Thursday, January 28, 2021

Barton Anderson, Where does fitness fit in theories of perception?

©2019 Peter Miesler - Horse Barn and Pasture

Early on, I explained that I'm no authority and in no position to dispute the correctness of Hoffman's math, in fact I found it easy to grant him his math because it was his conclusions that begged the loud objection. 

Still expert input is important and thanks to a paper Hoffman shared with me I discovered another fascinating critique by Barton Anderson.  It was fun to plow through because his words resonated with my own naïve nebulous reasoning and helped offer a bit more structure to my objections.

For the serious student, I want to point out that Anderson’s paper is an example of playing by the contrarian script - which is totally appropriate within that particular science journal arena.  But it’s something to think about as you read the complete paper.

Whereas, in the public arena, I’m advocating for rejecting such counter-productive scripts - such as the fanciful contrarian notion that our, “spacetime is doomed” because of some master mathematician’s sleight of hand, or that the reality around us is a shapeshifting mirage - and replacing them with altogether different realistic down to Earth scripts that are built around facts and evidence and lessons we’ve learned from observing evolution and Earth sciences, as opposed to models conjured up within imaginative minds.  

I believe that starts with learning about and absorbing an appreciation for the “Physical Reality ~ Human Mindscape divide and allowing those lessons to inform how we view the world around us.  Developing a fact-based appreciation for Evolution and this planet that created us.  

It was Hoffman’s insistence that his theorem reflects physical reality, that triggered my umbrage at his, from a societal perspective, counter-productive mind game.  

Look around folks, we are destroying our very life support systems, while all this treasure and intelligence is wasted on self indulgent pipe dreaming.  At least, that’s how it looks from where I’m standing.

Okay, enough of me, Professor Anderson’s paper is over 4,000 words and my first quote harvesting came to 1,400 words.  I’ve trimmed that down to under 600, hoping that my sampling will encourage you to read the entire paper.  It offers good background for the uninitiated.  I once again declare Fair Use and encourage you to link to and read the complete version.


Where does fitness fit in theories of perception?

Barton L. Anderson, September 18, 2015, (~4,000 words)

Psychonomic Bulletin & Review,  volume 22, pages 1507–1511(2015)


¶1.  Interface theory asserts that neither our perceptual experience of the world nor the scientific constructs used to describe the world are veridical. 

The primary argument used to uphold this claim is that (1) evolution is driven by a process of natural selection that favors fitness over veridicality, and (2) payoffs do not vary monotonically with truth. 

I argue that both the arguments used to bolster this claim and the conclusions derived from it are flawed. …

¶2. … The main premise of “interface theory of perception” (hereafter, IT) is that …perception should be construed as an adaptive interface, similar to the user interface that allows humans to interact with computers. …

The metaphor

¶3. The core concept of IT,  … as there are some fundamental differences between computer interfaces and the world. 

For a realist, the interface metaphor fails because a computer interface does not reveal anything directly about either what the computer does or its structure. It is a tool engineered by man, … 

By contrast, a realist assumes that the structure that forms the basis of sensory input is created by the world. For vision, it is the interaction of light sources with the surfaces and materials of objects and substances that populate the world; for audition, it is the pattern of pressure waves created by mechanical disturbances; for the chemical senses, it is the distribution of and identity of chemicals; and so on. 

…, I argue that this (IT) argument constitutes the central flaw of the theory and that the conclusion that evolutionary games demonstrate that interface strategies drive realist strategies (“veridicality”) to extinction only follows for the special case that they have considered.

Evolutionary games, veridicality, and fitness

¶4. … To make this argument, they construct hypothetical resource–payoff graphs (HSP's Figs. 2, 3, and 5). … The evolutionary game is played using the currency of payoffs, not resources, so it is relatively trivial to see why the interface strategy would prove more successful in a game of this kind. Put simply, …

¶5. … interface strategies are typically dubbed utility functions, … The main logical flaw is that HSP assumes that perception has been shaped to directly track payoffs; this may be true, but it doesn’t logically follow from either evolutionary or logical considerations. The problem with this view …

¶6.  "Such a nonlinear payoff function is quite common: Not enough water and one dies of thirst; too much and one drowns; …” (p. 19). …

(This) is where the authors’ conflation of payoffs (utility) and perception is revealed. Consider the example of salinity.  …

¶8  The crucial flaw in HSP’s argument is the authors have only considered the problem of adaptation over evolutionary time scales; they have ignored …

Veridicality and illusion

¶8. … The problem … (HSP say remarkably little about what the “objective world” means, just that it exists). … This misses a fundamental point about what constitutes both the objects of science and experience; … 

In this context, veridicality is a measure of the congruence between different sets of observables; it is not a measure of discordancy between perception and truth, because the latter has no meaning apart from an inaccessible God’s eye view. 

The preceding arguments suggest that there is no single method for defining what counts as truth, because the “objective world” is at best a theoretical construct. … 

Computational evolutionary psychology

¶9. … The striking metaphysical claim of IT …

History lessons

The PDA loop. (perception-decision-action)

… Consider, e.g., the depiction of the pragmatist.  …


… It also flies in the face of experience; … But remarkable theories require remarkable evidence, and there is currently insufficient evidence to take the metaphysical leap proposed by interface theory.


Anderson, B. L. (2014). Can computational goals inform theories of vision? Topics in Cognitive Science, (in press).
Gibson, J. J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Google Scholar
  Koenderink, J. J. (2014). The all seeing eye? Perception, 43, 1–6.
Rosen, R. (1978). Fundamentals of measurement and representation of natural systems. New York: Elsevier North-Holland, Inc.
Google Scholar
  Turvey, M. T., Shaw, R. E., Reed, E. S., & Mace, W. M. (1981). Ecological laws of perceiving and acting: In reply to Fodor and Pylyshyn (1981). Cognition, 9, 237–304.

