Mental representations remain the central posits of psychology after many decades of scrutiny. However, there is no consensus about the representational format(s) of biological cognition. This paper provides a survey of evidence from computational cognitive psychology, perceptual psychology, developmental psychology, comparative psychology, and social psychology, and concludes that one type of format that routinely crops up is the language-of-thought (LoT). We outline six core properties of LoTs: (i) discrete constituents; (ii) role-filler independence; (iii) predicate–argument structure; (iv) logical operators; (v) inferential (...) promiscuity; and (vi) abstract content. These properties cluster together throughout cognitive science. Bayesian computational modeling, compositional features of object perception, complex infant and animal reasoning, and automatic, intuitive cognition in adults all implicate LoT-like structures. Instead of regarding LoT as a relic of the previous century, researchers in cognitive science and philosophy-of-mind must take seriously the explanatory breadth of LoT-based architectures. We grant that the mind may harbor many formats and architectures, including iconic and associative structures as well as deep-neural-network-like architectures. However, as computational/representational approaches to the mind continue to advance, classical compositional symbolic structures – that is, LoTs – only prove more flexible and well-supported over time. (shrink)
“What is the structure of thought?” is as central a question as any in cognitive science. A classic answer to this question has appealed to a Language of Thought (LoT). We point to emerging research from disparate branches of the field that supports the LoT hypothesis, but also uncovers diversity in LoTs across cognitive systems, stages of development, and species. Our letter formulates open research questions for cognitive science concerning the varieties of rules and representations that underwrite various LoT-based systems (...) and how these variations can help researchers taxonomize cognitive systems. (shrink)
The empirical study of belief is emerging at a rapid clip, uniting work from all corners of cognitive science. Reliance on belief in understanding and predicting behavior is widespread. Examples can be found, inter alia, in the placebo, attribution theory, theory of mind, and comparative psychological literatures. Research on belief also provides evidence for robust generalizations, including about how we fix, store, and change our beliefs. Evidence supports the existence of a Spinozan system of belief fixation: one that is automatic (...) and independent of belief rejection. Independent research supports the existence of a system of fragmented belief storage: one that relies on large numbers of causally isolated, context-sensitive stores of belief in memory. Finally, empirical and observational data support at least two systems of belief change. One system adheres, mostly, to epistemological norms of updating; the other, the psychological immune system, functions to guard our most centrally held beliefs from potential inconsistency with newly formed beliefs. Refining our under- standing of these systems can shed light on pressing real-world issues, such as how fake news, propaganda, and brainwashing exploit our psychology of belief, and how best to construct our modern informational world. (shrink)
Experiments on theories of reference have mostly tested referential intuitions. We think that experiments should rather be testing linguistic usage. Substantive Aim (I): to test classical description theories of proper names against usage by “elicited production.” Our results count decisively against those theories. Methodological Aim (I): Machery, Olivola, and de Blanc (2009) claim that truth-value judgment experiments test usage. Martí (2012) disagrees. We argue that Machery et al. are right and offer some results that are consistent with that conclusion. Substantive (...) Aim (II): Machery et al. provide evidence that the usage of a name varies, being sometimes descriptive, sometimes not. In seven out of eight tests of usage, we did not replicate this variation. Methodological Aim (II): to test the reliability of referential intuitions by comparing them with linguistic usage. Earlier studies led us to predict that we would find those intuitions unreliable, but we did not. Our results add to evidence that tests of referential intuition are susceptible to unpredictable wording effects. (shrink)
The cognitive science of belief is a burgeoning field, with insights ranging from detailing the fundamental structure of the mind, to explaining the spread of fake news. Here we highlight how new insights into belief acquisition, storage, and change can transform our understanding of psychiatric disorders. Although we focus on monothematic delusions, the conclusions apply more broadly. -/- .
The target article attempted to draw connections between broad swaths of evidence by noticing a common thread: Abstract, symbolic, compositional codes, that is, language-of-thoughts (LoTs). Commentators raised concerns about the evidence and offered fascinating extensions to areas we overlooked. Here we respond and highlight the many specific empirical questions to be answered in the next decade and beyond.
Four studies explore the role of perceptual fluency in attenuating bullshit receptivity, or the tendency for individuals to rate otherwise meaningless statements as “profound”. Across four studies, we presented participants with a sample of pseudoprofound bullshit statements in either a fluent or disfluent font and found that overall, disfluency attenuated bullshit receptivity while also finding little evidence that this effect was moderated by cognitive thinking style. In all studies, we measured participants’ cognitive reflection, need for cognition, faith in intuition, and (...) superstitious beliefs. Superstition strongly predicted bullshit receptivity regardless of fluency. Inconclusive results were found for the remaining scales. Potential links for the role of perceptual disfluency in promoting analytic thinking are discussed. (shrink)