The geometry of consciousness

Michael McBeath, Ty Y. Tang, Dennis M. Shaffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Conscious experience implies a reference-frame or vantage, which is often important in scientific models. Control models of ball-interception are used as an example. Models that use viewer-dependent egocentric reference-frames are contrasted with viewer-independent allocentric ones. Allocentric reference-frames serve well for models like Newtonian physics, which utilize static coordinate-systems that allow forces and object-movements to be compartmentalized. In contrast, egocentric reference-frames are natural for modeling mobile organisms or robots when controlling perception-action behavior. Lower-level perception-action behavior is often characterized using egocentric coordinate-systems that optimize processing-speed, while higher-level cognitive-processes use allocentric frames that provide a stationary spatial reference. Brain-behavior models like the Ventral-Stream What System, and Dorsal-Stream Where-How System, also respectively utilize allocentric and egocentric reference-frames. Reference-frame clarification can resolve disputes about models of control-tasks like running to catch baseballs, and can provide insights for biomimetic-robots. Confusion regarding geometry and reference-frames contributes to a lack of clarity between how and when egocentric versus allocentric geometries are imposed, with perception-actions generally being more egocentric and conscious experience more allocentric.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-215
Number of pages9
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
StatePublished - Sep 2018


  • Algebra
  • Allocentric
  • Analytic geometry
  • Baseball
  • Cartesian
  • Catching
  • Collision avoidance
  • Consciousness
  • Coordinate system
  • Egocentric
  • Euclidean
  • Exocentric
  • Fly ball
  • Intercepting
  • Outfielder
  • Reference frame

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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