Watzl inaugural lecture

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Watzl inaugural lecture

  1. 1. Organizing Mind. Attention, Unity, and Distraction Sebastian Watzl (CSMN, IFIKK, UiO)
  2. 2. Thieves of Attention
  3. 3. Thieves of Attention “It’s all about the choreography of people’s attention. Attention is like water. It flows. It’s liquid. You create channels to divert it, and you hope that it flows the right way.[…] I use framing the way a movie director or a cinematographer would. If I lean my face close in to someone’s […] it’s like a closeup. All their attention is on my face, and their pockets, especially the ones on their lower body, are out of the frame.”* * Apollo Robbins in Greene
  4. 4. Thieves of Attention
  5. 5. Thieves of Attention
  6. 6. Thieves of Attention
  7. 7. Thieves of Attention
  8. 8. Thieves of Attention
  9. 9. Thieves of Attention
  10. 10. Thieves of Attention
  11. 11. Why take attention back?
  12. 12. Because attention is fundamental to who we are “[E]ach of us literally chooses, by his ways of attending to things, what sort of a universe he shall appear to himself to inhabit.”* * James 1890, p.
  13. 13. Three Questions      
  14. 14. “[E]ach of us literally chooses, by his ways of attending to things, what sort of a universe he shall appear to himself to inhabit.”
  15. 15. “[E]ach of us literally chooses, by his ways of attending to things, what sort of a universe he shall appear to himself to inhabit.”
  16. 16. Between Science and Acquaintance Why attention is not just a brain mechanism
  17. 17. Attention as Brain Mechanism
  18. 18. Attention as Brain Mechanism Serial central processing/Memory Storage Get’s associated with attention Parallel sensory processing Filter ~ a type of information channel Broadbent 1958, p. 216
  19. 19. Attention as Brain Mechanism Both from Itti, Rees, and Tsotsos 2005
  20. 20. Attention as Brain Mechanism  “Attention can be identified with the processes that allow information to be encoded in working memory.”* * Prinz 2012, p. 93
  21. 21. Problems  Gets the neuronal and computational architecture wrong   Parallel processing, feedbackloops, predictive coding, direct vision action links, etc. Wrongly identifies attention with one of its many effects  Effects on early vision, temporal sequencing, etc. Fellman and Van Essen
  22. 22. “There is no such thing as attention”*  Maybe attention is just an amalgamate of distinct processes? That they are grouped together is due to careless folkpsychology, historical accident, etc. * Anderson 2011
  23. 23. “Every one knows what attention is...”*  Start with the folk-psychology of attention    What is the function of speaking and thinking in terms of attention? How do we experience attention? Connect the folk-psychology with a plausible story about the function of attention in our cognitive lives   We experience attention as organizing our subjective perspectives. Attention does organize our subjective perspectives (Marr’s computational level). * James 1890
  24. 24. “Every one knows what attention is...”   
  25. 25. “Every one knows what attention is...”    Thick: attention experiences put serious constraints on its nature, but do not fully reveal it (science can discover how attention “works”)
  26. 26. “[E]ach of us literally chooses, by his ways of attending to things, what sort of a universe he shall appear to himself to inhabit.”
  27. 27. “[E]ach of us literally chooses, by his ways of attending to things, what sort of a universe he shall appear to himself to inhabit.”
  28. 28. Attention and Subjective Perspective How attention organizes and unifies the mind
  29. 29. Attention and Appearances  William James “[I]n listening for certain notes in a chord, the one we attend to sounds probably a little more loud . . .”**  Gustav Fechner “The pendulum-beat of a clock [appears to us] no louder, no matter how much we increase the strain of our attention upon [it]”* * Fechner 1889, p. 452-453; ** James 1890, p.425
  30. 30. Attention and Appearances Look to have the same contrast! Attended lower contrast Unattended higher contrast Carrasco, Ling and Read 2004
  31. 31. Attention and Appearances “[These] changes in the phenomenology of perception manifest themselves in experience as differences in apparent contrast, apparent color saturation, apparent size, apparent speed, apparent time of occurrence and other appearances.”* Watzl While powerful Block’s argument is unsuccessful. Attention distorts perception, sacrificing accuracy for usability. Block These results show that representationalism and direct realism about phenomenology are false. * Block 2010, p. 23; Watzl forthcoming
  32. 32. The Appearance View  Phenomenal character (at least of perceptual experience) is exhausted by appearances (how things look, sound, feel, etc.). The world appears some way to S. The way the world is present(ed) to S. The way things look (in vision).
