An emerging class of theories concerning the functional structure of the brain takes the reuse of neural circuitry for various cognitive purposes to be a central organizational principle. According to these theories, it is quite common for neural circuits established for one purpose to be exapted (exploited, recycled, redeployed) during evolution or normal development, and be put to different uses, often without losing their original functions. Neural reuse theories thus differ from the usual understanding of the role of neural plasticity (...) (which is, after all, a kind of reuse) in brain organization along the following lines: According to neural reuse, circuits can continue to acquire new uses after an initial or original function is established; the acquisition of new uses need not involve unusual circumstances such as injury or loss of established function; and the acquisition of a new use need not involve (much) local change to circuit structure (e.g., it might involve only the establishment of functional connections to new neural partners). Thus, neural reuse theories offer a distinct perspective on several topics of general interest, such as: the evolution and development of the brain, including (for instance) the evolutionary-developmental pathway supporting primate tool use and human language; the degree of modularity in brain organization; the degree of localization of cognitive function; and the cortical parcellation problem and the prospects (and proper methods to employ) for function to structure mapping. The idea also has some practical implications in the areas of rehabilitative medicine and machine interface design. (shrink)
The nature of cognition is being re-considered. Instead of emphasizing formal operations on abstract symbols, the new approach foregrounds the fact that cognition is, rather, a situated activity, and suggests that thinking beings ought therefore be considered first and foremost as acting beings. The essay reviews recent work in Embodied Cognition, provides a concise guide to its principles, attitudes and goals, and identifies the physical grounding project as its central research focus.
In this paper, I summarize an emerging debate in the cognitive sciences over the right taxonomy for understanding cognition – the right theory of and vocabulary for describing the structure of the mind – and the proper role of neuroscientific evidence in specifying this taxonomy. In part because the discussion clearly entails a deep reconsideration of the supposed autonomy of psychology from neuroscience, this is a debate in which philosophers should be interested, with which they should be familiar, and to (...) which they should contribute. Here, I outline some of the positions being advocated, and reflect on some of the possible implications of this work both for scientific and folk psychology. (shrink)
To accept that cognition is embodied is to question many of the beliefs traditionally held by cognitive scientists. One key question regards the localization of cognitive faculties. Here we argue that for cognition to be embodied and sometimes embedded, means that the cognitive faculty cannot be localized in a brain area alone. We review recent research on neural reuse, the 1/f structure of human activity, tool use, group cognition, and social coordination dynamics that we believe demonstrates how the boundary between (...) the different areas of the brain, the brain and body, and the body and environment is not only blurred but indeterminate. In turn, we propose that cognition is supported by a nested structure of task-specific synergies, which are softly assembled from a variety of neural, bodily, and environmental components (including other individuals), and exhibit interaction dominant dynamics. (shrink)
Neural reuse is a form of neuroplasticity whereby neural elements originally developed for one purpose are put to multiple uses. A diverse behavioral repertoire is achieved by means of the creation of multiple, nested, and overlapping neural coalitions, in which each neural element is a member of multiple different coalitions and cooperates with a different set of partners at different times. Neural reuse has profound implications for how we think about our continuity with other species, for how we understand the (...) similarities and differences between psychological processes, and for how best to pursue a unified science of the mind.After Phrenology: Neural Reuse and the Interactive Brain surveys the terrain and advocates for a series of reforms in psychology and cognitive neuroscience. The book argues that, among other things, we should capture brain function in a multidimensional manner, develop a new, action-oriented vocabulary for psychology, and recognize that higher-order cognitive processes are built from complex configurations of already evolved circuitry. (shrink)
This essay introduces the massive redeployment hypothesis, an account of the functional organization of the brain that centrally features the fact that brain areas are typically employed to support numerous functions. The central contribution of the essay is to outline a middle course between strict localization on the one hand, and holism on the other, in such a way as to account for the supporting data on both sides of the argument. The massive redeployment hypothesis is supported by case studies (...) of redeployment, and compared and contrasted with other theories of the localization of function. (shrink)
