Events

Beyond features such as color and shape, visual percepts can also involve properties that we typically associate with higher-level cognition -- such as animacy, intentionality, and goal-directedness. Cognitive scientists have long been captivated by such phenomena, but have faced challenges in studying them with precision, and in distinguishing true perceptual effects from higher-level inferences. I will describe and demonstrate several projects from our group that address these challenges, exploring the perception of animacy from some new perspectives: (1) Demonstrations of several new types of perceived animacy (including the 'psychophysics of chasing', the 'wolfpack effect', and the 'slithering snake' animation; (2) Illustrations of how it is possible to assess the objective accuracy of certain types of perceived animacy; and (3) Explorations of how perceived animacy connects up with the rest of mind, and influences other aspects of perception and attention. Each of these research strands will involve perceptually salient demonstrations of various types. Collectively, these projects show how the perception of animacy and intentionality is wired into our minds in deep and pervasive ways, and how perception involves recovering not only the physical structure of the world, but also its causal and social structure.