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

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Perceiving sociocultural phenomena

This is the third in a series of posts examining the Special Issues of the journal “Ecological Psychology” commemorating the 50th anniversary of “The Senses Considered As Perceptual Systems.”

Harry Heft brings his unique insights regarding the history of psychology to bear, with a focus on the relatively-understudied implications of Gibson’s work for understanding culture. Recall that part of Gibson’s challenge to the field (see Shaw 2002) was to see how much could be covered by perceptual processes, and avoid the temptation to start hand waving at higher-level processes whenever the going got tough. One aspect of Gibson’s work, comparatively neglected by both his proponents and his critics, is his attempt to see how far he could push perceptual theory towards explaining the interaction of people in situations where cultural practice plays a strong role in determining what the world affords. As usual, Heft’s writing is clear and keen. If you haven’t read any of his work before, I suspect you will find this article deeply insightful, and that it will lead you to seek out more of his work.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

50 Years of Research into Haptic Perception

Gibson’s 1966 book The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems recently turned 50. Two issues of the journal Ecological Psychology commemorated that event (here, and here). This is the third in a series of posts reviewing those contributions. It covers Carello & Turvey's Useful Dimensions of Haptic Perception: 50 Years After The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems.

Haptic perception is extremely neglected relative to visual and auditory perception. The term could refer simply to feeling things by touch, but in the context of EcoPsych is more likely to refer to perception as the result of manipulating objects, i.e., picking things up and moving them around. The Senses Considered included chapters about the haptic system, but offered only a cursorily outline of what an improved study of the haptic system would look like. Some the first wave of Gibson-inspired researchers latched onto those chapters, and created some of the more notable research triumphs of the field. Carello and Turvey performed, or supervised people who were performing, much of that work. Given that several good summaries of the research exist, they choose to focus instead on showing how the haptic research has been a uniquely suited context for exploring the novel implications of an ecological approach to perception.