Learning Sciences of Change

Learning Change Project

Cognitive Integration, Enculturated Cognition and the Socially Extended Mind

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Shaun Gallagher presents an interesting case for the social extension of mind. I argue that there is one way in which Gallagher can argue for social extension, which is continuous with an enculturated model of cognition, such as cognitive integration. This way requires us to think of the mind as extended by social/cultural practices that are specifically targeted at cognitive tasks. The other way in which Gallagher argues for social extension is that social institutions – such as museums or the law – are literal constituents of our minds. This second way involves a number of problems and objections and is inconsistent with an enculturated or practice based approach. I conclude by urging Gallagher to endorse the first way.

I have argued that the cognitive integration model shows why our minds are socially extended, by presenting a phylogenetic and ontogenetic model of how we develop cognitive capabilities. The key to this model is the notion of cognitive practices. I have also argued that Gallagher’s account of social extension is too synchronic and flirts with concepts such as supervenience, which do not help him to make his case. I have suggested that he stick to making the case in terms of cognitive practices, but then he needs a fuller account of such practices and how they are able to transform our capabilities. Fortunately the integrationist model has already done this job.

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Read also: The Socially Extended Mind

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August 3, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Ontogenesis of the Socially Extended Mind

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I consider the developmental origins of the socially extended mind. First, I argue that, from birth, the physical interventions caregivers use to regulate infant attention and emotion (gestures, facial expressions, direction of gaze, body orientation, patterns of touch and vocalization, etc.) are part of the infant’s socially extended mind; they are external mechanisms that enable the infant to do things she could not otherwise do, cognitively speaking. Second, I argue that these physical interventions encode the norms, values, and patterned practices distinctive of their specific sociocultural milieu. Accordingly, not only do they enhance and extend the infant’s cognitive competence. They also entrain the infant to think and act in culturally appropriate ways. These physical interventions are thus arguably the earliest examples of social practices that scaffold the infant’s cognitive development and shape the development of their cultural education.

Gallagher and Vygotsky’s point still stands. In order to understand the development of mature forms of cognition—including social cognition—we must trace their ontogenetic development as it unfolds interpsychologically, that is, within the dynamics of social interaction, support by embodied skills, and embedded in encompassing mental institutions. Building on Gallagher’s analysis, this paper has considered the family as the earliest mental institution and, in so doing, briefly tried to shed light on the developmental origins of the socially extended mind.

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Read also: The Socially Extended Mind

Written by learningchange

August 3, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Posted in Extended mind

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The Frames of Cognition

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In his paper “Socially Extended Mind,” Shaun Gallagher aims to broaden the perspective of the philosophy of  cognitive science and to bring theoretical discussions to new grounds. However, I argue that such comprehensive attempt needs to be worked out and underpinned in more detail. I start by sketching the theoretical landscape, and continue by pointing out some ambiguities that are in need of further clarification. In the last part, I introduce a distinction between global and local frames of cognition and argue that the idea of a local frame can contribute to critical inquiry.

In several emerging approaches to the study of cognition, the idea of a non-arbitrary inner/outer distinction has come under attack. Mind and world are increasingly pictured as entangled, while the physical substrates that make up the mind are no longer assumed to be exclusively located in the brain and body of the individual. Positioning himself in this dynamic theoretical landscape, Shaun Gallagher aims to unite and develop claims by several ‘counterrevolutionary’ camps, to broaden the cognitive-scientific perspective and to contribute to critical social inquiry. However, in order to live up to these ambitious aims, a number of ambiguities have to be overcome and a number of issues have to be worked out in more detail. The suggestions and distinctions in this paper indicate ways in which some of these problems could be overcome.

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Read also:  The Socially Extended Mind

Written by learningchange

August 3, 2014 at 12:38 pm

The Socially Extended Mind

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This paper contrasts conservative and liberal interpretations of the extended mind hypothesis. The liberal view, defended here, considers cognition to be socially extensive, in a way that goes beyond the typical examples (involving notebooks and various technologies) rehearsed in the extended mind literature, and in a way that takes cognition to involve enactive processes (e.g., social affordances), rather than functional supervenience relations. The socially extended mind is in some cases constituted not only in social interactions with others, but also in ways that involve institutional structures, norms, and practices. Some of the common objections to the extended mind are considered in relation to this liberal interpretation. Implications for critical social theory are explored.

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Written by learningchange

August 3, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Social Brains, Simple Minds: does Social Complexity require Cognitive Complexity?

