Human perceptual and cognitive systems show remarkable properties
of attunement and calibration to their environment. My doctoral work
on simple and contingent aftereffects in the perception of visual texture
grew out of a fascination with evidence that the visual system develops
coding strategies that optimize information flow and thereby supports
action. Perception is a tool, not a product.
Information integration problems got me interested in the perception
of shape and depth, where multiple sources of potentially useful information
get combined in highly optimised ways. The idea of efficient coding has also informed my work on
occlusion and filling in.
My focus then turned to self-motion perception where
recalibration processes between vision and action support the highly
calibrated activity of walking. The Swarthmore Visual Perception Lab has a large-area
virtual reality system where we study how various sources
of information regarding self-motion are calibrated, integrated and inter-calibrated.
There is a complex interaction between coding in vision and action because
perception can be tuned to the contexts of action -- as evidenced by shifts
in the perception of visual speed during walking.
Most recently, with Zhi Li and Alen Hajnal, I have been studying slant perception
and the perception of locomotor space. We believe that perceptual distortions of space
may stem from coding strategies designed to enhance perceptual coding for action.
As part of this work we have also published a number of critiques of naive theories of embodied perception,
seeking to replace them with more sophisticated ones.
My cognitive work is more diverse, but it focuses on how cognitive coding schemes interact
with action systems including visual search. What makes information flow efficient and what makes it fail? How do
we set up our cognitive systems to optimize the flow of information to planning and
action systems that need it?
Students in my lab who are interested in cognition work on a variety of interesting problems
including face perception, metaphor and visuo-tactile integration. In the domain of metaphor processing
Paul Thibodeau and I have argued that metaphors provide communicative efficiency,
and that even idiomatic speech can be reinvigorated in extended metaphor. Ongoing projects
involve using eye-movements and lateralization (divided visual field) to better understand metaphor processing.