The CIA Lab goes to the EPS Sensorimotor Learning conference, 13-14 July

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 ūüôā

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 presenting on ‘Ecological Representations’ at University of Sussex

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.

1st Annual Cognitive Archaeology Workshop, 26/05/17

Today we will all be hosting the 1st Annual (we hope!) Cognitive Archaeology Workshop at Leeds Beckett University.

Following on from Andrew’s recent paper¬†the team is developing several grants and projects around the affordances of throwing in modern and prehistoric times. This workshop is an opportunity for us to all be in the same room for a change, bring each other up to speed on our interests and skills and work on the details of our new collaboration.

Attendees include Andrew, Sabrina and our students Agnes, Dan and Michael; archaeologists Larry Barham and Ian Stanistreet from the University of Liverpool and some of their students; sports scientist Tim Bennett from Carnegie School of Sports; and engineer Ray Holt from the University of Leeds. This is the team needed to do this work properly and it’s going to be a great day!

Andrew at EWEP14, July 6-9

Andrew is attending the 14th European Workshop on Ecological Psychology presenting his affordance research on prehistoric objects (see the full program). Hope to see some of you there!

Task dynamics and the affordances of prehistoric spheroids for throwing
Andrew Wilson, Qin Zhu, Ian Stanistreet, Larry Barham, & Geoffrey Bingham

Slides: The Affordances of Prehistoric Objects

Spheroids are ball-shaped stone objects found at African archaeological sites dating from 1.8 million years ago (Early Stone Age) to at least 200,000 years ago (Middle Stone Age), making them one of the longest-used technologies on record. Most hypotheses about their use presume they were held in one hand and used to shape or grind other materials. However, their size and spherical shape make them potentially useful as projectile weapons, a property that, uniquely, humans have been specialised to exploit for millions of years. Here we show (via simulations of projectile motions parameterised by recent affordance research on throwing) that 88% of the spheroids found at the Cave of Hearths site afford being thrown by a human so as to inflict worthwhile damage to an animal roughly the size of an impala over distances up to 25m. Most of the objects have weights that produce optimal levels of damage from throwing, rather than being as heavy as possible (as would suit other functions). Our results support the hypothesis that these objects were selected because they afford being thrown to inflict damage, and demonstrates how research on the task dynamics of affordances can inform and constrain our theories about prehistoric artifacts.

Andrew running workshop on ecological information 1/7/16

Andrew is travelling down to run a workshop demystifying ecological information at the¬†Third International Conference on Interactivity, Language and Cognition. The workshop begins 9am on Friday 01/07/16 Room TK402. (I’ll only be down for the Friday session, but I’m looking forward to meeting you all!)

Slides:¬†Ecological Information Workshop (Kingston June 2016)¬†(note, I’m not going to deliver this as a lecture, it’s a little more hands on with some Matlab demos and discussion; these slides are just things to use to make it all a little more concrete)


Sabrina’s new paper is out in Ecological Psychology

Sabrina has a new paper out in Ecological Psychology, called ‘Laws and Conventions in Language Related Behaviours‘. It’s the paper that comes from the talk she gave last year at a conference at UConn and is part of a special issue of papers from the conference.

Golonka, S. (2015). Laws and Conventions in Language Related Behaviours. Ecological Psychology, 27(3), 236-250.