Towards a unified theory of perception, cognition, language, Reality and realities.

"Out of the stream of sensation, the mind carves objects in space and actions in time…” (Tversky, 2004)
“[The] truth is modeled as an object in the domain of a semantic model to which sentences are mapped by an interpretation function.” (Hinzen, 2003)
“A truth judgment as such has no correspondence to anything in ‘reality’.” (Hinzen, 2003)

Reality, with an R, is a sea of stimuli. The human mind is what gives us our ability to use tools, and it should come as no surprise that pattern recognition itself is one of the tools in our array. It should also come as no surprise that "[f]aced even by ‘meaningless’ patterns the mind restlessly strives to make them meaningful. "

“Perception is unavoidably selective: we can’t see all there is to see. There are of course physiological limits (both for the human species and for individuals); some argue that there are limits to cognitive capacity. And then there are the constraints of our locational viewpoint: we can’t see things from every angle at once. But in addition to such physical limits we focus on salient features and ignore details which are irrelevant to our current purposes or interests. Selectivity thus involves omission. Some commentators use the ‘filter’ metaphor - we ‘filter out’ data, but this suggests a certain passivity: we may also ‘seek out’ data of a certain kind.”

It is important to reinforce this concept: Out of a sea of stimuli, we abstract a reality, but this is a second order afair. There still exists a primacy of un-speakable Reality.

(Warning, PDF)“A word is not representative of an object itself, but represents a concept in our mind”

For the purposes of this debate, I will delineate two different categories of what is ‘real’. When I use the word ‘Reality’, I will be referring to the level of objective phenomena which make up Universe. When I use the word ‘reality’ I will be talking about the subjectively valid world which exists in each and every one of our heads. It is important to note that the primary data-points are not the words with which we describe them. The words themselves are a second order phenomena, and can never express the totality of the objects for whom they are referents. In short, the map is not the territory, the menu is not the meal.

It is part of our evolutionary heritage that the tools we use are both physical, and linguistic artifacts. The tools we use to convey meaning are no less important than the tools we use to create fire.

The brain, "…does not simply take in information through the senses and store it. Instead, it processes the information in various ways that are dependent on the design of the processor. For example, light rays that enter the lenses of the eyes are projected onto the retinas upside down. However, we experience the world as being rightside up. The brain flips the image as it processes the information. If you wear a pair of glasses specially designed to invert the images, you will at first experience the disorientation of trying to move about in an upside-down world. After a few hours, however, your brain will rewire itself and, though the inputs remain reversed, will deliver to your conscious experience a world turned rightside up again. Take the glasses off and you will again experience disorientation until your brain reprograms itself. The point is that nothing is experienced as it is in itself but rather as it is as a result of a certain kind of processing that the brain was designed by natural selection to do. "

In addition, the world we find ourselves in often directly influences our perception. "Experiments reported in 1966 by Segall, Campbell and Herskovitz suggested that the Müller-Lyer illusion may be absent or reduced amongst people who grow up in certain environments. "

The ability to engage in pattern recognition leads, inexorably, towards categorical perception. But, again, these categories are mapped onto reality, they do not exist in the literally un-speakable level of objective phenomena. However, “The cost of these advantages is a loss of particularity and uniqueness in perception and recall. For Romantics, it is also regarded as inducing a sense of distance from the world. The way we categorize phenomena seems to be a ‘natural’ ‘reflection of reality’, leading us to forget the role of categorization in constructing the world.”

“There is research evidence that verbal labels may influence the recall of visual images. In a well-known experiment by Carmichael, Hogan and Walter (1932), observers were shown simple line drawings each of which was associated with either of two verbal captions - e.g. a drawing of two circles linked by a straight line bore either the caption ‘eye-glasses’ or the caption ‘dumb-bells’. The observers were then asked to reproduce the drawings. Their reproductions showed a strong tendency to distort the original image to make it closer to the verbal label which had been attached to it.”

The realities which we abstract are often what we expect to see. That is, believing is seeing. The human brain seems to use certain perceptual shortcuts, and new data is filtered through them. “All of these principles of perceptual organization serve the overarching principle of pragnänz, which is that the simplest and most stable interpretations are favoured.”

In fact, it seems that often the most important details are those of which we believe, not those which we see. There is a simple experiment which you can try in the comfort of your own nervous system. Have a friend hold up a newspaper to you, and stand just outside of your visual range for reading text. Make sure that the newspaper is not one which you have ever seen before. At the start of the experiment, verify that the words on the page are not clear to you, and you cannot read them. If you can read them, start with a new page of the paper which you have not seen and a farther distance. Now, once you have established the distance have your partner read the headlines to you. You should discover something truly amazing, namely, that all of a sudden some of the headlines become clear, and you can read them.

