Intrinsic Multiperspectivity: On the Architectural Foundations of a Distinctive Mental Capacity

In P. A. Frensch & R. Schwarzer (eds.), Cognition and Neuropsychology: International Perspectives on Psychological Science, Vol.1. Psychology Press (2010)
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It is a characteristic feature of our mental make-up that the same perceptual input situation can simultaneously elicit conflicting mental perspectives. This ability pervades our perceptual and cognitive domains. Striking examples are the dual character of pictures in picture perception, pretend play, or the ability to employ metaphors and allegories. I will argue that traditional approaches, beyond being inadequate on principle grounds, are theoretically ill-equipped to deal with these achievements. I will then outline a theoretical perspective that has been emerging from a theoretical convergence of perceptual psychology, ethology, linguistics, and developmental research. On the basis of this framework, I will argue that corresponding achievements are brought forth by a specific type of functional architecture whose core features are: (i) a perceptual system that is biologically furnished with a rich system of conceptual forms, (ii) a triggering relation between the sensory input and conceptual forms by which the same sensory input can be exploited by different types or systems of conceptual forms, and (iii) computational principles for handling semantically underspecified conceptual forms. Characteristic features of the proposed theoretical framework will be pointed out using the Heider-Simmel phenomenon as an example.
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