October 20, 2004

Fight or Flight

I'm wondering about the role that Relevance may or may not play in how humans react to fear. Since we are considering that Relevance should predict that human cognition will be most sensitive to the stimulus that is considered optimally relevant within a limited time, I'm curious what this claim would say about a person facing a 'fight or flight' situation.

I know from situations in my own life that when I'm experiencing something scary (e.g. falling off a ladder), I have a difficult time selecting a stimulus to focus on--to improve my situation. Likewise, if, let's say, I'm confronted with a grizzly bear in the woods, I would imagine that the bear would be the most relevant stimulus in my life at that moment.

I can imagine that instead of attending to the most relevant stimulus at the moment (the bear and perhaps how to appease him), a person might block out the sensations and perhaps faint. Alternatively, a person might attend to a more comforting but less relevant stimulus in their periphery (e.g. a bird on a tree) simply to distract him/herself from the fearful situation. I admit that this situation is highly hypothetical, but it seems realistic enough that Relevance should have to explain the selective attention involved.

Posted by steve125 at 9:28 AM

October 19, 2004

Irony discussion

I thought that maybe we could talk about irony here since it seems to be interesting to a lot of people in class. I was a little bit confused with the discussion in the Relevance Theory paper. I will quote 14 and 15 for clarity:

(14) Peter: That was a fantastic party.

(15) Mary::

a. [happily] Fantastic.
b. [puzzled] Fantastic?
c: [scornfully] Fantastic!
Wilson and Sperber "claims that it is ironical BECAUSE it is echoic: verbal irony consists in echoing a tacitly attributed thought or utterance with a tacitly dissociative attitude. Now, change (14) to:

(14') Peter:What did you think of the party?

If Mary responds with (15c) it is still ironic. What is she echoing though in this case? Any ideas?

Posted by mill1991 at 2:53 PM

October 10, 2004

Visual features

My interest was piqued by the footnote on page 311 about babies tracking visual objects. I think a lot about how people visually represent and recognize things. For instance, how do you recognize a chair? I can describe a chair, but its difficult to describe how I recognize it. It seems like visual features are very abstract because of the complexity of visual input. Our conscious mind, then, doesn't have any access to the f-mind structures, only the result of some contest between possible objects (e.g. chair vs. bench vs. firewood).

I don't know too much about computer vision, but from what I do know it seems like sometimes there is an effort to make each stage of results intuitive to humans. In other words, algorithms which describe images in terms of length, width, color, scaling, etc are favored. I think its more likely that the visual representation of objects in our heads is much more of an abstract mish-mash of visual features that make no intuitive sense to the conscious mind. One technique of feature extraction used in pattern recognition is called principle components analysis (PCA), where a bunch of dimensions of input are transformed so that the axes are rotated and ordered to maximize explanatory power, and then the least useful axes are just dropped. This technique allows useless features to be ignored in the future.

Something like this might explain the babies described behavior. They recognize complete objects due to the transformation of all the object's features into a recognizable form. However, they aren't as good at tracking changes in descriptive features because features alone are not interesting - its only the combinations of features into objects that interests them. This is almost totally irrelevant to the class, and probably doesn't make any sense, but I thought I'd post something in case anyone checks this everyday and was getting disappointed in not seeing anything.

Posted by mill1991 at 7:33 PM

October 5, 2004

First entry

Since this class only meets once a week for a few hours, each person probably has some issues that he or she would like to discuss more. Many classes already use UThink (the U's blogging system), and because our class often consists of discussion, a system like this is perfect. So, if you would like to begin posting, send me an email (mill1991 {at} umn {dot} edu) with your University Internet ID (AKA x.500 username) and I will add you as an author. Once you are added, it is trivial to start posting. I think it is also possible to get sent an e-mail whenever someone else posts - I will look into that.

In case you are wondering:

Posted by mill1991 at 4:17 PM