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PSY 355 Psychology & Media in the Digital Age

This page was last modified on March 13, 2021

The 'Extended Mind" Hypothesis (Clark & Chalmers, 1998)
6084 citations in Google Scholar in 2018 (it was 2783 in 2015, 3962 in 2018)
~ 741,000 citations in Google in 2018 (it was 62,000 in 2015 420,000 in 2018)

Where is your mind?

Where does your mind end and your body begin?

Or, where does your body end and your mind begin?

Mind-Brain Image

Is your mind just your brain??? Is your mind "inside" your skull the way the brain is inside the skull?

Let's look at a few thought experiments and some research:

Inside Your Skin

Feb 26, 2018 article at AEON Magazine online.

Scenario 1: Merleau-Ponty (1945/1962): The Blind Man with a Cane

Merleau-Ponty Blind Man Cane

Scenario 2: Bach-y-Rita's Work on Sensory Substitution and Neuroplasticity


  • Television Sensory Substitution (TVSS) for use with people who are totally blind (sold commercially as BrainPort V100).

Scenario 3: The Cyborgnest North Sense Unit (last accessed 20180225)


Scenario #4: Geometrical Shape Rotation
(taken from Clark & Chalmers, 1998)
Geometric Shape Rotation

Case 1: Watching a computer screen with geometrical shapes and figuring out how those shapes can fit together

Case 2: Watching a computer screen with the ability to change the orientation of the shapes and figuring out how those shapes fit together

Case 3: In the future, watching a computer screen with a neural implant that can change how cognition pictures the orientation of the shapes and figuring out how those shapes fit together.

Are these all examples of cognition? In Case 3 the implant helps the mind do exactly what it does in Case 1 (except faster).

But, how is Case 2 in which the manipulation on the screen changes the orientation of the shapes any different than Case 3 or Case 1?

Where is the boundary between the skin and the skull?

Active Externalism

Consider in Scrabble how players use the tile holder to try alternative orderings of letters
Scrabble Tiles

Or, how sailors use a nautical slide rule to calculate speed, distance, or time traveled?

Or, how we use pen and pencil to carry out multiplication or long division (without a calculator!) 
Nautical Slide Rule       Multiplication & Long
                        Division by hand

What does this tell us?

  • The human organism is linked with an external entity in a two-way interaction = coupled system
  • This link takes place in real time and plays a crucial role in achieving our goals, i.e., it is active link
  • In the long run, the use of such a coupled system requires reliability & accessibility, that is, available when needed
  • This requirement suggests the central role of portability in the external entity
  • Researching human behaviors in this system requires attention to more than "inner cognition"
The most crucial example of the mind's extension into the world comes in language

What about mind? Can this notion of active externalism be further advanced?

MMA     Notebook

Case A: Mary Jones
Case B: Fred Smith & his notepad

What is the difference between Case A and Case B?

    What about socially extended cognition?
  • Couples or other socially-connected individuals can very well serve in similar ways to the examples cited earlier
  • The coupling between agents in a social relationship depends upon the use of language
  • Cognition can, therefore, be extended to reside within the group itself.

   The Self (and Mind) as Extended

William JamesNotes from Fr. Hevern
Historically, the pioneer American psychologist and philosopher, William James argued that the self has multiple facets including

                      NeisserThe late Cornell University Prof. Ulric Neisser (d. 2012), one of the founders of cognitive psychology, also argued that the self understands itself in five ways (Neisser, 1988). He labeled these forms of self-knowledge as

  • Ecological Self
  • Interpersonal Self
  • Extended Self
  • Private Self
  • Conceptual Self ("self-concept")

Questions to consider

  • What forms of active externalisms do each of us use every day?
  • Where are our memories stored?
  • What tools do we use in order to get our jobs and lives accomplished?
  • What media forms serve as parts of our extended selves?

Cognitive Psychology of Human Multitasking {W}

(Wang et al., 2015)

  • People frequently "multitask" across different forms of media at the same time.
  • Laboratory experimental research tends to find deteriorating performance in multitask conditions, that is, lowered levels of cognitive performance or success and, even, exposure to life-threatening conditions
  • Cognitive psychological research points to
    • "Central bottleneck" problems
    • "Limited capacity" theories
    • "The Law of Less Work"

Focus of Analysis: What is involved when a human being tries to perform two tasks “in which one or both tasks utilize media technology” (p. 106)


Task Relations
: How are these two tasks related to each other?
Task Inputs: How is task information presented to the user? Task Outputs: Is any behavioral response required by the task(s)? User Differences: Do differences in users affect the processing of & response to the task(s)?

  • Task Hierarchy
  • Task Switch
  • Task Relevance
  • Shared Modality
  • Task Contiguity

  • Information Modality
  • Information Flow
  • Emotional Content

  • Behavioral Responses
  • Time Pressure

Personality styles, expertise & knowledge, etc.

This page was first posted on 2/18/14