Abstract: In the first half of this article, it is claimed that the interdisciplinary project of “situated cognition research” is lacking a systematic methodology and that its development will have beneficial effects for that research project without restricting its progressive potential. In the second half, it is argued that the development of such methodology is dependent on positions we hold in the context of philosophy of science. Especially positions of “explanatory pluralism” and “unification” need to be considered. If pluralist claims are supported, then more (e.g.) explanation types should be taken into account by methodological studies. If unificationist claims are endorsed, then less explanation types are deemed significant and worth to be elaborated as well as developed further. A categorical system is provided, the “spectrum of integration”, that arranges and relates a number of pluralist and unificationist positions. Depending on where philosophers place themselves on that spectrum, their methodological analysis varies due to their pluralist or unificationist commitments. The spectrum thereby helps to determine first steps towards a methodology of situated cognition research as it pre-structures possible positions from where such a methodology can start.
The seminar is focused on discussing the papers, in a reading group style. The speaker first introduces the main theses of the paper (for around ten minutes), and then the floor is open for comments. In the online version of the seminar, the questions must be first signaled briefly on the chat to manage the flow of the discussion.
To receive a Google Meet link, please email Przemysław Nowakowski, email@example.com
Abstract. Computational explanations in the cognitive sciences span multiple levels of analysis. The indeterminacy of computation complicates the endeavour of answering the question ‘What does a particular neural—or physical—system do?’ in computational terms. For a single physical process may often be described equally well as computing several different mathematical functions—none of which is explanatorily privileged. But at which level of analysis should the computational identity of a physical system P be determined? Some argue that the computational nature of P is wholly exhausted by P’s physical or functional structure. Others argue that contextual factors also play a role in determining P’s computational identity, but they diverge on what that role is. Others yet argue that contextual factors essentially determine the identity of P. This chapter surveys some of these views and ultimately claims that the environment can and often does play a role in fixing the computational identity of P, thereby advancing a long-arm functional individuation of computation.
The seminar is focused on discussing the papers, in a reading group style. The speaker first introduces the main theses of the paper (for around ten minutes), and then the floor is open for comments. In the online version of the seminar, the questions must be first signaled briefly on the chat to manage the flow of the discussion. To receive the Google Meet link, please write to Dr. Przemysław Nowakowski, firstname.lastname@example.org
The next meeting of the seminar is planned for January, 15th at 12:00 CET. We are delighted to host as our speakers the authors of the paper: Bruineberg, Jelle and Dolega, Krzysztof and Dewhurst, Joe and Baltieri, Manuel (2020) The Emperor’s New Markov Blankets.
Abstract: Markov blankets have been used to settle disputes central to philosophy of mind and cognition. Their development from a technical concept in Bayesian inference to a central concept within the free-energy principle is analysed. We propose to distinguish between instrumental Pearl blankets and realist Friston blankets. Pearl blankets are substantiated by the empirical literature but can do limited philosophical work. Friston blankets can do philosophical work, but require strong theoretical assumptions. Both are conflated in the current literature on the free-energy principle. Consequently, we propose that distinguishing between an instrumental and a realist research program will help clarify the literature.
The seminar is focused on discussing the papers, in a reading group style. The speaker first introduces the main theses of the paper (for around ten minutes), and then the floor is open for comments. In the online version of the seminar, the questions must be first signaled briefly on the chat to manage the flow of the discussion. To receive the Google Meet link, please contact Dr. Przemysław Nowakowski (email@example.com).
Here is the tentative schedule of the Philosophy of Cognitive Science in the first half of 2021. All meetings will be organized online. You can subscribe to our seminar announcements here (Google account required).
