Uncovering the role of intention in active and passive perception


According to the embodied approach to cognition, perception and action are tightly intertwined, as perception is for action and is guided by action. To better understand what this view implies behaviorally, we studied how active movement and intentionality during perceptual exploration affect perceptual accuracy. Participants explored two-dimensional objects using a sensory substitution device, then reported their object size estimates. We manipulated 1) their control over exploratory movements as being either Active (control present) or Passive (control absent) and 2) their knowledge of the task goals, being either Specific (task-focused) or Generic. We found no difference between the Active and Passive conditions but significantly higher perceptual accuracy in Specific Intention trials compared to Generic Intention ones. These results clarify the nature of active perception and contribute to the growing body of evidence that higher level cognitive goals shape how we dynamically sample even low level sensory information from the world.

Proceedings of the Annual Cognitive Science Meeting