Cognitive Dynamics: Conceptual and Representational Change in Humans and Machines

Cognitive Dynamics: Conceptual and Representational Change in Humans and Machines

Cognitive Dynamics: Conceptual and Representational Change in Humans and Machines

Cognitive Dynamics: Conceptual and Representational Change in Humans and Machines

Synopsis

Recent work in cognitive science, much of it placed in opposition to a computational view of the mind, has argued that the concept of representation and theories based on that concept are not sufficient to explain the details of cognitive processing. These attacks on representation have focused on the importance of context sensitivity in cognitive processing, on the range of individual differences in performance, and on the relationship between minds and the bodies and environments in which they exist. In each case, models based on traditional assumptions about representation have been assumed to be too rigid to account for the effects of these factors on cognitive processing. In place of a representational view of mind, other formalisms and methodologies, such as nonlinear differential equations (or dynamical systems) and situated robotics, have been proposed as better explanatory tools for understanding cognition. This book is based on the notion that, while new tools and approaches for understanding cognition are valuable, representational approaches do not need to be abandoned in the course of constructing new models and explanations. Rather, models that incorporate representation are quite compatible with the kinds of complex situations being modeled with the new methods. This volume illustrates the power of this explicitly representational approach--labeled "cognitive dynamics"--in original essays by prominent researchers in cognitive science. Each chapter explores some aspect of the dynamics of cognitive processing while still retaining representations as the centerpiece of the explanations of the key phenomena. These chapters serve as an existence proof that representation is not incompatible with the dynamics of cognitive processing. The book is divided into sections on foundational issues about the use of representation in cognitive science, the dynamics of low level cognitive processes (such as visual and auditory perception and simple lexical priming), and the dynamics of higher cognitive processes (including categorization, analogy, and decision making).

Excerpt

It has become unfashionable to be a cognitive scientist and to believe in representation. a number of books and articles have suggested that ideas about representation, many of which are derived from a computational view of the mind, are not sufficient to explain the details of cognitive processing. These attacks on representation have focused on the importance of context sensitivity in cognitive processing, on the range of individual differences in performance, and on the relationship between minds and the bodies and environments in which they exist. in each case, models based on traditional assumptions about representation are assumed to be too rigid to account for these aspects of cognitive processing.

These aspects of cognitive processing are all concerned with the dynamics of mind. Context sensitivity involves cases in which the same concept has a different meaning in different situations (though sometimes the differences may be subtle). Individual differences highlight the way a given process can manifest itself in a unique way across individuals, or even in the same individual at different times. the relationships among mind, body, and environment are dynamic, because the body and environment are constantly changing, and cognitive processing must adapt to these changes. Beyond this, the mind itself is in a constant state of activity, even when the environment is relatively stable (during sleep, for example).

In place of a representational view of mind, researchers have proposed other formalisms and methodologies, such as nonlinear differential equations (or dynamical systems) and situated robotics. These new approaches are touted as better explanatory tools for understanding cognition. We must say at the outset that we are fully in favor of exploring a range of approaches to cognitive processing. It seems unlikely that any single explanatory approach is going to suffice.

However, we suggest that the flexibility that is inherent in cognitive processing does not require a radically new approach to cognitive science.

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