems in biological and psychological theory. The obvious implications for current debates about evolutionary theory are not the book's focus, though we do believe the book will aid in clarifying confusions in that debate.

Templeton's application process is somewhat infuriating for someone used to NSF and NIH applications, but only because Templeton want's different details and a different style of writing. In fact, from the point of view of the funding agency, Templeton's essays are much more insightful and useful than what most agencies ask for. I will probably write about this in more detail next week. In the meantime, I pasting below the essay about my "Theory of Change". In a prior part of the application there is a short essay in which we lay out the "Strategic Opportunity" and there is a ten page "Project Description". Following this essay will be a list of "Outcomes", specific "Outputs", and an idea of what the "Enduring Impact" of the project might be. The purpose of this essay, limited to 3,000 characters, including spaces, is to create an explicit bridge between the opportunity and the outputs.

------------ Theory of Change ----------

The strategic opportunity is created by three Big Question conversations about which people care deeply, each of which are currently convoluted by a lack of agreement about fundamental premises. In some cases this lack of agreement has created extreme polarization of positions, and led to the type of purely rhetorical argumentation that makes it difficult to restart earnest conversation. The most broadly public conversation regards the existence of design in nature, and how that design can be explained. The professional conversations regard the fundamental principles of evolutionary theory and the interface between biological and psychological science. While these conflicts cannot be solved by a single work, and they are unlikely to be solved in a single lifetime, we believe it is possible for well thought-out contributions to help overcome specific confusions, and thereby re-create the type of discourse needed for noticeable advancement.

This project aims to advance these conversations by creating a framework in which the design properties of organisms can be discussed in a neutral manner —independent of a particular explanation for the presence of that design. To put it quickly and crudely, to be “well-designed” is to display a matching of form to function. We will show that questions about the ways in which organisms are well-designed, and how they became so, are central to the fields of biology and psychology. This will entail showing that there is no sharp line between the types of design that biologists are interested in and the types of design that psychologists are interested in. Of particular interest will be the ways in which natural selection succeeds in explaining the presence of design, and several types of situations in which it fails to explain the presence of design. Evolutionary biologists are, as a group, well aware of these exceptions, but they have long been unwilling to openly discuss the implications.

The primary enduring impact of this research shall be created through a book; the other listed Outputs are, largely, in service of promoting the book and the ideas therein—associated articles and conference talks, a course and supporting materials. The Outcomes will be created by dissemination of the book to students, professionals, and the public, and by engaging readers at public talks, professional publications, and in-online forums. Despite speculation to the contrary, we still believe that monographs, carefully constructed, timely, and articulate, are capable of moving us closer to answering the big questions of our time. The growing challenge is producing a compelling argument for the work to be read, and we believe that we can make such an argument for this work. Through our professional networks, and our (limited but growing) public reach, we believe we can engage an audience already very interested in questions about design. From there, it is a matter making a compelling case for further dialog.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

New Trends for Finding Fraud in Experimental Psychology

I have just returned from my first American Psychological Association meeting that I thought was worth attending. I noted in a previous post that APA meetings now feature a wide array of division activities, and that those are worth going to, regardless of the main convention. This time, however, there were a handful of talks (out of many) which were valuable enough to make me think the main convention was starting to turn things around. The highlight was a session organized by Joseph Simmons, and featuring talks by Leslie John and Uri Simonsohn.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Why Academic Freedom? Why Tenure? - E. C. Tolman

In recent years there has been a concerted attack, in the US at least, on academic freedom and tenure. From an administrative point of view, the target seems primarily to be tenure (as many administrators see it as an impediment to their power); while from a political point of view, the target seems primarily to be academic freedom (as many seek to censure discourse in all areas of society, and find it particularly difficult to do so in the academe). In my opinion, the academe is so vulnerable to these attacks because we have, as a group, failed to articulate the social importance of these mechanisms. Given that one might presume we were educators of some sort, and that we had a role in educating virtually all administrators and members of the government, this is a striking failure. I have my own thoughts on how best to articulate the importance of these ideas, but will save them for another time. At the moment I want to note a brilliant defense of  academic freedom and tenure delivered by Edward Chase Tolman.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cheiron 2012 - Post Conference Report

