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PI Lecture: Martin Rolfs, “Looking for Action in Perception”
Actions affect perception directly and in multiple ways, exerting their influence (1) by modifying parts of the external world, (2) through internal processes accompanying movement preparation, and (3) through the sensory consequences of moving the sensory surface itself (i.e., in vision, the retina). To understand these influences, psychology and neuroscience have long recognized the necessity to study perception in active observers. Despite this recognition, the consequences of moving the sensory surface itself (point 3 above) have been considered a nuisance, to the extent that perceptual processing — across sensory modalities — needs to be attenuated or suppressed during movement execution. I will discuss recent evidence that studying the immediate sensory consequences as a functional element of perceptual processes is a fruitful approach that may lead to a different understanding of the mechanisms underlying perception. The goal is to develop a set of hallmarks of active perceptual systems, which may represent different degrees to which actions are ingrained into the perceptual processing architecture. I will propose a recipe for testing this proposal in active observers suggesting, perhaps counterintuitively, that a deeper understanding of perception requires shifting the focus of perceptual research to motor control and action kinematics. PS: Most of these ideas will be half-baked at the time of presentation.
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