The following are some of the diverse projects currently being developed by EMBODY Research Group members:

Expertise and Reading Comprehension as Embodied Action

Reading Comprehension as Embodied Action

(People: Moritz Bammel, Gui Sanches de Oliveira)

Reading comprehension is often conceptualized in terms of the internal processing of linguistic information and construction of internal mental representations. In contrast, an ecological-enactive approach rejects this internalist focus and instead emphasizes the dynamic process of reader-text coupling in which eye movements play a constitutive role. In this project we employ methods from dynamical systems theory to shed light on reading comprehension proficiency as measured experimentally, while also pursuing a philosophically-informed view of the expertise at play in understanding domain-specific content in specialized texts.

Dynamics of Insight in Graph Comprehension

Dynamics of Insight in Graph Comprehension

(People: Paul Schweidler, Gui Sanches de Oliveira, Tehran Davis)

Currently popular accounts explain insight as involving some kind of internal representational restructuring. In contrast with this dominant approach, we are conducting an eye-tracking experiment and using nonlinear analysis methods to show how, as an embodied phenomenon, the “Aha moment” manifests itself in different behavioral patterns, including patterns of visual exploration, and can usefully be cast non-representationally in terms of a phase transition in the dynamically changing cognitive system.

Brain-Body Dynamics and Affordances for grasping and pointing

grasping and pointing

(People: Bilal Arafaat, Gui Sanches de Oliveira, Klaus Gramann)

Studying simple behaviors like pointing and grasping can be a powerful means to understanding the complexity of perception-action coupling dynamics at the neural and behavioral scales. In this project we manipulate measures related to the affordance for reaching, while varying the order of presentation and instructions, in order to determine how these lower and higher order constraints affect perception-action-related neural activity and behavioral performance.

Visual control of hand movement in interception

visual control of hand movement / interception

(People: Vicente Raja, Gui Sanches de Oliveira, Bilal Arafaat, Klaus Gramann)

In this project we investigate the visual control of hand movements at play when intercepting a moving object. Besides replicating established findings at the behavioral level, our goal is to identify the relevant neural dynamics involved in resonating to visual ecological information (tau).

Embodied Exploration & Affordances in Neuroarchitecture

Affordances in Neuroarchitecture

(People: Sheng Wang, Gui Sanches de Oliveira, Klaus Gramann)

Research in neuroarchitecture investigates the neural basis of human perception of, and action within, the surrounding architectural environment, often with the goal of understanding the cognitive processes at play during this interaction and of providing a foundation for evidence-based architectural design. In this project we examine the shortcomings of contemporary neuroarchitectural research, and we propose that combining theoretical and conceptual resources from ecological psychology with state-of-the-art neuroscience methods (Mobile Brain/Body Imaging) is a promising way to push the field of neuroarchitecture forward.

Affordances and Experience at the interface between Ecological Psychology and Environmental Ethics

Affordances and Experience at the interface between Ecological Psychology and Environmental Ethics

(People: Hannah Kruft, Gui Sanches de Oliveira)

Recent work in environmental ethics challenges the distinction between the “natural” and the “built” environment. In this project we investigate the prospect of integrating this way of thinking with the understanding of cognition offered by ecological psychology. On the one hand, we explore the role of affordances in shaping our building practices, including but not limited to those at play in professional contexts (e.g. urban planning and architecture), with special focus on novel approaches favoring open, disruptive design. On the other hand, we also consider how thinking in terms of “experience” (in a pragmatist, radical empiricist sense) can help bridge the divide between the descriptive and the normative types of systems thinking at play in ecological psychology and environmental ethics, respectively.