A Gibsonian analysis of linguistic information
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A Gibsonian analysis of linguistic information

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A Gibsonian analysis of linguistic information




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A Gibsonian analysis of linguistic information

Finding Common Ground: UConn 2014Sabrina GolonkaLeeds Metropolitan UniversityCentre for Applied Social Research

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What is the place of language in ecological psychology?Is language a type of perception? Is language comprehension direct perception? Does language have affordances?

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“New affordances for language: distributed, dynamical, and dialogical resources” (Hodges & Fowler, 2010)“Speech as the perception of affordances” (Worgan & Moore 2010)

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Fowler, 1986 p 24

“As to...whether a linguistic message can be said to be perceived...from a direct-realist perspective, direct perception depends on a necessary relation between structure in information media and its distal source. But,...this does not appear to apply to the relation between sign and significance.”

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Language does not fit cleanly into an ecological framework as currently definedNeed to identify precisely where the similarities and differences are to preserve the theoretical rigour of the ecological approach

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Goal: Devise an extended framework for ecological information that accommodates language without straining or redefining original notions of affordances or direct-perception

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The ecological approach to perception (Gibson, 1979; Turvey, Shaw, Reed & Mace, 1981)

Affordances are dispositional properties of objects and events that provide opportunities for action to complementary organismsPerception is of affordancesAffordances uniquely structure energy (specification)Therefore, coordinating behaviour wrt information is equivalent to coordinating behaviour wrt the affordance property (direct perception)

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Information / behaviour relations

Affordance property structures light in a way unique to that property

Has the affordance property “climbable

Coordinating behaviour wrt the information is equivalent to coordinating behaviour wrt the affordance

The property that constrains the types of actions possible is specifically projected in light.

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Information / behaviour relations

“Turn left at the corner”

Structures sound in a way that is specific to the speech event

There is a specific projection of the property, but this property does not lawfully constrain the types of actions possible in this task

Coordinating behaviour wrt the information is equivalent to coordinating behaviour wrt...what exactly?

Trained speaker coordinates actions of vocal tract to produce a certain series of sounds

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Information / behaviour relations

“Turn left at the corner”

Structures sound in a way that is specific to the speech event

There is a specific projection of the event, but this event does not lawfully constrain the types of actions possible

Behaviour is not organised WRT the articulatory dynamics that created the sound

Trained speaker coordinates actions of vocal tract to produce a certain series of sounds

No natural law relating behaviour to the property of the world that caused the information

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Information / behaviour relations

“Turn left at the corner”

Structures sound in a way that is specific to the speech event

There is a specific projection of the event, but this event does not lawfully constrain the types of actions possible

The action is

precipitated

by the linguistic information, but it is then controlled by perceptual information

Trained speaker coordinates actions of vocal tract to produce a certain series of sounds

No natural law relating behaviour to the property of the world that caused the information

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Turvey et al 1981 p 244

“Our strategy, as proponents of Gibson’s ecological approach, is to argue for a conception of natural law that allows meaningful relations between organism and environment to hold. Further, we constrain our use of the term ‘perception’ (and thus, of course, ‘direct perception’) to relations governed by such laws.”

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“Perhaps if [so-called higher mental processes] are reconsidered in relation to ecological perceiving they will begin to sort themselves out in a new and reasonable way that fits with the evidence.”

Gibson, 1979 p 255

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Re-analysis of information

Objects and events structure energy These structures are lawfully related to the properties in the world that cause themInformation is any structure that an organism can use to precipitate or control a behaviourNot all behaviours are organised wrt the property of the world that caused the information perception / action -> information / behaviour

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Information / behaviour relations

Evolutiontypes of energy an organism is sensitive to biases to pick up certain types of informationpredetermined or strongly constrained relations (e.g., reflexes /instincts)sophistication of nervous system - ability to learn new information / behaviour relationsLearninglearn to detect structure?learn to coordinate behaviour wrt structure?organise behaviour wrt property causing structure or convention?structure stability/availability/reliability?precipitate or control an action?

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Questions for classifying information (learning-related)

Does the organism learn to detect the structure?Does the organism learn to coordinate its behaviour wrt the structure?Does the organism organise behaviour wrt property causing structure or convention?How stable/available/reliable is the structure?Is the structure being used to precipitate or control an action?

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Human infant learning to walk

learn to detect structure?

Yes

learn to coordinate behaviour wrt structure?

Yes

organise behaviour wrt property causing structure or convention?

Property causing structure

structure stability/availability/reliability?

Structure stable within ecological scope, changes in real time w property of interest

precipitate or control an action?

Control

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Human language postural entrainment

learn to detect structure?Yes learn to coordinate behaviour wrt structure?Yes organise behaviour wrt property causing structure or convention?Property causing structurestructure stability/availability/reliability?Structure stable within ecological scope, changes in real time w property of interestprecipitate or control an action?Control

Paradigmatic perceptual examples fit this mold

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Human language listener response to “Turn left at the corner”

learn to detect structure?Yeslearn to coordinate behaviour wrt structure?Yes organise behaviour wrt property causing structure or convention?Convention - constrained by culture, linguistic contextstructure stability/availability/reliability?Structure stable within ecological scope, reliable within language group / cultureprecipitate or control an action?Precipitate

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Human language speaker producing “Turn left at the corner”

learn to detect structure?Yeslearn to coordinate behaviour wrt structure?Yes organise behaviour wrt property causing structure or convention?Property causing structurestructure stability/availability/reliability?Structure stable within ecological scope, changes in real time w property of interestprecipitate or control an action?Control

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Honeybee waggle dance users (von Frisch, 1967)

learn to detect structure?No learn to coordinate behaviour wrt structure?No organise behaviour wrt property causing structure or convention?Convention - constrained by evolutionstructure stability/availability/reliability?Structure stable within ecological scope, strongly correlated w property of interestprecipitate or control an action?Precipitate

*The waggle dance is complex bc the behavioural repertoire of food- finding that it supports is complex (varies w relative position of sun, distance, and quality of food)

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Honeybees associating blue cards with food (von Frisch, 1956)

learn to detect structure?Yes learn to coordinate behaviour wrt structure?Yes organise behaviour wrt property causing structure or convention?Convention - constrained by experimenterstructure stability/availability/reliability?Structure stable within ecological scope, reliable within experimental contextprecipitate or control an action?Precipitate

Associative learning examples fit this mold

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Recap

Perceptual information, ecologically defined, is only one type of informationOthers inc reflex, instinct, languageSome language-related behaviours are controlled by perceptual information (e.g., postural sway, other types of entrainment)Some language-related behaviours are precipitated by conventional informationUse of conventional information to precipitate behaviours is widespread (animal communication, operant learning)

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Implications

Some aspects of language use do not qualify as direct-perceptiondoesn’t mean that they require representationsNot a clear perception vs language dividerequires task specificityIn all cases an organism must learn how to organise its behaviour wrt relevant information

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Conclusion

The field is aware that language presents a challenge for ecological psychology (Fowler, 1986; Gibson 1979)Proposed framework draws out the differences rather than redefine original conceptsStill grounded in informationMethod for systematising information / behaviour relations

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Thanks!

Andrew WilsonAgnes Henson

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