Now, obviously the words you head spoken did not somehow enable your eyes to function with greater acuity. They did, however, inform your brain of which patterns it should be looking for.

It seems, as well, that the metaphors which we habitually use inform our realities. “As George Lakoff (1987) and Mark Johnson (1987) have argued, our ordinary use of language is largely structured by metaphoric and metonymic principles which exhibit a directionality. Human beings systematically characterize abstract ideas-thoughts, religious beliefs, political and ethical situations-in terms of bodily movements and bodily functions, for example. The primary claim of their position is that these metaphors and the directionality are not arbitrary, but instead are a natural outgrowth of the manner in which our minds are constituted.”

Indeed, the language we use appears, in certain circumstances, directly informs the categories through which we filter Reality. (Warning, PDF)
“The result showed that different borders were drawn distinguishing color fields according to the disctinction made in their languages. The test showed close agreement in pointing out the specific colors which best represented the categories named. If a language had eleven terms, eleven most typical colors were marked, if only two terms existed, only two colors were marked.”

For quite some time Behaviorism explained these phenomena as purely mechanical responses to stimuli. It should be noted that, “*n the late 1950s and early 1960s, however, psychologists were suddenly confronted by anomalies that could not be accounted for by the Behaviorists’ stimulus-response model. In his devastating review of Skinner’s book Verbal Behavior, the linguist Noam Chomsky pointed out the inability of Behaviorism to account for certain aspects of language, such as the creation of utterances that are completely original and yet completely grammatical. People do not simply parrot back what they have heard. Instead, they make up entirely new sentences, ones that have never before occurred in the history of language use, based on internalized structures and rules.” For all the external influences, there is still a personal aspect in the creation of language. It should be noted, as language is designed to reflect Reality, that there will therefore be different realities based on these differing linguistic constructions.

The Sapir/Whorf hypothesis (more accurately the Sapir/Whorf/Korzybski hypothesis, and hereafter refered to as S/W/K) states that Reality is coded differently through language and thus creates various realities.

“Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression in their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection: The fact of the matter is that the ‘real world’ is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group. No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same world with different labels attached…Even comparatively simple acts of perception are very much more at the mercy of the social patterns called words than we might suppose…We see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation.”

Whorf went on to write “We dissect nature along lines laid down by our native languages. The categories and types that we isolate from the world of phenomena we do not find there because they stare every observer in the face; on the contrary, the world is presented in a kaleidoscopic flux of impressions which has to be organized by our minds–and this means largely by the linguistic systems in our minds. We cut nature up, organize it into concepts, and ascribe significances as we do, largely because we are parties to an agreement to organize it in this way–an agreement that holds throughout our speech community and is codified in the patterns of our language. The agreement is, of course, an implicit and unstated one, but its terms are absolutely obligatory; we cannot talk at all except by subscribing to the organization and classification of data which the agreement decrees.”

Problems arise, however, when we attempt to isolate exactly what role language plays in the creation of realities and the formation of thought, and how our thoughts inform the use of language. Other problems include the fact that some concepts do translate with a 1:1 correlation between languages. As such, a strong S/W/K seems unfounded, but, a weak S/W/K may indeed be a good jumping off point.

["Despite all these problems facing the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, there have been several studies performed that support at least the weaker linguistic relativity hypothesis. In 1954, Brown and Lenneberg tested for color codability, or how speakers of one language categorize the color spectrum and how it affects their recognition of those colors. Penn writes, ‘Lenneberg reports on a study showing how terms of colors influence the actual discrimination. English-speaking subjects were better able to re-recognize those hues which are easily named in English. This finding is clearly in support of the limiting influence of linguistic categories on cognition’ (1972:16). Schlesinger explains the path taken in this study from positive correlation to support for linguistic relativity: ‘…if codability of color affected recognizability, and if languages differed in codability, then recognizability is a function of the individual’s language’ (1991:27)

Lucy and Shweder’s color memory test (1979) also supports the linguistic relativity hypothesis. If a language has terms for discriminating between color then actual discrimination/perception of those colors will be affected. Lucy and Shweder found that influences on color recognition memory is mediated exclusively by basic color terms–a language factor.

