Associated Systems Theory: A Systematic Approach to Cognitive Representations of Persons

By Robert S. Wyer | Go to book overview

2
Thinking About Things and People

Colin Martindale University of Maine

I have elsewhere ( Martindale, 1981, 1991) presented a model of general cognition similar to the one described by Carlston (chap. 1, this volume). Although most theories of person perception are based on the assumption that our knowledge about other people is stored in semantic memory, Carlston argues that it is distributed among several mental modules. This is a novel and useful idea. I have always thought of the action system solely as an output module. It makes perfect sense that it could do double duty and also serve as a memory system. It also makes sense that perceptual systems are not solely input modules. The massive amount of evidence concerning the influence of knowledge on perception is consistent with Carlston's use of perceptual systems as memory systems.


ASSOCIATIVE SYSTEMS THEORY

Carlston postulates four basic mental systems: the perceptual system, the verbal-semantic system, the affective system, and the action system. Each of these accounts for different aspects of the impression we have of another person. Because these systems are interconnected in specific ways, four secondary aspects of representation arise. For example, behavioral observations arise from an integration of perceptual appearances and behavioral responses. The interaction is shown in a metaphorical way in Carlston's Fig. 1.1.

Let us regard Fig. 1.1, for a moment, not as a metaphor, but as a picture of columns of cortex with degree of overlap indicating amount of intercon-

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