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Chaz Firestone
Johns Hopkins University
  1. Cognition does not affect perception: Evaluating the evidence for “top-down” effects.Chaz Firestone & Brian J. Scholl - 2016 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 39:1-72.
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  2. Problems and mysteries of the many languages of thought.Eric Mandelbaum, Yarrow Dunham, Roman Feiman, Chaz Firestone, E. J. Green, Daniel Harris, Melissa M. Kibbe, Benedek Kurdi, Myrto Mylopoulos, Joshua Shepherd, Alexis Wellwood, Nicolas Porot & Jake Quilty-Dunn - 2022 - Cognitive Science 46 (12): e13225.
    “What is the structure of thought?” is as central a question as any in cognitive science. A classic answer to this question has appealed to a Language of Thought (LoT). We point to emerging research from disparate branches of the field that supports the LoT hypothesis, but also uncovers diversity in LoTs across cognitive systems, stages of development, and species. Our letter formulates open research questions for cognitive science concerning the varieties of rules and representations that underwrite various LoT-based systems (...)
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  3. Visual adaptation and the purpose of perception.Ian Phillips & Chaz Firestone - 2023 - Analysis 83 (3):555-575.
    What is the purpose of perception? And how might the answer to this question help distinguish perception from other mental processes? Block’s landmark book, The.
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  4. Empirical evidence for perspectival similarity.Jorge Morales & Chaz Firestone - 2023 - Psychological Review 1 (1):311-320.
    When a circular coin is rotated in depth, is there any sense in which it comes to resemble an ellipse? While this question is at the center of a rich and divided philosophical tradition (with some scholars answering affirmatively and some negatively), Morales et al. (2020, 2021) took an empirical approach, reporting 10 experiments whose results favor such perspectival similarity. Recently, Burge and Burge (2022) offered a vigorous critique of this work, objecting to its approach and conclusions on both philosophical (...)
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  5. The perception of silence.Rui Zhe Goh, Ian Phillips & Chaz Firestone - 2023 - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 120 (29):e2301463120.
    Auditory perception is traditionally conceived as the perception of sounds — a friend’s voice, a clap of thunder, a minor chord. However, daily life also seems to present us with experiences characterized by the absence of sound — a moment of silence, a gap between thunderclaps, the hush after a musical performance. In these cases, do we positively hear silence? Or do we just fail to hear, and merely judge or infer that it is silent? This longstanding question remains controversial (...)
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  6. Finding the “odd one out”: Memory color effects and the logic of appearance.J. J. Valenti & Chaz Firestone - 2019 - Cognition 191 (C):103934.
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  7. Compositionality in visual perception.Alon Hafri, E. J. Green & Chaz Firestone - 2023 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 46:e277.
    Quilty-Dunn et al.'s wide-ranging defense of the Language of Thought Hypothesis (LoTH) argues that vision traffics in abstract, structured representational formats. We agree: Vision, like language, is compositional – just as words compose into phrases, many visual representations contain discrete constituents that combine in systematic ways. Here, we amass evidence extending this proposal, and explore its implications for how vision interfaces with the rest of the mind.
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  8. Sustained Representation of Perspectival Shape.Jorge Morales, Axel Bax & Chaz Firestone - 2020 - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 117 (26):14873–14882.
    Arguably the most foundational principle in perception research is that our experience of the world goes beyond the retinal image; we perceive the distal environment itself, not the proximal stimulation it causes. Shape may be the paradigm case of such “unconscious inference”: When a coin is rotated in depth, we infer the circular object it truly is, discarding the perspectival ellipse projected on our eyes. But is this really the fate of such perspectival shapes? Or does a tilted coin retain (...)
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  9. How 'paternalistic' is spatial perception? Why wearing a heavy backpack doesn't -- and couldn't -- make hills look steeper.Chaz Firestone - 2013 - Perspectives on Psychological Science 8 (4):455-473.
  10. Curious objects: How visual complexity guides attention and engagement.Zekun Sun & Chaz Firestone - 2021 - Cognitive Science: A Multidisciplinary Journal 45 (4):e12933.
    Some things look more complex than others. For example, a crenulate and richly organized leaf may seem more complex than a plain stone. What is the nature of this experience—and why do we have it in the first place? Here, we explore how object complexity serves as an efficiently extracted visual signal that the object merits further exploration. We algorithmically generated a library of geometric shapes and determined their complexity by computing the cumulative surprisal of their internal skeletons—essentially quantifying the (...)
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  11. Performance vs. competence in human–machine comparisons.Chaz Firestone - 2020 - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 41.
    Does the human mind resemble the machines that can behave like it? Biologically inspired machine-learning systems approach “human-level” accuracy in an astounding variety of domains, and even predict human brain activity—raising the exciting possibility that such systems represent the world like we do. However, even seemingly intelligent machines fail in strange and “unhumanlike” ways, threatening their status as models of our minds. How can we know when human–machine behavioral differences reflect deep disparities in their underlying capacities, vs. when such failures (...)