Kay and Kempton’s language study (1984) found support for linguistic relativity. They found that language is a part of cognition. In their study, English speakers’ perceptions were distorted in the blue-green area while speakers from Tarahumara–who lack a blue-green distinction–showed no distortion. However, under certain conditions they found that universalism of color distinction can be recovered.

Peterson and Siegal’s ‘Sally doll’ test (1995) was not intended to test the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis specifically, but their findings support linguistic relativity in a population who at the time had not yet been considered for testing–deaf children. Peterson and Siegal’s experiment with deaf children showed a difference in the constructed reality of deaf children with deaf parents and deaf children with hearing parents, especially in the realm of non-concrete items such as feelings and thoughts.

Most recently, Wassman and Dasen’s Balinese language test (1998) found differences in how the Balinese people orient themselves spatially to that of Westerners. They found that the use of an absolute reference system based on geographic points on the island in the Balinese language correlates to the significant cultural importance of these points to the people. They questioned how language affects the thinking of the Balinese people and found moderate linguistic relativity results.’](

It is also essential to note that according to new data, the human brain stores data holographicaly. And, in a holograph, any data-point is equal to every data point. As such, any change no matter how slight in one’s mind changes one’s entire mind, however slightly. In a very real sense, FinnAgain(March 7, 2005) is not the same entity as FinnAgain(March 8, 2005).

A bit on Pribram and the holographic nature of Universe.

So, the question arises, how do we best educate our children, train our own semantic reactions, and construct our verbal and written utterances in order to reach the greatest accord with Reality and the greatest evolutionary relative sucess for our species?

Works Cited:

Hinzen, Wolfram (2003), Truth’s Fabric. Mind and Language, 18.4, 194-219

Tversky, Barbara (2004), Narratives of Space, Time, and Life, Mind and Language, 19.4, 380-392

In what way does being in greater accord with Reality assure relative evolutionary success, and why should we persue it?

One also has to ask, how far out of phase is reality with Reality? I tend to feel that we must be pretty darned close, otherwise functioning within Reality would be pretty impossible.

Finding these differences seems kind of like finding those alleles that mark the difference between me and my father. They are significant, yet in the giant mass of genes that make up a person, those differences become insignificant. If someone were looking at my dad’s genes and came up with a picture of me, I’d say they were accurate enough.

Survival is dependant on correctly abstracting reality in order to make decisions. It is my contention that a greater resonance with the underlying un-speakable reality will give our statements/thinking greater utility in making survival decisions.

Yes, currently our verbal constructions have a high degree of correlation with Reality. However, I see our current mode of categorical perception as an impediment to the continued self-directed evolution of our species. It is not a leap (at least not in my mind) to conclude that the same phenomona at work with colors affects our ability to clearly define and interact with other categories and classes of objects/events which we find in Reality.

But you are not your father, and no matter how close the accuracy we be, it would not be totally accurate.

Heh, that should read “… correctly abstracting Reality…”

Yeesh, I’m too tired for spelling right now.
I’ll revisit this thread tomorrow.

I don’t understand the question. We are evolutionarily “successful” in that we’re alive today. What are you suggesting is evolutionary “success” tomorrow? Breeding like bunnies and wiping out every other extant species?

As for “accord with Reality”, you’ll again have to help me out a little. If Reality is what is input to minds, and thus without minds there is no Reality, then Reality cannot accord any greater - it’s as great as it can be because it is Reality by definition. If there can be Reality in absence of minds (for those billions of years before life, say), then you’re really just talking about epistemology.

But it seems like we’re already at 100% survival as a species, aside from either self-inflicted destruction or natural disaster which wouldn’t be affected be a more fine-tuned perception of Reality.

When you say evolution, do you mean it in the Darwinistic sense? Because again, I’m not seeing how perception is holding back the genetic evolution of the species (even a self-directed evolution). Since we all seem to function perfectly well within the limits of our senses and socially-influenced perception, what need is there for evolution?

Take colors for example. We are limited in our differentiating colors by the words we use to describe them. We have those words because they were necessary culturally in some way. So, in that sense, we see all the colors that matter. It seems like you’re creating a need that doesn’t exist that would run counter to a sense of ‘evolving’ to better the species.

I agree, but for me the standard deviation is acceptable (metaphorically speaking).

Interesting stuff. The link about the Muller-Lyer illusion is fascinating.

If I understand the OP correctly, you are claiming that our local environment, culture and language shapes our perceptual filters so as to affect our internal model of reality. The question being, is this a problem and what can we do about it?

