Special Issues of Theory & Psychology and Synthese

Our research project “Cognitive science in search of unity” led to the publication of two special issues of peer-reviewed journals. We are happy to announce that recently we fulfilled this goal. The special issues are ready. First of them, entitled “Mechanisms in psychology: The road towards unity?” is out in Theory & Psychology, while the second, called “Explanations in cognitive science: Unification vs pluralism”, was just published in Synthese.

The focus of the special issue of Theory & Psychology, edited by Marcin Miłkowski, Mateusz Hohol and Przemysław Nowakowski (2019), is on explanatory mechanisms in psychology, especially on problems of particular prominence for psychological science such as theoretical integration and unification. Proponents of the framework of mechanistic explanation claim, in short, that satisfactory explanations in psychology and related fields are causal. They stress the importance of explaining phenomena by describing mechanisms that are responsible for them, in particular by elucidating how the organization of component parts and operations in mechanisms gives rise to phenomena in certain conditions. The purpose of this special issue, broadly construed, was to solicit original papers from defenders and opponents of mechanistic explanation and theorists of psychology and neuroscience who address problems of special prominence for the psychological community.

The special issue of Theory and Psychology opens with an introductory paper where we (i.e., Marcin Miłkowski, Mateusz Hohol and Przemysław Nowakowski) introduce the concept of mechanism and explore what psychology gains from mechanistic explanation. In the following paper, Eric Hochstein (University of Victoria) provocatively claims that an experimenter interested in cognitive mechanisms should be a good metaphysician. His contribution is entitled “How metaphysical commitments shape the study of psychological mechanisms”. In the next paper, entitled “Phenomenology and mechanisms of consciousness: Considering the theoretical integration of phenomenology with a mechanistic framework” Marek Pokropski (University of Warsaw) claims that phenomenological analysis can supply descriptions of phenomena that are explained mechanistically analogically to traditional functional analysis. William Bechtel (University of California San Diego) is an author of the following paper called “Resituating cognitive mechanisms within heterarchical networks controlling physiology and behavior”. The author proposes that a primary function of cognition is not building highly adequate representations of the surrounding world on the basis of sensory input, but providing the organism with behavioral control. In the next paper, entitled “Model-based cognitive neuroscience: Multifield mechanistic integration in practice” Mark Povich (Washington University, St. Louis) points to a framework that integrates two levels of cognition, namely, the computational/algorithmic (traditionally accounted by cognitive psychology) and the implementational one (primarily investigated by neuroscience). Next, Paweł Gładziejewski (Nicolaus Copernicus University) explores the issue of explanatory unification of cognition under the free energy principle (FEP). In a paper “Mechanistic unity of the predictive mind”, the author claims that the FEP delivers only (contrary to some proponents of this perspective) a functional sketch or schema, which may be implemented by many distinct neural mechanisms. In the subsequent contribution, Sabrina Golonka and Andrew D. Wilson (Leeds Beckett University) deal with “Ecological mechanisms in cognitive science”. Their main message is that a neo-Gibsonian framework of action and perception can be reconciled with mechanistic analyses. The two papers that conclude the issue are more skeptical about the prospects of mechanistic explanation of the mental. In the first, Matteo Colombo (Tilburg University) and Andreas Heinz (Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin) explore conceptual problems of psychiatry. In their paper “Explanatory integration, computational phenotypes, and dimensional psychiatry: The case of alcohol use disorder”, the authors propose elucidating mental maladies by taking into account clinically relevant properties of a computational phenotype, such as the tension between model-based and model-free control. Finally, Lawrence Shapiro (University of Wisconsin–Madison)  is sketching “A tale of two explanatory styles in cognitive psychology”. He claims that although the new mechanism delivers a vital strategy of explanation in psychology, it does not mean that traditional functional analysis is redundant and thus should be completely rejected in the field. We believe that the above summarized papers provide a crucial update to the theory of mechanistic organization and unification, a number of new applications and extensions, and critical views of mechanistic explanation. 

The special issue of Synthese (2021), edited by Marcin Miłkowski and Mateusz Hohol, is a contribution to the debate between the defenders of explanatory unification and explanatory pluralism, that has been ongoing from the beginning of cognitive science and is one of the central themes of its philosophy. The debate is focused on the following questions: Does cognitive science need a grand unifying theory? Should explanatory pluralism be embraced instead? Or maybe local integrative efforts are needed? What are the advantages of explanatory unification as compared to the benefits of explanatory pluralism? 

