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Cognitive Science 5: Tackling the Integration Challenge


Intertheoretic reduction and the integration challenge

This is the first proposed model of global integration within cognitive science. This model comes from philosophy of science, in which it is proposed that all the sciences can be reduced to a most fundamental theory (probably physics). Sociology reduces to psychology reduces to biology reduces to chemistry reduces to physics. These are “bridged” by certain equivalencies. “Heat” in chemistry, for example, can be reduced to the movement of molecules.

Bermudez says that this doesn’t really work in cognitive science because there are no good laws that serve as explanations. Instead, any “laws” given are just statistical regularities- the effects of observation that are still left unexplained.

Marr’s tri-level hypothesis and the integration challenge

This is attempt number 2 at a model of global integration. Marr splits levels of analysis into the computational, algorithmic, and the implementational. Unfortunately, it may be the case that algorithms only apply to a specific subset of cognitive processes, and not to others, so the tri-level hypothesis can not as of yet unify cognitive science. It is possible that only modular (as opposed to non-modular) cognitive systems are susceptible to algorithmic anaylsis.

Algorithmic analysis may not work on non-modular systems because of the frame problem, which is the difficulty in identifying exactly what information is relevant. This problem is a large one in AI development. Modular systems don’t have to deal with the frame problem.

Models of mental architecture

Bermudez attempts to provide an approach that reflects modern cognitive science.

First, the basic assumption across the fields is that cognition is information processing. “Information” here is not defined too specifically, although it is very different from the mathematical notion of information, whatever that is.

From that basic assumption come three questions:

  1. In what format does a particular cognitive system carry information?
  2. How does that cognitive system transform information?
  3. How is the mind organized so that it can function as an information processor?

These questions unify the different fields. The third question looks at how the mind as a whole serves as an information processor, while the first two questions look at the specific parts of the information processing unit of the mind, and how they perform their tasks. This encapsulates cognitive science as a single unified field.

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