From one point of view it isn’t a problem - it is unusual to subject oneself to a radical change of environment, culture or language. (I’m not claiming that people never emigrate, or quit their jobs as stockbrokers to herd horses in Mongolia, just that they are in the minority.) In which case the perceptual filters you have will be in accord with your local environment and will give you a commonality of experience with your neighbours.

From another point of view it could be a problem, in that it introduces inflexibility and poor adaptability to novel environments and concepts. But nevertheless, people adapt. I don’t know how long I’d have to live in the wilderness to see the Muller-Lyer lines the same length, if ever, but I’m pretty sure I could overcome the handicap of my tendency to see corners where none are present.

I don’t necessarily concede that having a “truer” perception of reality is an advantage - we filter out data for a reason. The more detailed the map, the closer it accords with the territory, this is true. But maps are simplified for a reason, according to their use. Try navigating the London Underground using a surface street map rather than the massively distorted and abstract Underground map and you’ll get the point. The street map contains more information and in a certain sense is a truer reflection of reality, but the interchange relationships of the Underground stations are missing.

Quine: perfect translation is impossible.

Wittgenstein: what do you mean by perfect here? What would a perfect translation be like? It seems to me that the common behavior of the human animal is what makes any language possible. That being the case, of course translation is possible.

Quine: But after all, there might be some subtle difference in their culture, each time we think they say rabbit, a bit of extra meaning is there, or is missing, that we wouldn’t otherwise normally ascertain.

Wittgenstein: Yet a man who knows checkers can of course learn to play chess. We don’t after all suggest that once one has become familiar with a game that one can learn no others. In fact one must become familiar with many games before one becomes familiar with ‘game’!

Quine: We are trying to understand them through us.

Wittgenstein: He teaches us. A child has no language; doesn’t it learn one? Should we also say, “There is no such thing as perfect understanding?” --And again I would ask: what is your criteria here? Our understanding, or translation, is imperfect–compared to what? When a finely marked ruler isn’t available, and I make do with a less precise one, I might say, “This isn’t as good as I could do with my other ruler.” But after all it is clear, or at least demonstrable, what other standard I am setting here that this measure fails to meet.

Quine: It is the epistemic matter, not the semantic matter.

erl: But the limits of epistemology are the limits of language. If we cannot express it, we cannot know it.

Wittgenstein: It is not a matter that any particular language lacks a word, for then the question is simply, “Why not make new ones?” What is deftly accomplished in one stroke on paper–

erl: --might take twenty instruction in assembly for a microprocesseor. But after all it is the same concept in either case. It seems what will only do for a ‘perfect’ translation is a language of the same form but that sounds different. A phonetic cypher. A cypher is hardly a translation, however.

FinnAgain: But this is hardly the heart of the matter. Look at the Müller-Lyer illusion. It seems that we are indoctrinated into a way-of-seeing that doesn’t necessarily reflect the facts of the matter.

erl: what facts of the matter? When we see corner-like images, are we often meant to infer their length?

FinnAgain: But that’s not the point. The point is that the lines are the same length, but we don’t see them as such.

erl: then how do we know they are the same length?

FinnAgain: well we measure them, or we constructed them so…

erl: then it is hardly a problem with perception and language. You have a standard for ambiguous lines: measurement, which after all must be perceived and spoken of.

SentientMeat: It wasn’t a problem in our evolutionary history, in which our visual cogitive modules used cues from our environment to gauge length. But when special illusions are designed to fool those visual cognitive modules, one might call it a ‘problem’ which we have not yet evolved the cognitive modules to overcome. Another few thousand years of people ultimately dying earlier or breeding less successfully because they couldn’t accurately gauge the differences in length between the middle lines might do so. This could be the case even if, in our evolution, we somehow managed to lose language.

What is there to overcome, SentientMeat? The lines are the same length. Why should the standard for sameness be, “We directly perceive them to be the same”? Why does that standard make more sense than, “We can measure them to be the same?” The wireframe cube gives the illusion of flipping through perspectives, but it is no problem to construct one, or measure the length of the sides. My nose cannot detect the presence of cocaine through an automobile’s trunk. How is this a failing of my nose? Why should a canine be the standard by which I judge my nose? --Especially when I simply train the canine to detect it, and in any case I infer the same information. Problem overcome.

The short answer: continue on the path of science. As your well-cited OP demonstrates, it’s showing very good promise.

Any problems consequent from the difference we see when presented only with the arrows which would not be consequent from the sameness we see when presented with the arrows next to a ruler.