The special issue of Synthese opens with an introductory paper, where we (i.e., Marcin Miłkowski and Mateusz Hohol) discuss the background of the above questions, distinguishing integrative theorizing from building unified theories. We also show that unification in contemporary cognitive science goes beyond reductive unity, and may involve various forms of joint efforts and division of explanatory labor. The following two papers explore computational and mechanistic modes of explanation in cognitive (neuro)science. In a paper entitled “The methodological role of mechanistic-computational models in cognitive science”, Jens Harbecke (Witten/Herdecke University, Witten, Germany) claims that a satisfactory explanatory model of a cognitive architecture should integrate phenomena at all the levels (in the mechanistic sense), accounting simultaneously for computational processes involved in the relevant component parts. Then, Lotem Elber-Dorozko and Oron Shagrir (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) draw from the reinforcement learning phenomenon to explore the problem of “Integrating computation into the mechanistic hierarchy in the cognitive and neural sciences”. The next paper is entitled “Representational unification in cognitive science: Is embodied cognition a unifying perspective?”. Its authors, Marcin Miłkowski and Przemysław Nowakowski (IPS PAS), claim that even if embodied cognition fails as a proposal of the grand unification of cognitive science, it shows that unification constitutes a notable virtue of research traditions in the Laudan’s sense. Next three papers explore the dynamical approach to cognitive processes. In the first of them, called “Appraisal of certain methodologies in cognitive science based on Lakatos’s methodology of scientific research programmes”, Haydar Oğuz Erdin (Bogazici University) reveals shortcomings in Chemero’s non-representationalism. To counterbalance, the next paper, “Resonance and radical embodiment” by Vicente Raja (University of Antwerpen), is enthusiastic about the dynamical explanation. Raja claims that the unification power of the resonance-based framework is evidenced by bridging theories of behavioral dynamics and neural reuse. Next paper, called “Make up your mind: octopus cognition and hybrid explanations” by Sidney Carls-Diamante (Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research), shows that some cognitive phenomena require the use of distinct explanatory accounts, wherein some parts/operations within a mechanism are described dynamically, while others are described in a representational way. As editors, we are proud that this paper received the Werner Callebaut Prize from the International Society for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology. The penultimate paper investigates innateness, that is one of the unifying general principles in a number of cognitive explanations. More precisely, J. Brendan Ritchie (KU Leuven) undertakes a defense of the frequently challenged notion of nativism, which identifies inborn cognitive skills with “not learned” ones. The paper is entitled “What’s wrong with the minimal conception of innateness in cognitive science?”. The final contribution, “Linguistics and the explanatory economy” by Gabe Dupre (University of California Los Angeles), focuses on generative linguistics. The author shows that in cognitive science, some theories could be considered complementary, and that they should not be overgeneralized. 

We hope that these papers contribute to a deeper understanding of the importance of unification and pluralism in cognitive science. The issue of whether unification is to be preferred over integration is far from settled. Nonetheless, as papers in this special issue also attest, unification does not boil down to reductive explanation. At the same time, the way unification or coordination is approached depends, obviously, on the general framework that one adopts in understanding satisfactory explanations.

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Source: Cognitive Science in Search of Unity

The Social Construction of Perceptual Categories

The first in the 2021/22 season meeting of the seminar „Philosophy of Cognitive Science” will take place on November 25th, at 10:00 (Warsaw, CET). Our guest will be Francesco Consiglio (University of Granada). We will discuss a paper: „The Social Construction of Perceptual Categories”.

Abstract: In this article I shall argue that the categories a subject employs to codify her perceptions are emergent elements of the social niche her community inhabits. Hence, I defend the claim that categories are primarily elements of the social ontology a certain subject experiences. I then claim that public representations (e.g. icons) shared in a social niche play a crucial regulative role for the members of that community: in fact, they offer a rule (a canon) to conceive a certain type or a certain category, e.g. ‘movement’, ‘time’ or ‘space’. In this sense, categories function as normative elements. 

To receive the Zoom link, please contact Dr. Przemysław Nowakowski (prrono@wp.pl)

Next guests of our seminar will be: Lorenzo Buscicchi (2nd of December), Antonio Lieto, Michał Piekarski…

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Source: Cognitive Science in Search of Unity

Luke Kersten – The Status of Markov Blankets: An Abstracta Realist Proposal

The next meeting of the seminar is planned for June, 11th, at 12:00 (CET). Our guest will be Luke Kersten (University of Edinburgh). We will discuss a draft paper:The Status of Markov Blankets: An Abstracta Realist Proposal.

 This paper takes up a recent challenge to the use of Markov blankets in the context of demarcating the boundaries of cognition, what I call the “status problem”. The status problem says that while it makes sense to think of Markov blankets as either a methodological tool for investigating cognitive systems or an ontological category for determining the boundaries of systems, it does not make sense to think of them as both. The status problem generates a dilemma, either: i) Markov blankets are a purely formal tool, in which case they do not help to demarcate the boundaries of the cognition, or ii) they denote an ontological category, in which case they do help to demarcate the boundaries of cognition but only at the cost of taking on controversial metaphysical assumptions. After surveying potential responses, I argue that progress can be made on the status problem by reconceptualising Markov blankets as ‘abstracta’. This, I suggest, enables one to not only provide an answer to the status problem, but also avoid the dilemma.

