Archive for March, 2014

Hello! I’m back! It’s been a hectic year trying to find a balance between my professional and college life. My thesis research had to take priority and unfortunately all posts on this site had to be sacrificed. However, I’m back and more motivated than ever to keep this running with plenty of new content.


My PhD research took quite few turns over the past year. Instead of focusing on emotion research and trying to develop an enactive theory, I’ve concentrated my efforts to a more pressing matter (well, more pressing in my opinion). That issue is research methodologies in psychology. Essentially, how can we do the research that may contribute to developing an enactive theory of emotion.

I’ve touched on this in a few posts, but now I find I have a lot more to say. So let’s get right to the matter, shall we?


Traditional information processing approaches to understanding perception and response to the environment take an analytic perspective to understanding the relationship between a person and the world. The important characteristics of stimuli in cognitive psychology tasks tend to relate to perceptual or structural aspects of those stimuli (their contrast, order or presentation, duration of presentation and so on). These different aspects of stimuli are typically examined in isolation and our understanding of the multi-faceted nature situations is built up in some kind of additive sense from various findings. Such standard experiments provide us with precision and reliability in measurements that are important in the development of a clear and adequate science.

However, a long but generally disparate tradition of research within cognitive psychology shows that the *meaning* of the stimulus may also have significant implications for how a person reacts to or uses those stimuli. The classic example is the content effects associated with the Wason selection task (Wason, 1966). It is generally believed that performance in the task changes when the stimuli content is varied, which has been used to argue that human cognitive architecture contains domain-specific inference systems (Fiddick, Cosmides & Tooby, 2000).

Recently developing perspectives within Psychology, such as the “enactive” approach (Varela et al; Di Paolo et al) argue that we need to replace our existing analytic modes of research with models that also afford more synthetic thinking, without sacrificing the rigour and discipline of proper scientific practice. An enactive approach sees not just the individual aspects of a stimulus or situation as important, but the overall meaning of the stimulus or task as playing a significant role in how we construct our thinking and acting at given time.
At present, however, while the enactive approach has grown considerably within the theoretical literature and within the areas of artificial life and other certain areas of robotics, it has yet to make a big impact within the domain of human behavioural research.


So now that we’ve acknowledged this, where do we go from here?

Asian man in a lab coat giving a shrug on a white background

My research is aiming at developing methodologies to allow a more mixed-method approach. This idea is that data from this will provide clarity in a way psychological research hasn’t before. Is there a way of developing from the bedrock of traditional approaches and providing a holistic overview that will benefit enactive, e,bodied and extended mind research? I really think so.

And if you’re following this blog, maybe you can help contribute your ideas. Much more to follow.

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