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Discussion questions


Suggestions for discussion questions

Chapter 1

Section 1.1
1. Behaviorism is no longer the dominant paradigm in psychology, but what can we learn from it? Are parts of behaviorist thinking correct?
2. Was Tolman right to postulate cognitive maps? In general, what do you think about postulating representations such as cognitive maps to explain behavior?
3. Is the hypothesis of subconscious information processing correct? What about the hypothesis of task analysis?

Section 1.2
1. Is computation what minds do, as many cognitive scientists believe?

Section 1.3
1. Chomsky was interested in gaining a theoretical understanding of why languages work as they do. How does the theory of transformational grammar contribute to this project?

Section 1.4
1. What are the limitations of applying the tools of information theory to psychology?
2. Is Broadbent’s strategy of giving flowcharts a good model of explanation for cognitive science? Why or why not?

Section 1.5
1. How do the concepts of information and information processing run through the historical episodes presented in Chapter 1?

Chapter 2

Section 2.1
1. Is it worthwhile for cognitive scientists to try to build machines to learn about cognition?
2. Is it important that SHRDLU only deals with a micro-world and a restricted language?
3. Evaluate Winograd’s statement, “All language use can be thought of as a way of activating procedures within the hearer.”
4. What sort of knowledge does SHRDLU need to have to run its parsing procedure?

Section 2.2
1. Is introspection a valid method in psychology? With respect to Shepard and Metlzer’s experimental paradigm, is it significant that it seems to participants as if they are rotating one image to compare it with the other?

Section 2.3
1. Are there any problems with a top-down approach to cognitive science? What do you think of Marr’s approach in general?
2. Is Marr’s computational analysis of the visual system correct? Are there other ways of thinking about what the visual system does?

Chapter 3

Section 3.1
1. Can you understand the mind without investigating the brain?

Section 3.2
1. Why do we need to take care when making inferences about cognitive function from neuropsychological evidence?
2. What do you think of Mishkin and Ungerleider’s bottom-up approach to cognitive science? Does it have advantages over Marr’s top-down approach?

Section 3.3
1. Is neural network modeling a useful endeavor in cognitive science? Why or why not?

Section 3.4
1. What role should functional neuroimaging play in cognitive science? Are there any criticisms of using it?

Chapter 4

Section 4.1
1. Are there any dangers that come with interdisciplinarity? How can we try to avoid them?

Section 4.3
1. What do you think are the prospects for meeting the integration challenge?

Section 4.4
1. Human beings are not always good at conditional reasoning. Does it show that people are irrational?
2. Do Cosmides and Tooby give a successful explanation of the experimental results from versions of the Wason selection task? Have they made a good case for the cheater detection module?

Chapter 5

Section 5.1
1. Why does cognitive science tend to lack laws?
2. Is Cummins right that functional decomposition is the main methodology of psychology? Should functional decomposition be the main methodology?

Section 5.2
1. Is it convincing that Marr’s approach works only for modular systems, and hence cannot represent a global solution to the integration challenge?

Section 5.3
1. What are some of the different senses in which cognitive scientists speak of “information” and “information processing”? Is there a core notion of “information” or “information processing”?
2. Is the mental architectures approach more appropriate than the intertheoretic reduction or levels of analysis approach? Why or why not?

Chapter 6

Section 6.1
1. Is the physical symbol system hypothesis correct? Is it a law of qualitative structure?
2. Does problem solving lie at the heart of intelligence, as Newell and Simon suggest?

Section 6.2
1. Is intentional realism the correct approach to thinking about propositional attitudes? What are some other options?
2. Is causation by content a puzzling phenomenon? What do you think of Fodor’s proposed solution to it?

Section 6.3
1. Is Searle’s Chinese room thought experiment a convincing argument?
2. In general, what do you think of the use of thought experiments?

Chapter 7

Section 7.4
1. Is it significant that SHAKEY inhabits a real world rather than a virtual one? Why or why not?
2. After seeing the illustrations of physical symbol systems given in Chapter 7, what do you think of the physical symbol system hypothesis?

Chapter 8

Section 8.1
1. How do artificial neural network models complement the various neuroscientific techniques for studying the brain?
2. Are artificial neural networks a good enough approximation of real neural networks to be useful to cognitive scientists?

