Foundations Of Cognitive Science


In order for the operations of a physical symbol system to be meaningful, the symbolic structures operated on must have semantic content.  That is, the expressions being ma-nipulated must have some relationship to states of the external world that permit the expressions to represent these states.  This relationship is a basic property of a physical symbol system, and is called designation (Newell, 1980; Newell & Simon, 1976).  “An expression designates an object if, given the expression, the system can either affect the object itself or behave in ways dependent on the object” (Newell & Simon, 1976, p. 116).


  1. Newell, A. (1980). Physical symbol systems. Cognitive Science, 4, 135-183.
  1. Newell, A., & Simon, H. A. (1976). Computer science as empirical inquiry - Symbols and search. Communications of the ACM, 19(3), 113-126.

(Added September 2010)