Developing Intelligence

Archives for May, 2007

Imagination allows us to escape our current time, place, or perspective in favor of an alternative context, whether that may be fanciful or mundane. So imagination is a mechanism for specifying and maintaining a context that differs from our more immediate and stimulus-driven experiences or contexts (at least, that is what I mean by “imagination”).…

While the “modal model of memory” is still widely taught and accepted as a general theory, an enormous amount of recent research has focused on how short-term memory enables higher cognitive processes like those involved in planning, goals, and executive functions. Yet this research has revealed surprisingly intricate links between short- and long-term memory. Increasingly,…

The capacity to use and manipulate symbols has been heralded as a uniquely human capacity (although we know at least a few cases where that seems untrue). The cognitive processes involved in symbol use have proven difficult to understand, perhaps because reductionist scientific methods seem to decompose this rich domain into a variety of smaller…

Blogging on the Brain: 5/25

Highlights from recent brain blogging: First, a new edition of Encephalon. Physicalism and Panpsychism – a book review by Jerry Fodor. Looks like a pretty nice book… And here, Fodor explains mental representation to his aunt. Silicon smackdown – an article in the June Scientific American talks about new algorithms for playing the ancient board…

Neural Substrates of Planning

Many will agree that algebra is difficult to learn – it involves planning, problem-solving, the manipulation of symbols, and the application of abstract rules. Although it’s tempting to imagine a specialized region of the brain for each of these processes, they may actually recruit roughly the same widely-distributed and general-purpose “task network” of brain regions.…

Blogging on the Brain 5/18

Recent highlights from the best in brain blogging: Who knew? These videos will tell you how the mind works (supposedly). The origins of the old myth that we use only 10% of our “brain power”. A woman awakens from a coma with a reversed sense of directionality. Restoring sight in the blind with lateral geniculate…

Prospective memory is “remembering to remember.” Despite the pervasiveness of this requirement in real-life, we know surprisingly little about the topic. In their new book, McDaniel & Einstein provide a direly needed review of this fascinating new field, providing important information for researchers, clinicians, and laypeople alike on how basic cognitive science is coming to…

The analytic depth of cognitive neuroscience is, in many ways, a curse. Those aspects of high-level cognition most relevant to real-world applications are the least understood at a neurobiological level, and those mechanisms that are well-understood neurobiologically are too simple to inform real-world practices. The explanatory gaps between these levels of analysis is a result…

It could be argued that any single level of scientific analysis is at once too simple (since there are always important emergent phenomena at higher levels) and also too complex (poorly-understood phenomena inevitably lurk at lower levels). If I wanted to kick the sacred cow of science again, as I did yesterday, I’d suggest that…

Theories with the fewest assumptions are often preferred to those positing more, a heuristic often called “Occam’s razor.” This kind of argument has been used on both sides of the creationism vs. evolution debate (is natural selection or divine creation the more parsimonious theory?) and in at least one reductio ad absurdum argument against religion.…