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Cognition, Brain, & Behavior

Cognition, Brain, & Behavior

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A Spatial Theory of Human Thought

Many scholars believe that visual mental imagery plays a key role in reasoning. In Space to Reason, Markus Knauff argues against this view, proposing that visual images are not relevant for reasoning and can even impede the process. He also argues against the claim that human thinking is solely based on abstract symbols and is completely embedded in language. Knauff proposes a third way to think about human reasoning that relies on supramodal spatial layout models, which are more abstract than pictorial images and more concrete than linguistic representations.

We often enjoy the benefits of connecting with nearby, domesticated nature—a city park, a backyard garden. But this book makes the provocative case for the necessity of connecting with wild nature—untamed, unmanaged, not encompassed, self-organizing, and unencumbered and unmediated by technological artifice. We can love the wild. We can fear it. We are strengthened and nurtured by it. As a species, we came of age in a natural world far wilder than today’s, and much of the need for wildness still exists within us, body and mind.

Foundations of an Emerging Discipline

The emerging field of action science is characterized by a diversity of theoretical and methodological approaches that share the basic functional belief that evolution has optimized cognitive systems to serve the demands of action. This book brings together the constitutive approaches of action science in a single source, covering the relation of action to such cognitive functions as perception, attention, memory, and volition. Each chapter offers a tutorial-like description of a major line of inquiry, written by a leading scientist in the field.

Basic Minds without Content

Most of what humans do and experience is best understood in terms of dynamically unfolding interactions with the environment. Many philosophers and cognitive scientists now acknowledge the critical importance of situated, environment-involving embodied engagements as a means of understanding basic minds—including basic forms of human mentality. Yet many of these same theorists hold fast to the view that basic minds are necessarily or essentially contentful—that they represent conditions the world might be in.

How do we make decisions? Conventional decision theory tells us only which behavioral choices we ought to make if we follow certain axioms. In real life, however, our choices are governed by cognitive mechanisms shaped over evolutionary time through the process of natural selection. Evolution has created strong biases in how and when we process information, and it is these evolved cognitive building blocks--from signal detection and memory to individual and social learning--that provide the foundation for our choices.

A Meta-Meta-Analysis

Cognitive neuroscientists increasingly claim that brain images generated by new brain imaging technologies reflect, correlate, or represent cognitive processes. In this book, William Uttal warns against these claims, arguing that, despite its utility in anatomic and physiological applications, brain imaging research has not provided consistent evidence for correlation with cognition.

How is the information we gather from the world through our sensory and motor apparatus converted into language? It is obvious that there is an interface between language and sensorimotor cognition because we can talk about what we see and do. In this book, Alistair Knott argues that this interface is more direct than commonly assumed. He proposes that the syntax of a concrete sentence--a sentence that reports a direct sensorimotor experience--closely reflects the sensorimotor processes involved in the experience.

Language Experience and the Recognition of Spoken Words

Understanding speech in our native tongue seems natural and effortless; listening to speech in a nonnative language is a different experience. In this book, Anne Cutler argues that listening to speech is a process of native listening because so much of it is exquisitely tailored to the requirements of the native language. Her cross-linguistic study (drawing on experimental work in languages that range from English and Dutch to Chinese and Japanese) documents what is universal and what is language specific in the way we listen to spoken language.

Science, Totems, and the Technological Species

We need nature for our physical and psychological well-being. Our actions reflect this when we turn to beloved pets for companionship, vacation in spots of natural splendor, or spend hours working in the garden. Yet we are also a technological species and have been since we fashioned tools out of stone. Thus one of this century's central challenges is to embrace our kinship with a more-than-human world—"our totemic self"—and integrate that kinship with our scientific culture and technological selves.

Is psychoanalysis possible in the Islamic Republic of Iran? This is the question that Gohar Homayounpour poses to herself, and to us, at the beginning of this memoir of displacement, nostalgia, love, and pain. Twenty years after leaving her country, Homayounpour, an Iranian, Western-trained psychoanalyst, returns to Tehran to establish a psychoanalytic practice. When an American colleague exclaims, “I do not think that Iranians can free-associate!” Homayounpour responds that in her opinion Iranians do nothing but. Iranian culture, she says, revolves around stories.

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