Ecological Theory of Information Pickup
There is a long history of interpreting learning in terms of the latest technologies. Examples include writing on a tablet, taking photographs and films, and making connections on a telephone switchboard. Brain-as-Computer Discourses represent an uncritical continuation of this trend, through which knowledge is reduced to information and learning is cast as inputting and manipulating that information.Learn More...
Postcognitivist Discourses reject those discourses that frame cognition in terms of symbolic manipulation and information processing. Postcognitivist Discourses include a wide range of perspectives and foci, but they are united in at least two important grounding assumptions. Firstly, they invoke evolutionary dynamics to describe and explain learning. Secondly, all are compatible with Complex Systems Research.Learn More...
Embodied Cognition asserts that humans are doubly embodied. That is, human cognition simultaneously depends on having a biological body and being part of a socio-cultural corpus. These two nested bodies are intimately intertwined: one’s physical body defines possible movements and ranges of perception; the grander context in which one is embedded defines appropriate actions and the scopes of interpretive possibilities. Learn More...
Cognitive Science is the study of cognition in humans, non-human animals, and machines. It brings together psychology, linguistics, computer science, neuroscience, anthropology, philosophy, and other domains. Typically, the foci of Cognitive Science are identified as learning, development, perception, attention, reasoning, emotion, consciousness, memory, language, creativity, and intelligence, and its are identified as better understanding the mind, advancing practical knowledge of learning, and developing intelligent devices.Learn More...
Affordance Theory attends to “affordances” – that is, to the range of possibilities that arise when an individual (with specific intentions and needs, and who is oriented by a personal history) interacts with an environment (with specific structures/affordances that help to channel perception and that enable some actions while constraining others). Learn More...
Behaviorisms reject the notion that knowledge is some sort of external, stable, and context-free form. Rejecting attempts to explain learning in terms of unobservable mental processes, Behaviorisms focus instead on observable and measurable phenomena – thus operationally defining learning in terms of changes in behavior that are attributable to environmental factors.Learn More...
Cognitivism is explicitly developed around the metaphor “brain as computer.” It thus focuses on how information is acquired, processed, and organized. Learning is seen in terms of integration of new information into existing structures through processes of internal codification.Learn More...
Mentalisms reach across any theory that (1) assumes a separation of mental from physical (inner from outer, subjective from objective, etc.) and (2) casts learning in terms of mental images, models, encodings, or other inner representations of the existing world. Some sort of barrier – typically the body, or fallible senses, or faulty subjective interpretations – is seen to prevent direct, first-hand knowledge of reality.Learn More...
Redefining “perception of information” in terms of occasioning learners rather than knowledge transfer
- Knowledge is … scope of possible actions and interpretations
- Knowing is … coherent web of interpretations
- Learner is … an interpreter (individual)
- Learning is … selecting interpretations (of information/triggers)
- Teaching is … designing (affordances), occasioning, triggering
Information Pickup Theory begins by redefining both information and pickup. Information is understood in terms of triggering the perceiver – that is, information is only information if it is noticed by the learner and occasions some manner of response. Information is thus not inherently meaningful. Rather, meaning arises in the interpretive possibilities triggered in the knower by the information. Pickup is similarly defined. Here it means something like “noticing” or “resonating”; it is not about “picking up something,” but “picking up on something.” Information becomes information through pickup. Perceiving is thus more like “resonating” than “taking in” or “processing.” Associated constructs include:
- Stimulus Array – the range of possible perceptions for an agent in an environment – which will vary across agents
Information Pickup Theory was articulated as a critical response to all Mentalisms, and to Cognitivism in particular. The theory explicitly rejects the assumption of Cognitivism (and other Brain-as-Computer Discourses) that learning is taking in information – a conception in which “information” is implicitly understood as some sort of matter that flows from the outside to the inside. Information Pickup Theory was an important precursor to Embodied Cognition, but it was frustrated by the need to invent a new vocabulary – in large part by redefining popular terms – in order to disrupt prevailing perspectives.
Authors and/or Prominent Influences
James J. Gibson
Status as a Theory of Learning
Information Pickup Theory is a theory of learning – or, perhaps more appropriately, a theory of perception that sets the stage for a theory of learning.
Status as a Theory of Teaching
Information Pickup Theory is not a theory of teaching, although it was the grounding for later perspectives that are more oriented toward teaching (see Affordance Theory).
Status as a Scientific Theory
Information Pickup Theory is not often cited in current discussions of learning, but it played an important and highly influential role in the emergence of Embodied Cognition, Cognitive Science, and other Postcognitivist Discourses. The challenges it presented to prevailing discourses on learning was pivotal, especially in the radical suggestion that supposedly oppositional Mentalisms and Behaviorisms were rooted in the same entrenched, commonsensical assumptions. It helped to set a new standard for learning theories around critical attentiveness to metaphors and underlying assumptions.
Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2021). “Information Pickup Theory” in Discourses on Learning in Education. https://learningdiscourses.com.
⇦ Back to Map
⇦ Back to List