Structure without symbols: Providing a distributed account of high-level cognition

There has been a long-standing debate between symbolicists and connectionists concerning the nature of representation used by human cognizers. In general, symbolicist commitments have allowed them to provide superior models of high-level cognitive function. In contrast, connectionist distributed representations are preferred for providing a description of low-level cognition. The development of Holographic Reduced Representations (HRRs) has opened the possibility of one representational medium unifying both low-level and high-level descriptions of cognition. This paper describes the relative strengths and weaknesses of symbolic and distributed representations. HRRs are shown to capture the important strengths of both types of representation. These properties of HRRs allow a rebuttal of Fodor and McLaughlin's (1990) criticism that distributed representations are not adequately structure sensitive to provide a full account of human cognition.
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