Research

Research

Research is actively encouraged at all levels of the PNP program. The PNP program sponsors a wide range of research activity, including conferences, workshops, seminar series, and colloquia. The PNP program sometime hosts visiting faculty, including the Clark-Way-Harris Visiting Professors, and it supports two two-year James S. McDonnell postdoctoral fellows. The Olin library maintains a dedicated research page for the PNP program.

For more information about research, explore our Faculty and Affiliated Faculty for direct links to their websites and laboratory pages.

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the faculty bookshelf

Beyond Vision: Philosophical Essays
Sounds: A Philosophical Theory
Sounds & Perception
Philosophy: Traditional and Experimental Readings
The Construction of Human Kinds
In Search of Mechanisms: Discoveries Across the Life Sciences
Layering and Directionality
Danto and His Critics
Mental Imagery: On the Limits of Cognitive Science
Explaining the Brain: Mechanisms and the Mosaic Unity of Neuroscience

Beyond Vision: Philosophical Essays

Beyond Vision brings together eight essays by Casey O'Callaghan. The works draw theoretical and philosophical lessons about perception, the nature of its objects, and sensory awareness through sustained attention to extra-visual and multisensory forms of perception and perceptual consciousness. O'Callaghan focuses on auditory perception, perception of spoken language, and multisensory perception. The first essays concern the nature of audition's objects, focusing on sounds, especially drawing attention to the ways in which they contrast with vision's objects. The middle essays explore forms of auditory perception that could not be explained without understanding audition's interactions with other senses. This bridges work on sound perception with work on multisensory perception, and it raises multisensory perception as an important topic for understanding perception even in a single modality. The last essays are devoted to multisensory perception and perceptual consciousness. They argue that no complete account of perception overall or of multisensory perceptual consciousness can be developed in modality-specific terms-perceiving amounts to more than just seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling at the same time. The final essay presents a new framework for understanding what it is to be modality-specific or to be multisensory.

Sounds: A Philosophical Theory

Vision dominates philosophical thinking about perception, and theorizing about experience in cognitive science traditionally has focused on a visual model. This book presents a systematic treatment of sounds and auditory experience. It demonstrates how thinking about audition and appreciating the relationships among multiple sense modalities enriches our understanding of perception. It articulates the central questions that comprise the philosophy of sound, and proposes a novel theory of sounds and their perception. Against the widely accepted philosophical view that sounds are among the secondary or sensible qualities, and against the scientific view that sounds are waves that propagate through a medium such as air or water, the book argues that sounds are events in which objects or interacting bodies disturb a surrounding medium. This does not imply that sounds propagate through a medium, such as air or water. Rather, sounds are events that take place in one's environment at or near their sources. This account captures the way in which sounds essentially are creatures of time and situates sounds in the world. Sounds are not ethereal, mysterious entities. It also provides a powerful account of echoes, interference, reverberation, Doppler effects, and perceptual constancies that surpasses the explanatory richness of alternative theories. Investigating sounds and audition demonstrates that considering other sense modalities teaches what we could not otherwise learn from thinking exclusively about the visual. This book concludes by arguing that a surprising class of cross-modal perceptual illusions demonstrates that the perceptual modalities cannot be completely understood in isolation, and that a visuocentric model for theorizing about perception — according to which perceptual modalities are discrete modes of experience and autonomous domains of philosophical and scientific inquiry — ought to be abandoned.

Sounds & Perception

This book comprises original chapters that address the central questions and issues that define the emerging philosophy of sounds and auditory perception. This work focuses upon two sets of interrelated concerns. The first is a constellation of debates concerning the ontology of sounds. What kinds of things are sounds, and what properties do sounds have? For instance, are sounds secondary qualities, physical properties, waves, or some type of event? The second is a set of questions about the contents of auditory experiences and of hearing. How are sounds experienced to be? What sorts of things and properties are experienced in auditory perception? For example, in what sense is auditory experience spatial; do we hear sources in addition to sounds; what is distinctive about musical listening; and what do we hear when we hear speech? An introductory chapter summarises many of the issues discussed, provides a summary of the contributions and shows how they are connected.

Philosophy: Traditional and Experimental Readings

Philosophy: Traditional and Experimental Readings, is an edited volume that integrates traditional historical and contemporary philosophical readings with recent work in experimental philosophy, a philosophical movement in which people collect empirical data to shed light on philosophical issues.  Each chapter contains an introduction to the issues, concepts, and readings within the chapter.  O

The Construction of Human Kinds

Ron Mallon explores how thinking and talking about kinds of person can bring those kinds into being. Social constructionist explanations of human kinds like race, gender, and homosexuality are commonplace in the social sciences and humanities, but what do they mean and what are their implications? 

