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Apr 17, 2024

The Borderlands of Perception with Chaz Firestone (podcast)

Where does perception end and thinking begin? 

By Templeton Staff

How does perception — our means of contact with the external world — interact with the rest of the mind?

Dr. Chaz Firestone, Associate Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, and Director of the Perception and Mind Lab there is the guest on this episode of Many Minds podcast. He and his research group study perceiving, thinking, and the interface between the two.

Many Minds podcast host, cognitive scientist, and writer Kensy Cooperrider introduces the episode:

"We've all seen those illusions. The dots seem to dance, when in fact they're completely still. The lines look like they bend, but in reality they're perfectly straight. Here's the thing: It doesn't matter that you know the ground truth of these illusions — the dancing and bending won't stop. And that we see the world one way, even though we know it's actually another way, is a fascinating quirk of our minds — and maybe a telling one. It suggests that there's a chasm between perceiving and thinking, that these may be two independent provinces of the mind. But, if so, we're faced with another question: Where does perception end and thinking begin? 

Chaz and I talk about his background in philosophy and how it continues to animate his research. We sketch the differences between perception and cognition and why the two are best considered separate faculties. We consider the idea of so-called "top-down" effects on perception. We discuss the fact that, even if perception and cognition are separate, there's much more to perception than meets the eye. We seem to see things like causes and social interactions; we perceive things like silences and absences. Along the way, Chaz and I touch on the modular view mind, skeletal shapes, the El Greco fallacy, stubborn epistemology, birders and radiologists, retinotopy and visual adaptation, adversarial images, human-machine comparisons, and the case of the blue banana."

Play the episode with the above player.

Be sure to check out the show notes for links with detailed information.

Learn more about Templeton World Charity Foundation's Diverse Intelligences priority.

Templeton World Charity Foundation's Diverse Intelligences is a multiyear, global effort to understand a world alive with brilliance in many forms. Its mission is to promote open-minded, forward-looking inquiry in animal, human, and machine intelligences. We collaborate with leading experts and emerging scholars from around the globe, developing high-caliber projects that advance our comprehension of the constellation of intelligences.

Many Minds is a project of the Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute (DISI), made possible through a grant from TWCF to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The Many Minds podcast is hosted and produced by Kensy Cooperrider, with help from Assistant Producer Urte Laukaityte. Creative support is provided by DISI Directors Erica Cartmill and Jacob Foster. Artwork featured as the podcast badge is by Ben Oldroyd.