Vol.30 No. 4 Autumn 2009

 

The Layering of the Psyche: Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Difference



Freud, working from a background in clinical neurology and against a backdrop of burgeoning theory development in biology and neurophysiology, thought that the layers of the mind mirrored the layers of the brain although he was well aware of the conceptual problems involved in trying to identify the two. His associationist view, based on a neurobiological and evolutionary approach to the mind tends to underestimate the role of consciousness in a holistic conception of the psyche. The role of language and the disciplines and practices which structure the psyche make it a domain in which negotiated solutions to life challenges are produced from the socio-cultural resources of discourse applied to the biological propensities resulting from innate dispositions and learning history. Although the biological and social realms obey fundamentally different rules, their psychological effects are realised in a common medium — the brain — a fact that can be detached from reductive approaches to psychology or psychiatry and can give substance to the (post-structural) idea of the body being inscribed like a surface on which events have left their trace.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Grant Gillett, Dr. Phil., M.D., FRS, Bioethics Centre, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, P.O. Box 913, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand. Email: grant.gillett@otago.ac.nz

 

On the Methodology of Physics: Cognizing Physical Phenomena and the Genesis and Termination of Time



The methodology of physics is discussed. The limitations of the empirical method are exposed, and it is argued that these limitations are related to our sensory input. The limitations of mathematics and of the representation of physical theories by mathematical models are also examined. An alternative methodology, the establishing of physical models on neuropsychology, is suggested and demonstrated. A cognitive psychological model of the genesis and the termination of time is explored.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Uri Fidelman, Ph.D., Department of Humanities and Arts, Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa 32000, Israel. Email: uf@tx.technion.ac.il

 

Distributed Mental Models: Mental Models in Distributed Cognitive Systems


The function of groups as information processors is increasingly being recognised in a number of theories of group cognition. A theme of many of these is an emphasis on sharing cognition. This paper extends current conceptualisations of groups by critiquing the focus on shared cognition and emphasising the distribution of cognition in groups. In particular, it develops an account of the distribution of one cognitive construct, mental models. Mental models have been chosen as a focus because they are used in a number of theories of high level cognition from different areas of research such as cognitive science and human factors and so the implication of this development is wide reaching. This paper reviews the unconnected literatures on distributed cognition and mental models and integrates them in order to extend the theory of mental models to distributed cognitive systems such as groups. The distributed cognition literature is reviewed and the importance of considering the group as single cognitive system is adopted. A range of mental model theories are reviewed leading to the conclusion that they all have, in some form, the central feature of a mapping onto the cognitive system. Combining these two ideas, it is proposed that the model can be a mapping onto the whole group, if the information is distributed appropriately and the connections between parts of the model maintained through communication. This cognitive construct is referred to as a distributed mental model. Implications and applications of this theory are discussed.

Request for reprints should be sent to Adrian P. Banks, Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, United Kingdom. Email: a.banks@surrey.ac.uk

 

Consciousness and Self-Regulation
Frederic Peters, Armidale, Australia

The mystery surrounding consciousness as subjectivity dissipates dramatically when understood in its biological context. The core characteristics of consciousness can be seen to derive from its functionality, and the fundamental function of cognition, given the equivalence of mental activity and brain process, is to advance the survival and thus the self-regulative capacity of the organism of which the brain is a part. These core elements of consciousness are comprised of a self-locational data structure which serves to configure ongoing experience in terms of controllable spatial and temporal parameters, and a processing regime for this orientational schema which has evolved from the feedback architecture necessary for regulating behavior in relation to homeostatic needs. These two self-regulative constituents yield a primitive form of consciousness as subjectivity — simple reflexive awareness — which provides the basis for the subsequent development of metacognitive mechanisms which monitor and control the cognitive processes which regulate behavior in relation to metabolic requirements.

Request for reprints should be sent to Frederic Peters, Ph.D., P.O. Box 379, Armidale NSW 2350, Australia. Email: fhpeters@aapt.net.au

 

Guidance, Selection, and Representation: Response to Anderson and Rosenberg
Tom Roberts, University of Edinburgh

Anderson and Rosenberg’s (2008) guidance theory of representation offers an analysis of mental content that strongly emphasises the influence that intentional states have upon the production and modulation of bodily behavior. On this view, a mental state gains both its status as a representation, and its content, in virtue of occupying a particular role in the guidance of action. I present three related challenges for the guidance theory, before defending an alternative model that is grounded not in action-guidance, but in action-selection. Firstly, I argue that the guidance theory fails to explain an important category of perceptual misrepresentation. Secondly, I propose that the content ascriptions predicted by the theory are not sufficiently determinate. Thirdly, I propose that the contents implicated by the guidance view do not match those that are naturally ascribed in the explanation of intentionally-directed behavior. The modified account that I develop responds to these concerns, and suggests that representational states depict affordance properties: the opportunities and obstacles that the subject’s environment offers for the pursuit of goals and plans.

