Knowledge and Cognition

Knowledge and Cognition

Knowledge and Cognition

Knowledge and Cognition

Excerpt

This volume is a collection of the papers presented at the Ninth Annual Symposium on Cognition, held at Carnegie-Mellon University in May 1973. The subject of the symposium was knowledge, or rather its internal representation in human memory, or in computer systems. Of all the recent symposia in this series, this one represents a meeting of the minds, in that all of the participants were strongly oriented toward information processing theories of cognition. No attempt was made to induce an old-fashioned S-R Hullian to mystify the audience with Rube Goldberg mediators. No magical hand-waving from the Piagetian school was allowed. No blind faith in the control of behavior by radical Skinnerians shaped up the proceedings. Just plain old, hard-nosed, deterministic (for the most part) descriptions of thinking and problem solving were presented.

Two of the papers were presented at the Midwestern Psychological Association Meetings at Chicago, Illinois, a few days before the conference. The Simon and Lea paper, Chapter 5, was an invited address entitled What Problem Solving Has to Say to Concept Learning. A different title was attached to the final version. Greeno introduced the notion that comprehension and learning are similar processes in a talk that he gave at an MPA symposium.

The first chapter presents an overview of recent theories of semantic or long-term memory. This general paper surveys work in the developmental area, in the perceptual learning domain, and in language acquisition, as this work relates to the organization of human memory. Chapter 2, by Greeno, examines the notion that comprehension and learning are both processes that create structures in working memory. Hence these two important aspects of human behavior are seen in a unified framework. Working memory is that memory which is longer than short-term memory, but not yet a part of the organized concepts of long-term semantic memory. What Greeno has done is to analyze the conditions of preliminary knowledge that make the acquisition of further knowledge possible. This is a complex area where Greeno's search for unity in mental processes takes him through what he has termed "the new mental forestry".

Pitz's presentation at the conference generated a great deal of discussion. In contrast to the rather deterministic ideas of cognitive organization, Pitz attempts to characterize that imprecise knowledge on which so many decisions are based. How uncertain are we of facts and figures which we can only roughly estimate? Pitz's formulation presents an information processing analysis that challenges the subjective utility schemes of Ward Edwards and others.

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