Questions on the Nature of memory, personality, etc.

Glen M. Sizemore gmsizemore2 at
Tue May 18 07:03:32 EST 2004

RM: Okay... As David already said... there seems to have been a littly
language problem from my side.
I thought you were using the terms Behaviourist and the allusions of
"behaviour" in a sarcastic manner.
So I concluded that you were insulting O Regan and Noe as well as well
as making fun of the techniques employed by us.
I thought you wanted answers to "what is cognition" instead of neuro -
behavioural data. I thought you were one of thos persons asking for
the whole cake at once (e.g. Explain Language and Cognition !!!!).

But instead you were critizising that the terms I use were ill-chosen
(experiments with attention, consciousness) and a bit detached from
I am sorry.
I know what you mean and I think its not a bad thing and be cautious
and leave out the big terms like consciousness and cognition when
working on neurophysiological machanisms.

To make is sound a little less boastful. Here are some terms I was
talking about de-composed :

1. I talked about experiments on the consciousness. Well. Usually all
one does is in fact work with multistable phenomena of conscious
perception. This is usually done with binocular rivalry experiments.
You may then use fMRI or electrophysiology (animals) combined with
behavioural tasks to check for the percepts (e.g. look for face
activation in ffa vs. soemthing else) to find out how one perception
may dominate the other.
Of course this is not the definition of consciousness, but that is
what I meant when talking about "research on conscious perception".
I will replace this term in the future with "binocular rivalry" or
"multistable phenomena" experiments.

2. When I mentioned attention, of course there is a huge behavioural
paradigm behind it. One may assume certain attentional effects that
have effect on subject performaance (signal enhancement or reduction
of noise). Usually one looks for a behavioural paradigm enabling us to
follow attentional loci and then looks for neural correlates which may
then be manipulated (lesion, TMS, buzzing). Okay... I shall call this
in future looking for neural correlates of attentional mechnaisms.

3. emotions. Well... let's now call it neural correlates of fear
conditioning in rats :)
   If I'm being honest, this is pretty detached form "explainign
   Of course there is Damasio and stuff, but that's not active

4. attention for action. This is a nice one, I'll keep it. What I
meant was that you do some delayed conditional tasks
and look neuronal linkages between stimuli features/categories
responsiveness and Go/NoGO/MotorPreparation/MotorExecution
specialization. These may then underly attention for action. Okay...
only an idea, but a compelling one. Then you can lesion !

Okay... perhaps that does not sound like something you may call
"Cognitive" Science. But it sure is interesting.

GS: Hi Robert,

Just a few comments on the above: all of psychology, and neurosciences that
have as their focus whole-animal behavioral preparations, manipulate the
environment and measure behavior. The ploy of non-behavioristic psychology
since the late 1940's has been to "operationalize" mental terms (like
"attention," "fear," "belief," etc. etc.). That is, one manipulates the
environment and measures behavior, but claims that one is "really"
manipulating something else, i.e., the mental "thing" that is being
"operationalized." Nothing could have been more disastrous, and the price
paid is mainstream psychology, which I do not even regard as a science -
because science is actually a balance between facts, theories and concepts;
and mainstream psychology is utterly devoid of any careful analysis of
concepts (cf Machado et al "Facts, Theories, and Concepts: The Shape of
Psychology's Epistemic Triangle). The hallmark of mainstream psychology (and
most of behavioral neuroscience) is that "any term is OK as long as there is
an operational definition." The problem is that the way mainstream
psychology partitions behavior is misguided. That is, they lump things
together that should be separate, and they classify as different things that
are similar. For example ask yourself, "What is the connection between
"attention" and "stimulus control" and "conditioned reinforcement?" or asked
another way: "What are two ways in which the term "attention" is used and
what known behavioral processes are involved?" Hint: Sometimes "attention"
merely refers to the fact that behavior may be controlled by only certain
features of some stimulus (i.e., shape rather than color etc.) and the
animal is said to "pay attention" to one aspect. On the other hand, the term
is sometimes a reference to subtle aspects of behavior that function to
enhance the behavioral effect of the stimulus. These may ultimately be
related, but one thing is certain - "attention" is all about discriminative
stimuli and conditioned reinforcers. For example, Skinner loved the
"observing procedure*" because he felt that it was essentially an
amplification, so to speak, of what the cognitive people were referring to
as "attention." But "attention" remains some mysterious "executive function"
in modern cognitive "science" but it is behavior, and it is behavior that is
easily examined. Why don't more people know this? What I'm saying is that
behavioral neurobiology should be wedded to the experimental analysis of
behavior but, instead, it has aligned itself with cognitive "science," and
has gone off in search of phlogiston and the vis-anima. People like O'Regan
and Noe are refreshing, but in the same breath that they dismiss the ghosts
of cognitive psychology they trash behaviorism or, at least, what they
perceive to be behaviorism (more on O'Regan and Noe, below).

RM: Concerning O Regan and Noe : I don't know what you meant that they
were behaviouralists... I am used to this term to be used as an insult
(like dualist, creationist have become insults to some).
But I love their theories on sensorimotor contingencies. I think some
of their newer publications are cool as well, but I liked the loose
framework of smc's. I have always been a fan of brain-computer devices
in clinical application (e.g. EEG-BCI at Tübingen). So Bach-y-Rita's
was known to me before I stumbled upon Regan&Noe.
One of our Professors who worked with Wolf Singer on binding by
synchronization introduced me to their ideas. Even though I was into
binding by synchronization during that time, it immediately struck me
that perhaps binding and filling in and all the hard stuff... could be
explained away. Ever since I regarded the idea of ssc's as a loose
basis for my understanding of the nervous system.
Now... what do you mean by "they are behaviourists"?

GS: One of the hallmarks of radical behaviorism is its stance on perceptual
behavior; that is, for behaviorists, seeing, hearing, etc. are all forms of
behavior, not reproduction and representation. This is essentially the
position taken by O'Regan and Noe, even though they sometimes obscure this
by talking about "knowledge of sensorimotor contingencies." But "knowledge"
is always behavior if it is anything and, thus, what O'Regan and Noe talk
about is behavior that has perceptual consequences. Indeed, I suggested to O
'Regan that "sensorimotor contingencies" were reinforcement contingencies,
but I never heard back from him (the email was accompanied by a quote from
Skinner that could have been written by O'Regan and Noe, and I think he
resented that, and resented the fact that I pointed out that he was
essentially a Skinnerian). It is hard to overlook that the essential
explanatory element of O&N, and radical behaviorism is that behavior has
consequences, and that such contingent relations are the basis of behavior,
including seeing, hearing, and so forth. Well, I'll cut it short for now.

BTW, do you study retinal rivalry in nonhumans?



*In the OP, two schedules of reinforcement alternate (usually some VI
schedule and extinction) in the presence of a single stimulus. However,
there is a second manipulandum, and responding on it changes the stimulus to
one uniquely correlated with whatever schedule is in effect on the other one
(i.e., changes it to one stimulus if the VI schedule is in effect, and
changes it to another if extinction is currently programmed. The observing
response does not directly alter any other aspect of the contingencies.

"Robert M?rtin" <robertmaertin at> wrote in message
news:85d56b27.0405180123.3f65609c at
> Okay... As David already said... there seems to have been a littly

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