Questions to Ponder

Questions to ponder after reading of Cognition and Reality, The Quest for Consciousness, and The Feeling of What Happens.

  • How does it happen that different people notice different aspects of the same situation?
  • Why are some potions of the retinal input treated as belonging to the same object, others as independent?
    • May it have something to do with results of co-occurrence analysis?
  • Why do we often seem to perceive the meanings of events rather than their detectable surface features?
  • How are successive glances at the same scene "integrated"?
  • Why is perceiving almost always accurate, given inadequacies of the retinal image?
  • If percepts are constructed, why are they usually accurate?
  • What kind of cognitive structure does perception require?
  • What happens when we choose what to see and how do we learn to see better?
  • How are illusions and errors possible if perception is simply the pickup of information that is already available and specific?
  • How do we pickup unanticipated information?
  • What happens when a new object enters the field of view for the first time?
  • How is it decided whether to use an existing schema or to develop a new one (exploitation vs. exploration)?
  • How can anything at all be seen in a brief flash if perception is a temporally extended activity?
  • How is schema modified by new information? What elements of it are being modified? Anticipation? Motor program?
  • Is development of the schema from the general to the specific, from undifferentiated to precise or in the opposite direction?
  • Why do introspective reports suggest that the meaning is available first, and the stimulus details only later or not at all?
    • This is probably because introspection starts from the highest level schema of all active schemata
  • How does schema come to exist?
    • Some may be innate, but for those that are not, what's the mechanism? Co-occurrence?
    • The perceptual cycle must occur before it can develop
  • Can we perceive something not having an appropriate schema?
    • Maybe only at the lowest possible level, which will allow for bootstrapping based on some mechanism, like co-occurrence.
  • Which schema develops earlier: the more complex "high-level" one, or the more simple "low-level" schema? (for example, shape vs. smile)
  • How do schemata get co-activated? When they are related? Include one another? Not related?
  • Does a schema for a concept (for example, "number") get easier and faster activated than a schema for an object that is part of that category (for example, number "five")? How do they influence each other?
  • Is it possible to deploy more than one schema at a time?
    • Yes, multiple schemata can be active, even though they have different level of activation (and influence of other schemata); based on that level of activation they compete with other schemata for resources (gaze, effectors, and so on)
  • What does presence of expected/unexpected information in the environment does to the schema? In terms of activation? In terms of its modification?
  • Why is it difficult to pick up information from two different messages/streams at the same time?
  • Is it possible to attend to two things at once?
  • What are the limits of automatic mental activity?
  • Why/how does perception depend on a skill? What skill is that?
    • Motor program that supports co-activation of other programs...
  • Are schemata being influenced (activated/modified) by unattended information?
  • Is there a single mechanism responsible for our cognitive limitations? What are the limitations? (The Magical Number Seven)
  • What types of conflicts may arise from activation of two schemata? How do those conflicts get resolved/arbitrated?
  • Is there some impediment to the parallel development of independent, but similar schemata? Does existing schema "canalize" incoming information and experience effectively preventing the second (similar) schema to be formed?
  • Is consciousness an aspect of activity or an independently definable mechanism?
  • Is it possible to think without being conscious?
  • How does the subject know whether the present content of his consciousness originated with an external stimulus?
  • Does imagery appear when pickup of information is delayed or interrupted?
  • If images are anticipations rather than pictures, what's going on when we describe them?
  • How can we imagine things we don't expect, for example, things we know cannot happen?
    • Anticipations concern things that only might come to pass rather than those things whose existence is already established
  • How does detachment of images from the immediate context come about?
    • This detachment occurs inevitably in at least one situation with which we are all familiar: locomotion
    • Any delay between the anticipation and the pickup creates a state of unfulfilled perceptual readiness, and the inner aspect of that active shema is a mental image
