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Introduction to Cognitive Science
Introduction to Cognitive Science
This introductory page defines
cognitive science. It also shows specific
examples from the various sub-fields illustrating how those have a connection
to cognitive science. Finally, it introduces each sub-field's subject matter
prior to examining each of those in more detail in subsequent chapters.
science is the interdisciplinary study of mind and intelligence, embracing psychology, biology (neuroscience, evolution, and animal behavior), philosophy,
computer science (AI), language, linguistics, and the social sciences of anthropology
and economics. Cognitive science's focus is on cognition itself in humans,
animals, and machines.
- Important Concepts in Cognitive Science
- Driver's license
- This is NOT me but it contains several representations of me
- Date of Birth
- D/L number (hidden)
- It also contains useful descriptors
- More generally:
- Representation is the roughly equivalent coding of information
- A dog, for instance, may represent his owner's body odor, or gait
- FYI, at lacrosse practice one cold day we were all wearing our sweats. My dog came to practice and found me. I always assumed that she found me by how I looked while running (meaning my gait).
- Here's a point-light display of a woman walking followed by a man walking
- Notice how easily people interpret the lights as a woman or a man
- A mathematician might represent a parabola by its equation
- y = ax2 + bx + C or its shape
- A government computer might represent you by your SSN
- Computation: from abacus to supercomputers
- As a child I had to learn my multiplication tables. I still remember my father drilling me, "What is 3 times 7!" When I moved to a British school in Santiago, Chile at the age of 11 I had to memorize
- from 12x1 to 12x12 in order to deal with British money (12 pennies to a shilling).
- When I went to graduate school in 1973 I bought my first electronic calculator because it could take square roots. Back then we computed our psychological statistics by hand with calculators and large sheets of paper. (See Statistics Then and Now)
- One of the main theories of cognitive science sees the mind as a kind of computer.
- Coding refers to a wide variety of ideas
- Here we'll look at them broadly and later focus more on computer coding (no, you won't be required to generate computer code)
- You are familiar with many codes already. In fact, reading this page requires coding. That code is the alphabet and reading is how you decode it. You have spent many years perfecting the decoding (reading) and probably a few less years coding (writing). That's why SAU requires Composition I and II.
- Now read this:
- Estoy muy contento de que estés tomando este curso.
Jsem velmi rád, že se účastníte tohoto kurzu.
- أنا سعيد جدًا لأنك أخذت هذه الدورة.
- They all say the same thing: I'm very happy that you are taking this course in Spanish, Czech, and Arabic, resepectively. No, I only know Spanish. Google Translate created these "decodings"
- Her is one of my favorite examples of coding: "What should you do on oh and two?"
- Some of you will know the answer immediately because you understand the context
- Some of you will never be able to answer because of your lack of life experiences with that phrase.
- Some of you will get the answer if I give you some hints.
- First hint: it's about a sport
- Second hint: it's a sport that began in the United States
- Third hint: the sport holds a World Series yearly that does not really involve teams from outside the USA
- Click HERE if you want to know the answer and the explanation
- Subfields of Cognitive Science
- Psychology has had an off and on interest in cognition. Psychology began as "the science of the mind" and used introspective methods derived from philosophy. When those methods proved problematic, psychologists redefined the discipline as "the prediction and control of behavior." After World War II and the advent of computers, some psychologists again redefined the discipline as "the study of behavior and mental processes."
- Some modern psychologists, Eysenck, Sternberg, and Gardner, have created modular theories of mind or theories that posit that the brain manages issues such as learning, language, or emotion using specialized "modules." (FYI, I once sat in the same room as Eysenck, invited and hosted Sternberg for two days at SAU, I have had no contact with Gardner)
- Cognitive psychology is the subfield of psychology that studies topics such as memory, learning, problem solving, language, creativy, and more. Basically, anything that takes place between your ears is my quick way of thinking of "cognition"
- Comparative cogntion, the study of how animals think has a long history in psychology as well. However, the early attempts at understanding animal thinking were anthropomorphic, meaning researcher such as George Romanes saw animals as human like in their thinking.
- The behaviorists mostly ignored mental events and issues in all animals, including humans
- The modern view of animal cognition relies heavily on the theory of evolution and the realization that it is impossible for humans to put themselves into the minds of animals
- As the "study of life" biology has a very wide scope. The discovery of the structure of DNA by Watson, Crick, and Franklin began the elucidation of the genetic code and led to the Human Genome Project. Darwin's theory of evolution along with Mendel's genetics transformed biology and created its modern synthesis. Work on neuroscience has brought biology in cognitive science. The brain is the source of cognition.
- Embodied cognition is an interesting feature in cognitive science. It argues that cognition is the linkage of brain and anatomy. It is a long-standing issue in philosophy too. Nagel popularized the concept with his article, What is it like to be a bat? He argued we could never know, because we are not bats. You might ask what is it like to be the opposite sex? Nagel would say such knowledge is impossible without actually possessing the opposite sex's body. Wittgenstein, similarly said: If a lion could speak we could not understand him.
- Here's my take on Wittgenstein's lion: The lion is talking to you in English about chasing a zebra:
- Don't you just love it when as you close on the zebra and you and it go into sync? He and I are running exactly the same way so the picture becomes so much more clear for me. I can see exactly where I'm going to bite him. Soon, I trip him up, bite his neck, and feel the life leaving him. I can hardly wait to take that first warm chunk out of the hindquarter...
- Ugh, you say. Wittgenstein might answer, no, he's a lion. That's what he does. That's why you cannot understand him, even though he's explained it to you in your native tongue.