Cheiron: The International Society for the History of Behavioral & Social Sciences is a great group of people who have been meeting since 1968. There is a lot of overlap with the American Psychological Association's Division 24, but there is a more international and a more interdisciplinary emphasis. To whit, this year's meeting in Montreal, was co-hosted by the European Society for the History of the Social Sciences. There are three reasons that Cheiron has become one of my annual go-to conferences: 1) There is an amazing mix of people interested in history for the sake of history, for the sake of the field, and for the sake of our discipline's future. 2) There is a tremendous breadth of interest, making it one of the few decent conferences with representation across the entire discipline of psychology. 3) The people are amazingly supportive. For most of the time Cheiron has two simultaneous sessions, and occasionally one gets waylaid in great conversation. Of the sessions I attended, and the conversations I had, the highlights included:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Note regarding Eco Psych and Epistemology

Continuing the theme of propping Ecological Psychology against its detractors through reference to American Philosophy. One challenge holds that Eco Psych has no implications for epistemology and no relevance in understanding phenomenon such as "thinking". But the philosophical lineage descended from pragmatism breaks down divisions commonly assumed in the Continental traditions. In that context, the relevance of Eco Psych is clear....

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Reply to Fodor and Phylshyn - Part 2

Continuing the reply that I think should have been made to Fodor and Pylyshyn's 1981 attack on Ecological Psychology. In F&P's article, the key elements of which are summarized here. They assert a very traditional, dualistic view of perception - as a process requiring sensory information to be supplemented by other cognitive processes in order to create an representational mental model of the world. They then point out (rightly) that some of Gibson's insights can be integrated into the traditional view and further assert (wrongly) that Gibson is thus offering nothing new. In so doing, I want to avoid as much as possible taking any bait offered by F&P which risk reeling us into to covert dualistic assumptions. I suggest that the best way to avoid such missteps is to stay firmly rooted in the line of thinking descended from pragmatism. Part 1 of my reply covered the meaning of "perception", "specification", and "direct perception", and the importance of remembering that if two things have all the same consequences, then they are the same thing (one crucial way of avoiding false distinctions). In this part I will continue to explain Gibson's approach by elucidating problems in F&P's critique.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A New Blog (sort of)

By the way, Gregg (mentioned in the last post) has been encouraging me for a while to try a Psychology Today blog. Now Andrew and Sabrina are doing one as well. Sigh. Maybe I am more suceptable to peer pressure than I thought. At any rate, there is now a first post!

I will probably post at Psychology Today no more than once a month, and only when I have something much more accessible to lay audiences. This will remain my primary blog, where any "real work" gets done.

New Unified Theory of Psychology

I blogged a bit ago about Gregg Henriques's "New Unified Theory of Psychology", which had seen several in-press discussions, and a book. Gregg also blogs over at Psychology Today.

I mention this because my practice of reviewing one book a year for PsychCritiques provided me with a copy of Gregg's recent book, and the review has just released. As in the past, I don't want to provide too much of the review, for fear of violating copyright, but, as I liked the book, something should be said here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Reply to Fodor and Phylshyn - Part 1

In a prior post, I hummed a few bars of “Ecological Psychology needs to be evaluated within the context of AmericanPhilosophy.” I then started wading into one of the pivotal debates in the history of Ecological Psychology, the 1981 debate that pitted Fodor and Pylyshyn against Turvey, Shaw, and Mace. F&P’s criticism was published in Cognition, shortly after Gibson’s death, and TSM’s reply established the new direction for the field. In the last post, I summarized F&P’s arguments, and interspersed brief notes about when they did, or did not, seem to be giving Gibson a fair shake. In this post, I want to try to avoid nit-picky details about where F&P went wrong. Instead, I want to outline a broader reply to F&P’s criticism. 

