Book Review: The Technical Delusion: Electronics, Power, Insanity by Jeffrey Sconce

Reviewed by Amy Ione.   

The Technical Delusion: Electronics, Power, Insanity by Jeffrey Sconce is a robust and multidimensional reminder of the complexity of human consciousness. Moving from Enlightenment studies of electricity and human anatomy to our 21st century digitally-connected globe, this interdisciplinary study asserts that delusions of electronic persecution have been a preeminent symptom of psychosis for over 200 years. One impressive feature of the study is how deftly Sconce weaves together case studies, literary source material, court cases, and popular media. Through this material he argues that we are moving toward an increasingly psychotic reality in which data practices will produce a world in which thought, reflection, and doubt will be disrupted by the very structures humans are putting in place. In his view, the current melding of big data and political power is creating a situation in which it is becoming more difficult to isolate precisely how (or perhaps where) bodies, the mind, electronics, and information intersect. He draws a parallel between psychotic disembodiment and electronic simulations:

Continue reading “Book Review: The Technical Delusion: Electronics, Power, Insanity by Jeffrey Sconce”

Now Available: Eye centring in selfies posted on Instagram

Abstract
Earlier work by one of us examined a historical corpus of portraits and found that artists often paint the subject such that one eye is centred horizontally. If due to psychological mechanisms constraining artistic composition, this eye-centring bias should be detectable also in portraits by non-professionals. However, this finding has been questioned both on theoretical and empirical grounds. Here we tested eye-centring in a larger (N ~ = 4000) and more representative set of selfies spontaneously posted on Instagram from six world cities. In contrast with previous selfie results, the distribution of the most-centred eye position peaked almost exactly at the horizontal centre of the image and was statistically different from predictions based on realistic Monte-Carlo predictions. In addition, we observed a small but statistically reliable pseudoneglect effect as well as a preference for centring the left-eye. An eye-centring tendency appears to exist in self-portraits by non-artists.

Authors: Nicola BrunoID1*, Marco Bertamini2*, Christopher W. Tyler
PLoS ONE14(7): e0218663.
PDF

1 DiMeC, Università di Parma, Parma, Italy,

2 Department of Psychological Science, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom,

3 Division of Optometry and Vision Sciences, School of Health Sciences, City University of London, London, United Kingdom

* M.Bertamini@liverpool.ac.uk (MB); nicola.bruno@unipr.it (NB)

(Also see MedicalResearch.com interview here and articles)

Video: Amy Ione Lecture: “Art and the Brain: Plasticity, Embodiment, and the Unclosed Circle”

Keynote lecture for Off the Lip 2015 conference at Cog Novo: Transdisciplinary Approaches to Cognitive Innovation: Conference from 9-11 Sep 2015. The lecture introduces ideas from Ione’s forthcoming book, Art and the Brain: Plasticity, Embodiment, and the Unclosed Circle see www.diatrope.com/artbrainbook.

Also posted on the page are the two other keynotes: “Roger Malina, New Forms of Art-Science Collaboration: Case Studies” and “Sundar Sarukkai, Cognitive Innovation in Mathematics”, see http://www.cognovo.eu/events/otlip15-keynotes.php#amy-ione

Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures by Eric R. Kandel (Reviewed by Amy Ione)

Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures
by Eric R. Kandel
Columbia University Press, NY, NY, 2016
240 pp. Trade: $29.95, ISBN-10: 0231179626;ISBN-13: 978-0231179621
Download PDF

Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures by Eric Kandel, like his study The Age of Insight [1], builds on earlier efforts to couple science and art, particularly those of Alois Riegl (1858-1905), Ernst Kris (1900-1957), and Ernst Gombrich (1909-2001). These three men, he tells us, endeavored to establish art history as a scientific discipline by grounding it in psychological principles. Riegl emphasized the “beholder’s involvement, stating that art includes the perceptual and emotional involvement of the viewer. Kris studied ambiguity in visual perception, concluding that every powerful image is inherently ambiguous because it arises from experiences and conflicts in the artist’s life. Gombrich extended Kris’ ideas to include the inverse optics problem: how our brain takes the incomplete information about the outside world that it receives from our eyes and makes it complete. This is a problem that arises because the brain reconstructs the images we see. It should be noted that Gombrich’s positioning in his well known Art and Illusion [2] is, like Kandel’s, more concerned with beholders than artists or the community.

