Situated Cognition: The Perspect Model

In David Spurrett, Don Ross, Harold Kincaid & Lynn Stephens (eds.), Distributed Cognition and the Will: Individual Volition and Social Context. MIT Press. pp. 227 (2007)
The standard philosophical and folk-psychological accounts of cognition and action credit us with too much spontaneity in our activities and projects. We are taken to be fundamentally active rather than reactive, to project our needs and aims and deploy our full supporting arsenal of cognitive instruments upon an essentially passive environment. The corrected point of view presented here balances this image of active agency with an appreciation of how we are also continually responding to the world, that is, to the pragmatic situations that effectively select subsets of our cognitive resources to be at our disposal in generating responses. The result is a superseding of the standard Cognitive Integrationist picture by a model of a structurally divided mind, comprising a multiplicity of diverse and sometimes-conflicting standpoints, personas, and wills whose elicitation is a complex function of agent intentions and plans, the encountered environment, past experience, and temporal sequence. According to this model, the manifold stored representations constituting a person’s cognitive endowment do not form a single integrated network all equally ready for use. Cognition at any given moment is limited to drawing upon only a subset of one’s perspective, the perspect that is activated in accordance with the specific mental task or situation (the pragmatic context) that one perceives oneself to be facing. The system enlists the environmental context as trigger for practical and theoretical activity, based upon the agent’s prior experience. Though susceptible to certain kinds of error, and not inherently inclined toward innovative thinking, it enables the generally efficient use of our enormous cognitive endowments in conducting our lives in real time.
Keywords mind  cognition  perspects  action
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