The overall problem, it seems to me, is that Gibson is playing an American Philosophy game, working within the intellectual lineage of Peirce, James, etc., while F&P want to play a Continental Philosophy game. I don’t want to go into too much details about the historic differences between the two approaches, or how they arose. My more meager goal is to defend ecological psychology in a way that stays true to its roots. American philosophy, in general, is concerned with earthly particulars, is suspicious about intellectual distinctions, and does not privilege a first-person point of view. While F&P want solutions to the traditional problems of perception to happen on an intellectual level, Gibson proposes that the supposed problems are typically solved in the grit of everyday interactions.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Specification and Perception - Fodor and Pylyshyn (1981)

After doing a mediocre job suggesting a that Gibson's needs to be defended from within the Pragmatism-lineage (as opposed to, say Descartes's lineage or Kant's), something more blunt and obvious might be in order. I have argued that much confusion was created in the past debates over ecological psychology because its critics were not treating it as part of the pragmatic lineage, and its defenders met the attack on the critics’ terms. This lead, I think, to the defenders formalizing ecological psychology in a way that loses some of the unique potential of the approach. The trouble seems to have originated, largely, in the 1981 criticism by Fodor and Pylyshyn, which was replied to in the same year by Turvey, Shaw, and Mace. While the resulting "TSM" model of ecological psychology has led to much success, I won't deny that for a minute, I think that much of the current confusion within the field of ecological psychology traces back to this exchange. Below I will go back through Fodor and Pylyshyn's paper, to point out where I think they unfairly set out their challenge, i.e., where they tried to judge ecological psychology based on premises the pragmatic tradition rejects. In the next post, I will sketch what I think the reply to Fodor and Pylyshyn should have been. In a later post, I will go through Turvey, Shaw, and Mace's paper, to show how the acceptance of Fodor and Pylyshyn's premises lead them to conclusions at the heart of current debates in the field.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Coming up

In the next few days I will finish up a large pair of posts. I am going through Fodor and Phylsyn's massive (60 page) critique of Gibson's system. I was hoping to tackle it in one post, but it is just too long. Hence I will do a first post summarizing their paper and giving some in-line comments. Then I will do a second post defending Ecological Psychology against their attack. As I think most people will be more interested in the second post, I plan to do these in rapid succession, so the first post can more easily be ignored by those who are less interested.

At some point in the next few weeks, I will then go over Turvey, Shaw, and Mace's defense against F&P's attack.

My goal is, between the three posts, to elucidate how understanding Gibson's place in the American Philosophy tradition would help us get a better handle on our field. There is confusion about what Gibson himself was up to, what different contemporary approaches are up to, and why we don't seem to be able to have good dialogs with outsiders (including colleagues affiliated with other approaches and unaffiliated students).

I hope to get a some other short thoughts, on broader topics, interspersed. I did not really intend this blog to do this many specialized posts in a row.

P.S. In a week I head for a few days at the <a href = http://www.uakron.edu/chp/>Center for the History of Psychology</a> at the University of Akron to visit their archives. I won't have much free time, but if anyone has suggestions for Akron activities, let me know. So far, trying to eat <a href = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeFjYZAik3o&feature=player_embedded>5 pounds worth of grilled cheese</a> seems like the best bet.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Specification and Perception - American Philosophy Perspective

Over on the PsychScientists blog, Andrew is trying to work through the importance of a theory of specification for a theory of perception. (So far, here, and here.) Specification, in this context, refers to the relationship between the many energy arrays we are constantly surrounded by... but for the sake of simplicity we usually just talk about how an object or event shapes ambient light. The topic is worthy of a lot of thought because, traditionally, one of the most important arguments for modern dualism is the argument that there is no specification capable of supporting perception - because, the argument goes, there is much ambiguity in the environmental support of perception, some additional process is needed to explain how we know the world. But if there is specification, then perception could take advantage of it, and there are all sorts of cool ripple effects this has through any theory of psychology. Basically, if there is specification, and if organisms do engage with these specifying patterns, then perception can explain an awful lot without need to reference other psychological processes. The possibility of this type of specification, therefore, should certainly be in the top 5 list of important things for psychologists to figure out... because it could rewrite the whole game.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Beyond the Brain: Difficult Metaphors

Continuing coverage of Beyond the Brain, by Loise Barrett. The first part of the extended blog review is here, there is a succinct published review in PsychCritiques.
Chris asked me a question over at Manchester Psychiatry and I realized three important things: 1) I have written a lot about Beyond the Brain, 7 posts. 2) I still have a few more posts to write. 3) I better do that soon. 

