Foundations Of Cognitive Science

Brittle Processing

An information processor is said to be “brittle” if it is unable to resist damage or degrade gracefully (Dawson, 2004).  For instance, in a brittle system, as noise is added to the input, the system will suddenly change from working perfectly to crashing totally (no graceful degradation).  Similarly, if an instruction is removed by damaging the machine head of a Turing machine, it will no longer function properly (no damage resistance).  Brittle information processing is a property that is usually true of classical information processors, often because of their digital nature and because of their sharp distinction between structure and process.  It is important to cognitive science because connectionists have argued that their models are better for cognitive science because they – like the brain, and unlike classical modes – are not brittle.

  1. Dawson, M. R. W. (2004). Minds And Machines : Connectionism And Psychological Modeling. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub

(Added November 2009)