The next meeting of the seminar is planned for December, 18th at 12:00 CET. We are delighted that our speaker is Professor Iris van Rooij. We will discuss her forthcoming paper, co-authored with Giosuè Baggio: Theory before the test: How to build high-verisimilitude explanatory theories in psychological science available at https://psyarxiv.com/7qbpr Abstract: Drawing on the philosophy of psychological explanation (Cummins, 1983; 2000), we suggest that psychological science, by focusing on effects, may lose sight of its primary explananda: psychological capacities. We revisit Marr’s (1982) levels-of-analysis framework, which has been remarkably productive and useful for cognitive psychological explanation. We discuss ways in which Marr’s framework may be extended to other areas of psychology, such as social, developmental, and evolutionary psychology, bringing new benefits to these fields. Next, we show how theoretical analyses can endow a theory with minimal plausibility even prior to contact with empirical data: we call this the theoretical cycle. Finally, we explain how our proposal may contribute to addressing critical issues in psychological science, including how to leverage effects to understand capacities better.
The seminar is focused on discussing the papers, in a reading group style. The speaker first introduces the main theses of the paper (for around ten minutes), and then the floor is open for comments. In the online version of the seminar, the questions must be first signaled briefly on the chat to manage the flow of the discussion. To receive the Google Meet link, please contact Dr. Przemysław Nowakowski (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The seminar is focused on discussing the papers, in a reading group style. The speaker first introduces the main theses of the paper (for around ten minutes), and then the floor is open for comments. In the online version of the seminar, the questions must be first signaled briefly on the chat to manage the flow of the discussion. The meeting will be held through Google Meet. Please write to Dr. Przemysław Nowakowski (email@example.com) to receive the link.
On November, 13th, at 12:00, during the meeting of the Philosophy of Cognitive Science Seminar, we will discuss Chapter 2 of Alistair Isaac’s book (in-progress) The Measure of Mind in Nature. The meeting will be fully online.
Please contact Przemysław Nowakowski (firstname.lastname@example.org) for the Google Meet link
In his detailed response (https://jakublimanowski.com/comment-on-litwin-and-milkowski/) to our critical evaluation of the study by Limanowski and Blankenburg (2015), Jakub Limanowski (henceforth, JL) claims that our critical analysis is largely driven by misinterpretation of their results and the DCM framework. Below, we provide a point-by-point reply to the issues raised by JL.
To make things clear: we did not intend to present this study—which is driven by precise methodology and exhibits strict computational rigor in the study of neurocognitive mechanisms underlying body attribution processes—as an example of a bad scientific practice in general. What we meant (and we firmly maintain our opinion after reading the commentary) is that the study design precluded the possibility to interpret its results eitherin favor or against PP. In other words, while it certainly contributes to our understanding of neurocognitive mechanisms of body ownership, it has absolutely nothing to say on whether these mechanisms are predictive as envisioned by PP. Yet, it is cited as providing direct empirical support to PP (Tsakiris, 2017) and the wordage in Limanowski and Blankenburg (2015) is responsible for this situation. In this response, we shall try to make our points even clearer.
Indeed, we interpreted negative values of intrinsic connections of each node as “attenuation of intrinsic connectivities in both the LOC and SII”. We admit that, if our interpretation is incorrect, it renders the part of our analysis pertaining to inconsistencies between two PP models of RHI problematic. However, it also means that the graphical presentation of DCM results is quite confusing. The intrinsic connectivities, unlike others, are bold, which suggests that they “mark significant connections or modulations” (Fig. 6, p. 2297). Similarly bold endogenous connectivity patterns from IPS to LOC are interpreted as “enhanced top-down attention to the visual modality” (p. 2301) irrespectively of the experimental condition; therefore, our interpretation of attenuated intrinsic connectivities during RHI elicitation (in all conditions) seemed warranted.
We disagree that this claim is false, but perhaps we could have written that “effective connectivity from IPS to SII was not significant” rather than “altogether absent”. Still, our argument holds: the study provides no evidence for enhanced endogenous connections from IPS to SII in neither of the conditions (palm/forearm/both), which means that they are either non-existent or of negligible strength (+.07) as compared to top-down connectivities from IPS to LOC (+.41, significant; both coefficients derived from the ‘palm’ condition). Therefore, one cannot simply say that “these values were just lower”. It means that there is no evidence that effective connectivities from IPS to SII were strengthened during RHI elicitation (either via synchronous or asynchronous stimulation). This renders the following interpretation of the results unlikely: “IPS would also signal these “adjusted” predictions to the SII, where they do not match the incoming somatosensory information (i.e., the proprioceptive information about the position of one’s real arm and the skin-based information about touches on it), and hence generate another (somatosensory) prediction error” (p. 2300-2301). How could ineffective top-down connectivities drive somatosensory prediction errors? Why there are no differences in their strength during synchronous stimulation as compared to the control condition in which RHI does not occur? This is not discussed in the article. It seems to us that multisensory integration hypothesis sounds not only more parsimonious, but also much more consistent.
