Rethinking the explanatory power of dynamical models in cognitive science

Philosophical Psychology 31 (8):1131-1161 (2018)
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Abstract

ABSTRACTIn this paper I offer an interventionist perspective on the explanatory structure and explanatory power of dynamical models in cognitive science: I argue that some “pure” dynamical models – ones that do not refer to mechanisms at all – in cognitive science are “contextualized causal models” and that this explanatory structure gives such models genuine explanatory power. I contrast this view with several other perspectives on the explanatory power of “pure” dynamical models. One of the main results is that dynamical models need not refer to underlying mechanisms in order to be explanatory. I defend and illustrate this position in terms of dynamical models of the A-not-B error in developmental psychology as elaborated by Thelen and colleagues, and dynamical models of unintentional interpersonal coordination developed by Richardson and colleagues.

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