This post is the most "asking for help" of the things I have left to write. It is about metaphor. I love a good metaphor, and most of the metaphors in Barrett's book were good. However, there are two pairs of metaphors that just aren't working for me, and they are somewhat common metaphors in the complexity/dynamics systems literature. In particular, I found the ‘short leash’ vs. ‘long leash’ analogy weird, similarly the ‘loose coupling’ and ‘soft assembly’ analogies have never quite gelled for me. I would appreciate some help figuring out why these labels make sense.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Is computer programing an important part of a liberal arts education?

Recently New York City's Mayor Bloomburg announced that he was planning to learn how to code. A very smart blog post has drawn some fun attention the announcement. Over on "Coding Horror", Jeff has asserted that it is just plain silly to think that everyone should learn how to code, and that, in fact, more people learning to code might cause more harm than good. I thought this was particularly interesting, because I had recently been impressed by a very smart back-page article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, by Professor Krebs, proposing that humanities students should learn to be more like computer science students.

While I agree with Coding Horror it is silly to have a blanket judgement that everyone should learn how to code, I also agree with Krebs that many students would benefit tremendously from the experience. In addition to Krebs makes a good argument, I think there are several other reasons why we might want to consider treating computer programming as a core part of the liberal arts education.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Some worthwhile links

Four things worth looking at:

1) Should faculty have input into course software decisions? At Penn State, the Faculty Senate has control over the curriculum (and is merely advisory on pretty much any other matter they chose to deliberate upon). One faculty member has suggested that because course software now dictates the structure of courses, and when and how content can be delivered, it should be thought of as a curriculum issue, which would give faculty control. Read/discuss, and give your input on a poll here.

2) Is there a distinction between theoretical and practical knowledge? Read/discuss here.

3) Should peer review remain a sacred pillar of academia? Read/discuss here.

4) Should Black Studies get shut down because a Chronicle blogger doesn't like the titles of a few dissertations? Read/discuss here. Or should the blogger be fired? Read/discuss here.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Two Ecological Psychologies - Continued

Continuing on my attempt to update Cutting's 1982 paper... two questions seemed of the most interest to blog readers 1) Why did Cutting write the original article? 2) What consequences of following Gibson's approach vs. the Connecticut approach?

The first question is more difficult. A lot was going on in the field at the time. All I can say for sure is that Cutting thought that Ecological Psychology was being moved away from Gibson's vision, and he thought that some aspects of the emerging approach were problematic (either because they undid desirable novelty of Gibson's approach, or because they resulted in tautology and related logical problems). It is worth noting, however, that regarding most of the differences, Cutting did not claim either approach was superior, only that they were different. He thought these differences would lead, presumably in the near future, to a splintering of the field. While I think most of Cutting's insights about the two emerging approaches were spot on, it has been thirty years, and the field is still together. Explaining why Cutting was wrong in that final prediction requires that we answer reader's second question.

---Off to California soon. I will be responding to comments, but am not sure about new posts over the next month.----

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What is wrong with Infant Looking Research

In a brief diversion from the ecological psychology stuff, a few people have asked me to comment on the recent popular press pieces regarding Elizabeth Spelke, and her amazing claims about infants.

