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Cognition, Brain, & Behavior

Cognition, Brain, & Behavior

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Since it was introduced to the English-speaking world in 1962, Lev Vygotsky’s Thought and Language has become recognized as a classic foundational work of cognitive science. Its 1962 English translation must certainly be considered one of the most important and influential books ever published by the MIT Press. In this highly original exploration of human mental development, Vygotsky analyzes the relationship between words and consciousness, arguing that speech is social in its origins and that only as children develop does it become internalized verbal thought.

Edited by Barry E. Stein

Scientists’ attempts to understand the physiology underlying our apprehension of the physical world was long dominated by a focus on the individual senses. The 1980s saw the beginning of systematic efforts to examine interactions among different sensory modalities at the level of the single neuron. And by the end of the 1990s, a recognizable and multidisciplinary field of “multisensory processes” had emerged.

Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist

What links conscious experience of pain, joy, color, and smell to bioelectrical activity in the brain? How can anything physical give rise to nonphysical, subjective, conscious states? Christof Koch has devoted much of his career to bridging the seemingly unbridgeable gap between the physics of the brain and phenomenal experience. This engaging book—part scientific overview, part memoir, part futurist speculation—describes Koch's search for an empirical explanation for consciousness.

In development for thirty years, Soar is a general cognitive architecture that integrates knowledge-intensive reasoning, reactive execution, hierarchical reasoning, planning, and learning from experience, with the goal of creating a general computational system that has the same cognitive abilities as humans. In contrast, most AI systems are designed to solve only one type of problem, such as playing chess, searching the Internet, or scheduling aircraft departures.

Explanation, Discovery, and Conceptual Change

Many disciplines, including philosophy, history, and sociology, have attempted to make sense of how science works. In this book, Paul Thagard examines scientific development from the interdisciplinary perspective of cognitive science. Cognitive science combines insights from researchers in many fields: philosophers analyze historical cases, psychologists carry out behavioral experiments, neuroscientists perform brain scans, and computer modelers write programs that simulate thought processes.

The Social Making of Agency and Intentionality

In Open Minds, Wolfgang Prinz offers the novel claim that agency and intentionality are first perceived and understood in others, and that it is only through practices and discourses of social mirroring that individuals come to apply these features to themselves and to shape their architectures for volition and cognition accordingly.

Analogous Processes on Different Levels

We form individual memories by a process known as consolidation: the conversion of immediate and fleeting bits of information into a stable and accessible representation of facts and events. These memories provide a version of the past that helps us navigate the present and is critical to individual identity. In this book, Thomas Anastasio, Kristen Ann Ehrenberger, Patrick Watson, and Wenyi Zhang propose that social groups form collective memories by analogous processes.

How Evolution Made Humans Unique

Over the last three million years or so, our lineage has diverged sharply from those of our great ape relatives. Change has been rapid (in evolutionary terms) and pervasive. Morphology, life history, social life, sexual behavior, and foraging patterns have all shifted sharply away from those of the other great apes. In The Evolved Apprentice, Kim Sterelny argues that the divergence stems from the fact that humans gradually came to enrich the learning environment of the next generation.

Why a System That Shouldn't Work at All Works So Well

Voters often make irrational decisions based on inaccurate and irrelevant information. Politicians are often inept, corrupt, or out of touch with the will of the people. Elections can be determined by the design of the ballot and the gerrymandered borders of a district. And yet, despite voters who choose candidates according to the boxer–brief dichotomy and politicians who struggle to put together a coherent sentence, democracy works exceptionally well: citizens of democracies are healthier, happier, and freer than citizens of other countries.

Although our physical abilities clearly decline as we age, cognitive decline in healthy old age is neither universal nor inevitable. In Nurturing the Older Brain and Mind, Pamela Greenwood and Raja Parasuraman show that scientific research does not support the popular notion of the inexorable and progressive effects of cognitive aging in all older adults.

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