Dr. Tom Froese

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New ideas in the sciences of life, mind, and sociality
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6th Roundtable Teotihuacan

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 13:58

Today started the 6th Roundtable of Teotihuacan, which will take place in Teotihuacan during Nov. 16-18, 2017.

There is live transmission of the main talks: http://www.inah.gob.mx/es/mesa-teotihuacan-programa

The title and abstract of my talk are as follows:

Explorando la función del posible cogobierno de distritos con base en un modelo matemático de su red social

Dr. Tom Froese y Dra. Linda R. Manzanilla

Los expertos siguen divididos sobre la naturaleza del sistema sociopolítico de la antigua ciudad de Teotihuacan. A pesar del poco éxito, la excavaciones en el área continúan con la esperanza de encontrar pruebas convincentes de poderosas dinastías de gobernantes, como una tumba real. Sin embargo, la posibilidad alterna de un gobierno colectivo también requiere de más evidencia y además de que sigue siendo poco entendida en términos teóricos. Por un lado hay una ausencia de evidencia de una burocratización de alto nivel. Por otro lado parece que una red descentralizada, y compuesta sólo de múltiples gobernantes de barrio, es susceptible a los problemas de asegurar la cooperación bajo de condiciones de acción colectiva. Dada la actual pobreza de evidencia directa sobre la forma de gobierno de la ciudad, y la falta de claridad teórica acerca de qué formas de gobierno podrían haber sido factibles, otra posibilidad para avanzar es explorar de forma más sistemática el espacio de hipótesis viables. En un trabajo previo utilizamos un modelo matemático para mostrar que en principio la preocupación sobre si una estrategia colectiva podría funcionar es infundada, siempre y cuando supongamos que la topología de su red social pudiera ser transformada a través de rituales comunitarios y no estuviera fuertemente subdividida en distritos. Hemos ampliado este modelo para comprobar si el aumento de la jerarquía social, a través de la inclusión de cuatro cogobernantes al nivel de cuatro distritos, podría superar el impedimento a la cooperación que surge de fuertes divisiones entre dichos distritos. Encontramos una sinergia especial entre la influencia jerárquica y el ritual comunitario en que sólo su combinación mejoró el grado de la coordinación entre los gobernantes de todos niveles. Este resultado es consistente con las representaciones artísticas de la élite Teotihuacana que enfatizan su papel de ser especialistas en rituales que sirven al bien público, en lugar de ser lideres con poder político centralizado actuando en contextos seculares.


Is there room for normativity in a dynamical world?

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 13:36

Tomorrow at 2pm I will be giving an online talk for the ENactive Seminars Online (ENSO) Series. Here are the title and abstract:

Is there room for normativity in a dynamical world?

Enactivism rejects the standard working hypothesis of cognitive science, according to which all cognition involves the unconscious manipulation of mental representations, and replaces it with a dynamical systems account. And yet enactivism resists other, purely dynamical approaches that see no role for any kind of subjectivity, because it appeals to the role of our lived phenomenology and claims that living beings behave with respect to norms directed at maintaining their viability.

So far, this middle way seems to be philosophically unsatisfactory: at best it allows us to claim that acting in accordance with experience or norms just is a certain kind of dynamic pattern. But this turns subjectivity into a mysterious difference that makes no difference as such with respect to the unfolding of those patterns, which is completely determined by the dynamics alone.

This calls for deeper philosophical reflection about how it is possible for subjectivity to play a role in an objective world while avoiding a regression to the untenable positions of either representationalism or eliminativism.

Watch the seminar live: http://www.ensoseminars.com/presentations/past17/

Collective origins of the genetic code

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 09:47

Later today I am giving the weekly colloquium at the Center for Complexity Sciences (C3) at our main campus of UNAM. The topic will be our ongoing work on a simulation model of the collective origins of the genetic code. Details of the colloquium below:

Measuring the role of passive touch in social perception

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 20:20

We were able to demonstrate that we have the clearest awareness of the presence of another person when we feel them touching us. This conclusion is perhaps not entirely unexpected, but it is nice because it is the first time that the notion of passive touch, which was developed by phenomenological philosophy and developmental psychology, has been empirically measured and quantified.

