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Profile: Nicholas Shea (School of Advanced Study, University of London)
  1.  94
    Representation in the Genome and in Other Inheritance Systems.Nicholas Shea - 2007 - Biology and Philosophy 22 (3):313-331.
    There is ongoing controversy as to whether the genome is a representing system. Although it is widely recognised that DNA carries information, both correlating with and coding for various outcomes, neither of these implies that the genome has semantic properties like correctness or satisfaction conditions, In the Scope of Logic, Methodology, and the Philosophy of Sciences, Vol. II. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp. 387–400). Here a modified version of teleosemantics is applied to the genome to show that it does indeed have semantic (...)
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  2. Naturalising Representational Content.Nicholas Shea - 2013 - Philosophy Compass 8 (5):496-509.
    This paper sets out a view about the explanatory role of representational content and advocates one approach to naturalising content – to giving a naturalistic account of what makes an entity a representation and in virtue of what it has the content it does. It argues for pluralism about the metaphysics of content and suggests that a good strategy is to ask the content question with respect to a variety of predictively successful information processing models in experimental psychology and cognitive (...)
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  3.  86
    Consumers Need Information: Supplementing Teleosemantics with an Input Condition.Nicholas Shea - 2007 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 75 (2):404-435.
    The success of a piece of behaviour is often explained by its being caused by a true representation (similarly, failure falsity). In some simple organisms, success is just survival and reproduction. Scientists explain why a piece of behaviour helped the organism to survive and reproduce by adverting to the behaviour’s having been caused by a true representation. That usage should, if possible, be vindicated by an adequate naturalistic theory of content. Teleosemantics cannot do so, when it is applied to simple (...)
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  4.  71
    Content in Simple Signalling Systems.Nicholas Shea, Peter Godfrey-Smith & Rosa Cao - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:1-27.
    Our understanding of communication and its evolution has advanced significantly through the study of simple models of interacting senders and receivers of signals. Many theorists have thought that the resources of mathematical information theory are all that is needed to capture the meaning or content that is being communicated in these systems. However, the way theorists routinely talk about the models implicitly draws on a conception of content that is richer than bare informational content, especially in contexts where false content (...)
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  5.  34
    Supra-Personal Cognitive Control and Metacognition.Nicholas Shea, Annika Boldt, Dan Bang, Nick Yeung, Cecilia Heyes & Chris D. Frith - 2014 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 18 (4):186–193.
    The human mind is extraordinary in its ability not merely to respond to events as they unfold but also to adapt its own operation in pursuit of its agenda. This ‘cognitive control’ can be achieved through simple interactions among sensorimotor processes, and through interactions in which one sensorimotor process represents a property of another in an implicit, unconscious way. So why does the human mind also represent properties of cognitive processes in an explicit way, enabling us to think and say (...)
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  6. Inherited Representations Are Read in Development.Nicholas Shea - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (1):1-31.
    Recent theoretical work has identified a tightly-constrained sense in which genes carry representational content. Representational properties of the genome are founded in the transmission of DNA over phylogenetic time and its role in natural selection. However, genetic representation is not just relevant to questions of selection and evolution. This paper goes beyond existing treatments and argues for the heterodox view that information generated by a process of selection over phylogenetic time can be read in ontogenetic time, in the course of (...)
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  7. The Vegetative State and the Science of Consciousness.Nicholas Shea & Tim Bayne - 2010 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61 (3):459.
    Consciousness in experimental subjects is typically inferred from reports and other forms of voluntary behaviour. A wealth of everyday experience confirms that healthy subjects do not ordinarily behave in these ways unless they are conscious. Investigation of consciousness in vegetative state patients has been based on the search for neural evidence that such broad functional capacities are preserved in some vegetative state patients. We call this the standard approach. To date, the results of the standard approach have suggested that some (...)
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  8. Reward Prediction Error Signals Are Meta‐Representational.Nicholas Shea - 2012 - Noûs 48 (2):314-341.
