Monash University

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Patterns in mind: systematicity in the extended mind

posted on 2017-02-28, 01:03 authored by Coram, Alicia
One of the most influential recent arguments regarding the nature of the cognitive architecture takes as its starting point the existence of certain patterns in cognitive abilities, termed the systematicity of thought and inference, and concludes that the best explanation of these patterns is a classically computational cognitive architecture that processes language-like mental representations. While most alternative explanations offered for these patterns have accepted some of the central tenets underlying the classical computational account of mind-in particular, the assumption that mental representations are both syntactically and semantically internal- the extended theory of mind explicitly challenges these claims. In this thesis, I consider how the nature of both the cognitive abilities at the heart of the systematicity argument and the psychological resources used to explain these patterns can be reframed from this perspective, providing the basis for an alternative explanation for patterns of systematicity that locates their explanatory structure in a wider cognitive system that includes the structures of public representational schemes. A comparison to a similar strategy employed by Zenon Pylyshyn in his work on imagistic phenomenon provides a framework for understanding, and potentially empirically verifying, the proposed alternative explanation. This explanation is supported by a comprehensive review of the empirical evidence that exists for systematicity, which points to pervasive semantic effects that are not easily reconciled with the classically computational model. Reconsidering the systematicity debate in this way sheds new light on the nature of explanation in psychology and the prospects of the extended theory of mind as a basis for cognitive science.


Principal supervisor

Monima Chadha

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Faculty of Arts

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