The current essay introduces the guidance theory of representation, according to which the content and intentionality of representations can be accounted for in terms of the way they provide guidance for action. The guidance theory offers a way of fixing representational content that gives the causal and evolutionary history of the subject only an indirect role, and an account of representational error, based on failure of action, that does not rely on any such notions as proper functions, ideal conditions, or (...) normal circumstances. Moreover, because the notion of error is defined in terms of failure of action, the guidance theory meets the “meta-epistemological requirement” that representational error should be potentially detectable by the representing system itself. In this essay, we offer a brief account of the biological origins of representation, a formal characterization of the guidance theory, some examples of its use, and show how the guidance theory handles some traditional problem cases for representation: the representation of fictional and abstract entities. Being both representational and actiongrounded, the guidance theory may provide some common ground between embodied and cognitivist approaches to the study of the mind. (shrink)
Abstract: The massive redeployment hypothesis (MRH) is a theory about the functional topography of the human brain, offering a middle course between strict localization on the one hand, and holism on the other. Central to MRH is the claim that cognitive evolution proceeded in a way analogous to component reuse in software engineering, whereby existing components-originally developed to serve some specific purpose-were used for new purposes and combined to support new capacities, without disrupting their participation in existing programs. If the (...) evolution of cognition was indeed driven by such exaptation, then we should be able to make some specific empirical predictions regarding the resulting functional topography of the brain. This essay discusses three such predictions, and some of the evidence supporting them. Then, using this account as a background, the essay considers the implications of these findings for an account of the functional integration of cognitive operations. For instance, MRH suggests that in order to determine the functional role of a given brain area it is necessary to consider its participation across multiple task categories, and not just focus on one, as has been the typical practice in cognitive neuroscience. This change of methodology will motivate (even perhaps necessitate) the development of a new, domain-neutral vocabulary for characterizing the contribution of individual brain areas to larger functional complexes, and direct particular attention to the question of how these various area roles are integrated and coordinated to result in the observed cognitive effect. Finally, the details of the mix of cognitive functions a given area supports should tell us something interesting not just about the likely computational role of that area, but about the nature of and relations between the cognitive functions themselves. For instance, growing evidence of the role of “motor” areas like M1, SMA and PMC in language processing, and of “language” areas like Broca’s area in motor control, offers the possibility for significantly reconceptualizing the nature both of language and of motor control. (shrink)
This paper lays out some of the empirical evidence for the importance of neural reuse—the reuse of existing (inherited and/or early-developing) neural circuitry for multiple behavioral purposes—in defining the overall functional structure of the brain. We then discuss in some detail one particular instance of such reuse: the involvement of a local neural circuit in finger awareness, number representation, and other diverse functions. Finally, we consider whether and how the notion of a developmental homology can help us understand the relationships (...) between the cognitive functions that develop out of shared neural supports. (shrink)
We agree with Heyes that an explanation of human uniqueness must appeal to cultural evolution, and not just genes. Her account, though, focuses narrowly on internal cognitive mechanisms. This causes her to mischaracterize human behavior and to overlook the role of material culture. A more powerful account would view cognitive gadgets as spanning organisms and their environments.
b>. Recent findings in cognitive science suggest that the epistemic subject is more complex and epistemically porous than is generally pictured. Human knowers are open to the world via multiple channels, each operating for particular purposes and according to its own logic. These findings need to be understood and addressed by the philosophical community. The current essay argues that one consequence of the new findings is to invalidate certain arguments for epistemic anti-realism.