  33. 33. The Missing Perspective “[T]he moment one thinks of the matter, one sees how false a notion of experience that is which would make it tantamount to the mere presence to the senses of an outward order. […] Without selective interest, experience is utter chaos. Interest alone gives accent and emphasis, light and shade, background and foreground – intelligible perspective, in a word.* * James 1890
  34. 34. The Missing Perspective Attention Experience Appearance Replica
  35. 35. What exactly is missing, though?
  36. 36. Phenomenal Structure Auditory experience of the saxophone Conscious emotion (anxiety about musical skills) Auditory experience of the piano
  37. 37. Phenomenal Structure Structure E = e1 < e2 < e3 < … = experiencing 1 more centrally than 2 ... Higher attentional priority
  38. 38. Phenomenal Structure Phenomenal Qualities explained by appearances Phenomenal Structure not explained by appearances A holistic feature of conscious experience. Characterizing you complete perspective
  39. 39. Phenomenal Structure  Defined Notions:   … is at the center of your field of consciousness = nothing is experienced more centrally than …. ... attention is split between a and b = neither a nor b are experienced more centrally than the other, and both are experienced more centrally than everything.   Sometimes there is a center of attention, and sometimes there isn’t. … is at the fringe of consciousness = … is not experience more centrally than anything.  Being at the fringe or center of your field need not make a difference to how things appear to you (things need not look blurry)
  40. 40. Centrality Connectedness An experiential episode E is centrality connected = for all e1 and e2: if e1 is a part of E and e2 is a part of E, then there is a centrality path between e1 and e2. Centrality connected (though with attention split symmetrically) Not Centrality connected
  41. 41. Attention Systems Let’s call an experiential episode that is centrality connected an attention system. One attention system Two attention systems
  42. 42. Attention and the Unity of Consciousness  The Attention Account of the Unity of Consciousness   e1 … eN are phenomenally unified if and only of (and because) e1 … eN form an attention system. If attention systems are exactly as big as phenomenally unified experiences, then the attention account of unity is plausible.
  43. 43. Intuitive Considerations   Tim Bayne: a variety of experiences are unified just if they are subsumed by a single “phenomenal perspective” I “get” the intuition when I think of phenomenal perspectives in terms of focus and periphery (as attention systems): when I focus on the visual world in front of me, my conscious thoughts, emotions, action-awareness recede into the background. When I focus on my conscious thoughts, the visual world recedes into the background. * Bayne 2012
  44. 44. How Unified is Attention?  1. 2. 3. Jesse Prinz Something close to the attention account of unity is true. Attention systems are not unified (most of the time); So: Consciousness is not unified (most of the time) * Prinz 2012/2013
  45. 45. How Unified is Attention?  Unified Kind Question     Is attention a unified kind? Or is “attention” rather a label for a number of fundamentally disunified phenomena? Do all so-called attention-paradigms in the empirical literature study a single phenomenon?  Structuralism as an account of the unified kind. Unified Systems Question    Is there a single “resource” shared by all “attention-demanding” tasks? Is attention in X independent from attention in Y (where X and Y: visual and auditory modality; left and right hemisphere; tasks that rely on distinct neural architecture)?  Prinz: No Watzl: probably yes
  46. 46. “[E]ach of us literally chooses, by his ways of attending to things, what sort of a universe he shall appear to himself to inhabit.”
  47. 47. “[E]ach of us literally chooses, by his ways of attending to things, what sort of a universe he shall appear to himself to inhabit.”
  48. 48. Attention and Agency How we are actively engaged in attending
  49. 49. Is attention voluntary?
  50. 50. It often doesn’t seem so   Sometimes attention is automatically drawn to something against our will. Sometimes attention drifts aimlessly.
  51. 51. It often doesn’t seem so   15-50 % of the time subject’s attention is focused on task-irrelevant thoughts, images, and activities (mind-wandering)* Yes, that also applies to reading** (philosophy) and listening to philosophy talks.*** *Smallwood and Schooler 2006, ** Schooler et al 2004, *** Schwitzgebel 2010, 2014
  52. 52. Interlude What is better: mind-wandering or concentration?
  53. 53. Killingsworth and Gilbert*  Large-scale Happiness Survey      Mind-wandering occurs in almost half of the samples (see above) Mind-wandering strongly correlates with decrease in happiness (topicindependent). Mind-wandering likely a cause of unhappiness (studied by a detailed correlation analysis). Mind-wandering is a major factor in explaining between and within subject variances in happiness. Pessimistic Conclusion:  “A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.” * Killingsworth and Gilbert 2010
  54. 54. Prettyman and Watzl*  Mind-wandering can be     Endorsed vs unendorsed Acratic vs. encratic The K&G effects might be fully driven by unendorsed and acratic cases Endorsed and encratic mindwandering is important for   creative problem-solving open-mindedness * Prettyman and Watzl 2011, in progress
  55. 55. End of Interlude
  56. 56. Two Types of Attention? Voluntary Attention Automatic Attention
  57. 57. Probably not   Attention capture, even when attention is not controlled, is contingent on which task the subject is performing, her prior experience, her goals, rewards, interests, etc.* Biased Competition  Stimuli (or information carrying items) “compete for representation, analysis, or control […] This competition process is biased [… ] [through top-down signals] towards information that is currently relevant to behavior” * Yantis and Jonides 1990 (and many others since).; ** Desimone and Duncan 1995
  58. 58. Activity    Attention is a univocal process. Voluntarism is true of that process (the subject can voluntarily control it, and become aware of engaging in it). This process is guided from within the subject’s perspective    Her intentions and goals. The phenomenal salience of her experiences These are signs that attention is an activity.