To receive a Google Meet link, please email Przemysław Nowakowski at pnowakowski@ifispan.edu.pl

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Source: Cognitive Science in Search of Unity

Podane dalej. Inna książka o dizajnie

Type Journal Article
Author Witold Wachowski
URL http://avant.edu.pl/2020-03-43
Volume 11
Issue 3
Publication AVANT. The Journal of the Philosophical-Interdisciplinary Vanguard
Date 2020
Journal Abbr AVANT
DOI 10.26913/avant.2020.03.43
Accessed 2021-05-24 11:48:52
Library Catalog DOI.org (Crossref)

Source: Publications

Marvan, Polák, Bachmann, Phillips: Apical Amplification – A Cellular Mechanism of Conscious Perception?

The next meeting of the seminar is planned for May, 14th, at 12:00 (CET). Our guest will be Tomáš Marvan (Czech Academy of Sciences, Institute of Philosophy, Prague). We will discuss a draft paper by Tomáš Marvan, Michal Polák (University of West Bohemia), Talis Bachmann (University of Tartu), William A. Phillip (University of Stirling): Apical Amplification – A Cellular Mechanism of Conscious Perception?  William Philips will be also present on our seminar.

Abstract: We present a theoretical view of the cellular foundations for network-level processes involved in producing our conscious experience. Inputs to apical synapses in layer 1 of a large subset of neocortical cells are summed at an integration zone near the top of their apical trunk. These inputs come from diverse sources, and provide a context within which the transmission of information abstracted from sensory input to their basal and perisomatic synapses can be amplified when relevant. We argue that apical amplication (AA) makes perceptual experience more flexible and thus more adaptive by making it sensitive to context. It restrains recurrence by avoiding strong loops, and makes broadcasting feasible while preserving the distinctive informational identity of the cells receiving the broadcast. As AA is highly dependent on cholinergic, aminergic, and other neuromodulators, it forms a bridge between global states of consciousness and the specific contents of conscious experience, thus treating both in a unified theoretical framework. Thus, apical amplification might provide a cellular mechanism that is crucial to our conscious perceptual experience.

Email Przemysław Nowakowski pnowakowski@ifispan.edu.pl for a Google Meet link.

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Source: Cognitive Science in Search of Unity

Correspondence Theory of Semantic Information

Type Journal Article
Author Marcin Miłkowski
URL https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/714804
Publication The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
ISSN 0007-0882
Date April 15, 2021
Extra Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
DOI 10.1086/714804
Accessed 2021-04-22 08:39:35
Library Catalog journals.uchicago.edu (Atypon)

Source: Publications

Paweł Gładziejewski: Perceptual justification in the Bayesian brain: A foundherentist account

The next meeting of the seminar is planned for April, 16th, at 12:00 (CET). Our guest will be Paweł Gładziejewski (Department of Cognitive Science, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Torun). We will discuss a draft paper: Perceptual justification in the Bayesian brain: A foundherentist account

Abstract: In this paper, I use the predictive processing (PP) theory of perception to tackle the question of how perceptual states can be rationally involved in cognition by justifying other mental states. I put forward two claims regarding the epistemological implications of PP. First, perceptual states can confer justification on other mental states because the perceptual states are themselves rationally acquired. Second, despite being inferentially justified rather than epistemically basic, perceptual states can still be epistemically responsive to the mind- independent world. My main goal is to elucidate the epistemology of perception already implicit in PP. But I also hope to show how it is possible to peacefully combine central tenets of foundationalist and coherentist accounts of the rational powers of perception while avoiding the well-recognized pitfalls of either.

To get a Google Meet link, email Przemysław Nowakowski at pnowakowski@ifispan.edu.pl

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Source: Cognitive Science in Search of Unity

Uljana Feest: Data Quality, Experimental Artifacts, and the Reactivity of the Psychological Subject Matter

The next meeting of the seminar is planned for April, 9th, at 16:00 (CET). Note the change of the usual time! Our guest will be Uljana Feest (Institut für Philosophie, Leibniz Universität Hannover). We will discuss a draft paper: Data Quality, Experimental Artifacts, and the Reactivity of the Psychological Subject Matter