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  12. Seeing and speaking: How verbal 'description length' encodes visual complexity.Zekun Sun & Chaz Firestone - 2021 - Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (1):82-96.
    What is the relationship between complexity in the world and complexity in the mind? Intuitively, increasingly complex objects and events should give rise to increasingly complex mental representations (or perhaps a plateau in complexity after a certain point). However, a counterintuitive possibility with roots in information theory is an inverted U-shaped relationship between the “objective” complexity of some stimulus and the complexity of its mental representation, because excessively complex patterns might be characterized by surprisingly short computational descriptions (e.g., if they (...)
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  13. Can resources save rationality? ‘Anti-Bayesian’ updating in cognition and perception.Eric Mandelbaum, Isabel Won, Steven Gross & Chaz Firestone - 2020 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 143:e16.
    Resource rationality may explain suboptimal patterns of reasoning; but what of “anti-Bayesian” effects where the mind updates in a direction opposite the one it should? We present two phenomena — belief polarization and the size-weight illusion — that are not obviously explained by performance- or resource-based constraints, nor by the authors’ brief discussion of reference repulsion. Can resource rationality accommodate them?
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  14.  30
    Enhanced visual awareness for morality and pajamas? Perception vs. memory in ‘top-down’ effects.Chaz Firestone & Brian J. Scholl - 2015 - Cognition 136 (C):409-416.
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  15. Optimism and Pessimism in the Predictive Brain.Zekun Sun & Chaz Firestone - 2020 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences (9):683-685.
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    Seeing and thinking: Foundational issues and empirical horizons.Chaz Firestone & Brian J. Scholl - 2016 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 39.
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  17. Seeing and understanding epistemic actions.Sholei Croom, Hanbei Zhou & Chaz Firestone - 2023 - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 120:e2303162120.
    Many actions have instrumental aims, in which we move our bodies to achieve a physical outcome in the environment. However, we also perform actions with epistemic aims, in which we move our bodies to acquire information and learn about the world. A large literature on action recognition investigates how observers represent and understand the former class of actions; but what about the latter class? Can one person tell, just by observing another person’s movements, what they are trying to learn? Here, (...)
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  18. Chasing an equation for awareness.Chaz Firestone & Ian Phillips - 2023 - Science 382:1251.
    Science begins with mystery. What causes lightning? How did this mold stop bacterial growth? Why do we age? Arguably, the two greatest mysteries are the cosmos and consciousness—the vast world out there and the vibrant world within. Scientists captivated by one can be called to study the other, seduced by the thought that these mysteries are connected. Science writer George Musser’s book Putting Ourselves Back in the Equation reviews their progress: Can physics unlock the mystery of consciousness? Does consciousness underlie (...)
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  19. Deepfake detection by human crowds, machines, and machine-informed crowds.Matthew Groh, Ziv Epstein, Chaz Firestone & Rosalind Picard - 2022 - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 119 (1):e2110013119.
    The recent emergence of machine-manipulated media raises an important societal question: How can we know whether a video that we watch is real or fake? In two online studies with 15,016 participants, we present authentic videos and deepfakes and ask participants to identify which is which. We compare the performance of ordinary human observers with the leading computer vision deepfake detection model and find them similarly accurate, while making different kinds of mistakes. Together, participants with access to the model’s prediction (...)
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  20. Seeing fast and thinking slow.Chaz Firestone & Ian Phillips - 2023 - Science 379:1196.
    Seeing is not believing, contrary to what popular idioms might claim. But what exactly is the difference? This question is the focus of The Border Between Seeing and Thinking, the long-awaited monograph by philosopher Ned Block.
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  21. Can You Hear Me Now? Sensitive Comparisons of Human and Machine Perception.Michael A. Lepori & Chaz Firestone - 2022 - Cognitive Science 46 (10):e13191.
    Cognitive Science, Volume 46, Issue 10, October 2022.
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  22. Hi-def memories of Lo-def scenes.Jose Rivera-Aparicio, Qian Yu & Chaz Firestone - 2021 - Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.
  23.  5
    Embodiment in Perception.Chaz Firestone - 2016 - In Brian P. McLaughlin & Hilary Kornblith (eds.), Goldman and His Critics. Hoboken, NJ, USA: Wiley. pp. 318–336.
    Embodied approaches to cognition have touched all corners of the mind, including higher‐level judgmental processes such as social evaluation, moral reasoning and theory of mind. After further characterizing and reviewing the evidence for moderately embodied visual perception, the chapter argues that such evidence does not at all support the moderate approach to embodied cognition, even when the relevant studies and accompanying theories are taken at face value. Even if body‐related factors do influence visual perception ‐ and indeed even if spatial (...)
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