Recent trends in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science can be fruitfully characterized as part of the ongoing attempt to come to grips with the very idea of homo sapiens--an intelligent, evolved, biological agent--and its signature contribution is the emergence of a philosophical anthropology which, contra Descartes and his thinking thing, instead puts doing at the center of human being. Applying this agency-oriented line of thinking to the problem of representation, this paper introduces the Guidance Theory, according to which (...) the content and intentionality of representations can be accounted for in terms of the way they provide guidance for action. We offer a brief account of the motivation for the theory, and a formal characterization. (shrink)
As part of the ongoing attempt to fully naturalize the concept of human being--and, more specifically, to re-center it around the notion of agency--this essay discusses an approach to defining the content of representations in terms ultimately derived from their central, evolved function of providing guidance for action. This 'guidance theory' of representation is discussed in the context of, and evaluated with respect to, two other biologically inspired theories of representation: Dan Lloyd's dialectical theory of representation and Ruth Millikan's biosemantics.
The posterior cortex, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex in the Leabra architecture are specialized in terms of various neural parameters, and thus are predilections for learning and processing, but domain-general in terms of cognitive functions such as face recognition. Also, these areas are not encapsulated and violate Fodorian criteria for modularity. Anderson's terminology obscures these important points, but we applaud his overall message.
Multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA) is a popular analytical technique in neuroscience that involves identifying patterns in fMRI BOLD signal data that are predictive of task conditions. But the technique is also frequently used to make inferences about the regions of the brain that are most important to the tasks in question, and our analysis shows that this is a mistake. MVPA does not provide a reliable guide to what information is being used by the brain during cognitive tasks, nor where (...) that information is. This is due in part to inherent run to run variability in the decision space generated by the classifier, but there are also several other issues, discussed below, that make inference from the characteristics of the learned models to relevant brain activity deeply problematic. These issues have significant implications both for many papers already published, and for how the field uses this technique in the future. (shrink)
In this essay we respond to some criticisms of the guidance theory of representation offered by Tom Roberts. We argue that although Roberts’ criticisms miss their mark, he raises the important issue of the relationship between affordances and the action-oriented representations proposed by the guidance theory. Affordances play a prominent role in the anti-representationalist accounts offered by theorists of embodied cognition and ecological psychology, and the guidance theory is motivated in part by a desire to respond to the critiques of (...) representationalism offered in such accounts, without giving up entirely on the idea that representations are an important part of the cognitive economy of many animals. Thus, explorations of whether and how such accounts can in fact be related and reconciled potentially offer to shed some light on this ongoing controversy. Although the current essay hardly settles the larger debate, it does suggest that there may be more possibility for agreement than is often supposed. (shrink)
Embodied Cognition is growing up, and How the Body Shapes the Mind is both a sign of, and substantive contributor to this ongoing development. Born in or about 1991, EC is only now emerging from a tumultuous but exciting childhood marked in particular by the size and breadth of the extended family hoping to have some impact on its early education and upbringing. As family members include computer science, phenomenology, developmental and cognitive psychology, analytic philosophy of mind, linguistics, neuroscience, and (...) eastern mysticism, just to name a few, EC has both benefited and suffered from a wealth of different and often incompatible ideas about who and what it is, what it should do with its life, even what language it should speak. Gallagher brings some cohesion and consistency to this situation, not by surveying and synthesizing these competing approaches, but by focusing on some fundamental issues, and carefully marshalling the evidence and developing the vocabulary to thoroughly consider them. (shrink)
In recent years, embodied cognitive agents have become a central research focus in Cognitive Science. We suggest that there are at least three aspects of embodiment| physical, social and temporal|which must be treated simultaneously to make possible a realistic implementation of agency. In this paper we detail the ways in which attention to the temporal embodiment of a cognitive agent (perhaps the most neglected aspect of embodiment) can enhance the ability of an agent to act in the world, both in (...) itself, and also by supporting more robust integrations with the physical and social worlds. (shrink)
The current paper details a restricted semantics for active logic, a time-sensitive, contradictiontolerant logical reasoning formalism. Central to active logic are special rules controlling the inheritance of beliefs in general, and beliefs about the current time in particular, very tight controls on what can be derived from direct contradictions (P &¬P ), and mechanisms allowing an agent to represent and reason about its own beliefs and past reasoning. Using these ideas, we introduce a new deﬁnition of model and of logical (...) consequence, as well as a new deﬁnition of soundness such that, when reasoning with consistent premises, all classically sound rules are sound for active logic. However, not everything that is classically sound remains sound in our sense, for by classical deﬁnitions, all rules with contradictory premises are vacuously sound, whereas in active logic not everything follows from a contradiction. (shrink)
In this response, I offer some specific examples of neural workings, discuss the uncertainty of reverse inference, place neural reuse in developmental and cultural context, further differentiate reuse from plasticity, and clarify my position on embodied cognition. The concept of local neural workings is further refined, and some different varieties of reuse are identified. Finally, I lay out some opportunities for future research, and discuss some of the clinical implications of reuse in more detail.