Request for reprints should be sent to Tom Roberts, Ph.D., Philosophy Department, University of Edinburgh, Dugald Stewart Building, 3 Charles Street, Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom EH8 9AD. Email: tom.roberts@ed.ac.uk

 

Affordances and Intentionality: Reply to Roberts
Michael L. Anderson and Anthony Chemero, Franklin & Marshall College

In this essay we respond to some criticisms of the guidance theory of representation offered by Tom Roberts. We argue that although Roberts’ criticisms miss their mark, he raises the important issue of the relationship between affordances and the action-oriented representations proposed by the guidance theory. Affordances play a prominent role in the anti-representationalist accounts offered by theorists of embodied cognition and ecological psychology, and the guidance theory is motivated in part by a desire to respond to the critiques of representationalism offered in such accounts, without giving up entirely on the idea that representations are an important part of the cognitive economy of many animals. Thus, explorations of whether and how such accounts can in fact be related and reconciled potentially offer to shed some light on this ongoing controversy. Although the current essay hardly settles the larger debate, it does suggest that there may be more possibility for agreement than is often supposed.

Request for reprints should be sent to Michael L. Anderson, Department of Psychology, Franklin & Marshall College, P.O. Box 3003, Lancaster, Pennsylvania 17604–3003. Email: michael.anderson@fandm.edu

 

Critical Notice

Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension. Andy Clark. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008, 286 pages, $35.00 hardcover. Reviewed by Reviewed by Robert D. Rupert, University of Colorado, Boulder

For well over two decades, Andy Clark has been gleaning theoretical lessons from the leading edge of cognitive science, applying a combination of empirical savvy and philosophical instinct that few can match. Clark’s most recent book, Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension, brilliantly expands his oeuvre. It offers a well-informed and focused survey of research in the burgeoning field of situated cognition, a field that emphasizes the contribution of environmental and non-neural bodily structures to the production of intelligent behavior. The situated research program, fledgling though it may be in some respects, has reached an age at which its philosophical stock can reasonably be taken; and Clark is just the person to take it. Supersizing the Mind consists of three main divisions. The first develops the case for the distinctively extended view of cognition, according to which the human mind or cognitive system (or human cognitive states or processes) literally comprises elements beyond the boundary of the human organism. The second responds to critics of the extended outlook: Frederick Adams, Kenneth Aizawa, Keith Butler, Brie Gertler, Rick Grush, and me, among others. The third major division evaluates nonextended strands in the situated program, in particular, those that emphasize the role of the non-neural body in cognition.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Robert D. Rupert, Ph.D., Department of Philosophy, University of Colorado, UCB 232, Boulder, Colorado 80309–0232. Email: rupertr@colorado.edu

 

Book Reviews

The Case Against Adolescence: Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen.. Robert Epstein. Sanger, California: Linden Publishing, 2007, 490 pages, $24.95 hardcover. Reviewed by Hans A. Skott–Myhre, Brock University

The Case Against Adolescence: Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen by Robert Epstein is both a profoundly important and problematic contribution to the literature on the social construction of adolescence. It is important, because it adds new and substantial data from the discipline of psychology, which until the advent of this book has not, as a discipline, ventured into this area to this degree. It is problematic, because it overvalues adulthood and holds a peculiar nostalgia for a world of young people and adults that may never have existed.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Hans Skott–Myhre, Ph.D., Child and Youth Studies, Brock University, 500 Glenridge, St. Catharines, Ontario L2S 3A1 Canada. Email: hskottmy@brocku.ca

Cambridge Handbook of Computational Psychology. Ron Sun [Editor]. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008, 753 pages. $65.00 soft cover. Reviewed by Robert L. West, Carleton University

Computational psychology refers to the effort to create computational mechanisms that, in some way, mimic mechanisms within the brain. More specifically, the goal in creating these mechanisms is to show that they can systematically reproduce patterns of human behaviour elicited under specific conditions. From this it is inferred that these mechanisms bare some similarity to the brain mechanisms that produced the human behaviours. In most cases this involves mimicking the results of psychology experiments, although it is good to see in this book, two chapters discussing the application of this approach to non experimental areas (multi agent social interactions and cognitive engineering).

Requests for reprints should be sent to Robert West, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1S 5B6. Email: robert_west@carleton.ca