HPS Colloquium: Cailin O’Connor - “Evolving Perceptual Categories”

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Evolving Perceptual Categories

Do perceptual categories--green, cool, sweet--accurately track features of the real world? If not, are there systematic ways in which perceptual categories fail to latch onto real world structure? Attempts to answer these questions have persistently led to a further question, one with a long philosophical history. Given that human beings can only observe the world through the lens of our perceptual systems, how is it possible to know whether and in what ways perceptual categories are veridical? In this talk, I use tools from evolutionary game theory to attempt to gain traction on this problem. In particular, I employ signaling games to model perceptual signaling and elucidate how and why perceptual categories may or may not track real world structure.