Toward a theory of the empirical tracking of individuals: cognitive flexibility and the functions of attention in integrated tracking
How do humans manage to keep track of a gradually changing object or person as the same persisting individual despite the fact that the extraction of information about this individual must often rely on heterogeneous information sources and heterogeneous tracking methods? The article introduces the Empirical Tracking of Individuals (ETI) theory to address this problem. This theory proposes an analysis of the concept of integrated tracking, which refers to the capacity to acquire, store, and update information about the identity and location of individuals in our environment. It hypothesizes that certain functions of attention are a key to explaining how the cognitive flexibility of the human mind overcomes the heterogeneity of sources and methods in integrated tracking. At least two premises lend support to this hypothesis. First, heterogeneity of tracking sources is overcome by the combination of information from multiple perceptual modalities and a phenomenon of multisensory ‘transparency’. Second, heterogeneity of tracking sources and methods may also be overcome by inferences that combine information across domains to acquire reasons to believe propositions about the target's location and identity.
Keeping track of invisible individuals while exploring a spatial layout with partial cues: location-based and deictic direction-based strategies
In contrast to Constructivist Views, which construe perceptual cognition as an essentially reconstructive process, this article recommends the Deictic View, which grounds perception in perceptual-demonstrative reference and the use of deictic tracking strategies for acquiring and updating knowledge about individuals. The view raises the problem of how sensory-motor tracking connects to epistemic and integrated forms of tracking. To study the strategies used to solve this problem, we report a study of the ability to track distal individuals when only their directions can be perceived and not their locations. We introduce a new experimental paradigm named the ‘Modified Traveling Salesman Problem’ (MTSP), which requires subjects to visit n invisible targets in a 2D display once each. Surprisingly, subjects are competent at this task for up to 10 targets. We consider two types of tracking strategies that subjects might use: ‘location-based’ strategies and ‘deictic direction-based’ strategies. A number of observations suggest that subjects used the latter, at least for larger numbers of targets. We hypothesize that subjects used perceptual-demonstrative reference and deictic strategies (i) to perform the sensory-motor tracking of directional segments, (ii) to bind the segments with their updated status in the task, and (iii) to perform the epistemic tracking of invisible targets by means of perception-based inferences.