Admittedly, that’s not many I can think of. Perhaps some perverse predator who asked you which line was longer and gobbled you up upon an incorrect answer?

Fascinating stuff. Put together so well and containing so much I agree with – which is why I was surprised to see the actual question at the end.

I would be surprised if you’d not concede that many people’s realities encompass ideas/concepts/explanations that are not simple extensions of (or interpretations of) Reality. It seems to me that to discuss the education of our children, the training of our semantic reactions, and the construction of verbal and written utterances in order to reach the greatest accord with Reality, one must take into account the fact (if you concede it as fact) that reality encompasses more than that found in Reality. This is not a question of whether reality should match Reality exactly (or even closely); it is an acceptance that reality does not match Reality and how to work with that fact. To answer the questions requires some exploration of the territory of reality. (Gah – this is like Heidegger, with “being” vs. “Being”, etc.) It’s not that there’s no topic of debate; rather it’s that the topic is so nebulous and huge that more foundations are needed. For instance, where do ethics come in? If we’re discussing the education of our children, I posit that ethics is a necessary and desirable thing to teach. Does Reality have an ethical system? Perhaps I’m reading too much into the final question…

I would also take issue with the idea of a holographic mind; a more plausible explanation (in my opinion) is the interconnectedness of neurons. But that ends up a piddling detail in this context. (And, on preview, I’d second Arwin’s answer.)

The Muller-Lyer illusion is just an illustration, and is unlikely to get anyone into trouble.

But the same link tells of a BaMbuti pygmy who interpreted distant buffalo as close-up insects. That kind of misinterpretation is fairly serious. Setting off towards something that you think is small and nearby can have consequences when it turns out to be large and far away, especially if you’ve neglected to take enough water with you.

I still content that in examples where it makes a real difference, you’d adapt pretty fast.

What the Müller-Lyer illusion shows us is not a trick of the senses, but of perspective. Of seeing-as. We don’t see the lines as being of the same length. A spoon is a conceptual entity, one might say it takes training or a stage-setting context (e.g. western society) to see this chunk of metal as a spoon. But I do not, after all, say, “I’m seeing this as a spoon.” It is simply a spoon. Perhaps in a surrealist painting it might make sense to say, “Oh, now I’m seeing that as a spoon,” but at the dinner table? Never.

A companion and I are watching two people play a game with unfamiliar pieces on an unfamiliar board (how do we know they are playing a game?). After watching for a bit, perhaps I explain, “They are playing chess! See that piece there? That’s the king.” Which could be a command: adopt the perspective that that piece is the king. After concentrating, my companion says, “Oh, now I see it.” What was seen here that wasn’t before? A perspective. Perhaps, as in the OP’s example of reading/not-reading a paper from a distance, now my companion says, “Yes, I see it as the king now. You can even discern a crown if you look at it right.”

Would a person who never played our form of chess but only theirs see that piece above as a king? Various things come to mind here. Perhaps the game is played with arbitrary stones or markers, and it must be decided before play which marker corresponds to which conceptual piece. Here in every game one sees-as. Perhaps the excellent players say, “I get into a frame of mind before the game, that this is the king. I gain a focus that others seem to lack.”

But the notion in the first place was that we had been conditioned to see such intersections as suggesting a corner, or some other kind of perspective, which “made” us misjudge the length of the lines. This being the case… haven’t we adapted to what was necessary in our settings? Why is it a flaw? Why isn’t it the very correction in our context which you seek remedy for in a different context?

I see what you’re saying, erl - I’d suggest it’s a flaw only in that it allows another human to make me look stupid. However, since it is clearly an adaption which helps us in other ways, that is not as big a flaw as not having it.

I’m going to restrict most of my comments to your references to categorical colour perception, given that this is where you seem to be straying furthest from the path. However, I also have a few comments made in passing…

Note that some of the optical illusions on the page you cite are based upon low-level mechanisms, and are thus not illustrative of ‘striving to make patterns meaningful’. For example, in the grid illusion (the grid of black squares), the illusory grey circles seen between the squares are a function of inhibitory processes at the retina. They do not derive from some higher level process.

Unfortunately, there is no way to perceive ‘Reality’ given that the only reality we receive is that which arrives via our senses. However, reality seems to work quite well and our individual realities seem to agree quite well…

A statement of the bleedin’ obvious. Who would ever think that the brain just stores info?

