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Concept: Concepts in metaphysics


The link between object perception and neural activity in visual cortical areas is a problem of fundamental importance in neuroscience. Here we show that electrical potentials from the ventral temporal cortical surface in humans contain sufficient information for spontaneous and near-instantaneous identification of a subject’s perceptual state. Electrocorticographic (ECoG) arrays were placed on the subtemporal cortical surface of seven epilepsy patients. Grayscale images of faces and houses were displayed rapidly in random sequence. We developed a template projection approach to decode the continuous ECoG data stream spontaneously, predicting the occurrence, timing and type of visual stimulus. In this setting, we evaluated the independent and joint use of two well-studied features of brain signals, broadband changes in the frequency power spectrum of the potential and deflections in the raw potential trace (event-related potential; ERP). Our ability to predict both the timing of stimulus onset and the type of image was best when we used a combination of both the broadband response and ERP, suggesting that they capture different and complementary aspects of the subject’s perceptual state. Specifically, we were able to predict the timing and type of 96% of all stimuli, with less than 5% false positive rate and a ~20ms error in timing.

Concepts: Psychology, Electric potential, Cognition, Cerebral cortex, Subject, Concepts in metaphysics, Object, Spectrum


Guilt is an important social and moral emotion. In addition to feeling unpleasant, guilt is metaphorically described as a “weight on one’s conscience.” Evidence from the field of embodied cognition suggests that abstract metaphors may be grounded in bodily experiences, but no prior research has examined the embodiment of guilt. Across four studies we examine whether i) unethical acts increase subjective experiences of weight, ii) feelings of guilt explain this effect, and iii) whether there are consequences of the weight of guilt. Studies 1-3 demonstrated that unethical acts led to more subjective body weight compared to control conditions. Studies 2 and 3 indicated that heightened feelings of guilt mediated the effect, whereas other negative emotions did not. Study 4 demonstrated a perceptual consequence. Specifically, an induction of guilt affected the perceived effort necessary to complete tasks that were physical in nature, compared to minimally physical tasks.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognition, Mind, Concepts in metaphysics, Emotion, Morality, Feeling, Guilt


In the animal kingdom, camouflage refers to patterns that help potential prey avoid detection. Mostly camouflage is thought of as helping prey blend in with their background. In contrast, disruptive or dazzle patterns protect moving targets and have been suggested as an evolutionary force in shaping the dorsal patterns of animals. Dazzle patterns, such as stripes and zigzags, are thought to reduce the probability with which moving prey will be captured by impairing predators' perception of speed. We investigated how different patterns of stripes (longitudinal-i.e., parallel to movement direction-and vertical-i.e., perpendicular to movement direction) affect the probability with which humans can hit moving objects and if differences in hitting probability are caused by a misperception of speed. A first experiment showed that longitudinally striped objects were hit more often than unicolored objects. However, vertically striped objects did not differ from unicolored objects. A second study examining the link between perceived speed and hitting probability showed that longitudinally and vertically striped objects were both perceived as moving faster and were hit more often than unicolored objects. In sum, our results provide evidence that striped patterns disrupt the perception of speed, which in turn influences how often objects are hit. However, the magnitude and the direction of the effects depend on additional factors such as speed and the task setup.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognition, Perception, Mind, Concepts in metaphysics, Military camouflage, Everett Warner, Dazzle camouflage


I defend a model of the musically extended mind. I consider how acts of “musicking” grant access to novel emotional experiences otherwise inaccessible. First, I discuss the idea of “musical affordances” and specify both what musical affordances are and how they invite different forms of entrainment. Next, I argue that musical affordances - via soliciting different forms of entrainment - enhance the functionality of various endogenous, emotion-granting regulative processes, drawing novel experiences out of us with an expanded complexity and phenomenal character. I argue that music therefore ought to be thought of as part of the vehicle needed to realize these emotional experiences. I appeal to different sources of empirical work to develop this idea.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognition, Mind, Idea, Concepts in metaphysics, Thought, Acts of the Apostles, Musical theatre


