Toward a theory of the empirical tracking of individuals

Cognitive flexibility and the functions of attention in integrated tracking

Nicolas J. Bullot

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    8 Citations (Scopus)
    13 Downloads (Pure)


    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.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)353-387
    Number of pages35
    JournalPhilosophical Psychology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2009


    • Attention
    • Cognitive Flexibility
    • Cross-domain Inferences
    • File Semantics
    • Identification
    • Individual
    • Integrated Tracking
    • Location
    • Multisensory
    • Reference

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