Spelke and Susan Carey at Harvard, Renée Baillargeon at Illinois, and Karen Wynn at Yale are the matriarchs of the large literature using looking time to study cognition in infancy. Including their students, and others, many researchers are now active in this field, and my dissertation used looking time as its dependent variable. Other common labels in the literature include gaze duration, preferential looking time, orientation, ocular fixation, visual fixation, and attention. The history of this literature is fascinating, and the flaws in the current methods are deep. Looking time measures have a long history, but have only recently come to be used to assess infant’s insights into events. Thus, in an unusual twist, most of the criticisms of  this literature are based on long traditions of empirical work that existed before the criticized work started, and more recent research supports the criticisms.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Two Ecological Approaches 30 years later

Abstract:  In 1982, Cutting pointed out that two distinct theoretical programs were developing within the tradition rooted in James J. Gibson’s work on perception: Ecological Psychology. Thirty years later, the two traditions are alive and well. While the distinctions between them are still rarely discussed in print, they have become even more obvious, as the traditions have continued to develop in the directions predicted in Cutting’s paper. Updating the status of the “two ecological perspectives” requires both an assessment of the research generated by the two different perspectives, the theoretical arguments in which the differences are most salient, and the reasons why no rift has formed in the field. Part of the reason ecological psychology has stayed unified seems to be the focus on, and respect for empirical progress. Another important factor seems to be ecological psychologists’ diversification into research areas more concerned with methodological sophistication than with theoretical baggage.

---------------Below are excerpts from a paper I am preparing. The paper is mostly finished. This is a summary, and I would greatly appreciate any suggestions. In particular, I am looking for papers or books that continue to evidence these issues as important to the field - Chemero's book and Andrew and Ken's online debates are clear examples, as well as the explicit debates about afforadnces in Ecological Psychology. However the issues are deeper than that. Any suggestions and comments welcome. ---------------

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Verbal Behavior, the Weather Man, and the Fundamental Lie of Professional Poker

I am reading Skinner's Verbal Behavior for the first time with my undergraduate class. It is amazingly good. The only criticism I would make thus far is that it is tinted throughout with the quirkiness of Skinner's particular brand of behaviorism, which is to be expected. Anyone who is trying to do language in an embodied or ecological context, who hasn't read this book and picked out the important points, should do so post haste. The next time I go through the book, a blog book-club will definitely be in order.

One question that my students raised early on struck at a fundamentally important point in modern intellectual development. What, they asked, does Skinner mean by:
Our basic datum is not the occurrence of a given response as such, but the probability that it will occur at a given time.
The idea that science is interested in probability, and not certainty, is still foreign to most people. However, it is a crucial idea, that permeates our modern world. Two great examples are found in the attitude of the professional weatherman and the professional poker player, both of which are poorly understood.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The APA convention can be worth while?!?

Last year I attended the American Psychological Association's annual meeting for the first time in over a decade. The main conference was as much a waste of time as I had remembered. It was filled with sad talks given to mostly empty rooms and sad poster presentations that only a handful of people stopped at (including my own). The only filled rooms were for awards talks, where people talked about work long past. That was really interesting, but only if they were in an area you were not familiar with, and people tended not to attend talks in areas they were unfamiliar with. (In fairness, many rooms were filled for talks that counted as continuing education credits for clinicians, as well as a few "advice" sessions for students.)

That said, it was actually a very positive experience; I was now connected enough to find out about The APA Shadow Conference (© Charles 2012). It turns out that almost every APA division has a bunch of meetings, small talks, and organized discussions in dedicated hotel suites, and that a lot of very interesting stuff happens there. Small groups (ranging from 5 to 25) people interested in similar topics were continuously coming together, with discussion continuing over meals and across days. Most of the time the suites were filled to a neigh ideal level of intimacy, sometimes they were downright crowded. Never was a person talking to an empty room, nor was a speaker ever addressing people who were not genuinely interested. This was actually worth while!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What should an Intro Textbook do?

The last post highlighted points from a 2008 article in which I suggested several things were wrong with introductory psychology courses, at least as they are commonly taught in the US. The context of the article was an issue of Journal für Psychologie, dedicated to discussing curriculum and 'paradigm' in psychology, with some emphasis (I was told) on pushing back against the broad trends towards Americanization of the European educational system. Hence, the mostly negative tone of the article.