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The social brain hypothesis is a well-accepted and well-supported evolutionary theory of enlarged brain size in the non-human primates. Nevertheless, it tends to emphasize an anthropocentric view of social life and cognition. This often leads to confusion between ultimate and proximate mechanisms, and an over-reliance on a Cartesian, narratively structured view of the mind and social life, which in turn lead to views of social complexity that are congenial to our views of ourselves, rather than necessarily representative of primate social worlds. In this paper, we argue for greater attention to embodied and distributed theories of cognition, which get us away from current fixations on ‘theory of mind’ and other high-level anthropocentric constructions, and allow for the generation of testable hypotheses that combine neurobiology, psychology and behaviour in a mutually reinforcing manner.

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Written by learningchange

August 3, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Intergenerational Transmission of Fear

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Babies can learn very early in life to fear something that frightened their mothers even before they were born. Scientists have known for some time that trauma can ripple through generationsEmotional trauma is transmitted across generations. For example, children witnessing their parent expressing fear to specific sounds or images begin to express fear to those cues. Within normal range, this is adaptive, although pathological fear, such as occurs in posttraumatic stress disorder or specific phobias, is also socially transmitted to children and is thus of clinical concern. New research on fear transmission may help explain how that happens.

Our research demonstrates that infants can learn from maternal expression of fear very early in life,” said Jacek Debiec, MD, PhD, the psychiatrist and neuroscientist who led the research. “Before they can even make their own experiences, they basically acquire their mothers’ experiences. Most important, these maternally transmitted memories are long-lived, where other types of infant learning, if not repeated, rapidly perish.”

Jacek Debiec recalls working with adult children of Holocaust survivors who had nightmares and flashbacks related to experiences they had not endured themselves. Rachel Yehuda, a psychiatrist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, has studied descendants of Holocaust survivors and the children of women who were pregnant and in or near the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001. She found evidence of intergenerational trauma transmission that could not have occurred through storytelling. She said understanding the brain changes that occur with intergenerational transmission could help people understand the long-term impact of parental experiences. “Your fears are not only a response to your personal experiences,” Yehuda told Verge, “but those that your parents had as well.”

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Read also: Intergenerational Transmission of Emotional Trauma

Written by learningchange

August 1, 2014 at 1:33 pm

The New Science of Mind and the Future of Knowledge

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Understanding mental processes in biological terms makes available insights from the new science of the mind to explore connections between philosophy, psychology, the social sciences, the humanities, and studies of disorders of mind. In this perspective we examine how these linkages might be forged and how the new science of the mind might serve as an inspiration for further exploration.

We have seen in this essay four specific areas in which the new science of the mind is particularly well positioned to enrich our understanding of other areas of knowledge. We have seen its potential as an intellectual force and a font of new knowledge that is likely to bring about a new dialog between the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. This dialog could help us understand better the mechanisms in the brain that make creativity possible, whether in art, the sciences, or the humanities, and thus open up a new dimension in intellectual history. In addition, an enriched understanding of the brain is needed to guide public policy. Particularly promising areas are the cognitive and emotional development of infants, the improvement of teaching methods, and the evaluation of decisions. But perhaps the greatest consequence for public policy is the impact that brain science and its engagement with other disciplines is likely to have on the structure of the social universe as we know it.

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Written by learningchange

July 6, 2014 at 10:21 pm

A Survey on Bio-inspired Networking

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The developments in the communication and networking technologies have yielded many existing and envisioned information network architectures such as cognitive radio networks, sensor and actor networks, quantum communication networks, terrestrial next generation Internet, and InterPlaNetary Internet. However, there exist many common significant challenges to be addressed for the practical realization of these current and envisioned networking paradigms such as the increased complexity with large scale networks, their dynamic nature, resource constraints, heterogeneous architectures, absence or impracticality of centralized control and infrastructure, need for survivability, and unattended resolution of potential failures. These challenges have been successfully dealt with by Nature, which, as a result of millions of years of evolution, have yielded many biological systems and processes with intrinsic appealing characteristics such as adaptivity to varying environmental conditions, inherent resiliency to failures and damages, successful and collaborative operation on the basis of a limited set of rules and with global intelligence which is larger than superposition of individuals, self-organization, survivability, and evolvability. Inspired by these characteristics, many researchers are currently engaged in developing innovative design paradigms to address the networking challenges of existing and envisioned information systems. In this paper, the current state-of-the-art in bio-inspired networking is captured. The existing bio-inspired networking and communication protocols and algorithms devised by looking at biology as a source of inspiration, and by mimicking the laws and dynamics governing these systems are presented along with open research issues for the bio-inspired networking. Furthermore, the domain of bio-inspired networking is linked to the emerging research domain of  nano networks, which bring a set of unique challenges. The objective of this survey is to provide better understanding of the potentials for bio-inspired networking which is currently far from being fully recognized, and to motivate the  research community to further explore this timely and exciting topic.

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Written by learningchange

July 3, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Posted in Biology, Networks

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