I offer a simple method for further investigating the Interactive Specialization framework, and some data that may or may not be compatible with the approach, depending on the precise meaning of Findings from my lab indicate that, while networks of brain areas cooperate in specialized ways to support cognitive functions, individual brain areas participate in many such networks, in different cognitive domains.
The representations formed by the ventral and dorsal streams of a prelinguistic agent will tend to be too qualitatively similar to support the distinct roles required by PREDICATE(x) structure. We suggest that the attachment of qualities to objects is not a product of the combination of these separate processing streams, but is instead a part of the processing required in each. In addition, we suggest that the formation of objective predicates is inextricably bound up with the emergence of language itself, (...) and so cannot be cleanly identified with any prelinguistic cognitive capacities. (shrink)
"Content and Comportment argues persuasively that the answer to some long-standing questions in epistemology and metaphysics lies in taking up the neglected question of the role of our bodily activity in establishing connections between representational states?knowledge and belief in particular?and their objects in the world. It takes up these ideas from both current mainstream analytic philosophy?Frege, Dummett, Davidson, Evans?and from mainstream continental work?Heidegger and his commentators and critics?and bings them together successfully in a way that should surprise only those who (...) persist in maintaining this barren dichotymization of the field."?Anthony Appiah , Princeton University. (shrink)
As is well known, dialog partners manage the uncertainty inherent in conversation by continually providing and eliciting feedback, monitoring their own comprehension and the apparent comprehension of their dialog partner, and initiating repairs as needed (see e.g., Cahn & Brennan, 1999; Clark & Brennan, 1991). Given the nature of such monitoring and repair, one might reasonably hypothesize that a good portion of the utterances involved in dialog management employ meta-language. But while there has been a great deal of work on (...) the specific topic of dialog management, and it is widely (if often tacitly) accepted that meta-language is frequently involved, there has been no work specifically investigating and quantifying the role of meta-language in dialog management. Thus, this small study investigated the correlation between meta-language and dialog management utterances in three dialog files of the British National Corpus (BNC). (shrink)
To think about how to anchor abstract symbols to objects in the world is to become part of a tradition in philosophy with a long history, and an especially rich recent past. It is to ask, with Wittgenstein, “What makes my thought about him, a thought about him?” and thus it is to wonder not just about the nature of referring expressions or singular terms, but about the nature of referring beings. With this in mind I hereby endeavor—brieﬂy, incompletely, but (...) hopefully still usefully—to introduce what in my judgment is the single best philosophical starting-point for those interested in understanding the referential connections between symbols and the world, and the cognitive, epistemic, and linguistic capacities which support them: The Varieties of Reference by Gareth Evans.1 It is worthwhile ﬁrst of all to note, as the title indicates, that it is the varieties of reference that are of interest. It is Evans’ contention that no single theory can account for our various use of singular terms; although the different kinds of reference share certain features, and rely on related cognitive, linguistic and epistemic capacities, it appears that, rather than being a class deﬁned by necessary and sufﬁcient criteria for membership, they form a family of abilities, united, like a thread, by its overlapping ﬁbers. Evans does not defend this claim so much as display it in his account. Much of the underlying variety in reference can be brought out by considering the guiding principle of the work as a whole, which Evans.. (shrink)
However, there has also been growing interest in trying to create, and investigate the potential beneﬁts of, intelligent systems which are themselves metacognitive. It is thought that systems that monitor themselves, and proactively respond to problems, can perform better, for longer, with less need for (expensive) human intervention. Thus has IBM widely publicized their "autonomic computing" initiative, aimed at developing computers which are (in their words) self-aware, selfconﬁguring, self-optimizing, self-healing, self-protecting, and self-adapting. More ambitiously, it is hypothesized that metacognitive awareness (...) may be one of the keys to developing truly intelligent artiﬁcial systems. DARPA's recent Cognitive Information Processing Technology initiative, for instance, foregrounds reﬂection (along with reaction and deliberation) as one of the three pillars required for ﬂexible, robust AI systems. (shrink)
In this paper, we present a meta-cognitive approach for dropping and reconsidering intentions, wherein concurrent actions and results are allowed, in the framework of the time-sensitive and contradiction-tolerant active logic.
