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DiscussionEven when we have reasonably complete accounts of all these levels there will still be much to do of course. Many psychologists who are interested in explaining the foundations of mental states will in the end wish to ground their theories in neurology and biology. Broadbent made comments to that effect in 1958. With the rise of cognitive neuropsychology the time may be coming when we can make a reasonable fist of mapping down from an understanding of the functional architecture of the mind to the structural architecture of the brain. For example, the work of John Anderson (http://act-r.psy.cmu.edu/) and Marcel Just, Pat Carpenter and others (http://www.ccbi.cmu.edu/) are showing promising progress on how the kinds of production rule system that Newell introduced may be implemented in a way that is consistent with what we know about the static organisation and dynamic operation of the human brain as revealed by physical imaging techniques like PET and functional MR. Glasspool’s model of high-level cognition is based on Shallice’s (1988) account of human executive (frontal lobe) function and uses established concepts from cognitive- and neuro-psychology brought together in a variant of the domino model. The static architecture of this part of the human cognitive system is modelled as a COGENT box and arrow diagram. Working memory for "beliefs" and another temporary store for plans ("schemas") are modelled as short-term storage buffers in COGENT, while dynamic aspects of the system are implemented by several distinct processing components. Low-level reactive operations are simulated using production rules and high-level deliberative control is based on transitions between decisions and plan states, under the influence of belief and goal states stored in appropriate memory buffers. An intermediate process that controls the selection of actions and plans implements a process called contention scheduling (Norman & Shallice, 1986; Shallice, 2002). Glasspool’s demonstration suggests that a theory of cognitive functioning that unifies several very different views of mind may be within reach.
Boxes and arrows, ladders, dominos and the other images of mind discussed in this chapter are just a few of many possible ways of visualising cognition. The future will no doubt bring more. These images give important insights into the nature of cognition, but incomplete ones. A general theory of mind should unify these different perspectives. That task, however, demands more than images and metaphors. Only if we can translate our partial theories into a common, formal framework will we be able to achieve a unified theory that is consistent with the traditional physical account while explaining intentional concepts like belief, goal and commitment, and perhaps even ruach, leb and nepesh.
Anderson, J.R. & Lebiere, C. (1998) The atomic components of thought. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Baader, F., Valvanese, D., McGuinness, D., Nardi, D., & Patel-Schneider, P. (eds) (2003) The Description logic handbook: Theory, Implementation and Applications, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Forgy, C. & McDermott, J. (1977) OPS, a domain independent production system language. Proc. 5th Int. Joint Conf. Artifical Intelligence, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 933-939.