Prominent evolutionary psychologists have argued that our innate psychological endowment consists of numerous domainspecific cognitive resources, rather than a few domaingeneral ones. In the light of some conceptual clarification, we examine the central inprinciple arguments that evolutionary psychologists mount against domaingeneral cognition. We conclude (a) that the fundamental logic of Darwinism, as advanced within evolutionary psychology, does not entail that the innate mind consists exclusively, or even massively, of domainspecific features, and (b) that a mixed innate cognitive economy of domainspecific (...) and domaingeneral resources remains a genuine conceptual possibility. However, an examination of evolutionary psychology's 'grain problem' reveals that there is no way of establishing a principled and robust distinction between domainspecific and domaingeneral features. Nevertheless, we show that evolutionary psychologists can and do live with this grain problem without their whole enterprise being undermined. (shrink)
Research only alluded to by Preston & de Waal (P&deW) indicates the disproportionate involvement of some brain regions in the perception and experience of certain emotions. This suggests that the neural substrate of primitive emotional contagion has some emotion-specific aspects, even if cognitively sophisticated forms of empathy do not. Goals for future research include determining the ways in which empathy is emotion-specific and dependent on overt or covert perception.
What makes us conscious? Many theories that attempt to answer this question have appeared recently in the context of widespread interest about consciousness in the cognitive neurosciences. Most of these proposals are formulated in terms of the information processing conducted by the brain. In this overview, we survey and contrast these models. We first delineate several notions of consciousness, addressing what it is that the various models are attempting to explain. Next, we describe a conceptual landscape that addresses how the (...) theories attempt to explain consciousness. We then situate each of several representative models in this landscape and indicate which aspect of consciousness they try to explain. We conclude that the search for the neural correlates of consciousness should be usefully complemented by a search for the computational correlates of consciousness. (shrink)
We address two points in this commentary. First, we question the extent to which O'Brien & Opie have established that the classical approach is unable to support a viable vehicle theory of consciousness. Second, assuming that connectionism does have the resources to support a vehicle theory, we explore how the activity of the units of a PDP network might sum together to form phenomenal experience (PE).
Decompositional analysis is the process of constructing explanations of the characteristics of whole systems in terms of characteristics of parts of those whole systems. Cognitive psychology is an endeavour that develops explanations of the capacities of the human organism in terms of descriptions of the brain's functionally defined information-processing components. This paper details the nature of this explanatory strategy, known as functional analysis. Functional analysis is contrasted with two other varieties of decompositional analysis, namely, structural analysis and capacity analysis. After (...) an examination of these three varieties of analysis, there follows a consideration of a mistake to avoid when conducting decompositional analyses in psychology, and a possible limitation on their explanatory scope. (shrink)
Although information-processing theories cannot provide a full explanatory account of P-consciousness, there is less conflation and confusion in cognitive psychology than Block suspects. Some of the reasoning that Block criticises can be interpreted plausibly in the light of a folk psychological view of the relation between P-consciousness and A-consciousness.