I have just submitted the abstract below to NoSP 2017, the 15th annual conference of the Nordic Society for phenomenology, entitled "Phenomenology and the body - Contemporary perspectives".
The search image as link between sensation, perception and action
As part of his Umwelt theory, a theory on the subjective, experiential worlds of animals, Jakob von Uexküll (1864–1944) introduced the notion of the search image (Suchbild). A search image is an imagined object that an animal or human being has in mind as it searches for something. The search image plays a central role in what I have termed the mediated Umwelt, the aspect of Umwelt in which Umwelt objects are encountered indirectly by way of some mediation (e.g. memory, fantasy, anticipation). It is generally related to an animal´s agenda- or interest-driven matching of something it is searching for with something in its environment. Search images are key to understanding how perception works as distinguished from sensation, and how an animal´s perception and action are connected. The search image acts as an intermediary between perception and action, and between the mediated Umwelt and the core Umwelt, the aspect of Umwelt in which Umwelt objects are encountered directly. The imagined object has the form of a schema, and encountered objects may or may not be perceived as fitting with the anticipated schema. The perception of a match may furthermore be either correct or incorrect. Object recognition occurs when an encountered object is correctly perceived as fitting with an anticipated schema. But search images, with their implied schemata, may also be confused with actual perception images of encountered objects. The functioning of search images can help explain why it is that action-related brain activity appears to precede the experience of having made a choice of action. When an animal or a human being operates with a search image, we anticipate encountering the imagined object. We act not only in response to encountered objects, but also in response to imagined ones.