Publication 2525

Bishop J. M. & Martin A. O. (2014) Contemporary sensorimotor theory: A brief introduction. In: Bishop J. M. & Martin A. O. (eds.) Contemporary sensorimotor theory. Springer, Heidelberg: 1–22. Fulltext at
Excerpt: ‘Sensorimotor Theory’ offers a new enactive approach to perception that emphasises the role of motor actions and their effect on sensory stimuli. The seminal publication that launched the field is the target paper co-authored by J. Kevin O’Regan and Alva Noë and published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS) for open peer commentary in 2001. In the central argument of their paper, O’Regan and Noë suggest radically shifting the nexus of research in visual perception away from analysis of the raw visual patterns of stimulation, to refocus on the law-like changes in visual stimulation brought about as a result of an agent’s actions in the [light-filled] world. A key consequence of this change is a new way of characterising objects by the unique set of ‘sensorimotor correspondences’ that define the characteristic changes in objective appearance brought about by the agent-object interactions [in the world]. These characteristic correspondences relating the movement of any object relative to the agent define its sensorimotor dependencies [qua world]; an agents practical knowledge of these sensorimotor dependencies constitutes its visual experience. Thus in O’Regan and Noë’s sensorimotor theory, perhaps for the first time, we have a rich, testable, psychological (and philosophically grounded) theory that accounts for why our conscious experience of the world appears as it does. This is a significant achievement and one that, in our opinion, goes a long way to answering at least some of the hard problems of consciousness.


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