Yes, the world does alter our perceptions. During development, the brain is quite plastic in its ability to organise itself. For example, if a creature is raised in an environment full of vertical lines, and void of horizontal lines, then the creature will show poor sensitivity to horizontal line stimuli (and great sensitivity to vertical line stimuli). However, this says nothing about language determining thought.

Yes, if you show an ambiguous figure, and then assign a category to it, then the figure will tend to be remembered as belonging to that category. This is uncontroversial.

You seem to be missing the main point of Berlin & Kay’s (1969) work, namely that perception massively influences the formation of colour language and not vice versa. In other words, the structure of our visual system lends itself to certain natural divisions of colour space by colour terms:

“…visual physiology plays a role in the evolutionary development of basic color vocabularies, constraining the possible composite categories to a small number of those theoretically possible.” (Kay et al., 1991; J Ling Anthrop 1: 12-25).

In this respect, there are exactly 11 ‘basic’ colour terms that exist in any ‘fully developed’ human language (see Berlin & Kay, 1969; Boynton & Olson, 1997: Col Res App 12: 94-105; Kay et al., 1997 in Hardin’s ‘Color categories in thought and language’). The structure of our visual system facilitates the development of a specific colour language. Indeed, the various papers of Rosch (Heider, e.g., 1972; J Exp Psy 93: 10-20) are generally used to attack notions of linguistic relativism, at least in the context of colour language.

In more general terms, all humans share certain types of brain structure and brain organisation, such that language is necessarily grounded in these commonalities. As it says in the PDF you cite, “…thinking does not require language, rather language facilitates thinking”. I do not know if we can ‘objectively’ go that far, but we are certainly not slaves to language.

Sloppy language. It is necessary to distinguish between low-level, discriminative performance and higher level, categorisation tasks. For example, colour names do not influence the ability to discriminate colours in a typical psychphysical task (e.g., 2-alternative forced choice discrimination). Naming can - and does - affect categorical tasks. Again, language cannot influence what happens at the level of our sensory transducers. Language can influence how we code or store information, once it has been received. However, (colour) language only affects performance on tasks that require categorisation.

In this respect, typically members of two different groups (e.g., cultures) will have the same performance on colour discrimination - i.e., non-categorical - tasks. However, when the task is made categorical (i.e., by including colour naming), then we do see effects of categorisation on perceptual distances (see Kay & Kempton, 1984; Am Anthrop 86: 65-79). However, when categorisation is not allowed, then the performance of groups that have different colour language becomes identical. In other words, colour language does not immutably alter perception, because the distortions imposed by colour language can be removed when colour naming is removed as an experimental strategy.

Again your second use of ‘discrimination’ is not correct here. Additionally, discrimination and perception are not freely interchangable.

Second, Lucy & Schweder’s paper has some technical problems, namely that they confound the discriminability of a stimulus set with the colour terms used to identify members within that set. This argument is noted in Kay & Kempton (1984; Am Anthrop 86: 65-79, p.67). In summary, one can produce colour sets where the ‘focal’ colours are not easiest to describe. However, this says almost nothing about categorical colour perception per se, and nothing about the ‘primacy’ of focal colours.

It’s very important to make the distinction between discriminability of colours and categorisation of colours - the two are not the same. For example, standard visual search tasks are entirely unaffected by colour language or categories (e.g., Carter & Carter, 1982; Appl Opt 21: 2936 - 2939; Smallman & Boynton, 1993; Displays 14:158-165). It is only when searches are forced to be categorical that the effects of language are seen (Guest & Van Laar, 2002; Perception 31: 445-461). Again, this is an example of language not immutably influencing perception.

And this last sentence is critical; language does not immutably alter (colour) perception, because the perceptual ‘distortions’ caused by language can be experimentally removed, as Kay & Kempton (1984) indeed did (their Expt #2).

There is no convincing emprical evidence for this. Indeed, we do not even have the experimental tools to investigate the problem (yet).

Thanks for all the responses! I’m busier than a long tailed cat running around in a room full of rocking chairs right now, but I’ll get to 'em all in time.

Just wanted to correct one faleshood before I go.

That’s simply untrue. Flat out false, on both counts. There is empirical evidence, and we can and have tested it.
You should read Pribram’s comments on the subject And some work done on the holographic universe paradigm

You will notice that there aint nothin’ much more empirical than slicing up little rat brains and seeing what happens. This is hard science.