This book synthesizes recent work in evolutionary, cognitive, and social psychology as well as social theory and the philosophy of science, in order to offer a naturalistic account of the social construction of human kinds. Mallon begins by qualifying social constructionist accounts of representations of human kinds by appealing to evidence suggesting canalized dispositions towards certain ways of representing human groups, using race as a case study. He then turns to interpret constructionist accounts of categories as attempts to explain causally powerful human kinds by appealling to our practices of representing them, and he articulates a view in which widespread representations produce entrenched social roles that could vindicate such attempts. 

Mallon goes on to explore constructionist concerns with the social consequences of our representations, focusing especially on the way human kind representations can alter our behaviour and undermine our self understandings and our agency. Mallon understands socially constructed kinds as the real, sometimes stable products of our cognitive and representational practices, and he suggests that reference to such kinds can figure in our everyday and scientific practices of representing the social world. The result is a realistic, naturalistic account of how human representations might contribute to making up the parts of the social world that they represent.

In Search of Mechanisms: Discoveries Across the Life Sciences

Neuroscientists investigate the mechanisms of spatial memory. Molecular biologists study the mechanisms of protein synthesis and the myriad mechanisms of gene regulation. Ecologists study nutrient cycling mechanisms and their devastating imbalances in estuaries such as the Chesapeake Bay. In fact, much of biology and its history involves biologists constructing, evaluating, and revising their understanding of mechanisms.

           

With In Search of Mechanisms, Carl F. Craver and Lindley Darden offer both a descriptive and an instructional account of how biologists discover mechanisms. Drawing on examples from across the life sciences and through the centuries, Craver and Darden compile an impressive toolbox of strategies that biologists have used and will use again to reveal the mechanisms that produce, underlie, or maintain the phenomena characteristic of living things. They discuss the questions that figure in the search for mechanisms, characterizing the experimental, observational, and conceptual considerations used to answer them, all the while providing examples from the history of biology to highlight the kinds of evidence and reasoning strategies employed to assess mechanisms. At a deeper level, Craver and Darden pose a systematic view of what biology is, of how biology makes progress, of how biological discoveries are and might be made, and of why knowledge of biological mechanisms is important for the future of the human species.

Layering and Directionality

The metrical grid, the prosodic hierarchy, and the devices that establish directional parsing effects are closely intertwined in metrical stress theory. The metrical grid is the structure that represents stress patterns. The locations of stressed positions on the grid are constrained by the positions of categories in the prosodic hierarchy. Both the metrical grid and the prosodic hierarchy are manipulated by constraints, such as alignment constraints, that establish directional orientations within these structures. Assumptions about the representations affect the behavior of the constraints, and the particular formulation of the constraints influences the ultimate configuration of the representations. 

Layering and Directionality is unique in the OT literature in that it examines both halves of the equation. It addresses the formulation of constraints that produce directional parsing effects, but it also addresses assumptions concerning prosodic and metrical structure. The book presents and defends three central proposals: the Weak Bracketing approach to layering relationships between prosodic categories, the Optimal Mapping approach to the relationship between prosodic categories and the metrical grid, and the Relation-Specific Alignment approach to parsing directionality. The book is also unique in its coverage of OT accounts, comparing the proposed approach to approaches that range from Generalized Alignment in standard OT to the more recent Iterative Foot Optimization couched within the framework of Harmonic Serialism. The book draws extensively on the typological literature to evaluate the predictions of the accounts examined.

Danto and His Critics

One of philosophy's most creative thinkers, Arthur Danto has produced a body of work that includes epistemology, action theory, the philosophy of history, the history of philosophy, aesthetics, and art criticism. An abiding concern in this work has been the attribution of content to various expressions of ideas, thoughts, or beliefs: in knowledge claims, actions, and artworks. Accounting for the difference between apparently indistinguishable objects and events in these categories has been a methodological thread.

Mental Imagery: On the Limits of Cognitive Science

How images occur in the brain and are used in cognition is a subject much debated by psychologists. . . . In this book, a philosopher of science shows that there are no logical or methodological reasons why the brain cannot store information in pictures, and he proposes an original theory explaining how images function as representations. The first philosophical study to develop a systematic analysis of recent research on mental images, the book focuses on the imagery debate in order to provide an assessment of cognitive science in general. 

Explaining the Brain: Mechanisms and the Mosaic Unity of Neuroscience

What distinguishes good explanations in neuroscience from bad? Carl F. Craver constructs and defends standards for evaluating neuroscientific explanations that are grounded in a systematic view of what neuroscientific explanations are: descriptions of multilevel mechanisms. In developing this approach, he draws on a wide range of examples in the history of neuroscience (e.g. Hodgkin and Huxleys model of the action potential and LTP as a putative explanation for different kinds of memory), as well as recent philosophical work on the nature of scientific explanation. Readers in neuroscience, psychology, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of science will find much to provoke and stimulate them in this book.