Questions on the Nature of memory, personality, etc.

David Longley David at
Fri May 21 05:42:05 EST 2004

In article <85d56b27.0405201156.367880ab at>, Robert 
M?rtin <robertmaertin at> writes
>@ Glen
>> GS: Just a brief interruption; what is a computation? Is any phenomenon that
>> can be given any kind of quantitative treatment the "result of computation?"
>> Does the Moon "compute" its orbit, for example?
>No. If you are looking at the moon and its noisy signal hits your
>retinae... then the computation starts.
>You now... noise reduction, signal enhancement, covert attentional
>effects, edge detection, feature extraction...
>that stuff.
>No need to get philosophical here. Please read on.
>> RM: And I'm not talking about abstract symbol
>> manipulating theories from cognitive psychology. I'm talking about
>> underlying data-processing structures (nets of neurons of varying
>> properties).
>> GS: Well..presumably you're talking about EPSPs, IPSPs, action potentials,
>> neurotransmitter secretions, G-proteins, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.
>When I thought of computation, I was thinking of neural networks. BUt
>as this terms usually refers to classical neural networks that are
>used to learn "anything", I did not use the term "neural network".
>Obviously the brain computes, we don't need to discuss about that, do
>we ? Actionpotential rush in, converge, diverge, sum up, inhibit
>surrounding neurons, oscillate, backpropagate... WHATEVER. I call it
>computation because thats what it is. Please read on.
>> RM: Pretty straight forward...
>> What do we do now ? Besides the fact that we are in need of new
>> terminology we are right inside the Black Box. We can now make
>> assumptions classical behaviourism does not offer the tools for. (Does
>> it ?)
>> GS: No, it doesn't. But neither does cognitive "science." There is nothing
>> new about talking about physiology.
>Novelty is not the point here. If we want to explain how "physiology
>mediates behaviour" (remember?)
>should we leave out the physiology here ? Please keep you comments
>till you read the last paragraph :)
>> RM: I think that we are past a point were we can take a term like "spatial
>> attention", get its definition and look for (or propose) underlying
>> mechanisms.
>> GS: Sorry, I can't figure out what you are saying here.
>"spatial attention" was just an example. I think that when we work at
>the junction between behaviour and physiology we can create terms like
>"spatial attention" or "response selection" to describe putative parts
>of a behavioural task.
>We have to accurately describe what signal processing and control
>tasks may be involved in a certain behaviour.
>When we have done so, we may look for neural correlates of these
>mechanisms using known techniques.
>But the point is that the terms mentioned above are not as ill-defined
>as usual cognitive science terms (e.g. "semantic processing") and I
>want to convince you that an extension of the behaviouist vocabulary
>is justifiable.
>Yes, I know you don't see any cognition so far BUT :
>keep on reading I'll come back to that in the end :)
>> GS: I have no problem with anything you say in the above section, and saying
>> that is not inconsistent with anything I have said. You are talking about
>> the physiological mediation of conditioned responses. I don't see any
>> cognition anywhere. I see Pavlovian conditioning and models of cerebellar
>> function. What do you see? And, "no," behavioral terms are not physiological
>> terms. But neither are those of cognitive "science."
>> RM: Once such a theory has been created, it may be falsified,
>> extended, cursed or implemented.
>> "Cognition" and "Speech processing" are such HUGE terms. But if you
>> stick with smaller bits... we might just find something :)
>> GS: And then "cognition" disappears. Which was my point.
>> GS: In this post, nothing. I am basically agreeing with you here (except for
>> "computation" - which I find to be a pretty vacuous term as currently
>> employed). I don't see anything "cognitive" anywhere. I see behavioral
>> neurobiology.
>Here comes the last paragraph I have told you to wait for :
>Now you and I may be at a point to understand one another.
>As you stated above, as soon as we use behavioural neurobiology,
>computational and signal processing theories we actually come to a
>point where it seems to be possible to explain and assemble all the
>"little bits" (remember : one piece was spatial attention for example)
>that show us how physiology mediates behaviour.
>> GS: And then "cognition" disappears. Which was my point.
>Yes... it disappears. But only because the terms used by cognitive
>science were ill fated from the beginning.
>Most of them are too boastful and ill-defined to ever become
>elucidated. The classical computational metaphor of mind cCMM (the
>brain is a symbol manipulating device) has failed. Good old fashioned
>AI, based upon the cCMM does not produce results. Yes cognitive
>science (seen in such a manner) is dead.
>As you know, I am studying cognitive science right now. And I already
>wrote that (almost) everybody at our institute is well aware of
>everything that has been said above.
>So... why go on ?
>The reason is both strange and simple. If we take the bold term
>"cognition" and define it as the set of all the "small pieces" we can
>try to define and elucidate using the above methods... then we are
>doing baby-steps in the right direction :
>explaining how physiology ecxtracts & refines environmental
>information and produces appropriate behaviour.
>But... on second thought I don't care if it's called "cognitive
>science" whatnot... as long as I am not forced to do
>textbook-cognitive science.
>I only think that it does not sound too bad.
>The department of the institute of cognitive science here in
>Osnabrueck that I love and respect most is the department of
>"Neurobiopsychology" (under
>consctuction, but still quite nice).
>I think "Neurobiopsychology" is a nice name...
>best regards

Behavioural and Neurological Science or Behavioural-Neuroscience might 
have sufficed.

It really *does* matter, as all the "psychological" and "cognitive" talk 
is basically non-science, and for quite sound, logical, scientific 
reasons as I've tried to explicate (if not demonstrate) elsewhere..

David Longley

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