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Lecture 4

INST 354 Lecture 4: INST354 Lecture 4: Model of the Mind continued

Information Studies
Course Code
INST 354

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INST354 Lecture 4: Model of the Mind continued
Many aspects of human thinking, including judgment and decision making, can be
captured with computational models. The essential parts of these models are symbols
(e.g., a theoretical representation of the idea of “yellow,” or “pawn,” or “11”) and
operations that compare, combine, and record (in memory) the symbols. Thus, in the
chess-playing example, symbols represent the board; the pieces; the rules; and at more
complex levels, goals and strategies to win. One of the fundamental and ongoing
research projects in cognitive science is to conduct an analysis of the contents of these
representations, to describe the natural “mentalese” in which we think and to relate it to
the biological substrate in which it must be implemented (e.g., Pinker, 1997, 2007). For
purposes of the present book, we can rely on rudimentary descriptions of mental
representations in order to characterize the “knowledge” part of cognitive models of
decision processes.
The other half of the cognitive theory is a description of the elementary information
processes that operate on the representations to store them, compare them, and
transform them in productive thought. It is very important to recognize that most of these
operations are unconscious. Although we are aware of (and can report on) some
aspects of cognitive processing, mostly the symbolic products of hidden processes such
as the digit ideas in mental arithmetic, most of the cognitive system is unconscious. So,
the first insight
from cognitive science is that we can think of intellectual achievements, like judging
and deciding, as computation and that computation can be broken down into symbolic
representations and operations on those representations. In addition, we emphasize
that both automatic and controlled modes of thinking can be modeled as computations
in this sense.
Another important insight from cognitive science concerns the nature of the
mechanism (the brain) that performs the computations. Since about 1970, there has
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