Interactivist Summer Institute

July 22 - 26, 2003


A sensorimotor approach to the feel of sensory experience, and the genesis of the notion of space.

J. Kevin O'Regan(1), David Philipona(1)(2), Jean-Pierre Nadal (3)

(1) Laboratoire de Psychologie ExpÈrimentale, CNRS, UniversitÈ RenÈ Descartes, Paris
(2) Ecole Polytechnique, Paris
(3) Laboratoire de Physique Statistique, Ecole Normale SupÈrieure, Paris

A profound difficulty is encountered by any theory of sensation which supposes that sensory experience is generated by neural processes : What determines the link between a particular neural activation, and the particular quality of the sensory experience that will result from it ?

The problem can be resolved if it is supposed that neural processes do not generate sensory experiences, but rather that they enable the exploratory, sensorimotor behavior that constitutes sensation.

Current work on several empirical consequences of this approach will be presented, including change blindness, sensory substitution and experiments in sensorimotor color adaptation.

The approach will be formalized mathematically in relation to the notion of space: it will be shown that the group structure of physical space reveals itself in intrinsic properties of the sensorimotor contingencies that link sensory inputs to motor outputs, whatever the nature of this link. This demonstrates the legitimacy of the claim that the sensation of space does not arise from the activation of particular neurons, but rather from a characteristic relationship between activations of motor and sensory neurons.

J.Kevin O'Regan
Laboratoire de Psychologie ExpÈrimentale
Institut de Psychologie, Centre Universitaire de Boulogne
71, avenue Edouard Vaillant
92774 Boulogne-Billancourt Cedex
Tel: (33 1) 55 20 59 26; portable: 0611 98 78 00
Fax: (33 1) 55 20 58 54
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