    1. Introduction 2. Reward-Guided Decision Making 3. Content in the Model 4. How to Deflate a Metarepresentational Reading Proust and Carruthers on metacognitive feelings 5. A Deflationary Treatment of RPEs? 5.1 Dispensing with prediction errors 5.2 What is use of the RPE focused on? 5.3 Alternative explanations—worldly correlates 5.4 Contrast cases 6. Conclusion Appendix: Temporal Difference Learning Algorithms.
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  9. Exploitable Isomorphism and Structural Representation.Nicholas Shea - 2014 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 114 (2pt2):123-144.
    An interesting feature of some sets of representations is that their structure mirrors the structure of the items they represent. Founding an account of representational content on isomorphism, homomorphism or structural resemblance has proven elusive, however, largely because these relations are too liberal when the candidate structure over representational vehicles is unconstrained. Furthermore, in many cases where there is a clear isomorphism, it is not relied on in the way the representations are used. That points to a potential resolution: that (...)
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  10.  64
    What's Transmitted? Inherited Information.Nicholas Shea - 2011 - Biology and Philosophy 26 (2):183-189.
    Commentary on Bergstrom and Rosvall, ‘The transmission sense of information’, Biology and Philosophy. In response to worries that uses of the concept of information in biology are metaphorical or insubstantial, Bergstrom and Rosvall have identified a sense in which DNA transmits information down the generations. Their ‘transmission view of information’ is founded on a claim about DNA’s teleofunction. Bergstrom and Rosvall see their transmission view of information as a rival to semantic accounts. This commentary argues that it is complementary. The (...)
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  11.  57
    Developmental Systems Theory Formulated as a Claim About Inherited Representations.Nicholas Shea - 2011 - Philosophy of Science 78 (1):60-82.
    Developmental Systems Theory (DST) emphasises the importance of non-genetic factors in development and their relevance to evolution. A common, deflationary reaction is that it has long been appreciated that non-genetic factors are causally indispensable. This paper argues that DST can be reformulated to make a more substantive claim: that the special role played by genes is also played by some (but not all) non-genetic resources. That special role is to transmit inherited representations, in the sense of Shea (2007: Biology and (...)
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  12.  98
    Millikan's Isomorphism Requirement.Nicholas Shea - 2013 - In Dan Ryder, Justine Kingsbury & Kenneth Williford (eds.), Millikan and Her Critics. Wiley-Blackwell.
    Millikan’s theory of content purports to rely heavily on the existence of isomorphisms between a system of representations and the things in the world which they represent — “the mapping requirement for being intentional signs” (Millikan 2004, p. 106). This paper asks whether those isomorphisms are doing any substantive explanatory work. Millikan’s isomorphism requirement is deployed for two main purposes. First, she claims that the existence of an isomorphism is the basic representing relation, with teleology playing a subsidiary role — (...)
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  13.  58
    Three Epigenetic Information Channels and Their Different Roles in Evolution.Nicholas Shea, Ido Pen & Tobias Uller - 2011 - Journal of Evolutionary Biology 24:1178-87.
    There is increasing evidence for epigenetically mediated transgenerational inheritance across taxa. However, the evolutionary implications of such alternative mechanisms of inheritance remain unclear. Herein, we show that epigenetic mechanisms can serve two fundamentally different functions in transgenerational inheritance: (i) selection-based effects, which carry adaptive information in virtue of selection over many generations of reliable transmission; and (ii) detection-based effects, which are a transgenerational form of adaptive phenotypic plasticity. The two functions interact differently with a third form of epigenetic information transmission, (...)
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  14.  30
    Model-Based Analyses: Promises, Pitfalls, and Example Applications to the Study of Cognitive Control.Rogier B. Mars, Nicholas Shea, Nils Kolling & Matthew F. S. Rushworth - 2012 - Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 65 (2):252-267.