“In a series of landmark experiments in the 1920s, brain scientist Karl Lashley found that no matter what portion of a rat’s brain he removed he was unable to eradicate its memory of how to perform complex tasks it had learned prior to surgery. The only problem was that no one was able to come up with a mechanism that might explain this curious “whole in every part” nature of memory storage.
Then in the 1960s Pribram encountered the concept of holography and realized he had found the explanation brain scientists had been looking for. Pribram believes memories are encoded not in neurons, or small groupings of neurons, but in patterns of nerve impulses that crisscross the entire brain in the same way that patterns of laser light interference crisscross the entire area of a piece of film containing a holographic image. In other words, Pribram believes the brain is itself a hologram.
Pribram’s theory also explains how the human brain can store so many memories in so little space. It has been estimated that the human brain has the capacity to memorize something on the order of 10 billion bits of information during the average human lifetime (or roughly the same amount of information contained in five sets of the Encyclopaedia Britannica).
Similarly, it has been discovered that in addition to their other capabilities, holograms possess an astounding capacity for information storage–simply by changing the angle at which the two lasers strike a piece of photographic film, it is possible to record many different images on the same surface. It has been demonstrated that one cubic centimeter of film can hold as many as 10 billion bits of information.
Our uncanny ability to quickly retrieve whatever information we need from the enormous store of our memories becomes more understandable if the brain functions according to holographic principles. If a friend asks you to tell him what comes to mind when he says the word “zebra”, you do not have to clumsily sort back through some gigantic and cerebral alphabetic file to arrive at an answer. Instead, associations like “striped”, “horselike”, and “animal native to Africa” all pop into your head instantly. Indeed, one of the most amazing things about the human thinking process is that every piece of information seems instantly cross- correlated with every other piece of information–another feature intrinsic to the hologram. Because every portion of a hologram is infinitely interconnected with every other portion, it is perhaps nature’s supreme example of a cross-correlated system.
The storage of memory is not the only neurophysiological puzzle that becomes more tractable in light of Pribram’s holographic model of the brain. Another is how the brain is able to translate the avalanche of frequencies it receives via the senses (light frequencies, sound frequencies, and so on) into the concrete world of our perceptions.”

“Russell and Karen DeValois (1988) book on “Spatial Vision” and my (1991) book “Brain and Perception” provide detailed reviews of experimental results that support the conjecture that holography is a useful metaphor in coming to understand the brain/mind relation with regard to perception.”
“Roberto Llinas (2000; Pellionitz and Llinas 1979; 1985) has provided a tensor theory that addresses the propagation in circuits and my holonomic (quantum holographic) theory models processing in the fine fibered web.”

“The brain stores its memories in ways which are somehow distributed across relatively large regions of the cortex. Experiments with brain-damaged patients have shown that particular memories become dimmer and less distinct, but they do not vanish abruptly with the loss of small regions of brain tissue. One prevailing theory holds that memory may be stored in the brain along holographic principles: individual memories are not stored at specific synapses but are distributed throughout the whole-brain network of interconnecting pathways, in such a way that any section of that network contains the basic pattern of the memory, whilst the whole network reproduces the high definition picture. The fact that different areas of the brain are linked by thousands of parallel pathways provides a basis for the neurological equivalent of the holographic laser’s coherent activity: the patterns of rhythmic electrical activity of the brain are consolidated by chemical changes, so an experience becomes permanently encoded. Any one memory would be encoded as a pattern of chemical changes over trillions of synapses, and each synapse would be involved in billions of different memories.”

" Daniel Dennett [Dennett, 1991] argues that human consciousness is not a single place in the brain with every conscious idea appearing there. I think he is partly right about the human brain, but I think a unitary consciousness will work quite well for robots. It would likely also work for humans, but evolution happens to have produced a brain with distributed consciousness."

[“Libet showed that selective electrical stimulation of the somato-sensory cortex is not ”sensed” for a quarter to a half second after the onset of the stimulation, whereas peripheral stimulation is sensed immediately. Libet showed this to be due to a backward projection in time to the occasion of the stimulation.”

“With regard to their neural locus, the basic transactions between matter and mind occur in the fine fibered branches of neurons (teledendrons and dendrites) and their connections (synapses and ephapses) in the brain (the evidence is reviewed in Pribram 1971 and 1991). However such transactions need to be transmitted between sites by the larger nerve fibers (axons) for interactions among brain sites to occur. These interactions take time. The problem is that axons of various diameters and lengths must synchronize the transmission of the basic transactions. Rodolfo Llinas (2000; Pellionez and Llinas 1979; 1985) has developed a tensor model that takes account of these differences in transmission. Llinas’ suggests that transmission time in the nervous system cannot be our experienced time, but rather something more like an Einsteinian, Minkowsy spacetime.”
"During the 1970s and thereafter, experiments in many laboratories including mine showed that the Gabor function provides a good description of the architecture of activity in cortical dendritic fields to sensory stimulation (DeValois and DeValois 1988; Pribram 1991). Thus the same mathematical formulation describes an elementary psychological process, communication, and an elementary material process in the brain.

