The informed neuron: Issues in the use of information theory in the behavioral sciences [Book Review]

Minds and Machines 5 (4):583-96 (1995)
The concept of “information” is virtually ubiquitous in contemporary cognitive science. It is claimed to be “processed” (in cognitivist theories of perception and comprehension), “stored” (in cognitivist theories of memory and recognition), and otherwise manipulated and transformed by the human central nervous system. Fred Dretske's extensive philosophical defense of a theory of informational content (“semantic” information) based upon the Shannon-Weaver formal theory of information is subjected to critical scrutiny. A major difficulty is identified in Dretske's equivocations in the use of the concept of a “signal” bearing informational content. Gibson's alternative conception of information (construed as analog by Dretske), while avoiding many of the problems located in the conventional use of “signal”, raises different but equally serious questions. It is proposed that, taken literally, the human CNS does not extract or process information at all; rather, whatever “information” is construed as locatable in the CNS is information only for an observer-theorist and only for certain purposes
Keywords Behavior  Cognition  Information  Neuron  Science
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