    We discuss a recent approach to investigating cognitive control, which has the potential to deal with some of the challenges inherent in this endeavour. In a model-based approach, the researcher defines a formal, computational model that performs the task at hand and whose performance matches that of a research participant. The internal variables in such a model might then be taken as proxies for latent variables computed in the brain. We discuss the potential advantages of such an approach for the (...)
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  15.  89
    Metamemory as Evidence of Animal Consciousness: The Type That Does the Trick.Nicholas Shea & Cecilia Heyes - 2010 - Biology and Philosophy 25 (1):95-110.
    The question of whether non-human animals are conscious is of fundamental importance. There are already good reasons to think that many are, based on evolutionary continuity and other considerations. However, the hypothesis is notoriously resistant to direct empirical test. Numerous studies have shown behaviour in animals analogous to consciously-produced human behaviour. Fewer probe whether the same mechanisms are in use. One promising line of evidence about consciousness in other animals derives from experiments on metamemory. A study by Hampton (Proc Natl (...)
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  16.  44
    Imitation as an Inheritance System.Nicholas Shea - 2009 - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 364:2429-2443.
    What is the evolutionary significance of the various mechanisms of imitation, emulation and social learning found in humans and other animals? This paper presents an advance in the theoretical resources for addressing that question, in the light of which standard approaches from the cultural evolution literature should be refocused. The central question is whether humans have an imitationbased inheritance system—a mechanism that has the evolutionary function of transmitting behavioural phenotypes reliably down the generations. To have the evolutionary power of an (...)
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  17. Methodological Encounters with the Phenomenal Kind.Nicholas Shea - 2012 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 84 (2):307-344.
    Block’s well-known distinction between phenomenal consciousness and access consciousness has generated a large philosophical literature about putative conceptual connections between the two. The scientific literature about whether they come apart in any actual cases is rather smaller. Empirical evidence gathered to date has not settled the issue. Some put this down to a fundamental methodological obstacle to the empirical study of the relation between phenomenal consciousness and access consciousness. Block (2007) has drawn attention to the methodological puzzle and attempted to (...)
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  18. Content and Its Vehicles in Connectionist Systems.Nicholas Shea - 2007 - Mind and Language 22 (3):246–269.
    This paper advocates explicitness about the type of entity to be considered as content- bearing in connectionist systems; it makes a positive proposal about how vehicles of content should be individuated; and it deploys that proposal to argue in favour of representation in connectionist systems. The proposal is that the vehicles of content in some connectionist systems are clusters in the state space of a hidden layer. Attributing content to such vehicles is required to vindicate the standard explanation for some (...)
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  19. Distinguishing Top-Down From Bottom-Up Effects.Nicholas Shea - 2015 - In D. Stokes, M. Matthen & S. Biggs (eds.), Perception and Its Modalities. Oxford University Press. pp. 73-91.
    The distinction between top-down and bottom-up effects is widely relied on in experimental psychology. However, there is an important problem with the way it is normally defined. Top-down effects are effects of previously-stored information on processing the current input. But on the face of it that includes the information that is implicit in the operation of any psychological process – in its dispositions to transition from some types of representational state to others. This paper suggests a way to distinguish information (...)
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  20.  83
    Neural Signalling of Probabilistic Vectors.Nicholas Shea - 2014 - Philosophy of Science 81 (5):902-913.
    Recent work combining cognitive neuroscience with computational modelling suggests that distributed patterns of neural firing may represent probability distributions. This paper asks: what makes it the case that distributed patterns of firing, as well as carrying information about (correlating with) probability distributions over worldly parameters, represent such distributions? In examples of probabilistic population coding, it is the way information is used in downstream processing so as to lead to successful behaviour. In these cases content depends on factors beyond bare information, (...)
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  21.  75
    Homology Across Inheritance Systems.Russell Powell & Nicholas Shea - 2014 - Biology and Philosophy 29 (6):781-806.
