We’ll be reading this in two weeks
The University of Leeds is hosting an EPS conference entitled ‘Accelerating the impact of research into sensorimotor learning’‘Accelerating the impact of research into sensorimotor learning’ and the CIA Lab is well represented (at the very least we’ll be clearly perceptible 🙂
Agnes and Dan are presenting posters of their dissertation research on acquiring novel speech sounds and the behavioural dynamics of learning novel coordinations, respectively.
Andrew will give a talk on why taking an ecological approach seriously helps both research and practice
Taking An Ecological Approach to Research and Practice (slides)
The first step towards integrating science and practice is to create a common frame of reference so that we are asking the same kinds of questions. An increasingly common way to study sensorimotor development and control is the ecological, dynamical systems approach, and there is growing interest in applying this approach beyond the lab and into clinical and sporting practice. This approach is a surprisingly radically different way of thinking about our field, however, so my goal for this talk is to sketch that mindset out, using some recent empirical work to illustrate the bigger ideas.
The key elements are as follows. The form of our movements emerges in real time as we interact with the demands of the task we are facing; each behaviour is the result of an extended, embodied perception-action mechanism. The key components we need to be able to science are the task, our embodiment and, critically, the perceptual information about each of these that enables us to tie the whole package together. Modern ecological psychology describes the world in terms of dynamical systems theory and works to identify how these dynamics produce the rich perceptual information about themselves that shape our activity in the world.
I will summarise this ecological task dynamics framework and point to some useful research and theory, with the goal of sparking a conversation about how the ecological approach can shape and inform both your research and practice.
Sabrina presented an invited talk this week at the Computation & Representation in Cognitive Science conference at the University of Sussex
Ecological representations: Can the ‘R’ word fit in a Gibsonian framework?
There is widespread agreement that an ecological approach to explaining behaviour is at odds with a computational approach. Often, this opposition is also framed in terms of representations such that ecological approaches are meant to be necessarily non-representational. The perceived lack of fit between ecological explanations and computational / representational explanations may be accounted for by two facts. One, cognitive scientists tend to adopt an unnecessarily narrow view of computation (compared to the wider scientific community). Two, the motivation for invoking representations in an explanation is unfairly reduced to solving a problem of poverty of stimulus, which is anathema to ecological explanations. We argue that the concept of representation is amenable to an ecological approach, as long as it is built upon a foundation of ecological information. Ecological representations do not fill out impoverished sensory experiences. Their usefulness comes entirely from the extent to which they preserve spatiotemporal structure in information variables specifying biologically and psychologically relevant properties of the environment. Their job is to provide a mechanism by which behaviour can complement relevant properties of the environment in the absence of immediate perceptual access to those properties. Because the structure of ecological representations is determined by the structure of ecological information (which is formally definable), ecological representations are amenable to empirical investigation, making their existence an empirical, rather than theoretical matter.
I’ve also submitted this paper to a journal so we’ll see how that goes!