Early detection of autism has been a dream of research in this field for a long time; early detection opens the door to early intervention, which in turn may offer opportunities to mitigate the consequences of autism. A recent Nature paper suggests reduced eye gaze to faces might be the key, but researcher Jon Brock (@DrBrocktagon) thinks that there are many problems, not least of which is that the authors might actually have evidence for the opposite pattern. His post is here.
Jones W, & Klin A (2013). Attention to eyes is present but in decline in 2-6-month-old infants later diagnosed with autism. Nature
Perspectives in Psychological Science recently hosted a point-counterpoint between Chaz Firestone and Dennis Proffitt about whether Proffitt’s theory of action-scaled perception could possibly be true. Proffitt is inspired by Gibson’s ecological approach, and has run numerous studies showing that how we perceive the world changes as our ability to interact with the world changes.
These papers are not empirical; however, I reviewed the debate here in a HIBAR style because the argument is an important one for theories of embodied cognition. I am sympathetic to Proffitt’s broad approach, although not his specific implementation, and the key issue this debate reveals is that neither of the authors has the necessary theory of perceptual information required to put their analysis on a firm footing.
Firestone C. (2013). How “Paternalistic” Is Spatial Perception? Why Wearing a Heavy Backpack Doesn’t – and Couldn’t – Make Hills Look Steeper. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8 (4), 455-473.
Proffitt D.R. (2013). An Embodied Approach to Perception: By What Units Are Visual Perceptions Scaled? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8 (4), 474-483.
My group discussed a paper by Olmstead et al (2009) in lab meeting. This paper uses coordinated rhythmic movement as a useful movement task to probe the embodiment of language comprehension. My PhD students, Liam and Agnes wrote up a HIBAR post about the paper, which Agnes posted here.
Olmstead, A. J., Viswanathan, N., Aicher, K. A., & Fowler, C. A. (2009). Sentence comprehension affects the dynamics of bimanual coordination: Implications for embodied cognition. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 62(12), 2409-2417.
Many researchers investigate embodied cognition by looking for effects of body posture on mental activities, such as estimating the size of things. In this post, I critique a high profile example of this literature that has many of what I believe are the key problems in this kind of research.
Eerland, A., Guadalupe, T., & Zwaan, R. (2011). Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller: Posture-Modulated Estimation. Psychological Science, 22 (12), 1511-1514.
One way to study embodied cognition is to manipulate the body and look for effects on mental activity; I reviewed an example here. Another common way to investigate whether cognition is embodied is to manipulate the mental activity people are engaged in and look for similar changes in the activity of the body (e.g. postural sway). Here I critique an example of this type of work, focusing on the very small effect sizes and methodological issues with the postural sway measure.
Miles, L., Nind, L., Macrae, C. (2010). Moving Through Time. Psychological Science, 21 (2), 222-223
I review a paper which is testing whether chimps can perceive weight, something that is apparently quite controversial in the comparative literature. I generally like the paper, but the real problem is that weight is not really the kind of thing we tend to perceive. Instead, we perceive affordances, and these are typically about properties such as inertia and size-with-respect-to-grip-size, etc. I discuss some fruitful ways to take this forwards.
Schrauf, C., Call, J., Fuwa, K., & Hirata, S. (2012). Do Chimpanzees Use Weight to Select Hammer Tools? PLoSOne, 7 (7) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0041044