    Recent work on inheritance systems can be divided into inclusive conceptions, according to which genetic and non-genetic inheritance are both involved in the development and transmission of nearly all animal behavioral traits, and more demanding conceptions of what it takes for non-genetic resources involved in development to qualify as a distinct inheritance system. It might be thought that, if a more stringent conception is adopted, homologies could not subsist across two distinct inheritance systems. Indeed, it is commonly assumed that homology (...)
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  22.  72
    Genetic Representation Explains the Cluster of Innateness-Related Properties.Nicholas Shea - 2012 - Mind and Language 27 (4):466-493.
    The concept of innateness is used to make inferences between various better-understood properties, like developmental canalization, evolutionary adaptation, heritability, species-typicality, and so on (‘innateness-related properties’). This article uses a recently-developed account of the representational content carried by inheritance systems like the genome to explain why innateness-related properties cluster together, especially in non-human organisms. Although inferences between innateness-related properties are deductively invalid, and lead to false conclusions in many actual cases, where some aspect of a phenotypic trait develops in reliance on (...)
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  23. New Concepts Can Be Learned. [REVIEW]Nicholas Shea - 2011 - Biology and Philosophy 26 (1):129 - 139.
    Many have doubted whether the transition to genuinely new representational resources is susceptible to psychological explanation. In The Origin of Concepts (O.U.P. 2009), Susan Carey makes a strong empirical case for the existence of discontinuities in conceptual development. Carey also offers a plausible psychological explanation of some of these transitions, in particular of the child’s acquisition of the ability to represent natural numbers. The combination amounts to a forceful answer to puzzles about the learnability of new representations.
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  24.  24
    Dual-Process Theories and Consciousness: The Case for "Type Zero" Cognition.Nicholas Shea & Chris D. Frith - 2016 - Neuroscience of Consciousness 2016:1-10.
    A step towards a theory of consciousness would be to characterise the effect of consciousness on information processing. One set of results suggests that the effect of consciousness is to interfere with computations that are optimally performed non-consciously. Another set of results suggests that conscious, system 2 processing is the home of norm-compliant computation. This is contrasted with system 1 processing, thought to be typically unconscious, which operates with useful but error-prone heuristics. -/- These results can be reconciled by separating (...)
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  25.  47
    Two Modes of Transgenerational Information Transmission.Nicholas Shea - 2014 - In Kim Sterelny, Richard Joyce, Brett Calcott & Ben Fraser (eds.), Cooperation and its Evolution. MIT Press. pp. 289-312.
    The explosion of scientific results about epigenetic and other parental effects appears bewilderingly diverse. An important distinction helps to bring order to the data. Firstly, parents can detect adaptively-relevant information and transmit it to their offspring who rely on it to set a plastic phenotype adaptively. Secondly, adaptively-relevant information may be generated by a process of selection on a reliably transmitted parental effect. The distinction is particularly valuable in revealing two quite different ways in which human cultural transmission may operate.
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  26.  68
    Perception Versus Action: The Computations May Be the Same but the Direction of Fit Differs.Nicholas Shea - 2013 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 36 (3):228-229.
    Although predictive coding may offer a computational principle that unifies perception and action, states with different directions of fit are involved (with indicative and imperative contents, respectively). Predictive states are adjusted to fit the world in the course of perception, but in the case of action, the corresponding states act as a fixed target towards which the agent adjusts the world. This well-recognised distinction helps side-step some problems discussed in the target article.
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  27. Representational Development Need Not Be Explicable-by-Content.Nicholas Shea - 2016 - In Vincent C. Mueller (ed.), Fundamental Issues of Artificial Intelligence. Springer: Sythese Library.
    Fodor’s radical concept nativism flowed from his view that hypothesis testing is the only route to concept acquisition. Many have successfully objected to the overly-narrow restriction to learning by hypothesis testing. Existing representations can be connected to a new representational vehicle so as to constitute a sustaining mechanism for a new representation, without the new representation thereby being constituted by or structured out of the old. This paper argues that there is also a deeper objection. Connectionism shows that a more (...)