  59. 59. What are you aware of when you are aware of attending?
  60. 60. Awareness of our own perspective
  61. 61. But what is phenomenal salience?
  62. 62. Salience and Imperative Contents   The phenomenal salience of an experiential event is a kind of content Imperative Contents for Perception*   Perceptual experience represents contents of the form <Attend to this!>. These imperative contents are dynamic contents   not a set of accuracy conditions, but a rule for updating your mental state. The update rule, to first approximation, takes you from an experience with the current focus of attention to an experience with a different focus of attention (more generally: it restructures your experience; see below) * Siegel, Bengson, Kelly, Cussins (and arguably: Husserl, Heidegger, and MerleauPonty) discuss similar phenomena
  63. 63. Salience and Imperative Contents Representation of the billboard sign
  64. 64. “Attention is like water. It flows.”* * Apollo Robbins in Greene
  65. 65. Advertisement
  66. 66. Attention and the Structures of Consciousness  The Structure of Mind.   The Process of Attending.   Why some of Mentality is not Propositional Experiencing the Attention of Others.   Why the Field of Consciousness is Unified (when it is) Objects of Attention.   Why the Stream of Consciousness Flows Forward Attention Systems.   Why Consciousness is Agential Salience.   Why Consciousness is a Stream Control of Attention.   Why Consciousness is a Field How we solve the Problem of Other Minds Experiencing our own Attention.  How we solve the Problem of our own Minds
  67. 67. “[E]ach of us literally chooses, by his ways of attending to things, what sort of a universe he shall appear to himself to inhabit.”
  68. 68. “[E]ach of us literally chooses, by his ways of attending to things, what sort of a universe he shall appear to himself to inhabit.”
  69. 69. Attention and Sociality How the attention of others shapes our perspectives
  70. 70. Experiencing the Attention of Others  We often seem to experience the attention of others. Indeed, we often see it.  “The attention of others is probably the first, simplest, and most powerful experience that we have of mentality” “To have someone attend to us can soothe, exhilarate, frighten, inspire, embarrass, enrage, irritate, and in so many ways touch us at our core”* * Vasu Reddy (2008). How Infants Know
  71. 71. Experiencing the Attention of Others  But can we really see the mental states of others?   Are mental properties among the properties represented by perceptual experience? Work with Jola Feix (CSMN) (drawing on work by Susanna Siegel (Harvard)) 1. 2. 3. We sometimes have visual experiences as of the covert attention [of the expression of a mental occurrence] others; If (1.) , we have visual experiences of mental properties (of others); So: We sometimes have visual experiences of mental properties.
  72. 72. Attentional Engineering  We affect the attentional environment of others    Gaze is a strong attention trigger. The same for pointing. How are these visually represented?    As salience gradients? As representations of the intentions of others (“she intends me to attend to x”) In between/something else
  73. 73. Joint Attention  You and I attend to this together.   In a way that is “coordinated”. What is Joint Attention?  Picture A: Sophisticated and individualistic   Picture B: Primitivist and mind-sharing   Individual acts of attention coordinated by perspective taking and common knowledge, A primitive mental activity irreducibly engaged by a plurality of subjects. Picture A probably incompatible with early development. Picture B makes mysterious why joint attention requires individual attention.  Goal: work on a solution drawing on resources provided above
  74. 74. Joint Attention  Requires and might be the most simple form of Informational Cooperation  Moll, Carpenter, Tomasello:    In the presence of joint attention, agential cooperation often seems rationally compelling where it does not seem rationally compelling in its absence    Unique to humans. Central to our ability for cumulative epistemic engineering (the ratchet of cultural evolution) Wyman et al. 2012 Campbell 2012 Why do people in fact cooperate like that? Is this cooperation justified or rational?  “The Social Mind: Origins of Collective Reasoning” (workshop co-organized with Katharine Browne (CSMN) and Jola Feix (CSMN))
  75. 75. Thanks for listening … and for (hopefully at least 50 % of the time) joining our attention

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