- I think about my cat when he's on my lap. But, he's still a cat. He'll kill anything he can and (probably) not think twice about it. Here's my killer. I don't understand him and he does not understand me. He spends much time on my lap of his own accord, but that does not change our essential natures.
Dave the cat
- Language and Linguistics
- As already noted, language is a code
- There are some 6,000 languages in the world today but that number is dropping fast
- English and Mandarin are the dominant languages in the world today
- This recent article shows the number of internet users by the language they use
- English is first, followed by Chinese, and then Spanish (distantly)
- Linguistics includes much beyond the words of a language themselves
- Acquisition: how language is learned, doing so requires membership in a linguistic community
- Grammar and Syntax: the rules of language, two predominate: word order and word ending, English uses word order, Esperanto (see below), Latin, and German use word ending
- Semantics: emphasizes the importance of context, for instance is "The house blew it." a legitimate sentence? It is if you are talking about gambling. Consider this story, "I was at Bossier City last night playing roulette, I asked if the stakes could be raised one time. They agreed. I bet $50000 and won $5,000,000. The house blew it." (Just a story, I did not win $5M :-(
- Pragmatics: not a language is words. How the words are delivered and the non-word signals that accompany them can alter meaning. If you ask me how I'm doing and I say "I'm fine." But, at the same time I'm sobbing you will understand I am not fine. The verbal message and the non-verbal message do not match.
- Is there a universal language?
- None yet
- Invented in 1887
- Phonetic (easy to sound out) and Orthographic (has regular spelling rules)
- Not like English. Read this poem, probably only English professors can get all the words pronounced correctly! English is neither phonetic nor orthographic
- FYI, I learned English and Spanish at the same time in school. Spanish is much more phonetic than English. I learned to spell by transliterating English words into Spanish. So, I might sound out in my head the word "beautiful" to "bay" "ah" "boo" "tee" "full" or the way that word might be pronounced in Spanish
- Apple's Siri often has the same problem. We were in Lafayette, LA on a student trip and wanted directions to Mulate's Restaurant. I asked Siri as follows: "Myou" "lats" and Siri could not find it. But when I asked like this: "moo" "late" it did.
- Esperanto phrases, see if you can translate them. Notice the word-ending syntax (fis and fison, vir and viron). Aslo notice that in Esperanto the word order does not matter. The endings tell the tale. In English the word order does that. The man caught a fish vs the fish caught the man.
- Philosphy, of course, is the mother of cognitive science and nearly all other academic disciplines
- Philosophy's old questions still dominate the academy:
- Do we have free will?
- What does it mean to live a good life?
- Do I exist?
- What is moral?
- And many more...
- Early on, cognitive scientists believed they no longer needed philosophy
- No longer true
- Thagard (2009) argues that philosophy provides cognitive science with:
- Philosophy sees the big picture where more specialized disciplines may not
- Normativity is about how things ought to be and provides a kind of self defense against abuse. Consider our theme for the year, algorithms. Already we are uncovering how those can abuse the public.
- Contemporary cognitive scientists acknowledge their intellectual debt to philosophy
- Computer Science
- Computing has a long history. The modern digital computer's history is shorter dating back to the 1930s. Nearly all of you (and most likely every last one of you) is in possession of a handheld programmable computer, your smartphone. How did that happen?
- The first digital computers were enormous. The Atanasoff-Berry computer (ABC) was the first automatic electronic computer. SAU's history of teaching and learning with computers.
- The rapid shrinking of physical size combined with the growth of the personal computer made replacing blackboards with technology possible.
- The advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) starting with Alan Turing allowed for computer scientists to simulate cognition in games such as chess. BTW, students in this class watched when IBM's Deep Blue computer and chess program defeated the world champion Gary Kasparov.
- World's oldest computer, the Antikythera mechanism
- Predicted movement of stars and planets precisely
- AI will be one issue we will concentrate on this semester and we will focus on algorithms especially.
- Don't panic! You use informal algortihms every day: tying your shoes, driving to work, multiplying numbers by hand
- 25 x 3 = ? (video of traditional algorithm)
- Many, including me, are worried that algorithms will be used to drive important decisions affecting us. Actually, they already are. More on this later and see the links on our main page.
- Social Sciences
- Here we'll consider anthropology and economics, sister social sciences to psychology. Anthropologist study human origins and are interested in the cultural and biological beginnings of humankind. Notice that in the Nuñez article you read (see your BlackBoard page) on the current state of cognitive science, anthropology is only playing a minor part. However, cognitive archeology may be an exception.
- Economics is the study of how people make, market, and use the stuff around us. Apple Computer, for example, was unable to produce iPhones and Macs in the United States because they could not get enough of the specialized screws they needed. No company in the United States could produce enough of those quickly enough for Apple.
- No Vacancy-India vs. USA-Harry Triandis'
account of staying at the wrong hotel in India shows much about how different
cultures interpret symbolic cues. (In India, a box that is checked in a form means "no" not "yes." Thus, Triandis interpreted a note from his hotel as indicating "No vacancy" instead of the opposite.)
- How would you have interpreted this slip?
- Cognitive Science's Big Tent
- Cognitive science is young and multidisciplinary.There are
advantages and disadvantages to cognitive science's multidisciplinary nature.
- Having multiple approaches to cognitive science is an advantage, as each
discipline's peculiar focus might elucidate data that others might miss.
- At the
same time, the approach is disadvantaged because the language
and jargon each discipline uses might not be understood by the others.
- The youth of cognitive science often makes its subfields uneasy about their
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