Philosophy, Psychology and Neuroscience

Spatial cognition and sensory substitution

Sensory substitution devices provide through an unusual sensory modality (the substituting modality, e.g. audition) the kind of information that is normally accessed through another sensory modality (the substituted modality, e.g. vision). Various kinds of devices have been developed, tested, and shown to allow their users to behave to some degree as if they possessed the substituted sensory organ. These systems thus question the usual taxonomy of our sensory modalities. Through a set of behavioral and theoretical studies, the question of which sensory modality the acquired perception belongs to will be addressed. Though certain results might be taken to point to the conclusion that perception with sensory substitution devices belong to the substituted modality, overall evidence leads to an alternative view. According to it, the experience after sensory substitution is a transformation, extension, or augmentation of our spatial cognition skills, rather than something equivalent or reducible to an already existing sensory modality.