Cite this article

Anderson, B.L. Where does fitness fit in theories of perception?. 

Psychon Bull Rev 22, 1507–1511 (2015).



Cc’s Students’ Study Guide for The Case Against Reality

©2020 Peter Miesler
I intend to be a witness for a fact based DeepTime, 
Evolutionary perspective on our “human mind” -“physical reality” interface.


Donald Hoffman Playing Basketball in Zero-Gravity, a critical review of, The Case Against Reality:  Why Evolution Hid The Truth From Our Eyes, by Donald Hoffman, ©2019, W.W.Norton Company

(1.01)  The Prelude, Prof Donald Hoffman Playing Basketball In Zero-Gravity

(1.02)  Chapter 10a, Community: The Network of Conscious Agents (1/3)

(1.03)  Chapter 10b, Community: The Network of Conscious Agents (2/3)

(1.04)  Chapter 10c, Cmty: Network of Hoffmanian Conscious Agents (3/3)

(1.05)  Chapter 1, Mystery: The Scalpel That Split Consciousness

(1.06)  Chapter 2, Beauty: Siren of the Gene

(1.07)  Chapter 3, Reality: Capers of the Unseen Sun

(1.08)  Chapter 4, Sensory: Fitness beats Truth

(1.09)  Chapter 5, Illusory: The Bluff of the Desktop

(1.10)  Chapter 6, Gravity: Spacetime is Doomed

(1.11)  Chapter 7, Virtuality: Inflating a Holoworld

(1.12)  Chapter 8, Polychromy: Mutations of an Interface

(1.13)  Chapter 9, Scrutiny: You Get What You Need, in Both Life and Business

(1.14)  Appendix,  Precisely: The Right to Be (Foolish)


Hoffman/Prakash’s Objects of ConsciousnessObjections and Replies

Frontiers in Psychology - June 17, 2014

(2.01)  4/4_Hoffman, Objects of Consciousness,  (conclusion)

(2.02)  1/4_Hoffman, Objects of Consciousness, questions + replies (1-12)

(2.03)  2/4_Hoffman, Objects of Consciousness, questions + replies (13-17)

(2.04)  3/4_Hoffman, Objects of Consciousness, questions + replies (18-21)


(3.01)  Diary - But, wait!  There's more.  Ten Learned Responses:

Probing the interface theory of perception: Reply to commentariesDonald D. Hoffman, Manish Singh & Chetan Prakash" 

Psychonomic Bulletin & Reviewvolume 22, pages1551–1576(2015)


We propose that selection favors nonveridical perceptions that are tuned to fitness. Current textbooks assert, to the contrary, that perception is useful because, in the normal case, it is veridical. Intuition, both lay and expert, clearly sides with the textbooks. We thus expected that some commentators would reject our proposal and provide counterarguments that could stimulate a productive debate. ...

(3.02)  Barton Anderson - Where does fitness fit in theories of perception? 


(3.03)  Jonathan Cohen - Perceptual representation, veridicality, and the interface theory of perception. 


(3.04)  Shimon Edelman - Varieties of perceptual truth and their possible evolutionary roots. 


(3.05)  Jacob Feldman - Bayesian inference and “truth”: a comment on Hoffman, Singh, and Prakash. 


(3.06)  Chris Fields -Reverse engineering the world: a commentary on Hoffman, Singh, and Prakash, 

“The interface theory of perception”. 


(3.07)  Jan Koenderink - Esse est Percipi & Verum est Factum. 


(3.08)  Rainer Mausfeld - Notions such as “truth” or “correspondence to the objective world” play no role in explanatory accounts of perception. 


(3.09)  Brian P. McLaughlin and E. J. Green Are icons sense data


(3.10)  Zygmunt Pizlo - Philosophizing cannot substitute for experimentation: comment on Hoffman, Singh & Prakash. 


(3.11)  Matthew Schlesinger Interface theory of perception leaves me hungry for more. 



Student Resources - Background info:

(4.01)  Rainer Mausfeld: ‘Truth’ has no role in explanatory accounts of perception.
(4.02)  Paul Mealing: considers Hoffman's "Objects of Consciousness.”
(4.03)  The Case For Reality: Because Apparently Someone Needs to Make One
(4.04)  Sabine Hossenfelder in Defense of Scientific Realism and Physical Reality
(4.05)  "Emergence" - A Handy Summary and Resources
(4.06)  Physical Origins of Mind - Dr. Siegel, Allen Institute Brain Science, Tononi, Koch.
(4.07)  Can you trust Frontiers in Psychology research papers?  Students' Resource
(4.08)  Critical Thinking Skills - In Defense of Reality - A Student Resource
(4.09)  Philo+Sophia - Love of Wisdom - A Student Resource



(5.01)    Summary, 

explaining why I pursued this project.


Dr. Mark Solms deftly demystifies Chalmers’ “Hard Problem” of Consciousness, while incidentally highlighting why Hoffman’s “Conscious Agents” are luftgeschäft. 

(6.01)  Dr. Mark Solms demystifies Chalmers' "Hard Problem" of Consciousness.

(6.02)  The Other Side of Dr. Mark Solms, farmer, vintner, humanitarian.

(6.03)  Students’ Resource: A representative cross-section of Dr. Mark Solms' scientific publications.


My homemade philosophical underpinning . . . 


(7.01)  An Alternative Philosophical Perspective - “Earth Centrism     
(7.02)  Appreciating the Physical Reality ~ Human Mindscape divide          
(7.03)  Being an element in Earth’s Pageant of Evolution
(7.04)  It’s not a “Body-Mind Problem,”  it’s an “Ego-God Problem.”

Feel free to copy and share

Email: citizenschallenge  gmail  com


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