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The Skill of Translating Thought into Action: Framing The Problem

A Correction to this article was published on 08 December 2020

This article has been updated

Abstract

The nature of the cognition-motor interface has been brought to prominence by Butterfill & Sinigaglia (2014), who argue that the representations employed by the cognitive and motor systems should not be able to interact with each other. Here I argue that recent empirical evidence concerning the interface contradicts several of the assumptions incorporated in Butterfill & Sinigaglia’s account, and I seek to develop a theoretical picture that will allow us to explain the structure of the interface presented by this evidence. The central idea is that neural plasticity incorporates metarepresentational rules for constructing representational systems and linking them. The structure of the cognition-motor interface is constructed flexibly during development and skill learning based on information processing demands.

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Change history

Notes

  1. Thanks to both reviewers for their protests on this issue.

  2. Thus, they say “…some motor representations are like intentions in representing action outcomes while also remaining sufficiently unlike intentions in that no single planning process can integrate both intention and motor representation” (2014, p. 120).

  3. However, Mylopoulos & Pacherie include functional role amongst these features. It is possible that they might regard role as fundamental.

  4. The claim that IMS is integrated with conscious awareness is based on the 2MS model of Keele et al. (2003), the dual task experiments cited above which show that motor planning taxes working memory, of which Weigelt et al. (2009) is representative, and the evidence described by Milner & Goodale that the ventral system participates in high level action planning.

  5. B&S say that “it does seem that motor representations are available in some sense” (Butterfill and Sinigaglia 2014, p. 134), which appears to be at odds with strict bidirectional opacity. The question is what sense, since their contents can’t be available without violating NO-MFP and NO-CPP. Sinigaglia and Butterfill (2015) propose that motor representations shape experience, and they suggest that this is analogous to the way that visual experiences shape conscious experience without being inferentially integrated with cognitive representations. This proposal is problematic, however. As described in the text, the contents of visual representations are accessed in visual experience and are integrated with cognitive representations in processes of visual working memory.

  6. B&S explicitly justify NO-TRANS on the grounds that nothing is known about translation between intentions and motor representations. This can just as easily be taken as grounds for investigating translation, given that translation is widely viewed as the obvious candidate mechanism linking intentions and motor representations. In any case, NO-TRANS appears to be required by NO-MFP.

  7. I’m including greyscale as ‘color’.

  8. Whether perceptual awareness is or can be conceptual has been a matter of controversy amongst philosophers (e.g. Burge 2010; Siegel 2010; Block 2014). The debate is too large to address here, but the evidence described in the text supports the view that it can be.

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Funding

This work was funded by European Research Council starting grant 757698, awarded under the Horizon 2020 program for research and innovation.

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Correspondence to Wayne Christensen.

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Christensen, W. The Skill of Translating Thought into Action: Framing The Problem. Rev.Phil.Psych. 12, 547–573 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13164-020-00517-2

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