XSCAPE Material Minds Project


XSCAPE is a €10 million European Council Synergy funded research project that is thought to be the largest ecological experiment on embodied visual perception ever attempted. 

The project asks in what ways the material structures of human settlements such as buildings, roads and artefacts (from pottery to smartphones) change fundamental patterns of thought and attention and the way that minds process information.The researchers will conduct 41 different world-wide case studies, with locations chosen to sample very distinct types of societies ranging from Amazonian and African hunter-gatherers to traditional peasants in South America, Africa or India, and present-day European urban societies.

The XSCAPE project, which includes €1.7 million of funding for Sussex, will develop and deploy a new synergistic methodology that combines multiple real-world case studies with state-of-the-art visual neuroscience, and agent-based simulations. It aims to deliver the first fully integrated framework for understanding the cycles by which humans make and transform the structured worlds that make and transform their minds.

Andy Clark, Professor of Cognitive Philosophy, is one of four Principal Investigators (PIs) leading the unique six-year project combining archaeological materials, visual neuroscience and simulation-based studies. The group also includes experts from the Spanish National Research Council and the University of Kiel in Germany. Bridging Prof Clark’s home departments of Philosophy and Informatics, the University of Sussex team will use computational simulations to explore the various ways that acting in structured environments might alter patterns of thought and attention. This part of the project will exploit the emerging paradigm known as ‘predictive processing’ – a rich neurocomputational perspective that offers a principled means of linking perception, attention and action with cognitive change and learning.

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