Dawson Margin Notes On Osherson "The Study Of Cognition"

"Cognitive science is the study of human intelligence in all of its forms, form perception and action to language and reasoning." Cognition is itself the exercise of intelligence. (NB: Need cognitive science be concerned about HUMAN intelligence?)

The roots of modern cognitive science can be found in the linguistics and the computer science of the 1950s. Modern cognitive science is characterized by a "vigorous dialogue among scientists working within divers traditions". Cognitive science is emerging as a required new area for academic training.

Why Study Human Cognition?

Why should there be a science of human cognition? (1) There is intrinsic fascination in the study of cognitive science. Things that are effortless to us are astonishingly intricate from a scientific perspective (e.g., perception, action, learning!). "To a large extent a person just is the ensemble of cognitive processes she harbors; the thoughts, perceptions, utterances, and actions created by these processes help define her as a person". Thus, cognitive science is really asking what it means to be human.

(2) Humans excel over computers in many domains. "These considerations suggest that the investigation of human intelligence can play a useful role in the search for artificially intelligent systems". In other words, the study of human could lead to new design principles for computers -- note the promissory nature of this claim!.

(3) Research in cognitive science has applications in education and medicine as well. In education, curriculum must "fit" the cognitive apparatus of the learner. "It is reasonable to expect that progress in cognitive science will illuminate the cognitive structure of children and adults in such a way as to aid the design of effective curricula". "Cognitive science is also central to advances in the diagnosis of neural disease and damage". (Note that this assumes that cognitive science is at least materialist, if not reductionist).

(4) Scientifically sound theory of cognition should shed light on human decisions, and this could have sociopolitical impact. (NB: See stuff in Ortony's 1979 book Metaphor and thought on the conduit metaphor, and its sociopolitical implications).

Organization (of the 3 volume set)

(Note that for lecture purposes, this section should really be replaced or refocused to describe the organization of the course.)

"Human cognition is so complicated that only small pieces of it can be investigated at a time. However, it is not obvious how to divide up a cognitive activity into units that can be meaningfully studied in isolation"..."For this reason, the organization of these volumes does not represent a theory of the natural components of human cognition but instead reflects the informal understanding that most people have about their mental faculties".

A key theme of the volumes is Marr's tri-level hypothesis, which is also a major theme of the course. "A central idea of modern cognitive science is that the human cognitive system can be understood as though it were a giant computer engaged in a complex calculation". We shall see that as soon as this type of assumption is adopted, the three level hypothesis applies. "It is crucial for understanding contemporary cognitive science to see that the different levels of analysis are connected, in the sense that facts and principles discovered at one level contribute to analyses at other levels". Tri-level hypothesis: implementation, representation/algorithm, and computation.

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