Blog discontinued, Twitter and new website started

I will no longer be updating this blog. It has served me well for over a decade, but it’s time to move on to bigger and better things.

My new research unit’s website is up and running and can be found here:

Embodied Cognitive Science Unit

You can also follow the new unit’s activity on Twitter:

You can also follow me on Facebook.

Moving to OIST to set up Embodied Cognitive Science Unit

I am super happy to publicly announce that we are moving to the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) this August in order to set up the Embodied Cognitive Science Unit!!

I am grateful to UNAM for having provided the seeds of my research group, and I am looking forward to take our work to the next level at OIST!

Here is a short introduction to OIST:

If there are any potential PhD students interested in joining our group, note that the general application deadline is Nov. 15:

Research page updated

I finally found some time to update the research page of my website. Here is the opening paragraph:

I am a cognitive scientist interested in understanding the complexities of the human mind on the basis of embodied, embedded, extended, and enactive approaches to cognition (so called “4E cognition”). For me this means systematically investigating how our minds are shaped by being alive, by being sensorimotor animals, and by us leading socially, technologically, and culturally constituted ways of life (Froese and Di Paolo 2011; Torrance and Froese 2011). One of the most promising approaches to better appreciate the role these different facets can play is to try to understand their origins and the qualitative changes their appearance implies.

The rest can be found here on the research page.

Editor-in-Chief of Adaptive Behavior

After many years of service to the community, Ezequiel Di Paolo​ has stepped down as the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Adaptive Behavior.

I will take over the reins from the current issue onward.

It’s going to be a tough act to follow, but I hope that I will be able to further consolidate the journal as a truly interdisciplinary forum for current research in the mind sciences.

For more information, please read the editorial we co-authored to mark this transition.

Please consider sending us your latest work! 🙂

New commentary on the origins of the symbolic mind

Since the publication of the Turing patterns paper in 2013 I have been involved in several exchanges in order to clarify and expand my ideas. The latest exchange of commentaries has just been published in the Rock Art Research, the official organ of the Australian Rock Art Research Association and the International Federation of Rock Art Organisations.

Helvenston, P. A. (2015a). Psilocybin-containing mushrooms, Upper Palaeolithic rock art and the neuropsychological model. Rock Art Research, 32(1): 84-89

Froese, T. (2015). The ritualised mind alteration hypothesis of the origins and evolution of the symbolic human mind. Rock Art Research, 32(1): 90-97

Helvenston, P. A. (2015b). Suppositions of psilocybin-mushroom incorporation as the main driver of human cognitive and symbolic evolution. Rock Art Research, 32(1): 98-109

At the core of this debate is the question over whether rituals involving altered states of consciousness could have played a role in human prehistory, and whether these states necessarily would have required the presence of certain psychoactive substances, and if these substances would have even been available at the time. In essence, my answers are yes, no, but yes.

In this post I previously remarked about my disagreements with the way in which the commentaries about my work had been presented. But I prefer to advance the scientific debate itself, so I will highlight one aspect of Helvenston’s last response that I find intriguing. She notes how it is difficult to explain the presence of extreme rituals, especially those involving partially disabling substances, from an evolutionary perspective.

This ties in with current debates in the science of religion, which tries to explain costly rituals in a variety of ways such as honest signaling and pro-social psychological effects. I’ve been thinking for a while that it is likely that such rituals would have had to have biologically adaptive advantages from the start, perhaps related to a form of neural self-optimization similar to the model presented in Woodward, Froese and Ikegami (in press). This could be a topic of future work.

Free access to altered states of consciousness

Due to the publicity that was generated by the article on Turing patters and altered states of consciousness, the publisher of Adaptive Behavior has made it freely available online and has placed a special banner on the journal’s homepage.

Turing patters and altered states of consciousness

Click the image to access the article!

IEEE Haptics Podcast on the Enactive Torch

Our paper on the Enactive Torch, entitled The Enactive Torch: A New Tool for the Science of Perception, which was published in IEEE Transactions on Haptics, is discussed in that journal’s latest podcast. The coverage starts at 11:00.

New affiliations

I am now affiliated with these institutions in Mexico City:

Departamento de Ciencias de la Computación
Instituto de Investigaciones en Matemáticas Aplicadas y en Sistemas (IIMAS)
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)

Centro de Ciencias de la Complejidad (C3)
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)

The aim of my new postdoctoral fellowship at UNAM will be to bring together complexity theory, archaeology and anthropology in order to better understand the self-organization of the first pre-Hispanic civilizations in Mexico.

Ikegami Lab Summer Workshop 2012

I presented a talk at this year’s Ikegami Lab Summer Workshop, August 2-3, 2012, which took place in Hokkaido.

The title of my presentation was “Ashby’s cybernetics and the healing powers of shamanism.”

The main point of the talk was to point out a structural correlation between Ashby’s notion of a system ‘breaking’ in order to achieve adaptation, and the notion of ‘dying’ and being reborn in shamanic initiation and healing ceremonies.

Maturana’s response to Froese and Stewart

A couple of years ago John Stewart and I published an extended evaluation and critique of the original concept of autopoiesis from the perspective of enactive cognitive science:

Froese, T. & Stewart, J. (2010). Life after Ashby: Ultrastability and the autopoietic foundations of biological individuality. Cybernetics & Human Knowing, 17(4): 7-50

I recently noticed that Humberto Maturana kindly wrote an extended response to our article in the same journal:

Maturana, H. (2011). Ultrastability … Autopoiesis? Reflective Response to Tom Froese and John Stewart. Cybernetics & Human Knowing, 18(1-2): 143-152

Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the original PDF of the response, but the link above will take you to the publisher’s website.

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