The Gabor quantum of information can therefore serve the same function for the wetware/minding relationship that the BIT serves for the hardware/software relation. English is not spoken by the computer, nor are there photographs in the computer when it processes the takes of a digital camera. Likewise, there are no words or pictures in the brain, only circuits, chemical transactions and quantum-like holographic (holonomic) processes based on Gabor-like wavelets. To use another metaphor, the processing of an fMRI tomograph uses quantum holography. The pictures we see are reconstructions made possible by the process. "](
Much of this research is based on Bell’s nonlocality and The Aspect Experiment


Let’s work hard to keep this civil. As someone who is expounding at length on the workings of language, with both its promise and its shortcomings, you should be able to see that the following sentence

would have been much more conducive to further discussion had it been phrased:

“Just wanted to correct one point before I go.”
“Just wanted to correct one misunderstanding before I go.”
or even
“Just wanted to correct one error before I go.”

In a discussion on language in which the participants have a history of less than excessive cordiality, there are appropriate and less appropriate responses if one wishes to focus the discussion on the ideas and not the personalities.

Some quotes from your URL:

"But the most staggering thing about the holographic model was that it suddenly made sense of a wide range of phenomena so elusive they generally have been categorized outside the province of scientific understanding. These include telepathy, precognition, mystical feelings of oneness with the universe, and even psychokinesis, or the ability of the mind to move physical objects without anyone touching them. "

My, my this holographic model claims to explain phenomena that are not even accepted by conventional science, and phenomena that cannot even be reliably demonstrated according to conventional scientific paradigms. A model of true greatness, indeed.

"One final piece of evidence in favor of the holographic model is the paranormal itself. This is no small point, for in the last several decades a remarkable body of evidence has accrued suggesting that our current understanding of reality, the solid and comforting sticks-and stones picture of the world we all learned about in high-school science class, is wrong. "

So, an argument for the holographic model is the ‘existence’ of the paranormal? We’re right out on the left wing now. I suggest you read the parapsychologist Sue Blackmore’s autobiography. Then get back to us.

Can you explain exactly what you mean? I.e., can you explain some of the findings in the neurophysiology of memory, and exactly how they support a holographic model? I am at least moderately familar with this work, and I can think of no findings for which a holographic model is most parsimonious.

I suggest you read DeValois and DeValois, FinnAgain, because it is clear that you have not.

The conjecture? A metaphor?

Focal brain damage can lead to highly specific loss of memories, suggesting that memory storage and retrieval is not universally widely distributed. That certain regions of the brain are strongly associated with the storage and retrieval of memories is well-known. For example, King et al. (2004; Neuropsych 18: 405-417) demonstrated various very specific memory losses following damage to the hippocampus - e.g., memory loss that only occurred for specific viewpoints of an object. Indeed, the hippocampus has long been implicated in the generalisation of memories to different viewpoints and damage to this region is often accompanies by the loss of viewpoint-generalisation in memories (e.g., King et al., 2002; Hippocampus 12: 811-820). There are many documented cases of focal memory loss, e.g., loss of memory for faces (prosopagnosia), loss of memory for temporal order. Also, not only do certain certain types of memory loss require certain cortical regions to be damaged, but the basis of some apparent losses have even been characterised (e.g., Alexander et al., 2003; Brain 126: 1493-1503).

Now certainly there’s evidence that memory storage is distributed (e.g., Kopelman et al., 2003; Hippocampus 13: 879-891), however there is no evidence that all memories are stored everywhere.

Additionally, damage to many brain regions will do nothing at all to memory. E.g., damage to the visual cortex (or other sensory cortices) typically does not alter memory at all.

Certainly there is evidence that memories are ‘somewhat’ distributed, but there’s no evidence that memories are holographic. At least according to what I understand by holographics.

So much conjecture, so little of substance.

By the way FinnAgain, simply quoting multi-page URLs is not much of a debate; I see no evidence that you have read and evaluated the neurophysiology literature. Your modus operandi seems to be to regurgitate great reams of other’s thought - debating by weight, I suppose.