Scientific models, connectionist networks, and cognitive science

The employment of a particular class of computer programs known as "connectionist networks" to model mental processes is a widespread approach to research in cognitive science these days. Little has been written, however, on the precise connection that is thought to hold between such programs and actual in vivo cognitive processes such that the former can be said to "model" the latter in a scientific sense. What is more, this relation can be shown to be problematic. In this paper I give a brief overview of the use of connectionist models in cognitive science, and then explore some of the statements connectionists have made about the nature of the "modeling relation" thought to hold between them and cognitive processes. Finally I show that these accounts are inadequate and that more work is necessary if connectionist networks are to be seriously regarded as scientific models of cognitive processes.
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