Abstract: While the term “reactivity” has come to be associated with specific phenomena in the social sciences, having to do with subjects’ awareness of being studied, this paper takes a broader stance on this concept. I will argue that reactivity is a ubiquitous feature of the psychological subject matter and that this fact is a precondition of experimental research, while also posing potential problems for the experimenter. The latter are connected to the worry about distorted data and experimental artifacts. But what are experimental artifacts and what is the most productive way of dealing with them? In this paper, I approach these questions by exploring the ways in which experimenters in psychology simultaneously exploit and suppress the reactivity of their subject matter in order to produce experimental data that speak to the question or subject matter at hand. Highlighting the artificiality of experimental data. I will raise (and answer) the question of what distinguishes a genuine experimental result from an experimental artifact. My analysis construes experimental results as the outcomes of inferences from the data that take material background assumptions as auxiliary premises. Artifacts occur when one or more of these background assumptions are false, such that the data do not reliably serve the purposes they were generated for. I will conclude by laying out the ways in which my analysis of data quality is relevant to, and informed by, recent debates about the replicability of experimental results.

To receive a Google Meet link, please email Przemysław Nowakowski at pnowakowski@ifispan.edu.pl

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Source: Cognitive Science in Search of Unity

Lilia Gurova: Feigned narratives do not always satisfy needs: the case of factitious disorders

The next meeting of the seminar is planned for March, 26th, at 12:00 (CET). Our guest will be Lilia Gurova (Department of Cognitive Science and Psychology, New Bulgarian University). We will discuss a draft paper: Feigned narratives do not always satisfy needs: the case of factitious disorders.

The paper abstract: When Bradley Lewis announced in 2014 that psychiatry needed to make a “narrative turn”, he backed up his appeal as follows: (1) the different explanatory models of mental disorders that are currently competing in psychiatry tell us different stories about mental health; (2) none of these stories has the privilege of being the only true one, and its alternatives the wrong ones; (3) the choice of a model in each case should be made in a dialogue with the patient in order to ensure that the model will be chosen that best meets the patient’s goals and desires and, accordingly, would best support the process of recovery. The latter suggestion however is not easy to follow when the patients’ subjective goals and desires and the goal of returning the patients to a normal way of life diverge, as is the case with the so-called factitious disorders. The problem is worsen by the theory-ladenness of the interpretations of patients’ first-person narratives. This paper argues against a common assumption that biases our understanding of abnormal behavior, in particular the behavior of those who feign stories about illness. This is the assumption that such a behavior satisfies certain, possibly unknown, psychological needs.

The seminar is focused on discussing the papers, in a reading group style. The speaker first introduces the main theses of the paper (for around ten minutes), and then the floor is open for comments. In the online version of the seminar, the questions must be first signaled briefly on the chat to manage the flow of the discussion.

Mail Przemysław Nowakowski (p.nowakowski@ifispan.edu.pl) for the Google Meet link.

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Source: Cognitive Science in Search of Unity

Tactile information counteracts the attenuation of rubber hand illusion attributable to increased visuo-proprioceptive divergence

Type Journal Article
Author Piotr Litwin
Author Beata Zybura
Author Paweł Motyka
Editor Inmaculada Riquelme
URL https://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0244594
Volume 15
Issue 12
Pages e0244594
Publication PLOS ONE
ISSN 1932-6203
Date 2020-12-30
Journal Abbr PLoS ONE
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0244594
Accessed 2021-03-14 10:46:42
Library Catalog DOI.org (Crossref)
Language en
Abstract Sense of body ownership is an immediate and distinct experience of one’s body as belonging to oneself. While it is well-recognized that ownership feelings emerge from the integration of visual and somatosensory signals, the principles upon which they are integrated are still intensely debated. Here, we used the rubber hand illusion (RHI) to examine how the interplay of visual, tactile, and proprioceptive signals is governed depending on their spatiotemporal properties. For this purpose, the RHI was elicited in different conditions varying with respect to the extent of visuo-proprioceptive divergence (i.e., the distance between the real and fake hands) and differing in terms of the availability and spatiotemporal complexity of tactile stimulation (none, simple, or complex). We expected that the attenuating effect of distance on illusion strength will be more pronounced in the absence of touch (when proprioception gains relatively higher importance) and absent in the presence of complex tactile signals. Additionally, we hypothesized that participants with greater proprioceptive acuity—assessed using an elbow joint position discrimination task—will be less susceptible to the illusion, but only under the conditions of limited tactile stimulation. In line with our prediction, RHI was attenuated at the farthest distance only when tactile information was absent or simplified, but the attenuation was effectively prevented by the use of complex tactile stimulation—in this case, RHI was comparably vivid at both distances. However, passive proprioceptive acuity was not related to RHI strength in either of the conditions. The results indicate that complex-structured tactile signals can override the influence of proprioceptive signals in body attribution processes. These findings extend our understanding of body ownership by showing that it is primarily determined by informative cues from the most relevant sensory domains, rather than mere accumulation of multisensory evidence.

Source: Publications