Continue reading “Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures by Eric R. Kandel (Reviewed by Amy Ione)”

Headhunters: The Search for a Science of the Mind (Book Review)

Headhunters: The Search for a Science of the Mind
by Ben Shephard

Reviewed by Amy Ione

Headhunters: The Search for a Science of the Mind traces a slice of history that in turn introduces us to some of those drawn to study human psychology and mental health a few decades after Darwin’s theory of evolution took root. Four of these pioneers are the focus of this book: William Rivers, Grafton Elliot Smith, Charles Myers, and William McDougall. They met at Cambridge in the 1890s and Shephard links their lives more broadly through their efforts to study the brain as biological approaches were gaining increased leverage due to Darwin’s work. The author begins the book by placing us in that context:

“How, then, did the human brain evolve? Why did it evolve as it did? In the 1870s, modern experimental neuroscience began, using electricity to stimulate the nervous system of animals and microscopes to observe the nerve cells of humans. Within two decades, researchers had established the location of functions within the brain, unraveled the way that the nervous system automatically governs the body’s functions, and begun to discover how messages are sent between neurons and synapses. But these extraordinary advances only posed further questions — about human behavior; man’s relations to his fellow primates, and the human occupation of the earth. A generation of scientists went looking for answers” (p. 1).

Continue reading “Headhunters: The Search for a Science of the Mind (Book Review)”

Article: Tyler Study debunking myths about color vision (Optometry Today)

Study uses arrays of multicoloured disks to demonstrate colour perception in peripheral vision

Some common science-related misconceptions are particularly persistent, such as a duck’s quack doesn’t echo, or that we only use 10% of our brains.

Now new research from City University London is aiming to dispel a long-held misbelief relating to colour vision: that it is weak or non-existent in our periphery vision.

“This misconception about weak peripheral colour vision is completely incorrect,” said Professor Christopher Tyler, a visual neuroscientist at the university’s School of Optometry and Vision Science, who carried out the study.

“Although the number of cone photoreceptors is lower in the periphery than in the fovea, with about 4000 cones per mm2 throughout the peripheral retina compared to 200,000 in the central fovea, this is still plenty enough to give colour vision,” said Professor Tyler.

Continue reading article in OT (Optometry Today), 11 Nov 2015 by Ryan O’Harehttps://www.aop.org.uk/ot/science-and-vision/research/2015/11/11/research-debunks-misconceptions-around-peripheral-colour-vision

Read the full study in i-Perceptionhttp://ipe.sagepub.com/content/6/6/2041669515613671.full.pdf

After Phrenology: Neural Reuse and the Interactive Brain (Reviewed by Amy Ione)

After Phrenology: Neural Reuse and the Interactive Brain
by Michael L. Anderson
Reviewed by Amy IoneDirector, The Diatrope Institute
PDF

After Phrenology by Michael L. Anderson is a unique and thought-provoking contribution to the current debate on how cognition interfaces with the environment and how we can move scientific studies of the brain forward. His theory of “neural reuse” is a proposal for how we may re-frame the debate and fills in some of the gaps that exist now when we communicate about the mind, the brain, and the environment. The basic idea is that, rather than seeing localized areas of brain activity as the way to define brain functionality, we should investigate the neural circuitry combinations that are employed to perform complex functions. Included in this notion is recognizing that our ways of doing things are both active and environmentally connected. For Anderson, “the Modern, Modular, cognitivist assumptions that have guided research during most of the last 50 years of cognitive neuroscience have not been borne out by the data this research produced” (p. 301-302) and, thus, this book is a call for a new kind of approach–neural reuse. He additionally offers a theoretical framework that claims to show how this design offers an evolutionarily informed framework, one that has the capacity to both explain brain functions and recognize our embeddedness in our environments.

Continue reading “After Phrenology: Neural Reuse and the Interactive Brain (Reviewed by Amy Ione)”