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Innateness of colour categories is a red herring: insights from computational modelling. Tony Belpaeme Artificial Intelligence Lab Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Colour categories. The colour spectrum is continuous Still, we divide it into colour categories

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innateness of colour categories is a red herring insights from computational modelling

Innateness of colour categories is a red herring: insights from computational modelling

Tony Belpaeme

Artificial Intelligence Lab

Vrije Universiteit Brussel

colour categories
Colour categories
  • The colour spectrum is continuous
  • Still, we divide it into colour categories
  • What are the origins of colour categories?(Insights might be applicable to other perceptual categories as well)
importance for language
Importance for language

“… this may at first appear to be a comparatively trivial example of some minor aspect of language, but the implications for other aspects of language evolution are truly staggering.”

(Deacon, 1997)

universalism
Universalism
  • Berlin and Kay (1969) used naming experiments to extract colour categories
universalism1
Universalism
  • This universal character has been hailed by many and has been reconfirmed by some. (among others Rosch-Heider, 1972; Kay and McDaniel, 1978; Durham, 1991; Shepard, 1992; Kay and Regier, 2003)
three positions
Three positions
  • Supposing we accept a certain universality of colour categorisation, what mechanisms could underlie this?
    • Nativism: genetic makeup.
    • Empiricism: interaction with the environment.
    • Culturalism: cultural interaction with others.
nativism
Nativism
  • Colour categories are directly or indirectly genetically specified.
    • Regularities in human early visual perception, especially the opponent character of colour vision. (Kay and McDaniel, 1978)
    • Regularities in the neural coding of the brain. (Durham, 1991)
    • Genetic coding of colour categories. (Shepard, 1992)
empiricism
Empiricism
  • Our ecology contains a certain chromatic structure which is reflected in our colour categories.
  • We extract colour categories by interacting with our environment.(e.g. Elman et al., 1996; Shepard, 1992; Yendrikhovskij, 2001)
  • This all happens without the influence of culture or language.
culturalism
Culturalism
  • Colour categories are culture-specific.
  • They are learned with a strong causal influence of language and propagate in a cultural process.(e.g. Whorf, 1954; Davidoff et al., 2001; Roberson, 2005; Belpaeme and Steels)
nativism empiricism or culturalism
Nativism, empiricism or culturalism?
  • The discussion has been held on many different fronts
    • Neurology.
    • Psychology.
    • Anthropology.
    • Linguistics.
    • Ophthalmology.
    • Philosophy.
  • We will tackle the discussion from artificial intelligence and computer modelling.
how can artificial intelligence help
How can Artificial Intelligence help?
  • Artificial Intelligence allows us to create models of natural phenomena, of which we then observe their behaviour.
  • Different premises can be implemented in the models, allowing us to get an insight into the validity of the premises.
    • E.g. traffic modelling.
studying empiricism
Studying empiricism
  • Procedure
    • Collect chromatic data.
    • Extract colour categories. For this we use a clustering algorithm.
    • Compare extracted categories with each other and with human colour categories.
  • If empiricism holds, we would expect a high correlation between the extracted categories and human categories.
chromatic data
Chromatic data
  • Three data sets: natural, urban and random
quantitative comparison
Quantitative comparison
  • 11 categories extracted from natural and urban data
  • Correlation with human colour categories
reflections on empiricism
Reflections on empiricism
  • The claim that human colour categories are specified by the distribution of chromatic stimuli in the world is not supported by our data.
  • However, there does seem to be a twofold influence by
    • The structure of the perceptual colour space.
    • The properties of perceptual categories.
studying culturalism
Studying culturalism
  • Procedure
    • Take a population of simulated individuals that learn colour categories and communicate about colour.
  • If culturalism holds, we expect linguistic interactions to cause sharing of colour categories.
the simulations
The simulations
  • Agent-based simulations
    • An agent is a simulated individual, with perception, categorisation, lexicalisation and communication.
    • Perception maps spectral power distribution onto an internal colour space.
    • Categorisation maps percepts onto categories, categories have prototypical behaviour.
    • Lexicalisation connects categories to words.
    • Communication takes care of uttering word forms.
    • The agents have no way to access the internal state of other agents: there is no telepathy!
results
Results
  • Colour categories of two agents
  • Agents arrive at colour categories that are “shared”.
results 2
Results (2)
  • Influence of linguistic interactions on categories.
  • But as language is culture-specific, cultural evolution cannot explain universalism.
summary
Summary
  • Empiricism is not a good candidate to explain universalism
    • There is not enough ecological pressure.
  • Culturalism can explain the sharing of categories in a culture, but not universalism.
  • Nativism can explain universalism, but is to slow to follow ecological changes.
    • Also, recent neurophysiological and molecular studies point out many differences in colour perception between individuals.
conclusion
Conclusion
  • A blend of all three positions is needed to explain universalism.
  • But language and culture play a crucial role as the catalysts which binds the perceptual categories of individuals.
  • Read the full story at http://arti.vub.ac.beSteels & Belpaeme (2005) Coordinating Perceptually Grounded Categories through Language: A Case Study for Colour. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. To appear.