A Functional Theory of Cognition

A Functional Theory of Cognition

A Functional Theory of Cognition

A Functional Theory of Cognition


A unified, general theory of functional cognition is presented in this book. Its generality appears in the titles of the 13 chapters listed below. Its unity appears in the effectiveness of the same methods and concepts across all of these areas. Generality and unity both stem from the foundation axiom of purposiveness. The axiom of purposiveness has been made effective through capability for functional measurement of values, which embody the goal-directed character of purposiveness.

This measurement capability is based on the general cognitive algebra established in information integration theory. Functional theory can thus be made precise and effective near the level of everyday phenomenology.

The book is written at a relatively simple level, directed at readers in every field of psychology. Among its characteristics are:

• self-sufficient theory near the level of everyday phenomenology;

• foundation on structure of the internal world; and

• solid grounding in experimental analysis.


This book is intended to be readable by psychologists in all fields of specialization. The theory of information integration (IIT) covers many substantive areas, from psychophysics through memory and person cognition to language processing. This work forms a theoretical whole, based on the same concepts and methods in each area. Foremost is a new theory of psychological measurement, empirically successful in many areas. This theoretical unification contrasts with the increasing fragmentation that has characterized the development of psychology.

Workers in one area, however, are not often cognizant of associated work on IIT that has been done in other areas. Crossing areas presents problems, of course, but IIT cannot be fully understood within its applications to a single area. The contrast between internal and external structure, for example, takes on different forms in different areas, as does the issue of meaning invariance. For these and other issues, results in one area often buttress results in other areas.

The purpose of this book, accordingly, is to give an overview of IIT that will be accessible to workers in all areas. This is possible because the theory is unified in concept and method. Each empirical chapter presents illustrative experiments to cover a set of basic issues in one area. Each chapter revolves around a contrast between a traditional conceptual framework and a new way of thinking.

To cover this range of content in a book intended for the general reader has imposed several constraints. Each empirical chapter is largely self-contained, requiring only Chapter 1 and part of Chapter 2. Some redundancy will thus appear across chapters. References have been omitted from the main text as much as possible. Some issues are detailed in chapter notes, which also refer back to the original literature. Various general issues could be covered only in a cursory way. To relate IIT to other functional theories, for example, would have required a book in itself. Similarly, much other work on cognitive theory of everyday life, which is a primary ground for IIT, has perforce gone unmentioned. I hope to amend these limitations in future work.

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