Cognitive science - NOTE

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Cognitive science is a branch of science which studies the nature of mental processes, trying to understand the operation of the mind, particularly functions such as perception, attention, consciousness and memory. Unlikepsychology it does not confine itself to humans, nor even to animals, but seeks laws that would apply to non-biological beings or alien life forms, as long as they could be said to have a 'mental process'.

It's many applications are wide-ranging: it has given rise to models of human cognitive bias and risk perception, and has been especially influential in the development of behavioral finance, properly part of economics. It has also given rise to a new theory of the philosophy of mathematics, and many theories of artificial intelligence, persuasion andcoercion.

The field, reflecting this broad concern, is highly inter-disciplinary, and there is some disagreement about its exact relationship to other fields. Thus Cognitive Science may be seen to consist of, take part in, and/or collaborate withpsychology (especially cognitive psychology), linguistics, neuroscience, artificial intelligence (neural network research in particular), and philosophy (especially philosophy of mind and philosophy of mathematics).

To the extent that mental processes can be considered to be shared among a community of collaborators, e.g. scientists working together in the scientific method, cognitive science can also be said to be a specialized sub-field of the philosophy of science, which is concerned with the collective perception, attention, and memory (and to some degree shared consciousness) of many individuals pursuing a deep agreement on external phenomena.

At the very least, cognitive science is usually seen as compatible with and interdependent with the physical sciences, and makes frequent use of the scientific method, as well as simulation/modelling, often comparing the output of models with the actual behavior of living biological beings, e.g. humans, chimpanzees, mice.

Foundation Assumptions

The key difference between cognitive psychology and prior versions of psychology was that the former assumed that internal mental process was investigatable by empirical methods, not just quasi-empirical methods.

Cognitive science further assumes that either kind of methods are valid in the investigation, and in effect that cognition is not markedly different for collective processes of sufficient rigor (like scientific investigations, robotic copying of animal behavior, and software simulating human language), and therefore investigations of these processes provides insight into human and near-human (e.g. chimpanzee), cognition.

Key Findings

(partial list)

Discovery of systemic human cognitive bias, usually credited to Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, 1967. Basis ofbehavioral finance.

Assertion of equivalence of Euler's Identity (basis of complex analysis in mathematics) with basic cognitive processes,George Lakoff and Rafael Nunez, 2000. Basis of cognitive science of mathematics.


How about:

One of the most universally affirmed ideas of cognitive science is the importance of the unconscious mind; many, if not most, important mental processes are considered to be inaccessible to the conscious, introspecting observer. ... Anyone who has ever forgotten something and then remembered it will be familiar with the idea that some things are simply unavailible to you at some times. ... Linguists find on one hand that people - even the young and the uneducated - form sentences in ways seemingly governed by very complicated rule systems. On the other hand, the same people are remarkably inept at identifying the rules that lie behind their own speech, and linguists must resort to very indirect methods to determine what those rules might be. Thus, if speech is indeed governed by rules, those rules seem to lie below conscious consideration. ...

Probably most cognitive scientists believe the Mind/Brain Identity Theory, the idea that, whatever "mind" and "intelligence" are, they are rooted strictly in the brain, and do not make use of, depend on, or interact with anything non-physical.

Symbolic vs Connectionist approaches There is some debate in the field as to whether the mind is "best" viewed as a huge array of small but stupid elements (i.e. neurons), or as a collection of higher-level structures, such as "symbols", "schemas", "plans", and rules. One way to view the issue is whether it is possible to accurately simulate a human brain on a computer without accurately simulating the neurons that seem to make up the human brain.

Cognitive Science tends to view the world outside the mind much as other sciences do; thus it has an objective, observer-independent existence. One of the supposed qualities of an intelligent mind is that it can form some reasonably accurate internal representation of the outside world.

Cognitive Scientists usually assume brains to be the product of evolution, and this may have put constraints on the brains' "design".

the importance of attention

Experimental Methods

what are the methodologies? why are they used? when were they invented? etc. this should somehow relate to the entries for psychology/linguistics

  • reaction time
  • gramaticality judgements
  • Psychophysics
    • sameness judgements for colors/tones/etc
    • threshold differences for colors/tones/etc
  • brain imagery by means of
  • scores/wins/losses in games
  • recording bodily movements in response to a task (e.g. walking towards an object)

Various Issues

  • simulation vs recreation

Notable researchers in cognitive science and related fields

Cognitive science?

The term "cognitive" in "cognitive science" is "used for any kind of mental operation or structure that can be studied in precise terms." (Lakoff and Johnson 1999) This conceptualization is very broad, and should not be confused with how "cognitive" is used in some traditions of analytic philosophy, where "cognitive" has to do only with formal rules and truth conditional semantics.

The earliest entries for the word "cognitive" in the OED take it to mean roughly pertaining to "to the action or process of knowing". The first entry, from 1586, shows the word was at one time used in the context of discussions of Platonictheories of knowledge. Most in Cognitive science, however, presumably do not believe their field is the study of anything as certain as the knowledge sought by Plato.

See also

External links


  • George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. Philosophy In The Flesh. Basic Books, 1999.

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