Interview on Radio Formula

On the 28th of June I was invited to participate in the radio show “Ciencia hasta la Cocina” of Radio Formula to talk about my research on social interaction. Here is a recording of the show:

Figueroa, A. (Host). (2014, June 28). Ciencia hasta la Cocina. [Radio broadcast]. Mexico, DF: Radio Formula. Retrieved from

Response to Helvenston

The journal Adaptive Behavior has published another round of short communications that were inspired by our paper on Turing patterns and altered states of consciousness. In her commentary, Helvenston raised a number of general concerns that, although somewhat unrelated to our original proposal, provided us with an opportunity to dig deeper into the literature in our response.

People in the Paleolithic could access the whole spectrum of consciousness: Response to Helvenston

Tom Froese, Alexander Woodward, and Takashi Ikegami

Three kinds of hallucinations have repeatedly been identified in the literature on altered states of consciousness (ASCs): visions of (1) geometric forms, (2) figures and objects, and (3) complete scenes. Lewis-Williams’ neuropsychological model draws on these reports to gain insights into the minds of Paleolithic people, on the basis of shared neurobiology and given comparative ethnographic data on ritualized ASCs. Helvenston has long rejected this model because in many ASCs hallucinations do not always adhere to a strict 1-2-3 sequence, because they do not always feature animals, and because people do not always lose their critical faculties. She is right, but she is attacking a straw man because these criteria are her own. Helvenston’s claims about the effects of psychoactive compounds and sensory deprivation are also questionable. It remains an open question how our Turing pattern model relates to more figurative forms of hallucinations.

New paper on the phenomenology of synesthesia

During my time as a postdoc at the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science in Brighton I was conducting explicitation interviews to explore the experience of people with synesthesia. It was hard work to analyze the transcripts, but I’m happy that our perseverance has finally paid off.

An extended case study on the phenomenology of sequence-space synesthesia

C. Gould, T. Froese, A. B. Barrett, J. Ward and A. K. Seth

Investigation of synesthesia phenomenology in adults is needed to constrain accounts of developmental trajectories of this trait. We report an extended phenomenological investigation of sequence-space synesthesia in a single case (AB). We used the Elicitation Interview (EI) method to facilitate repeated exploration of AB’s synesthetic experience. During an EI the subject’s attention is selectively guided by the interviewer in order to reveal precise details about the experience. Detailed analysis of the resulting 9 h of interview transcripts provided a comprehensive description of AB’s synesthetic experience, including several novel observations. For example, we describe a specific spatial reference frame (a “mental room”) in which AB’s concurrents occur, and which overlays his perception of the real world (the “physical room”). AB is able to switch his attention voluntarily between this mental room and the physical room. Exemplifying the EI method, some of our observations were previously unknown even to AB. For example, AB initially reported to experience concurrents following visual presentation, yet we determined that in the majority of cases the concurrent followed an internal verbalization of the inducer, indicating an auditory component to sequence-space synesthesia. This finding is congruent with typical rehearsal of inducer sequences during development, implicating cross-modal interactions between auditory and visual systems in the genesis of this synesthetic form. To our knowledge, this paper describes the first application of an EI to synesthesia, and the first systematic longitudinal investigation of the first-person experience of synesthesia since the re-emergence of interest in this topic in the 1980’s. These descriptions move beyond rudimentary graphical or spatial representations of the synesthetic spatial form, thereby providing new targets for neurobehavioral analysis.

This paper is also available from Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Report about my research in the Mexican national news

The robot model of interactional coupling was created in collaboration with David Rosenblueth and Carlos Gershenson. The psychological experiment of perceptual crossing was conducted in collaboration with Takashi Ikegami and Hiro Iizuka.

Azteca Noticias. (2014, June 25). Estudio científico logra sincronizar cerebros [Video file]. Retrieved from

More news about my research in the Mexican media

Another interview I gave about my research into social interaction has resulted in some university and national news here in Mexico:

López Suárez, P. (2014, May 28). Investigan con un modelo computacional la interacción cerebral entre dos personas. Boletín UNAM-DGCS-311. Retrieved from

López Suárez, P. (2014, May 29). Interacción real entre parejas: El cerebro, capaz de funcionar más allá de su propio sistema. Gaceta UNAM. Retrieved from

López Segura, E. (2014, May 29). Sí hay conexión entre cerebros de dos individuos. Noticieros Televisa. Retrieved from

Olivares Alonso, E. (2014, May 29). Hallan las conexiones emocionales entre dos cerebros. La Jornada. Retrieved from

Introduction to making sense of non-sense

Recently we submitted the final manuscript of an edited collection for publication in Palgrave Macmillan’s series New Directions in Philosophy and Cognitive Science.

