Philosophical Psychology 30 (3):334-368 (2017)

Georg Theiner
Villanova University
In approaching the question of whether groups of people can have cognitive capacities that are fundamentally different than the cognitive capacities of the individuals within the group, we lay out a Multiple, Interactive Levels of Cognitive Systems (MILCS) framework. The goal of MILCS is to explain the kinds of cognitive processes typically studied by cognitive scientists, such as perception, attention, memory, categorization, decision making, problem solving, and judgment. Rather than focusing on high-level constructs such as modules in an information processing flow diagram or internal representations, MILCS focuses on mechanisms that allow systems to engage in flexible, adaptive behavior. Examples of these mechanisms are network structure-process pairs that: combine data from perception with top-down theories, achieve consistency and consensus through information exchange, selectively attend to information globally assessed as relevant, and develop specialized units from originally homogeneous networks through competition among the units. Two such systems are considered in some detail -- lateral inhibition within a network for selecting from a candidate set the option that is most attractive, and a diffusion process for accumulating evidence to reach a generally rapid and accurate decision. These system descriptions are aptly applied at multiple levels, including within and across people. These systems provide accounts that unify cognitive processes across multiple levels, can be expressed in a common vocabulary provided by network science, are inductively powerful yet appropriately constrained, and are applicable to a large number of superficially diverse cognitive systems. Given that people are typically highly motivated to participate in strong groups, cognitively resourceful people will tend to form groups that effectively employ cognitive systems at higher levels than the individuals. The impressive cognitive capacities of individual people do not eliminate the need to talk about group cognition. Instead, smart people generally form smart groups.
Keywords Extended Mind  Distributed Cognition  Collective Behavior  Collective Intelligence  Collective Intentionality  Complex Systems  Network Science  Emergence  Collective Action  Group Dynamics
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DOI 10.1080/09515089.2017.1295635
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References found in this work BETA

The Extended Mind.Andy Clark & David J. Chalmers - 1998 - Analysis 58 (1):7-19.
Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter K. Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
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Minds: Extended or Scaffolded? [REVIEW]Kim Sterelny - 2010 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 9 (4):465-481.

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Collective Belief Defended.Michael G. Bruno & J. M. Fritzman - 2021 - Social Epistemology 35 (1):48-66.

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