Volume 37, Numbers 3 and 4, Summer and Autumn 2016


Non-Human Origins of Human Perception in the Pre-Pleistocene
Gregory C. Hoffmann and Michael S. Gordon, William Paterson University

In this essay we argue that the human perceptual and sensory mechanisms, which have been described as part of the emergence of our species during the Pleistocene, are part of a much earlier evolutionary trend. Evidence for the pre-human development of our perceptual systems is explored using the comparative literature of non-primates and non-mammals. Furthermore, we argue that evolutionary psychology theorists have tended to misconstrue the mechanisms of perception through an anthrocentric lens. Other lines of thought contend that much of hominid cognition and perception is evolutionarily unique to the point that a broad cognitive discontinuity exists between humans and other species. While the emergence of our species during the Pleistocene clearly has a significant influence on the human brain and mind, it is our contention that perception, and, arguably, the basis of most cognition, is related to much more longstanding environmental constraints as they impacted biological development. Comparative evidence from primates, other mammals, and non-mammalian species, in addition to an evaluation of evolutionary forces and history, are used in support of this argument. The human mind seems to be ancient in its architecture having been sculpted by longstanding and pre-human ecological constraints originating in perceptual mechanisms that significantly pre-date the Pleistocene.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Michael S. Gordon, Ph.D, Department of Psychology, William Paterson University, 300 Pompton Road, Wayne, New Jersey 07470. Email: gordonm10@wpunj.edu

Scientific Realism, Psychological Realism, and Aristotelian–Thomistic Realism
James M. Stedman, University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, Matthew Kostelecky, St. Joseph’s College at the University of Alberta and Thomas L. Spalding and Christina Gagné, University of Alberta

In this paper, we examine the attractiveness of scientific realism as a philosophical underpinning providing a realist interpretation of psychology. We begin by discussing how psychology arrived at scientific realism as a kind of default position, and discuss some of the advantages of scientific realism relative to non-realist philosophical approaches to psychology. We then raise several potential problems with the naïve adoption of scientific realism for psychology. We argue that these problems show that scientific realism cannot provide a coherent and comprehensive realist underpinning for psychology, and that scientific realism, if taken seriously, has some quite pernicious effects on the field. In particular, scientific realism would divide all of psychology into the scientific and the non-scientific. However, because scientific realism has no clear criteria for what counts as scientific, this distinction, in practice, tends to collapse into a naïve materialist reductionism. We then describe Aristotelian–Thomistic (A–T) realism, and show how it might be adopted to provide a more coherent and comprehensive philosophical underpinning for psychology. We show that the A–T approach avoids the problems that we identified with scientific realism as a philosophical underpinning for psychology. Importantly, unlike scientific realism, the A–T approach maintains a clear realist orientation while providing clear principles for understanding the extent to which humans have epistemological access to reality by matching appropriate methods of inquiry for various subjects of rational inquiry, rather than elevating the scientific method to the status of a principle. Thus, we argue that the A–T approach could provide a solidly realist philosophical underpinning to the whole field of psychology that does not suffer from the defects common to the naïve acceptance of scientific realism.

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. Email: Stedman@uthscsa.edu

Behavior Analytic Pragmatism
J. Moore, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

According to pragmatism, the meaning of a philosophical topic is found in its implications and consequences for human affairs. Absent is any assumption that the topic represents some aspect of a metaphysical reality inferred to be beyond human experience and behavior. The present review suggests that the views of metaphysics and scientific verbal behavior found in contemporary pragmatism, with Richard Rorty as the example, are compatible with those found in the behavior analysis of B.F. Skinner.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to J. Moore, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201. Email: jcm@uwm.edu

Reciprocity and Reputation: A Review of Direct and Indirect Social Information Gathering
Yvan I. Russell, University of Göttingen and Middlesex University

Direct reciprocity, indirect reciprocity, and reputation are important interrelated topics in the evolution of sociality. This non-mathematical review is a summary of each. Direct reciprocity (the positive kind) has a straightforward structure (e.g., “A rewards B, then B rewards A”) but the allocation might differ from the process that enabled it (e.g., whether it is true reciprocity or some form of mutualism). Indirect reciprocity (the positive kind) occurs when person (B) is rewarded by a third party (A) after doing a good deed towards somebody else (C) — with the structure “A observes B help C, therefore A helps B.” Here too, the allocation differs from the process: if there is underlying cognition, then indirect reciprocity is based on some ability to keep track of the reputations of others (to remember that “B helped C”). Reputation is a kind of social impression based on typicality, derived from three channels of experience (direct encounters, bystander observation, and gossip). Although non-human animals cannot gossip verbally, they can eavesdrop on third parties and learn vicariously. This paper ends with a proposal to investigate the topic of social expertise as a model for understanding how animals understand and utilise observed information within their social groups.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Yvan I. Russell, Department of Psychology, Middle­sex University, The Burroughs, London NW4 4BT, United Kingdom, Email: yvanrussell@gmail.com

A Non-Representational Understanding of Visual Experience
Kaplan Hasanoglu, Emmanuel College

This paper argues that various phenomenological considerations support a non-representational causal account of visual experience. This position claims that visual experiences serve as a non-representational causally efficacious medium for the production of beliefs concerning the external world. The arguments are centered on defending a non-representational causal account’s understanding of the cognitive significance of visual experience. Among other things, such an account can easily explain the inextricable role that background beliefs and conceptual capacities play in perceptually-based external world belief-formation processes, the fact that visual mental states constrain beliefs because of their presentational phenomenology, and the phenomenon known as the transparency of visual experience.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Kaplan Hasanoglu, Ph.D., Philosophy Department, Emmanuel College, 400 The Fenway, ADM 357, Boston, Massachusetts 02115. Email: hasanogluk@emmanuel.edu

What Does Neuroscience Research Tell Us about Human Consciousness? An Overview of Benjamin Libet’s Legacy
Jimmy Y. Zhong, Georgia Institute of Technology

This paper presents an overview of the key neuroscience studies investigating the neural mechanisms of self-initiated movements that form the basis of our human consciousness. These studies, which commenced with the seminal works of Benjamin Libet and colleagues, showed that an ensemble of brain areas — localized to the frontal and medial regions of the brain — are involved in engendering the conscious decision to commit a motor act. Regardless of differences in neuroimaging techniques, these studies commonly showed that early neuronal activities in the frontal lobules and supplementary motor areas, interpreted by some to be reflective of unconscious processes, occurred before one was conscious of the intention to act as well as of the act itself. I examine and discuss these empirical findings with regard to the need to analyze the contents and stages of awareness, and devise paradigm-specific models or theories that could account for inconsistent findings garnered from different experimental paradigms. This paper concludes by emphasizing a need to reconcile the principles of determinism with the notions of free will in future development of consciousness research and theories.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jimmy Y. Zhong, Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging Lab, Center for Advanced Brain Imaging (CABI) 135, 831 Marietta Street NW, Atlanta, Georgia 30318. Email: jzhong34@gatech.edu

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