I am not saying that everyone in the US teaches a bad intro psych class; I have seen some very good intro-psych instructors, and I have seen some adventurous teaching ideas that I suspect lead to very good classes. On the other hand, I am willing to say that there are no great textbooks for intro psych, at least not in the current US market, and that most instructors here follow the textbook. Sure, some of the textbooks are better than others, but frankly even the better ones do not, in my opinion, do a very good job. We tend to think that lower level classes need not be fussed over as much as upper level classes, and this attitude is understandable based on the way our profession prioritizes, and the reward structures we set up. However, as was pointed out, a single semester of Introductory Psychology is the only exposure most students will ever get to our field, and an amazing percentage of US students receive that brief exposure. Graham asked if I could say something more about what I would like to see in an introductory textbook, and I have received similar inquiries from others. I'm not sure I can answer that, exactly, but I can say a bit about what I think the responsibilities the author should be. Hopefully others will join in.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Eight things wrong with Introductory Psychology

While hopping a bit from one blog to another, I ended up on Graham Davey's blog, reading a nice post titled "What ever happened to learning theory." I commented that, learning theory's disapearance from the curriculum in psychology, struck me as one of many problems started by poorly thought out Intro Psych classes, and mentioned my paper "Eight Things Wrong with Introductory Psychology Courses in America: A Warning to My European Colleagues". Graham emailed me in thanks, and asked if I had any more thoughts on Intro Psych and how to fix it. I think I can add a little more, but first I thought I would summarize the article's points here, and for some help from my readers.

As context, before we can analyze the effectiveness of Into Psych, we must have an idea what the class is for. And in determining the courses purpose, we must take into consideration that the course serves as the only controllable exposure most people will have to academic psychology. Unlike other sciences, US institutions do not typically have separate introductory courses 'for majors' vs. 'for non-majors'. We probably should have two separate courses, but in the meantime, so long as the course serves two audiences, I believe it must serves two purposes:

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Evolution and Homosexuality

For a semester at Clark I was asked to organize the weekly 'recitations' for Introductory Psychology. The course itself was quite large, but the recitations were run by upper-level undergraduates, and contained 20-30 students. I transformed several weeks into lab activities. For others, I organized more formal discussion activities. When the main course was discussing evolutionary psychology, a student asked about how homosexuality could be explained from an evolutionary point of view. This student, and several others in class, seemed to see the existence (or at least the relative normality) of homosexuality as proof against the usefulness of evolutionary theory as an explanation of behavior. For that week, I prepared the following discussion paper for students:

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Why study developmental psychology

While searching through old files, I found an email from an undergraduate student who was interested in developmental psychology, and who asked what she could do if she specialized in that. I had written a reply, which for a while adorned by door at Clark, because it seemed worth sharing with the other students:

Why study Developmental Psychology?

1) Excluding obviously applied degrees like education, engineering, etc. all bachelor's degrees are equally useful/useless. That is, they qualify you to do any job that requires a bachelor's degree. Just as 40 years ago, you had to get a high school diploma because most jobs said "must have high school diploma", now they all say "must have college degree". The expectation is that you will arrive at your job with a core set of college level abilities (reading, writing, analysis, self-discipline, attention to detail, etc.), and the company will give you whatever specialized training you need. In that sense, a degree in psychology is as useful as a degree in philosophy, history, or biology. Hence, you may study developmental psychology simply because it interests you, and with no intention to take it further.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Design, and why we should and shouldn't care about deep theory

Bjoern Bremb, who guy who gave the very cool research talk at WCALB, linked to a good essay on his own blog where he argues that we should banish the term 'design' from our discussions of evolution. I started responding to his comment, but before I knew it, enough was written, and the subject had shifted enough, to justify another post. I appreciate the desire to banish 'design'. I used to hold that view myself, and I think it is a much better position than using the term sloppily. That said, I am now convinced that the current way we discuss evolutionary theory has some deep problems, and that many of those problems could be solved through a fight to reclaim the concept of design. Alas, I'm less convinced that most people should care, e.g., that the work of the day-to-day biologist or psychologist is being negatively impacted by their vague commitment to a problematic version of evolutionary theory. This will not be quite as articulate as I would like, but I will try to explain, in a roundabout way:

Friday, March 9, 2012

William James and the Problem of Design

At William James exhibit in Houghton Library (Harvard), there was a test from 'Philosophy 9' (academic year 1904-1905), one of the questions read:
How far can any state of facts experienced be taken either as proving "design," or as being incompatible therewith?....
This immediately grabbed my attention, as the context was presumably the so-called 'problem of design' that faces evolutionary theorists... and Nick Thompson and I have been wrestling with how to get 'design' back into evolutionary theory (he's been wrestling with it for 40 years, me only for the last 10)... and as I have been trying to convince Nick that his approach derives strongly out of James's late work. 
While the test was staring up at me, I realized that nothing I had read of James dealt with the issue explicitly. How was James trying to deal with the problem of design? What had he told his students? What might his students have replied? This lead to some digging. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Briefer Course, Revised (Part 2)

Given that Holt is known to be the most philosophically sophisticated of the early behaviorists, it may seem sacrilegious that he was considered to revise one of James's texts.  James is widely revered, where he is revered, for his deep and dynamic descriptions of experience, such as his discussions of the stream of consciousness; he is also well known for the James-Lang theory of emotion; and behaviorists are supposed to be ill-equipped to deal with "experience" and "emotion". Given that Holt's goal was to create a book that connected with James's later, and lesser known, works, however, the situation might not be as grim as it initially seems. As I have argued elsewhere, James's work can be seen as a proto-behaviorism, with the implications mostly hidden in his early textbooks. What modifications would Holt have made to the premier textbook of the time? What framework would the students of the next two decades have been presented with?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Briefer Course, Revised (Part 1)

I am currently revising a Cheiron talk from two years ago (time flies), to present at EPA this coming Saturday. This was planned, in part, to force me to work on the paper, probably for History of Psychology or the Journal of the History of Behavioral Sciences. The subject matter is the long-pursued effort to revise William James's Psychology: A Briefer Course, which reigned for more than 20 years as the most commonly used textbook for introductory psychology classes.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

More on a better behaivorism

There have been many attempts to define Radical Behaviorism. Most attempts are in terms of inclusion and exclusion, i.e. what radical behaviorists talk about, and what they do not talk about. More often definitions focus on solely on exclusion, providing a negative definition in which behaviorists are defined based on what they don’t do, rather than on what they do. However, this minimizes the profoundness of the approach. A simple, positive definition is: Radical behaviorists claim that all questions about psychology are questions about behavior. One is tempted to say something like “all interesting questions about psychology”, but that is unnecessary, as the converse of the above claim is also made: All questions that are not about behavior are not about psychology. These claims are historic and inclusive; the behaviorist is not trying to redefine psychology, rather to point out what psychology has always been. Thus, behaviorists are not, as is commonly believed, trying to deny the existence of phenomenon typically handled by psychology. Quite to the contrary, they are trying to argue the traditional questions can only be answered through careful observation and analysis of behavior.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Notes towards a better Radical Behaviorism

I have some notes, and some small sections in several published papers, about better ways to think about radical behaviorism. This material came together for the first time in the introduction to my 'theory of mind' talk at WCALB. I will probably put together a shortened version of that talk for the International Journal of Comparative Psychology, which often publishes focus sessions from the conference. However, I would like to develop the introduction more elaboratly for one of the general psychology outlets, such as American Psychologist, or Perspectives on Psychological Science. Trying to invoke something like the "hard problem" of consciousness (see here, or here), in comparison to the many "easy problems", I claim there is a virtually unknown "strong challenge" of behaviorism, in contrast to the "weak challenges" with which we are all familiar.

