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Mental Files: an Introduction

Abstract : In the first part of this editorial, we introduce to the topic of the special issue from the perspective of the three main disciplines that have appealed to the mental file construct: psychology, philosophy, and linguistics. In the second part we present the individual contributions to the issue, in connection with the various themes mentioned in the first part. 1. Mental files in psychology, philosophy, and linguistics 1.1. Object files The notion of an object file is used in psychology to characterize visual representations of objects at an intermediate level between low level processing of sensory features and high-level placement of objects in conceptual categories or kinds. The object filing system supports the individuation and tracking of particulars, while allowing information about their features to be stored, updated, and retrieved. It has to decide when visually encountered elements should be counted as different stages of the same persisting object, and so should be assigned the same file, and when not. A signature trait of the object filing system is that the features that matter to its operations are primarily spatiotemporal, rather than qualitative. Flombaum, Scholl, Santos (2009) dub the principle according to which, for object files, spatiotemporal factors take priority over featural similarity the 'principle of spatiotemporal priority'. They argue that it constitutes a 'fundamental principle of object persistence' in human vision. A simple demonstration is the well-known 'tunnel effect' (Burke 1952). If the time it takes an object to disappear then reappear from behind an occluder is roughly the same as the time it would take an object to travel behind the occluder, and if the object's way of moving is appropriate, viewers irresistibly experience a single persisting object, which is temporarily hidden behind the occluder. This is the case even when the reappearing object has very different surface qualities from the disappearing one-for example, a yellow ball can be perceived to 'morph' into a red cup. This experience as of one single persisting object is characteristically encapsulated, or resistant to influence from higher-level judgments of identity, which suggests that it is a perceptual effect. * Authors listed in alphabetical order.
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Michael Murez, François Recanati. Mental Files: an Introduction. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 2016, 7 (2), pp.265 - 281. ⟨10.1007/s13164-016-0314-3⟩. ⟨ijn_01612895⟩

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