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Cognitive Neuroscience

Individual Volition and Social Context

Recent scientific findings about human decision making would seem to threaten the traditional concept of the individual conscious will. The will is threatened from "below" by the discovery that our apparently spontaneous actions are actually controlled and initiated from below the level of our conscious awareness, and from "above" by the recognition that we adapt our actions according to social dynamics of which we are seldom aware.

The evolution of cognitive neuroscience has been spurred by the development of increasingly sophisticated investigative techniques to study human cognition. In Methods in Mind, experts examine the wide variety of tools available to cognitive neuroscientists, paying particular attention to the ways in which different methods can be integrated to strengthen empirical findings and how innovative uses for established techniques can be developed. The book will be a uniquely valuable resource for the researcher seeking to expand his or her repertoire of investigative techniques.

Science tries to understand human action from two perspectives, the cognitive and the volitional. The volitional approach, in contrast to the more dominant "outside-in" studies of cognition, looks at actions from the inside out, examining how actions are formed and informed by internal conditions. In Disorders of Volition, scholars from a range of disciplines seek to advance our understanding of the processes supporting voluntary action by addressing conditions in which the will is impaired.

A Neural Theory of Language

In From Molecule to Metaphor, Jerome Feldman proposes a theory of language and thought that treats language not as an abstract symbol system but as a human biological ability that can be studied as a function of the brain, as vision and motor control are studied. This theory, he writes, is a "bridging theory" that works from extensive knowledge at two ends of a causal chain to explicate the links between.

Why do we divide our world into contraries? Why do we perceive and interpret so many of life's contraries as mutually exclusive, either/or dichotomies such as individual~collective, self~other, body~mind, nature~nurture, cooperation~competition? Throughout history, many have recognized that truth may well lie in between such polar opposites.

Our intuition tells us that we, our conscious selves, cause our own voluntary acts. Yet scientists have long questioned this; Thomas Huxley, for example, in 1874 compared mental events to a steam whistle that contributes nothing to the work of a locomotive. New experimental evidence (most notable, work by Benjamin Libet and Daniel Wegner) has brought the causal status of human behavior back to the forefront of intellectual discussion. This multidisciplinary collection advances the debate, approaching the question from a variety of perspectives.

From Neural Computation to Optimality-Theoretic Grammar Volume I: Cognitive Architecture
From Neural Computation to Optimality-Theoretic Grammar Volume II: Linguistic and Philosophical Implications

Despite their apparently divergent accounts of higher cognition, cognitive theories based on neural computation and those employing symbolic computation can in fact strengthen one another. To substantiate this controversial claim, this landmark work develops in depth a cognitive architecture based in neural computation but supporting formally explicit higher-level symbolic descriptions, including new grammar formalisms.

Consciousness as a Biological Phenomenon

The question of consciousness is perhaps the most significant problem still unsolved by science. In Inner Presence, Antti Revonsuo proposes a novel approach to the study of consciousness that integrates findings from philosophy, psychology, and cognitive neuroscience into a coherent theoretical framework.

People Thinking about Thinking People

Social neuroscience uses the methodologies and tools developed to measure mental and brain function to study social cognition, emotion, and behavior.