Section 8.2
1. Why is training such an integral part of neural network modeling?
2. Is it significant that the perceptron convergence rule diverges from the Hebbian learning rule?

Section 8.4
1. Are there any reasons to be skeptical whether artificial neural networks represent a new way to think about information processing?

Chapter 9

Section 9.1
1. Do you favor the weak or the strong notion of mastering a rule?

Section 9.2
1. Are the neural network models of tense learning are successful? Why or why not?

Section 9.3
1. Is the dishabituation paradigm a valid methodology?

Section 9.4
1. Do the neural network models described in Section 9.4 provide good explanations of the phenomena that they target?

Section 9.5
1. Is Fodor and Pylyshyn’s argument convincing?

Chapter 10

Section 10.2
1. Is Fodor right to reinvigorate Gall’s ideas? Should we abandon horizontal faculty psychology?
2. How successful is Fodor’s argument for Fodor’s First Law of the Nonexistence of Cognitive Science?

Section 10.3
1. How good is Cosmides and Tooby’s case for the massive modularity hypothesis?

Chapter 11

Section 11.1
1. Why is it important to keep the distinction between anatomy and cognitive function in mind?

Section 11.3
1. Could behavioral data resolve the locus of selection problem? Why or why not?

Section 11.4
1. What do you think of the research described in Section 11.4 and the conclusions drawn from it?

Section 11.5
1. Do the pitfalls mentioned in Section 11.5 undermine the importance of neuroimaging?

Chapter 12

Section 12.1
1. What do you think of the three basic observations from which Leslie’s model begins?

Section 12.2
1. What do you think of the false belief task? Is it a good test of mindreading abilities?

Section 12.4
1. Does Leslie offer a successful explanation of the time lag between the capacity to metarepresent and the ability to pass the false belief task?

Section 12.5
1.Which is the more plausible version of simulationism? Why?

Chapter 13

Section 13.1
1. Can you think of an example other than the Watt governor that makes Van Gelder’s point?
2. Is the dynamical systems hypothesis correct? Why or why not?

Section 13.2
1. Dynamical models seem suited for examining the development of skills like walking. Will dynamical modeling prove fruitful for other phenomena of interest in cognitive science?
2. Are there any other plausible cognitive explanations of the A-not-B error?
3. Is Van Gelder right to think that the dynamical approach to cognitive science will replace more traditional ones?

Section 13.3
1. Are situated cognition theorists’ primary criticisms of classical AI successful? Why or why not?
2. Are situated cognition theorists’ criticisms of SHRDLU and SHAKEY successful?

Section 13.4
1. Evaluate the criticism that subsumption architectures may only be appropriate for building mechanical insects.
2. Do TOTO and the Nerd Herd display intelligence?

Chapter 14

Section 14.1
1. Why do you think Leibniz chose a mill for his example?
2. Do you agree that the conscious experience of a sunset cannot be adequately explained from a third person perspective? Why or why not?

Section 14.2
1. Evaluate the argument on p. 449 for why information-processing models of the mind are inadequate for explaining consciousness. Are there any steps that you find unconvincing?  
2. Are thought experiments (like the Knowledge Argument) a good strategy for investigating the nature of consciousness? Why or why not?

Section 14.3
1. Priming experiments indicate that we are easily influenced by unconscious processing of visual stimuli. Are you convinced by the evidence for this?
2. What are some everyday examples of people engaging in tasks that they claim not to have experienced consciously? (as is the case in blindsight).

Section 14.4
1. What tasks or achievements do you think are only made possible by consciousness?
2. Can you think of examples of behaviors that might be best described in terms of the two visual streams “coming apart” and working independently of each other?

Section 14.5
1. Which of the thought experiments presented in this chapter (Jackson’s Mary, Block’s super-blindsighters, Chalmers’ zombies) do you find most convincing? Why?
2. Do you think the tools of cognitive science are suitable for addressing the hard problem of consciousness?

Section 14.6
1. Is there any aspect of consciousness that you think is unaccounted for by the global workspace theory?
2. Some have claimed that we won’t really understand consciousness until we identify its neuronal basis (the “neural correlates of consciousness”). What do you think about this claim?

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