Mental Systems, Representation, and Process
Gabriel A. Radvansky University of Notre Dame
In the target chapter (chap. 1, this volume), Donal Carlston presents his Associated System Theory (AST). The goal of this theory is to provide a framework for identifying the relevant dimensions of information that are used in deriving impressions of other people as individuals, although this framework could be extended to nonhuman animals and inanimate objects as well. His chapter can be roughly divided into two sections. In the first section, the different types of representational systems that are employed in deriving impressions of other people, as well as how those systems interact, are described. In the second section, the types of processes and conditions involved in the creation, organization, and use of these representations are described. The current chapter focuses on the issues raised in the first section-that of the representational systems-because this is where the AST model, as it is outlined here, has its greatest problems as a theory of associated mental systems.
According to Carlston, the AST model is concerned with the form of the mental representations used in the formation of impressions of other people, not with their content, and with how these different forms are employed in different situations where people gain impressions of other people. Each system in the AST framework is presented as relying on a unique representational form, as well as a set of processes that operate on those forms. These unique representations and procedures are tailor-made for each system to satisfy the system's particular needs. Carlston identifies four primary systems that compose the model, as well as four secondary systems. The secondary systems are hybrid combinations of the activities from two primary systems. The representational forms and processes of the