The strong challenge, to be explained below, is what originally made behaviorism interesting as an approach, but the field of psychology has almost completely avoided it for the past 100 years. Further, the strong challenge points directly to the long-missing piece of the puzzle in creating a naturalistic, non-dualistic, scientific, psychology. It is for lack of dealing with the strong challenge of behaviorism that cognitive neuroscience is moving (albeit slowly) towards a state of crisis. Here is the gist:

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

WCLAB recap

The talk at WCALB went well. It was a very small group of people, which was a bit awkward, but overall very nice. I spent a while talking with Herb Terrace, had some nice interactions with Stephanie LaFarge, who had been Nim's human mother. I also got to have some great conversations with
  • Francys Subiaul (who does very interesting studies in apes and human children down at George Mason),  
  • Cody Brooks (who does cool rat work over at Denison; classical conditioning using alcohol as a reinfoncer, with implications for reducing relapse in addicts ).
  • Cameron Buckner (who does some interesting philosophy of psychology work at down at the University of Houston) 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Theory of Mind and Radical Behaviorism

"Theory of Mind" has been one of the hottest topics in philosophical psychology and developmental psychology for the last 25 years. There are occasional ripples of interest in research at the intersection of ToM and comparative psychology, including a recent ripple generated by the release of a documentary "Project Nim". The documentary covers the story of Nim Chimpsky, who was part of a multi-decade study lead by Herb Terrace, intended to illuminate chimpanzee's linguistic abilities. The documentary focuses on ethical issues and on the narrative story arc of Nim's life. Herb has complained that the documentary under-emphasizes the scientific side of Nim's story --- which they the director interviewed him about extensively, then cut --- and has been attempting to remind people about the scientific importance of the study, emphasizing:
Nim’s inability to learn a language deepened our understanding of the basic difference between human and ape minds. Most important, apes lack a “theory of mind” – the ability to perceive what another ape is thinking.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Beyond the Brain: Review out

I still owe two more posts on Barrett's book, but I have more pressing matters, including the start of the semester and preparing a conference presentation due this weekend. While gathering material for my presentation, I was excited to see that my much more concise review of the book was just published! I am never too sure about how many people read these things, but hopefully it will inspire a few more people to check out the book. Here is the basic info:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Thinking, Behaving, and Monkeys with Joysticks

I hope that the "thought" experiment I suggested last week stands on its own. The point was, at the least, to make people wonder how strong the causal relationship is between 'thinking about moving' and 'moving', and wonder if they might be very different phenomenon. Here I hope to demonstrate how the standard assumptions about the relationship between thinking and behaving can lead to some pretty awkward descriptions of phenomenon, and how a more embodied approach might do better. (Full disclosure, I'm still struggling with this, and will do a good, but definitely not great job.) Our case study come from the work of Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, who does ridiculously cool 'neuro-engineering' work down at Duke University. Our awkward descriptions of that work come from an interview on the Diane Rehm Show, aired on National Public Radio. There, Dr. Nicolelis describes research that culminates in a monkey moving a cursor on a computer screen via implants that detect neuronal activity in its brain. Here, roughly, is how the study works:

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A 'Do It Yourself' Experiment about Thinking and Movement

For a long time now, one central rule in the Western-psychology game has been this: Mind-stuff makes body-stuff happen. In the olden days, stories using that rule might have talked about how thoughts of motion, enacted first on a Cartesian stage, transfer the vital energy needed to create movement in flesh. These days stories using that rule might be about how frontal-cortex based decisions to move, enacted first in an information-based simulations taking place in your brain, transfer motor-commands through neurons to your muscles. This is certainly a more refined and sophisticated way of envisioning the relationship between mind and behavior, but it retains the principles of the simple rule (i.e., same rule-system, different flavor text). As such, the more refined version also retains the primary problem of the original story. What problem? That 'thinking about moving' and 'moving' are just not related in that manner. Let's drop all the other kooky agendas of this blog for a minute, and just do some experimental phenomenology. Here is a 'thought' experiment you can try yourself and do with others.... 

The Experiment