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3. Learning to Perceive in a Multisensory Way

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Suppose you are at a live jazz show. The drummer begins a drum solo. You see the cymbal jolt. You hear a clang. And you are aware that the jolt and the clang are part of the same event. This is a case of multisensory perception. In my book, I argue that multisensory perception can be understood only against a background of perceptual learning. Here I’m going to sketch some of the motivation for that view, which turns out to have important implications for a long-standing philosophical question: Molyneux’s question. It is tempting to think of the multisensory cymbal case as one in which our perceptual system just automatically binds together the jolt and the clang because the jolt and the clang occur at the same place and time. And in fact many psychologists have thought just that. But I think this account neglects the learning dimension of these kinds of cases. To see this, consider the following amusing case. The internet is filled with videos of animals making funny noises, such as dogs that sound like fire engines or goats that scream like humans. These cases are surprising and humorous in part because we just don’t expect that audio-visual combination. If you think about it, you have probably experienced some variation of these cases in real life, where an odd and unexpected sound is not experienced as coming from the correct place because that sound violates our prior association. Now consider a slightly more complicated example, which is depicted in this video. Suppose you are listening to music at a friend’s house with their dog nearby. A song comes on that you haven’t heard before. You happen to glance over at the dog, who appears to be moving its mouth in sync with the vocal track. Then you realize that what you thought were the vocals are actually coming from the dog. This is a case of “illusory lip-synching.” You experience it as lip-synching, but actually it’s not. In reality, the sound is coming from the singer (the dog in this. . .

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News source: Philosophy of Mind – The Brains Blog

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