To determine the appropriate punishment for a harmful action, people must often make inferences about the transgressor’s intent. In courtrooms and popular media, such inferences increasingly rely on video evidence, which is often played in “slow motion.” Four experiments (n = 1,610) involving real surveillance footage from a murder or broadcast replays of violent contact in professional football demonstrate that viewing an action in slow motion, compared with regular speed, can cause viewers to perceive an action as more intentional. This slow motion intentionality bias occurred, in part, because slow motion video caused participants to feel like the actor had more time to act, even when they knew how much clock time had actually elapsed. Four additional experiments (n = 2,737) reveal that allowing viewers to see both regular speed and slow motion replay mitigates the bias, but does not eliminate it. We conclude that an empirical understanding of the effect of slow motion on mental state attribution should inform the life-or-death decisions that are currently based on tacit assumptions about the objectivity of human perception.

Concepts: Causality, Understanding, Cognition, Perception, Sense, Mind, Concepts in metaphysics, Philosophy of perception


To examine concordance between responses to patient experience survey items evaluating doctors' interpersonal skills, and subsequent patient interview accounts of their experiences of care.

Concepts: Evaluation, Physician, Experience, Concepts in metaphysics, Meaning of life


We have previously shown that individual differences in educational achievement are highly heritable throughout compulsory education. After completing compulsory education at age 16, students in England can choose to continue to study for two years (A-levels) in preparation for applying to university and they can freely choose which subjects to study. Here, for the first time, we show that choosing to do A-levels and the choice of subjects show substantial genetic influence, as does performance after two years studying the chosen subjects. Using a UK-representative sample of 6584 twin pairs, heritability estimates were 44% for choosing to do A-levels and 52-80% for choice of subject. Achievement after two years was also highly heritable (35-76%). The findings that DNA differences substantially affect differences in appetites as well as aptitudes suggest a genetic way of thinking about education in which individuals actively create their own educational experiences in part based on their genetic propensities.

Concepts: Psychology, Genetics, Education, Concepts in metaphysics, Learning, Heredity, Heritability, History of education


The purpose of blinks is to keep the eyes hydrated and to protect them. Blinks are rarely noticed by the subject as blink-induced alterations of visual input are blanked out without jeopardizing the perception of visual continuity, features blinks share with saccades. Although not perceived, the blink-induced disconnection from the visual environment leads to a loss of information. Therefore there is critical need to minimize it. Here we demonstrate evidence for a new type of eye movement serving a distinct oculomotor demand, namely the resetting of eye torsion, likewise inevitably causing a loss of visual information. By integrating this eye movement into blinks, the inevitable down times of vision associated with each of the two behaviors are synchronized and the overall downtime minimized.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Retina, Eye, Visual perception, Visual system, Concepts in metaphysics, Rod cell


Do people know when, or whether, they have made a conscious choice? Here, we explore the possibility that choices can seem to occur before they are actually made. In two studies, participants were asked to quickly choose from a set of options before a randomly selected option was made salient. Even when they believed that they had made their decision prior to this event, participants were significantly more likely than chance to report choosing the salient option when this option was made salient soon after the perceived time of choice. Thus, without participants' awareness, a seemingly later event influenced choices that were experienced as occurring at an earlier time. These findings suggest that, like certain low-level perceptual experiences, the experience of choice is susceptible to “postdictive” influence and that people may systematically overestimate the role that consciousness plays in their chosen behavior.

Concepts: Decision theory, Decision making software, Mind, Experience, Concepts in metaphysics, Free will, Choice, Qualia


Mistrust of others may build upon perceptions of the self as vulnerable, consistent with an association of paranoia with perceived lower social rank. Height is a marker of social status and authority. Therefore we tested the effect of manipulating height, as a proxy for social rank, on paranoia. Height was manipulated within an immersive virtual reality simulation. Sixty females who reported paranoia experienced a virtual reality train ride twice: at their normal and reduced height. Paranoia and social comparison were assessed. Reducing a person’s height resulted in more negative views of the self in comparison with other people and increased levels of paranoia. The increase in paranoia was fully mediated by changes in social comparison. The study provides the first demonstration that reducing height in a social situation increases the occurrence of paranoia. The findings indicate that negative social comparison is a cause of mistrust.

Concepts: Sociology, Human height, Mind, Concepts in metaphysics, Simulated reality, Reality, Virtual reality, Social status