Vol. 44, Numbers 1 and 2, Winter and Spring 2023

The Nature of Visual Perception: Could a Longstanding Debate Be Resolved Empirically?
Alex Gomez–Marin, Instituto de Neurociencias (CSIC-UMH) and Rupert Sheldrake, Schumacher College

There is a deep divide between people’s direct experiences and the standard understanding of vision as taught in biology and psychology. When the looker cannot be seen and other sensory cues are excluded, the sense of being stared at, also called scopaesthesia, is impossible from the conventional point of view. Yet it seems to happen. Here, we suggest that thinking again about this puzzle, instead of ignoring or denying it, could deepen our understanding of vision and stimulate fruitful research in the life and mind sciences. The evolution of brain processes that imply a movement of influences out of the eyes would make more sense if such influences actually occur than if they are an illusion. Could scopaesthesia actually happen? No, not if minds are inside heads. But what if minds are not confined to brains?

Correspondence concerning this article should be sent to Alex Gomez–Marin, Ph.D., Av. Ramón y Cajal s/n, 03550 Sant Joan d’Alacant, Spain, or to Rupert Sheldrake, Ph.D., Schumacher College, Dartington, Devon TQ9 6EA, United Kingdom. Email: agomezmarin@gmail.com; rupert@rsheldrake.org

The Relationship of Concepts, Memory, and Language in the Cognitive Psychology of Thinking: An Aristotelian–Thomistic Appraisal
James M. Stedman, University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, Thomas L. Spalding and Christina L. Gagné, University of Alberta, and Curtis L. Hancock, Rockhurst University

The concept, in conjunction with memory and language, is the foundation of the cognitive psychology of thinking. All related areas of thinking, reasoning, inference, decision-making, problem solving, are manipulations and predications of concepts. This essay examines current theories of concept formation, as grounded in the information processing, computational approach, and considers the philosophical underpinnings of that view as related to concept formation, memory, and language. A philosophical approach, based on the classical realism of Aristotle and Aquinas, is presented as an alternative metaphysics worthy of serious consideration.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to James M. Stedman, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas Health Science Center, 7703 Floyd Curl Drive, San Antonio, Texas 78229–7792. Email: Stedman@uthscsa.edu

Language as a Perceptual System
Walter B. Weimer, Pennsylvania State University, Emeritus

Several modalities are regarded as constituting perceptual systems: vision, audition, touch, smell, proprioception, and interoception. Perception of speech, studied extensively, has been found to be slightly different from audition in other mammals, but is not therefore regarded as entirely different from other forms of mammalian audition. In comparison, language is regarded as something distinct from any perceptual modality. It is assumed that the function of language is communication, not perception. This assumption presupposes a further assumption: communicating cannot be in the same class of functions as perceiving. But why should one assume that the function — in terms of evolution and epistemology — of either language or communication is not that of a perceptual system? These notes argue that language constitutes an evolved conceptual and perceptual system. It is that combined system (especially in its capacity to transcend space and time, ramifications of the development of consciousness, and the increased capacity for memory) that has made hominins superior to other mammalian life forms. We “perceive” (or more inclusively, conceive) better because we possess language. Language is our presently ultimate (latest, most highly developed) perceptual system. We need to reorient our theories accordingly.

Correspondence concerning this article should be emailed to walterbweimer@msn.com

Onset of the Spontaneous Non-Transcendental Out-of-Body Experience: An Orienting Response to Threat
Robert A. King, The NDE OBE Research Project

When a perceived out-of-body experience (OBE) occurs an individual has the impression of consciously existing as an extrapersonal self somewhere out of or away from the physical body. This can consist of the perception of being in either a non-transcendental or transcendental environment. It can also occur spontaneously or it can be self-induced by an act of will. The focus of this article is on the spontaneous non-transcendental perceived OBE in cases where the experient has the impression of consciously existing as an extrapersonal self somewhere within the immediate environment of their physical body. It postulates that such an experience is frequently initiated as an adaptive orienting response to brain-interpreted physiological and/or psychological stress meant to bolster the probability for physical survival and psychological well-being during incidents of threat. The article further briefly discusses inconsistent occurrences, unconscious threat interpretations, threat interpretation mistakes, other types of non-transcendental perceived OBEs, and the possible nature of the spontaneous non-transcendental perceived OBE as consisting of a highly accurate simulated environment meant to recreate one’s surroundings in the moment of threat to boost the odds for survival.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Robert A. King, M.A. Psych., and Ord. Min, c/o Institute of Mind and Behavior, PO Box 522, Village Station, New York, New York 10014.Email: rking@ndeobe.com

Immanence, Transcendence, and Cognition
Timothy L. Hubbard, Arizona State University and Grand Canyon University

Similarities of immanence and transcendence perspectives regarding the presence of the sacred or divine in the natural world to several domains and topics in contemporary science are discussed. Parallels of immanence and transcendence perspectives in psychology (computer metaphor, embodied cognition, transpersonal psychology, different types of information processing, creativity) are noted. Trends to transform the transcendent into the immanent (mathematics, mind–body dualism, reductionism, artificial intelligence, noetic science and the paranormal, God-of-the-Gaps, elimination of mind) in science are identified, and responses to such trends (increased participation by the observer, extension of social cognition to the natural world, use of a cybernetic alternative, 4E cognition, re-enchantment of the natural world) are discussed. It is suggested that transformation of the transcendent into the immanent left the natural world meaningless and devoid of mind, detached observation is not necessarily an optimal scientific strategy, and a balance between immanence and transcendence perspectives is needed.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Timothy Hubbard, Ph.D., College of Doctoral Studies, Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, Arizona 85017. Email: timothyleehubbard@gmail.com


Research Methods in Comparative Psychology: A Tutorial
Charles I. Abramson, Oklahoma State University

The purpose of this contribution is to acquaint social science students with some of the principle research methods associated with comparative psychology. Comparative psychology is the oldest of the organized social sciences and the myriad issues of experimental design routinely faced by comparative psychologists are directly applicable to all social sciences. Issues discussed include how to determine if a comparison is worth conducting, the relationship between quantitative and qualitative comparisons, how to apply systematic variation to evaluate several possible explanations, and why the cautionary tale provided by “Morgan’s canon” is still relevant. Other issues include the importance of a universally accepted definition of behavioral phenomena, the need for behavioral taxonomies, and the significance of including examples of behavioral observations. Of particular interest is a discussion of the comparative method and the presentation of guidelines for designing experiments. This article can be incorporated into any course that is relevant to the comparative analysis of behavior as either primary source material or supplemental readings.  

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Charles I. Abramson, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Oklahoma State University, 116 Psychology Building, Stillwater, Oklahoma 74078. Email: Charles.abramson@okstate.edu