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.

Seminar – Dr Fred Cummins, “Prayer, Protest and Football: the Puzzles of Joint Speech”

We are delighted to be hosting Fred Cummins for a talk on Tuesday December 13th 2016. Details here

Prayer, Protest and Football: the Puzzles of Joint Speech

Guest Speaker: Dr Fred Cummins, University College Dublin

Joint speech is an umbrella term covering choral speech, synchronous speech, chant, and all forms of speech where many people say the same thing at the same.  Under an orthodox linguistic analysis, there is nothing here to study, as the formal symbolic structures of joint speech do not appear to differ from those of language arising in other forms of practice.  As a result, there is essentially no body of scientific inquiry into practices of joint speaking. Yet joint speaking practices are ubiquitous, ancient, and deeply integrated into rituals and domains to which we accord the highest significance.

I will discuss Joint Speech, as found in prayer, protest, classrooms, and sports stadia around the world. If we merely take the time to look there is much to be found in joint speech that is crying out for elaboration and investigation. I will attempt to sketch the terra incognita that opens up and present a few initial findings (phonetic, anthropological, neuroscientific) that suggest that Joint Speech is far from being a peripheral and exotic special case. It is, rather, a central example of language use that must inform our theories of what language, languaging and subjects are.

All welcome

Refreshments will be available from 12.45pm

Talk – Direct perception of uncertainty and its implications for urban design


We are hosting Ed Baggs to give a talk tomorrow; details below. Book your attendance here.

Calverley 311
Wednesday, 28 October 2015 from 15:00 to 16:30 (GMT)
Leeds, United Kingdom

Navigating in a built environment requires road users to attend not only to information about immediately visible static objects but also to information about potential future hazards. Pedestrians attempting to cross a road must be aware of things like cars that are not in their immediate field of vision but which may nevertheless appear from round a corner before they reach the other side of the road. In assessing whether it is safe to cross, what the pedestrian perceives is not empty space but a relation between their own prospective path across the road and a prospective state of the world. Where vision is impeded by traffic and other opaque objects the pedestrian directly perceives uncertainty about whether it is safe to cross.

I take this analysis of the pedestrian’s task and use it to examine some problems in urban design. I focus on the design philosophy known as shared space, which has become popular among UK town planners. According to shared space thinking, the most effective urban spaces are those in which artificial structures such as signs and kerbs and traffic signals are removed and individual road users are forced to interact with one another directly. This has led to some high-profile redesigns of British city centres. However, the removal of traditional road features has also led to complaints from vulnerable groups, such as the blind and the elderly, who had been reliant on the now-removed features. I suggest that these problems have arisen because designers have not been guided by an appropriate account of how individual pedestrians perceive their environment. The concepts of prospective control and direct perception of uncertainty are invoked in analysing some existing shared spaces and are used to motivate some heuristics for effective design.