A Sensorimotor Signature of the Transition to Conscious Social Perception: Co-regulation of Active and Passive Touch

Hiroki Kojima, Tom Froese, Mizuki Oka, Hiroyuki Iizuka, and Takashi Ikegami

It is not yet well understood how we become conscious of the presence of other people as being other subjects in their own right. Developmental and phenomenological approaches are converging on a relational hypothesis: my perception of a “you” is primarily constituted by another subject’s attention being directed toward “me.” This is particularly the case when my body is being physically explored in an intentional manner. We set out to characterize the sensorimotor signature of the transition to being aware of the other by re-analyzing time series of embodied interactions between pairs of adults (recorded during a “perceptual crossing” experiment). Measures of turn-taking and movement synchrony were used to quantify social coordination, and transfer entropy was used to quantify direction of influence. We found that the transition leading to one’s conscious perception of the other’s presence was indeed characterized by a significant increase in one’s passive reception of the other’s tactile stimulations. Unexpectedly, one’s clear experience of such passive touch was consistently followed by a switch to active touching of the other, while the other correspondingly became more passive, which suggests that this intersubjective experience was reciprocally co-regulated by both participants.

CALL FOR PAPERS – Adaptive Behavior

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 14:27

This CFP should be of interest to my Mexican colleagues!

4E Cognition Group

Special issue: “Spotlight on 4E Cognition research in Mexico”

The last couple of decades in cognitive science have seen an increasing interest in the philosophical and scientific study of embodied, embedded, extended, and enactive cognition – so-called “4E cognition.” By now theories of 4E cognition have matured and a lot of evidence has been collected, which consequently has reshaped our understanding of the relationship between an agent’s brain, body, and its material and sociocultural world. Despite their differences in emphasis, the various strands of 4E cognition research are united in proposing that an agent’s cognitive activity is bodily mediated, especially by the context-sensitive deployment of sensorimotor capacities.

While these interdisciplinary approaches have largely been developed in Europe, the United States, and Australia, other regions have also been influenced by this growing movement and have started to advance their own original contributions. The aim of this special issue is, therefore, to…

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New article on material engagement theory

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 13:53

A special issue on material engagement theory, edited by Lambros Malafouris, will be released in the journal Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences sometime next year. Here is a pre-print of my contribution:

Making sense of the chronology of Paleolithic cave painting from the perspective of material engagement theory

Tom Froese

There exists a venerable tradition of interdisciplinary research into the origins and development of Paleolithic cave painting. In recent years this research has begun to be inflected by rapid advances in measurement techniques that are delivering chronological data with unprecedented accuracy. Patterns are emerging from the accumulating evidence whose precise interpretation demands corresponding advances in theory. It seems that cave painting went through several transitions, beginning with the creation of simple lines, dots and disks, followed by hand stencils, then by outlined figures, and finally by naturalistic figures. So far the most systematic evidence comes from Europe, although there are also indications that this sequence could be a universal pattern. The shamanic hypothesis provides a useful theoretical starting point because of its emphasis on the role of performance and phenomenology in the creative process. However, it still tends to reduce this sequence to mere stylistic and thematic changes that were external products of an already fully formed modern mind. Here I show how key insights from semiotics and material engagement theory can advance this explanatory framework to the extent that we become able to postdict the major transitions in the chronology of Paleolithic cave painting. An intriguing implication is that this is at the same time a chronology of cognitive changes, namely from a performative-phenomenological to a reflective-representational mind.

4th International Colloquium of the Cognitive Sciences

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 11:41

Tomorrow starts the 4th International Colloquium of the Cognitive Sciences, which will be held Oct. 4-6 at the Centro Lombardo Toledano in Mexico City.

Several members of the 4E Cognition Group will participate in the colloquium and present their research. I was invited to give a talk and the title is “On the role of normativity in cognitive science”.

International Colloquium of Philosophy and Psychiatry

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 15:26

I have been invited as a plenary speaker to the International Colloquium of Philosophy and Psychiatry, which will take place August 31 – September 2 in Bogota, Colombia. The title and abstract of my talk are as follows:

Integrating phenomenology and systems theory: The case of embodied memory

I will give an introduction to dynamical systems analysis and use it to formalize and ground the phenomenology of embodied memory. Three kinds of extra- neural processes will be considered: 1) physiological dynamics, 2) movement dynamics, and 2) social interaction dynamics. Their potential to serve as forms of memory will be illustrated on the basis of three simple agent-based models. These computational thought experiments help to demonstrate the problems faced by a purely brain-based account of the self and its capacities. They also support the adoption of a broader notion of psychopathology that takes into account the cognitive effects of undergoing changes in one’s body and in one’s relationship to the spatial and social environment.

Download the full program