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  28.  57
    Neural Mechanisms of Decision-Making and the Personal Level.Nicholas Shea - 2013 - In K. W. M. Fulford, M. Davies, G. Graham, J. Sadler, G. Stanghellini & T. Thornton (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Psychiatry. Oxford University Press. pp. 1063-1082.
    Can findings from psychology and cognitive neuroscience about the neural mechanisms involved in decision-making can tell us anything useful about the commonly-understood mental phenomenon of making voluntary choices? Two philosophical objections are considered. First, that the neural data is subpersonal, and so cannot enter into illuminating explanations of personal level phenomena like voluntary action. Secondly, that mental properties are multiply realized in the brain in such a way as to make them insusceptible to neuroscientific study. The paper argues that both (...)
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  29.  63
    Acquiring a New Concept is Not Explicable-by-Content.Nicholas Shea - 2011 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 34 (3):148 - 149.
    BBS Commentary on: Susan Carey: The Origin of Concepts. -/- Carey’s book describes many cases where children develop new concepts with expressive power that could not be constructed out of their input. How does she side-step Fodor’s paradox of radical concept nativism? I suggest it is by rejecting the tacit assumption that psychology can only explain concept acquisition when it occurs by rational inference or other transitions that are explicable-by-content.
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  30. Getting Clear About Equivocal Concepts. [REVIEW]Nicholas Shea - 2002 - Disputatio 13 (13):1 - 14.
    Just how far can externalism go? In this exciting new book Ruth Millikan explores a radically externalist treatment of empirical concepts (Millikan 2000). For the last thirty years philosophy of mind’s ties to meaning internalism have been loosened. The theory of content has swung uncomfortably on its moorings in a fickle current, straining against opposing ties to mind and world. In this book Millikan casts conceptual content adrift from the thinker: what determines the content of a concept is not cognitively (...)
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  31.  84
    Does Externalism Entail the Anomalism of the Mental?Nicholas Shea - 2003 - Philosophical Quarterly 53 (211):201-213.
    In ‘Mental Events’ Donald Davidson argued for the anomalism of the mental on the basis of the operation of incompatible constitutive principles in the mental and physical domains. Many years later, he has suggested that externalism provides further support for the anomalism of the mental. I examine the basis for that claim. The answer to the question in the title will be a qualified ‘Yes’. That is an important result in the metaphysics of mind and an interesting consequence of externalism.
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  32. Short Review of Varieties of Meaning, R. G. Millikan. [REVIEW]Nicholas Shea - 2009 - Philosophical Review 118 (1):127-130.
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  33.  99
    Millikan's Contribution to Materialist Philosophy of Mind.Nicholas Shea - 2006 - Matière Première 1:127-156.
    One of the great outstanding problems in materialist philosophy of mind is the problem of how there can be space in the material world for intentionality. In the 1980s Ruth Millikan formulated a detailed theory according to which representations are physical particulars and their contents are complex relational properties of those particulars which can be specified in terms of respectable properties drawn from the natural sciences. In particular, she relied on the biological concept of the function of a trait, and (...)
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  34.  81
    Using Phenomenal Concepts to Explain Away the Intuition of Contingency.Nicholas Shea - 2012 - Philosophical Psychology 27 (4):553-570.
    Humans can think about their conscious experiences using a special class of ?phenomenal? concepts. Psychophysical identity statements formulated using phenomenal concepts appear to be contingent. Kripke argued that this intuited contingency could not be explained away, in contrast to ordinary theoretical identities where it can. If the contingency is real, property dualism follows. Physicalists have attempted to answer this challenge by pointing to special features of phenomenal concepts that explain the intuition of contingency. However no physicalist account of their distinguishing (...)
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  35.  31
    Conceptual Representations in Goal-Directed Decision Making.Nicholas Shea, Kristine Krug & Philippe N. Tobler - 2008 - Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience 8 (4):418-428.
