The Life & Mind Seminar Network

CFP: Consciousness without inner models – a sensorimotor account of what IS going on in our heads

Posted in CFP, Seminars by Andrew Martin on December 6, 2013

Note: This is the CFP for a symposium at AISB50 ( of which I am on the programme committee. I’ll happily respond to any questions in the comments. Cheers, Andrew.

Consciousness without inner models – a sensorimotor account of what IS going on in our heads

We invite abstracts for talks at a one-day symposium (2 April 2014), taking place as part of the AISB 50th Anniversary conference (Goldsmiths, University of London, 1-4 April 2014).

There has been much criticism over the years of the idea that conscious experience depends on inner representational models of the environment. Enactive accounts (e.g. Thompson 2007) and the sensorimotor account more particularly (O’Regan & Noë 2001; O’Regan 2011) have prominently criticized the reliance on inner models and they have offered an alternative way of thinking about experience. The idea of sensorimotor approaches is that experience involves the perceiver’s attunement to the way in which sensory stimulation depends on action. But how then should we conceive of what happens in the agent’s head to allow for this attunement? In this symposium we focus on two questions. First, how does an enactive sensorimotor theory offer guidance for the interpretation of neurophysiological findings? Second, how are its predictions about neural processes different from the predictions of representationalist accounts?

The first question, concerning the philosophical interpretation of neurophysiological findings, may be addressed by focusing on key processes such as corollary discharge or ‘efference copy’ and notions like ‘expectation error’ and ‘forward models’ in relation to the sensorimotor account or enactive accounts more generally. Here the main question is how to get the brain into view from an enactive/sensorimotor perspective. Where classical approaches speak of neural computation of properties of the environment, or the build-up of representations in the brain, what specific analysis can a sensorimotor account offer in its place? Addressing this question is urgently needed, for there seem to be no accepted alternatives to representational interpretations of the inner processes. Also robotic models of perceptual processes are often interpreted as mimicking the allegedly representational nature of neural processes. A sensorimotor account could help to avoid this bias towards interpretations based on the notion of inner models.

The second question, concerning the predictions following from an enactive/sensorimotor account, requires contrasting the neural processes that are postulated in representational theories, with the processes required by the enactive/sensorimotor account. Which processes postulated by representational accounts are rejected by the sensorimotor account or enactive accounts more generally? For example, why and when can neural ‘binding’ or ‘filling in’ be rejected? And are there processes that are specifically required by sensorimotor theory, which are not required by representational theories? In the part of the symposium addressing these questions we aim to clarify which constraints on inner processes are proposed by the sensorimotor account. If the sensorimotor account is right, these constraints will of course apply to neural processes as well as to robotic models of perception.

Abstracts of 700-1000 words, prepared for blind reviewing, can be submitted to Jan Degenaar at: Please include “Sensorimotor Symposium” in the subject line.

Talks will be 30 minutes including discussion. The submission deadline is 3 January 2014.

Notifications of acceptance will be sent before the end of February.

Confirmed speakers:

  • J. Kevin O’Regan (Université Paris Descartes, France)
  • Fred Keijzer (University of Groningen, the Netherlands)

More info:

Jan Degenaar –

(Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception, Université Paris Descartes, Paris, France)

Symposium website:

AISB conference website:

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