Bodily Action and Distal Attribution in Sensory Substitution

In Fiona Macpherson (ed.), Sensory Substitution and Augmentation. Proceedings of the British Academy (forthcoming)
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According to proponents of the sensorimotor contingency theory of perception (Hurley & Noë 2003, Noë 2004, O’Regan 2011), active control of camera movement is necessary for the emergence of distal attribution in tactile-visual sensory substitution (TVSS) because it enables the subject to acquire knowledge of the way stimulation in the substituting modality varies as a function of self-initiated, bodily action. This chapter, by contrast, approaches distal attribution as a solution to a causal inference problem faced by the subject’s perceptual systems. Given all of the available endogenous and exogenous evidence available to those systems, what is the most probable source of stimulation in the substituting modality? From this perspective, active control over the camera’s movements matters for rather different reasons. Most importantly, it generates proprioceptive and efference-copy based information about the camera’s body-relative position necessary to make use of the spatial cues present in the stimulation that the subject receives for purposes of egocentric object localization.
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