  • How are cognitive maps (and other types of schemata) acquired?
  • What sorts of information do they incorporate at various stages in their development?
  • How are they altered by experience?
  • Under what conditions are they forgotten?
  • Where many schemata exist, what distinguishes the right one?
  • How schemata stored in memory? What represents long-term memory?
    • Repeated representation of the same material constitute a regularity to be detected
    • Use of schemata accounts for remembering
    • Forgetting occurs whenever the present inputis not specific enough to select a schema unequivocally
  • What's the difference between perception and imagery?
    • Perception is a cyclic activity that includes an anticipatory phase; imagery is anticipation occurring alone
  • What schemata are we born with? Schemata sensitive to expressions of emotion? Intentions?
  • How words come to refer to objects?
    • Is it required to be "engaged in two perceptual cycles at once"? (Cognition and Reality, p.164)
    • Are those words embedded in the schema or related to/associated with it?
  • What is the principal function of grammatical structure of a sentence?
    • Is it to help the listener to develop proper anticipations that may span many seconds? (Ibid, p.167)
  • How does one describe what one sees?
  • Why do we feel that we know what we're going to say, but only in some general way?
  • How does anticipations get detached from the stimulus information that generated them to become things we imagine?
  • Who has more freedom in their actions: adult or infant?
  • How do we perceive emotion of feeling in others?
    • Perceiver needs to have schemata to pick this information up
    • How much do these schemata depend on social experience?
  • Why do we (sometimes) hear multiple voices arguing?
  • How is anticipated image formed? What specifically is being anticipated (out of many possibilities)?
  • How is movie-in-the-brain generated? How does the brain generate the sense of an owner and observer for that movie?
  • What's the relationship between consciousness and emotion? (Emotion And Consciousness)
  • Are there any non-conscious feelings? Are we conscious of all our emotions and feelings?
  • What distinguishes emotion from feeling?
    • Emotions are external indication of feelings
    • Emotions are experienced as feelings
    • Emotions play signaling role; feelings facilitate learning and motivate behavior (on a larger scale) or produce a specific behavior (on a smaller scale) like freezing
      • "[Pleasure] is related to the clever anticipation of what can be done not to have a problem." "[Nature] seduces us into good behavior." (The Feeling of What Happens, p.78)
    • Expression of emotion drives feeling, which in turn supports expression of emotion; chicken and egg
  • Can we control/suppress emotions/feelings?
  • Why do we need to be conscious to have feelings or express emotions?
  • What's the difference between sensing pain and knowing you have pain?
  • What distinguishes zombies from normal (non-zombie) organisms? Automatism? Lack of intentions? Lack of continuity of purpose? Always-on learning (zombie learning)?
  • What are the properties of consciousness?
    • William James (cf. The Feeling of What Happens, p.126): it's personal, selective, continuous, and pertains to objects rather than itself
  • Why is there significant delay (up to 500ms; Libet's experiments) between registering of a sensation and conscious experience of it?
  • How does always changing mind preserve its identity? What is is that provides mind with this core that is always the same? Is "self" a concept as any other concept and is built based on interactions with other individuals (culture and meme links)?

1 Comment

I like your web site. I didn't get a chance to study it but I like your questions. I have some questions that may interest you.

Is REM sleep just random eye movements or are we re-playing a scene and the eye movements that were recorded in our minds?

How would you store a simple image so that it could be compared to other images of different sizes? Or how would you make it independent of size? How could you associate objects that are similar but differ enough to make them hard to compare?

Why are we so good at picking out and classifying objects in scene almost instantly? We can pick out a specific voice out of a group of people talking.

Our brains are hard wired to recognize, store and compare objects, symbols, sounds, and form associations of objects. The basic mechanism could be simple.

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About

I am Paul Kulchenko.
I live in Kirkland, WA with my wife and three kids.
I do consulting as a software developer.
I study robotics and artificial intelligence.
I write books and open-source software.
I teach introductory computer science.
I develop a slick Lua IDE and debugger.

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