Part of understanding the functional organization of the brain is understanding how it evolved. This talk presents evidence suggesting that while the brain may have originally emerged as an organ with functionally dedicated regions, the creative re-use of these regions has played a significant role in its evolutionary development. This would parallel the evolution of other capabilities wherein existing structures, evolved for other purposes, are re-used and built upon in the course of continuing evolutionary development (“exaptation”: Gould & Vrba 1982). (...) There is psychological support for exaptation in cognition (e.g. Cosmides 1989), theoretical reason to expect it (Anderson 2003; in press-a; in press-b) and neuroanatomic evidence that the brain evolved by preserving, extending, and combining existing network components, rather than by generating complex structures de novo (Sporns & Kötter 2004). However, there has been little evidence that integrates these perspectives, bringing such an account of the evolution of cognitive function into the realm of cognitive neuroscience (although see, e.g., Barsalou 1999). (shrink)
Self Aware Computer Systems is an area of basic research, and we are only in the initial stages of our understanding of what it means: What it means to be self aware; what a self aware system can do that a system without it cannot do; and what are some of the immediate practical applications and challenge problems. This paper is a report capturing some of the salient points discussed during the DARPA workshop on Self Aware Computer Systems held on (...) April 27-28, 2004 in Washington DC. (shrink)
The generation of value bubbles is an inherently psychological and social process, where information sharing and individual decisions can affect representations of value. Bubbles occur in many domains, from the stock market, to the runway, to the laboratories of science. Here we seek to understand how psychological and social processes lead representations (i.e., expectations) of value to become divorced from the inherent value, using asset bubbles as an example. We hypothesize that simple asset group switching rules can give rise to (...) aggregate behavior that resembles the irrational exuberance that can drive asset bubbles. Using an agent-based model we explore whether a simple switching rule can generate irrational exuberance, and systematically explore how communication between decision makers influences the speed and intensity of overvaluation. We show that rational and simple individual level rules combined with honest information sharing are sufficient to generate the collective overvaluation characteristic of irrational exuberance. Further, our results demonstrate that low fidelity in the exchange of value information leads to rapidly increasing expectations about value, even when no one is engaged in exaggerating their expectations for the assets they own. (shrink)
In this paper we contend that the ability to engage in meta-dialog is necessary for free and exible conversation. Central to the possibility of meta-dialog is the ability to recognize and negotiate the distinction between the use and mention of a word. The paper surveys existing theoretical approaches to the use-mention distinction, and brie y describes some of our ongoing e orts to implement a system which represents the use-mention distinction in the service of simple meta-dialog.
This commentary suggests an alternate definition for metacognition, as well as an alternate basis for the relation in representation. These together open the way for an understanding of mindreading that is significantly different from the one advocated by Carruthers.
The growing recognition by cognitive neuroscientists that areas of vertebrate brains may be reused for multiple purposes either functionally during development or during evolution echoes a similar realization made by neuroscientists working on invertebrates. Because of these animals' relatively more accessible nervous systems, neuronal reuse can be examined at the level of individual identified neurons and fully characterized neural circuits.