Activity: Talk or presentation › Lecture and oral contribution
In this paper, I will present the results of a study of verbal instructions in exercising the ability to fly an airplane. The study is based on an ecological approach to perceptual learning (Gibson 1969; Gibson & Rader 1979; Gibson 1979; Gibson & Pick 2000). Perceptual learning is, in short, the reciprocal relation to act so that the environment provides information that guides the action. Relating verbal instructions to perceptual learning is not uncontroversial in so far as the knowledge that enable performers of activities to pick of information is considered tacit (Gibson 1979; Polanyi 1966). There are, however, reasons for studying the role of language in perceptual learning: Firstly, even if ecological information can be picked up directly, some tool-mediated activities require long-term training to pick up the information quickly and well enough to perform the activity safely. Secondly, Gibson's separation of ecological information and linguistic meaning is based on the assumption that the basic function of language is to categorize entities.
The study examines the role of language in perceptual learning based on the assumption that language is a tool for sharing attention to features in the environment (Reed 1996; Tomasello 2008), and that verbal instructions can support the exercise of the ability to pick up ecological information (Zukow-Goldring & Arbib 2007; Zukow-Goldring 2012). The object of the study is verbal instructions in exercising the ability to pick up information about air-speed in order to control the air-speed of a glider. The study is based on 14 months of cognitive ethnographical studies (Hutchins 1995) in the activity of soaring. In the paper I will distinguish between different levels of the ability to pick up information about air-speed and relate gliding instructors’ verbal instructions to each level. The study shows that the verbal instructions differ from level to level.