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meaning / Gibson (and moderation)

The discussion below is far-ranging. I just want to make a comment
about the allusion by by John Neuhoff to Gibson below, notably his
remark  that

(or meaning by some definitions) IS often ordered and structured in the
environment. However, organisms have evolved to take advantage of that

There are now detailed neural models of visual perception and
navigation that has clarified a number of these issues, including as
they pertain to the work of Gibson. As one example of how the
structure of the environment can interact with the structure that the
brain has evolved to deal with it, you might want to check out the
following article that is downloadable on my web page

Grossberg, S., Mingolla, E., and Pack C. (1999). A neural model of
motion processing and visual navigation by cortical area MST.
Cerebral Cortex, 9, 878-895.

This article quantitatively simulates detailed properties of cells in
cortical area  MST in response to optic flow stimuli AND
psychophysical data about how human navigators estimate heading
direction under a variety of conditions. Time-to-contact data have
also been simulated by this  model. Concerning the point that
"organisms have evolved to take advantage of that information,"  it
seems that the receptive fields of these cells, which benefit from
the (positionally-variant) cortical magnification factor to estimate
navigational properties like heading direction, have also developed
to maximize their position-invariance properties for purposes of
object tracking; see Figure  8 in the article.

X-Accept-Language: en
Date:         Fri, 2 Mar 2001 10:46:03 -0500
Reply-To: jneuhoff@acs.wooster.edu
Sender: AUDITORY  Research in Auditory Perception
From: "John G. Neuhoff" <jneuhoff@acs.wooster.edu>
Organization: The College of Wooster
Subject:      meaning / Gibson (and moderation)
To: AUDITORY@lists.mcgill.ca

There are those who argue strongly both sides of this issue- that
meaning and information reside only in the environment or stimulus and
conversely that they reside only inside the heads of perceivers.  Many
strict Gibsonians shun terms like "mental imagery" and "schema".
However, it seems reasonable that both camps are correct.  Information
(or meaning by some definitions) IS often ordered and structured in the
environment. However, organisms have evolved to take advantage of that
information.  Thus, it should come as no surprise that the organization
of things like brains would reflect as well as process the structure of
this environmental information. Al Bregman is right to suggest that we
can perceive without sensation.  Paul Treffner is right to suggest that
environmental information can specify events. A wonderful example of
this perspective is that of Denny Proffitt at U. Virginia.  I once saw
him give a talk on the "affordance" (a sacred Gibsonian term) of a
mental image.  Perhaps Al Bregman and J. Gibson failed to convince each
other because they BOTH were right.

-John Neuhoff

Al Bregman wrote:
 Paul Treffner wrote:

 > Meaning? Meaning is *not* in the head!! How could it be?!
 Simple argument:
 > The meaning is perceived when the information is detected.
 Since the
 > information specifies an event in the world, the "meaning"
 > implications, etc) is at least in the dynamical interaction of
 speaker and
 > listener. But certainly they are not in representations inside
 > the  listener's head alone.

 Surely the mental schemas (in Piaget's sense), linguistic or
 otherwise, in terms of which we assimilate any perceptual input,
 or by means of which we guide the actions that deal with the
 input, are the "meaning" of that input.  Different people can
 have different meanings for the same event, because they
 assimilate it to different schemas.  For example, a young woman
 is looking attentively at a boastful young man, Adam.  An
 > onlooker, Brad, sees her intent gaze as admiration.  Another guy,
 Charles, realizes that she thinks Adam's a jerk, but that she
 should be polite and pay attention to what he's saying.  The
 "dynamical interaction" for Brad and Charles is the same, if it
 refers to the world of observable action, but the meanings are
 very different.  Another example:  a poet reading a magazine
 article on quarks doesn't get the same meaning from it as a
 science graduate.

 How can meaning be *anything but* in the head -- even though it
 may often control interactions with the world.  A meaning (or
 schema) is a control system, located in the brain (which,
 according to my physiologist friends, is in the head).  Its
 location in the head doesn't prevent its guiding interactions
 with the world.  No brain, no meanings.  Different brains,
 different meanings.

 Can you have meanings without sensory inputs?  Try dreams.  Can
 you have meanings without brains?  Ask a brick.

 Of course "meaning" is part of a dyadic relation involving (1) a
 temporarily assembled structure of meanings (or schemas), for
 dealing with a certain thing or situation, and (2) the thing or
 situation itself -- which, according to Kant, we can never know
 *directly*, but only through the meanings we use in interpreting
 it.  Sometimes the second term (the thing or situation itself) is
 something in the external world, and sometimes not, as when I
 reflect on my own thought processes.

 Some time ago, I published a lengthy paper that described mental
 schemas as
 generators of underlying patterns that interacted to control
 perception, cognition,
 and action.  It may be of interest as an alternative to the
 theory of direct
 perception.  I debated the issue with Jimmy Gibson, but we
 couldn't convince
 one another.

      Bregman, A.S.  Perception and behavior as compositions of
             Cognitive Psychology, 1977, 9, 250-292.

 - Al
 Albert S. Bregman, Emeritus Professor
 Dept of Psychology, McGill University
 1205 Docteur Penfield Avenue
 Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 1B1

      Phone:  +1 (514) 398-6103
      Fax: +1 (514) 398-4896
      Phone & Fax: +1 (514) 484-2592
John G. Neuhoff
Department of Psychology
The College of Wooster
Wooster OH 44691

Voice: 330-263-2475
FAX:   520-244-5577


Alternate email: jneuhoff@mediaone.net