Vol. 42, Number 3 and 4, Summer and Autumn 2021

The Strange Nature of Quantum Perception: To See a Photon, One Must Be a Photon
Steven M. Rosen, College of Staten Island, City University of New York

This paper takes as its point of departure recent research into the possibility that human beings can perceive single photons. In order to appreciate what quantum perception may entail, I first explore several of the leading interpretations of quantum mechanics, then consider an alternative view based on the ontological phenomenology of Maurice Merleau–Ponty and Martin Heidegger. Next, the philosophical analysis is brought into sharper focus by employing a perceptual model, the Necker cube, augmented by the topology of the Klein bottle. This paves the way for addressing in greater depth the paper’s central question: Just what would it take to observe the quantum reality of the photon? In formulating an answer, I examine the nature of scientific objectivity itself, along with the paradoxical properties of light. The conclusion reached is that quantum perception requires a new kind of observation, one in which the observer of the photon adopts a concretely self-reflexive observational posture that brings her into close ontological relationship with the observed.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Steven M. Rosen, Ph.D., 104–2890 Point Grey Road, Vancouver, B.C., V6K 1A9, Canada. Email: stevenrosen@shaw.ca


Sizing Up Free Will: The Scale of Compatibilism
Stuart T. Doyle, Third Force Reconnaissance Company, USMC

Is human free will compatible with the natural laws of the universe? To “compatibilists” who see free actions as emanating from the wants and reasons of human agents, free will looks perfectly plausible. However, “incompatibilists” claim to see the more ultimate sources of human action. The wants and reasons of agents are said to be caused by physical processes which are themselves mere natural results of the previous state of the world and the natural laws which govern it. This paper argues that the incompatibilists make a mistake in appealing to such non-agent sources of human action. They fail to realize that free will may exist at one scale, but not at the scales where they look. When free will is considered from the correctly scaled perspective, it does seem compatible with determinism and natural laws.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Stuart T. Doyle, 3rd Force Recon Co, 1630 S Broad Street, Mobile, Alabama 36605. Email: stuartdoyle1@gmail.com


A Brief Retrospective: Belief Systems and Psychological Traits Contributing to the Spread of COVID-19 in the United States
Joshua A. Cuevas, University of North Georgia, Bryan L. Dawson, University of North Georgia

This paper reviews recent research on cognitive factors associated with the poor response to the COVID-19 health crisis in the United States. First, group-level predictors were explored, with studies revealing that religious affiliation and conservative political orientation were associated with a failure to comply with medical recommendations. In order to explain these links, individual-level traits were further investigated. Studies indicated that a tendency towards conspiratorial thinking and susceptibility to fake news along with cognitive style, particularly intuitive processing, were forms of motivated cognition related to disbelief in science and a reluctance to follow precautions of medical experts. Additionally, research revealed that cognitive ability has been shown to be related to the two group-level predictors, religious and political orientation, as well as belief revision, which in turn influences one’s ability to problem-solve in response to novel challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic. Other aspects of cognitive ability such as neurological efficiency and working memory function were explored in regard to how they impact one’s ability to weigh evidence, process new information, and update one’s views. While none of these variables alone can fully explain the disregard and disbelief many American citizens displayed in response to the pandemic, taken together, the convergence of factors was likely to have influenced health outcomes across the nation, thereby contributing to the spread of the virus.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Joshua A. Cuevas, Ph.D., College of Education, University of North Georgia, 3820 Mundy Mill Road, Oakwood, Georgia 30566. Email: josh.cuevas@ung.edu


Mechanisms of Unconscious Thought: Capacities and Limits
Adrian P. Banks, University of Surrey

Unconscious thought has been linked with a wide range of mechanisms, capacities, and limits. These claims have changed over time and across different domains of thought. The aim of this review is to synthesise the research on unconscious thinking across the domains of reasoning, judgment, decision making, insight problem solving, and creativity and identify the commonalities between them. Three mechanisms underpin unconscious thought in all of these domains: automaticity, reward-based association, and spreading activation. The mechanisms are triggered by cues in the environment or internal states, and the output of the mechanisms are either specific outputs or affective responses. The mechanisms also define the limits of unconscious thought, expressed here as a “principle of integration”: unconscious thought is not sufficient in tasks or problems that require concepts to be integrated in novel or unfamiliar ways. Where theories have made stronger claims for unconscious thought than this, analysis of the evidence supporting those theories proves equivocal. Nonetheless, unconscious thought based on these mechanisms is adaptive in frequently encountered situations and provides the capacity for highly effective thinking across a range of domains.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr Adrian Banks, School of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, United Kingdom. Email: a.banks@surrey.ac.uk


The Two Factor Theory of Understanding (TFTU): Consciousness and Procedures
Sam S. Rakover, Haifa University

The two factor theory of understanding (TFTU) is based on two fundamental factors. The first posits that consciousness is a necessary condition for understanding. It is not possible to understand an explanation if it is not, or has not been, represented in an individual’s consciousness. The second posits that understanding stems from responding to questions in a particular field, which are posed in accordance with procedures of understanding relevant to that field. This is a broad definition that includes two classes of procedures: class (a) includes answers, explanations, and understandings given using scientific procedures that meet the methodological requirements of science; class (b) includes answers, explanations, and understandings given using everyday procedures that do not meet all of these methodological requirements. The two classes provide an individual with understanding when the answers or explanations to questions emerge, or have emerged, in a person’s consciousness. This paper discusses the various implications arising from TFTU and compares it with other approaches. The present theory emphasizes that, since a solution to the problem of consciousness has yet to be found within the framework of accepted scientific methodology, it is difficult to reject class (b), the everyday procedures, that provide understanding for very large groups of people.

Correspondence should be addressed to Sam S. Rakover Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Haifa University, Haifa, Israel 31905. Email: rakover@psy.haifa.ac.il


Critical Notice

In the Pursuit of an Ecological and Enactive Theory of Affordances
Miguel A. Sepúlveda–Pedro, University of Montreal

Book Title: The Philosophy of Affordances.
Book Author: Manuel Heras–Escribano. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019, XI, 232 pages, $109.99 hardcover.

In The Philosophy of Affordances, Manuel Heras–Escribano immerses us into an exciting and original philosophical analysis of two fundamental concepts of Gibson’s ecological approach to perception: affordances and ecological information. Heras–Escribano’s inquiry is founded on pragmatist and naturalist philosophers. From this perspective, the author looks forward to setting more solid theoretical foundations for ecological psychology, considering the current challenges of post-cognitivist cognitive science. Despite the exciting proposals of Heras–Escribano, I am concerned about two problematic aspects of his work. First, the author mistakenly concluded that his naturalist account of affordances truly overcomes the subject–object dichotomy of mind and cognition. Indeed, I think Heras–Escribano leans in favour of an objectivist account of affordances that implicitly assumes the dichotomy. Second, his overfocus on natural selection as the causal origin of the link between organisms and the environment, and his narrow conception of biological agency, neglect the importance of the enactive approach claim that each living organism enacts its own norms of interaction with the environment. The enactivist perspective recognizes the crucial role of development in the emergence of affordances. It also offers a better account than Heras–Escribano’s of the flexibility and plasticity of behaviour. The first part of the critical notice briefly reviews the main contributions of Heras–Escribano to Gibson’s ecological approach. The second part focuses on the problematic issues of his view and recommends a more substantial connection between ecological psychology, phenomenology, and the enactive approach than Heras–Escribano suggests.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Miguel A. Sepúlveda–Pedro, Département de Philosophie, Université de Montréal, Montréal, QC, H3C 3J7, Canada. Email: miguel.sepulveda.pedro@umontreal.ca