Control of Cognitive Processes
One of the most challenging problems facing cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience is to explain how mental processes are voluntarily controlled, allowing the computational resources of the brain to be selected flexibly and deployed to achieve changing goals. The eighteenth of the celebrated international symposia on Attention and Performance focused on this problem, seeking to banish or at least deconstruct the "homunculus": that conveniently intelligent but opaque agent still lurking within many theories, under the guise of a central executive or supervisory attentional system assumed to direct processes that are not "automatic."
The thirty-two contributions discuss evidence from psychological experiments with healthy and brain-damaged subjects, functional imaging, electrophysiology, and computational modeling. Four sections focus on specific forms of control: of visual attention, of perception-action coupling, of task-switching and dual-task performance, and of multistep tasks. The other three sections extend the interdisciplinary approach, with chapters on the neural substrate of control, studies of control disorders, and computational simulations. The progress achieved in fractionating, localizing, and modeling control functions, and in understanding the interaction between stimulus-driven and voluntary control, takes research on control in the mind/brain to a new level of sophistication.