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      Scale Matters: Temporality in the Perception of Affordances

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      Frontiers in Psychology

      Frontiers Media S.A.

      temporality, affordances, ecological psychology, enactivism, temporal scales, synergies

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          Abstract

          In this paper I seek to unify enactive and ecological approaches to cognitive science by emphasizing the fact that both approaches view cognitive processes as being inherently temporally extended. My hypothesis is that characterizing the temporal scales in which perception of affordances occur, they can serve different purposes of explanation within the theories. Specifically, the paper brings together, on the one hand, Chemero’s (2009) dynamicist understanding of affordances, which he called affordances 2.0, with, on the other hand, a distinction originally made by Varela (1999), and later taken up by Shaun Gallagher (2011, 2017b), between three different timescales for understanding cognition: the elementary, the integrative, and the narrative. Varela’s three-fold distinction was originally intended as a way of identifying phenomenological events as being causally coupled to specific cellular events happening within the nervous system. The central claim of the present paper is that affordances, likewise, should be understood in terms of these three different timescales. I show that these temporal scales can be a useful toolkit for explaining the perception and learning of affordances and at the same time unifying enactivism and ecological psychology claiming that affordances serve a different explanatory role depending on which time scale you consider them at. If you are interested in explaining the embodied assemblies that form the always changing sensorimotor contingencies, then you see the elementary scale. If you’re interested in explaining perception at the integrative scale, then affordances are solicitations that get actualized and bear an umwelt at that same scale. The perception of affordances as such is constituted by the integration of these first two scales, and the experience of it can be characterized by the husserlian structure of experience with its intrinsic temporality. Finally, if you are interested in explaining change in the animal-environment system over developmental time, that is, learning, then affordances are roughly what Chemero proposed and they operate at the narrative scale. But it is important to say that the three scales are always intertwined because learning and perception are ongoing processes that in many senses are impossible to separate. Finally, I discuss the importance of scales from the macro to micro levels for understanding behavior through affordances, considering them as synergies, where abilities and aspects of the environment are understood as constraints on the potential trajectories of such systems.

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          Most cited references 38

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          An internal model for sensorimotor integration.

          On the basis of computational studies it has been proposed that the central nervous system internally simulates the dynamic behavior of the motor system in planning, control, and learning; the existence and use of such an internal model is still under debate. A sensorimotor integration task was investigated in which participants estimated the location of one of their hands at the end of movements made in the dark and under externally imposed forces. The temporal propagation of errors in this task was analyzed within the theoretical framework of optimal state estimation. These results provide direct support for the existence of an internal model.
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            The case for motor involvement in perceiving conspecifics.

            Perceiving other people's behaviors activates imitative motor plans in the perceiver, but there is disagreement as to the function of this activation. In contrast to other recent proposals (e.g., that it subserves overt imitation, identification and understanding of actions, or working memory), here it is argued that imitative motor activation feeds back into the perceptual processing of conspecifics' behaviors, generating top-down expectations and predictions of the unfolding action. Furthermore, this account incorporates recent ideas about emulators in the brain-mental simulations that run in parallel to the external events they simulate-to provide a mechanism by which motoric involvement could contribute to perception. Evidence from a variety of literatures is brought to bear to support this account of perceiving human body movement.
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              A sensorimotor account of vision and visual consciousness.

              Many current neurophysiological, psychophysical, and psychological approaches to vision rest on the idea that when we see, the brain produces an internal representation of the world. The activation of this internal representation is assumed to give rise to the experience of seeing. The problem with this kind of approach is that it leaves unexplained how the existence of such a detailed internal representation might produce visual consciousness. An alternative proposal is made here. We propose that seeing is a way of acting. It is a particular way of exploring the environment. Activity in internal representations does not generate the experience of seeing. The outside world serves as its own, external, representation. The experience of seeing occurs when the organism masters what we call the governing laws of sensorimotor contingency. The advantage of this approach is that it provides a natural and principled way of accounting for visual consciousness, and for the differences in the perceived quality of sensory experience in the different sensory modalities. Several lines of empirical evidence are brought forward in support of the theory, in particular: evidence from experiments in sensorimotor adaptation, visual "filling in," visual stability despite eye movements, change blindness, sensory substitution, and color perception.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                1664-1078
                16 June 2020
                2020
                : 11
                Affiliations
                Faculty of Philosophy and Literature (FFYL), National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) , Mexico City, Mexico
                Author notes

                Edited by: Ezequiel A. Di Paolo, IKERBASQUE Basque Foundation for Science, Spain

                Reviewed by: Ed Baggs, University of Western Ontario, Canada; Maria Brincker, University of Massachusetts Boston, United States

                ORCID: Melina Gastelum, orcid.org/0000-0002-6632-170X

                This article was submitted to Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

                Article
                10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01188
                7308807
                Copyright © 2020 Gastelum.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 1, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 62, Pages: 13, Words: 0
                Categories
                Psychology
                Hypothesis and Theory

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