    Emerging evidence suggests that the long-established distinction between habit-based and goal-directed decision-making mechanisms can also be sustained in humans. Although the habit-based system has been extensively studied in humans, the goal-directed system is less well characterized. This review brings to that task the distinction between conceptual and nonconceptual representational mechanisms. Conceptual representations are structured out of semantic consituents - the use of which requires an ability to perform some language-like syntactic processing. Decision making - as investigated by neuroscience and psychology (...)
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  36.  97
    The Biological Basis of Cultural Transmission. [REVIEW]Nicholas Shea - 2006 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (1):259-266.
    Review of: Kim Sterelny: Thought in a Hostile World. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003.
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  37. On Millikan.Nicholas Shea - 2004 - Wadsworth.
    ON MILLIKAN offers a concise, yet comprehensive, introduction to this philosopher's most important ideas.
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  38.  47
    New Thinking, Innateness and Inherited Representation.Nicholas Shea - 2012 - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 367:2234-2244.
    The New Thinking contained in this volume rejects an Evolutionary Psychology that is committed to innate domain-specific psychological mechanisms: gene-based adaptations that are unlearnt, developmentally fixed and culturally universal. But the New Thinking does not simply deny the importance of innate psychological traits. The problem runs deeper: the concept of innateness is not suited to distinguishing between the two positions. That points to a more serious problem with the concept of innateness as it is applied to human psychological phenotypes. This (...)
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  39.  21
    The Information Value of Non-Genetic Inheritance in Plants and Animals.Sinead English, Ido Pen, Nicholas Shea & Tobias Uller - 2015 - PLoS ONE 10 (1):e0116996.
    Parents influence the development of their offspring in many ways beyond the transmission of DNA. This includes transfer of epigenetic states, nutrients, antibodies and hormones, and behavioural interactions after birth. While the evolutionary consequences of such nongenetic inheritance are increasingly well understood, less is known about how inheritance mechanisms evolve. Here, we present a simple but versatile model to explore the adaptive evolution of non-genetic inheritance. Our model is based on a switch mechanism that produces alternative phenotypes in response to (...)
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  40.  17
    Short Review of Varieties of Meaning: The 2002 Jean Nicod Lectures, R.G. Millikan. [REVIEW]Nicholas Shea - 2005 - Quarterly Review of Biology 80 (3):344.
    Review of Millikan, Varieties of Meaning. MIT Press, 2004.
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  41.  11
    Short Review of Functions in Mind, Carolyn Price. [REVIEW]Nicholas Shea - 2003 - Philosophical Quarterly 53:129-132.
    Review of Carolyn Price: Functions in Mind. Oxford University Press, 2001.
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  42. Short Review of On Clear and Confused Ideas, R.G. Millikan. [REVIEW]David Papineau & Nicholas Shea - 2002 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 65 (2):453-466.
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  43. Empirical Lessons for Philosophical Theories of Mental Content.Nicholas Shea - 2008 - Dissertation, King's College, London
    This thesis concerns the content of mental representations. It draws lessons for philosophical theories of content from some empirical findings about brains and behaviour drawn from experimental psychology (cognitive, developmental, comparative), cognitive neuroscience and cognitive science (computational modelling). Chapter 1 motivates a naturalist and realist approach to mental representation. Chapter 2 sets out and defends a theory of content for static feedforward connectionist networks, and explains how the theory can be extended to other supervised networks. The theory takes forward Churchland’s (...)
     
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  44. Learning Rapidly About the Relevance of Visual Cues Requires Conscious Awareness.Eoin Travers, Chris D. Frith & Nicholas Shea - forthcoming - Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.
    Humans have been shown capable of performing many cognitive tasks using information of which they are not consciously aware. This raises questions about what role consciousness actually plays in cognition. Here, we explored whether participants can learn cue-target contingencies in an attentional learning task when the cues were presented below the level of conscious awareness, and how this differs from learning about conscious cues. Participants’ manual (Experiment 1) and saccadic (Experiment 2) response speeds were influenced by both conscious and unconscious (...)
     
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