Cappuccio, M. and Froese, T. (Eds.) (forthcoming). Enactive Cognition at the Edge of Sense-Making: Making Sense of Non-Sense. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

The book is scheduled to appear at the end of this year / beginning of next year. Here is the blurb:

The enactive approach is a growing movement in cognitive science that replaces the classical computer metaphor of the mind with an emphasis on biological embodiment and social interaction as the sources of our goals and concerns. Mind is viewed as an activity of making sense in embodied interaction with our world. However, if mind is essentially a concrete activity of sense-making, then how do we account for the more typically human forms of cognition, including those involving the abstract and the patently nonsensical? To address this crucial challenge this collection brings together new contributions from the sciences of the mind that draw on a wide variety of disciplines, including psychopathology, phenomenology, primatology, gender studies, quantum physics, immune biology, anthropology, philosophy of mind, and linguistics. This book is required reading for anyone who is interested in how the latest scientific insights are changing how we think about the human mind and its limits.

I’ve made the introduction to the book (including the table of contents) available here:

Cappuccio, M. and Froese, T. (forthcoming). Introduction to making sense of non-sense. In M. Cappuccio, & T. Froese (Eds.). Enactive Cognition at the Edge of Sense-Making: Making Sense of Non-Sense. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Report about my research on social interaction in Spanish

Steps toward an enactive account of synesthesia

I was invited to provide a commentary on Anil Seth’s Cognitive Neuroscience target article “A predictive processing theory of sensorimotor contingencies: Explaining the puzzle of perceptual presence and its absence in synesthesia“. Here it is:

Steps toward an enactive account of synesthesia

Tom Froese

Seth extends predictive processing with counterfactuals: Encoded probabilities of what would occur given a repertoire of possible (but unexecuted) actions. He thereby provides a neat mathematical formulation of the sensorimotor account of perceptual presence, i.e., of the fact that we perceive a whole object while being limited to seeing it from a perspective. Synesthetic concurrents are explained in terms of impoverished counterfactuals. I argue that this explanation misses its target, because it only accounts for a lack of objecthood. Enactive theory is better suited to explain concurrents’ lack of subjectivity veridicality. The world itself shapes experience only during veridical perception.

DOI: 10.1080/17588928.2014.905521

Review of Radicalizing Enactivism: Basic Minds without Content

I was invited to write a review of Hutto and Myin’s Radicalizing Enactivism: Basic Minds without Content for The Journal of Mind and Behavior. You can read my largely positive verdict here:

Radicalizing Enactivism: Basic Minds without Content. Daniel D. Hutto and Erik Myin. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2013, 206 pages, $35.00 hardcover

Tom Froese

Increasing numbers of philosophers of mind and cognitive scientists are jumping on the embodied cognition bandwagon. Accordingly, mind is no longer viewed as locked away in some Platonic realm of pure logic, as the computational theory of mind has traditionally proposed. Instead, mind has become identified with purposeful activity in the world, an activity that is realized by the body, extended by usage of tools, and scaffolded by a sociocultural environment.

Talk at AISB symposium on re-conceptualizing mental “illness”

I was invited by Joel Parthemore to give a talk during The Second AISB Symposium on Re-Conceptualizing Mental “Illness”: Enactive Philosophy and Cognitive Science – An Ongoing Dialogue, which was held as part of the AISB 2014 Convention at Goldsmiths, University of London, 1-4 April 2013. The title and abstract are:

An Enactive Critique of the Psychopathologies of Cognitive Science

Tom Froese

Phenomenology has long pointed to the inadequacy of the mainstream conception of social cognition. While it is correct that we occasionally engage in mindreading, that is, theorizing or simulating other minds in order to predict behavior, the hypothesis that this is the default mode of normal social understanding is phenomenologically unsupported. In this talk I show how phenomenological psychopathology allows us to further extend this critique. It turns out that not only is mindreading not our default mode of social understanding under normal conditions, it is the default mode of social understanding under some psychopathological conditions such as schizophrenia and high-functioning autism. This result has implications for how we understand the social mind in health and disease, and it raises questions about the viability of a mainstream cognitive science that has long theorized about a patently abnormal state of mind as if it were the norm.

This talk was based on the following publication:

Froese, T., Stanghellini, G. & Bertelli, M. O. (2013). Is it normal to be a principal mindreader? Revising theories of social cognition on the basis of schizophrenia and high functioning autism-spectrum disorders. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34(5): 1376–1387

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