In his response, JL convincingly argued that one cannot speak of theoretical inconsistencies if important methodological differences between the studies are present (e.g., different regions of interest are specified), and we agree. Note that, in the article, we explicitly point this out. However, this would not apply to attenuated intrinsic connectivities in particular nodes, which could not have resulted from enhanced top-down attention to these areas, given that in PP 1) attenuated intrinsic connectivities = lower precision (Zeller et al., 2016) 2) attention = higher precision (Hohwy, 2012). This would be the case of inconsistent interpretation of the same observables in one theoretical context. However, if attenuated intrinsic connectivities were actually not observed, our critique does not apply.
What is discussed at length is the PP-based interpretation which, we believe, is accurately summarized in our paper. Basically, intersensory conﬂict between touch represented visually on a dummy and felt on one’s real arm is supposed to elicit ‘visual’ prediction errors. However, these are the very errors that actually have to be resolved (explained away) for the illusion to arise, according to PP interpretation. In other words, they should accumulate prior to the occurence of RHI and should be absent during the full-blown RHI experience (when somatosensory coordinates are already switched to a visual reference frame).
This is not necessarily a drawback given that JL and Blankenburg were interested in the dynamics of RHI. Actually, this is a testable hypothesis that could differentiate between PP and simple multisensory integration theories: Would one expect bottom-up effective connectivities from LOC to IPS to subside in a time bracket when RHI is already present? However, in its published form, the study is non-diagnostic and the PP interpretation is likely false.
It actually occurred to us that JL did not relate to other problems raised in our paper; perhaps, more importantly, “one could also expect top-down modulations suppressing errors in perceptual areas to come forward” (see our point 2. above). This issue, problematic for PP, certainly deserved some discussion.
We cannot help but see this PP interpretation as post-hoc, especially if, as JL writes, he “never set out to ‘test PP’ in this study”. We appreciate the usage of non-definitive terms, although, frankly, we consider it to be a rhetoric moderating the impression of an over-confirmatory research strategy. Additionally, in our opinion, it does not matter where the interpretation is introduced exactly, but how thoroughly it is discussed (one and a half page + abstract vs five lines of discussion of an alternative, much simpler explanation which fits the data at least equally well). We also disagree that “it is allowed to [focus on a favorable interpretation] in a Discussion section of an empirical paper” if one does not have arguments for the advantage of this interpretation at one’s disposal. But what is most important here, again, is that “a body of data cannot provide evidence for a theory only in virtue of its consistency, [but it] must also weigh against the competing hypotheses”, and that “what matters for evidential support is whether the model actually ﬁts the data better than alternatives”. This was simply not shown in the study. Thus, while the study extends our understanding of brain dynamics underlying body ownership processes, it is non-diagnostic regarding whether predictive processes drive the dynamics, and the interpretation of “these results as support for a predictive coding account of hierarchical inference in the brain” (p. 2285, our emphasis) is unjustified. This is actually consistency fallacy at work.
To sum up our main points:
The study did not specify 1) outcomes incompatible with PP, 2) outcomes compatible with PP and incompatible with alternative theories, or 3) outcomes incompatible with PP and compatible with alternative theories. As such, it cannot provide evidential support for PP. PP-based interpretation could only be speculatively discussed among other options, especially that there are good reasons to believe that the alternative explanation fits the data better (no effective top-down connectivities during the illusion) and is much more parsimonious. Thus, the gist of our critique is still valid.
If the attenuated intrinsic connectivities were not observed, our analysis of inconsistencies between models developed by Limanowski and Blankenburg (2015) and Zeller et al. (2016) does not hold. However, our misinterpretation is at least partially caused by the form of presentation of results in Limanowski and Blankenburg (2015).