Modularity and relevance: How can a massively modular mind be flexible and context-sensitive

In Peter Carruthers, Stephen Laurence & Stephen Stich (eds.), The Innate Mind: Structure and Content. OUP 53 (2004)
Abstract
The claim that the human cognitive system tends to allocate resources to the processing of available inputs according to their expected relevance is at the basis of relevance theory. The main thesis of this chapter is that this allocation can be achieved without computing expected relevance. When an input meets the input condition of a given modular procedure, it gives this procedure some initial level of activation. Input-activated procedures are in competition for the energy resources that would allow them to follow their full course. What determines which of the procedures in competition get sufficient resources to trigger their full operation is the dynamics of their activation. This dynamics depend both on the prior degree of mobilisation of a modular procedure and on the activation that propagates from other active modules. It is quite conceivable also that the mobilisation of some procedures has inhibitory effects on some others. The relevance-theoretic claim is that, at every instant, this dynamics of activation provides rough physiological indicators of expected relevance. The flow of energy in the system is locally regulated by these indicators. As a result, those input-procedure combinations that have the greatest expected relevance are the more likely ones to receive sufficient energy to follow their course.
Keywords Cognition  Linguistics  Modularity
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Richard Samuels (2010). Classical Computationalism and the Many Problems of Cognitive Relevance. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 41 (3):280-293.

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