Social interaction requires social cognition—the ability to perceive, interpret, and explain the actions of others. This ability fundamentally relies on the concepts of intention and intentionality. For example, people distinguish sharply between intentional and unintentional behavior; identify the intentions underlying others' behavior; explain completed actions with reference to intentions, beliefs, and desires; and evaluate the social worth of actions using the concepts of intentionality and responsibility.
Spatial competence is a central aspect of human adaptation. To understand human cognitive functioning, we must understand how people code the locations of things, how they navigate in the world, and how they represent and mentally manipulate spatial information. Until recently three approaches have dominated thinking about spatial development. Followers of Piaget claim that infants are born without knowledge of space or a conception of permanent objects that occupy space. They develop such knowledge through experience and manipulation of their environment.
In this two-volume set Leonard Talmy defines the field of cognitive semantics. He approaches the question of how language organizes conceptual material both at a general level and by analyzing a crucial set of particular conceptual domains: space and time, motion and location, causation and force interaction, and attention and viewpoint. Talmy maintains that these are among the most fundamental parameters by which language structures conception.
One of the most important and controversial topics in the field of visual attention is the nature of the units of attentional selection. Traditional models have characterized attention in spatial terms, as a "spotlight" that moves around the visual field, applying processing resources to whatever falls within that spatial region. Recent models of attention, in contrast, suggest that in some cases the underlying units of selection are discrete visual objects and that attention may be limited by the number of objects that can be simultaneously selected.
This wide-ranging collection of essays is inspired by the memory of the cognitive psychologist John Macnamara, whose influential contributions to language and concept acquisition have provided the basis for numerous research programs. The areas covered by the essays include the foundations of language and thought, congnitive and linguistic development, and mathematical approaches to cognition.
How do children learn that the word "dog" refers not to all four-legged animals, and not just to Ralph, but to all members of a particular species? How do they learn the meanings of verbs like "think," adjectives like "good," and words for abstract entities such as "mortgage" and "story"? The acquisition of word meaning is one of the fundamental issues in the study of mind.
In the early 1960s, the bold project of the emerging field of cognition was to put the human mind under the scrutiny of rational inquiry, through the conjoined efforts of philosophy, linguistics, computer science, psychology, and neuroscience. Forty years later, cognitive science is a flourishing academic field. The contributions to this collection, written in honor of Jacques Mehler, a founder of the field of psycholinguistics, assess the progress of cognitive science. The questions addressed include: What have we learned or not learned about language, brain, and cognition?
Since the 1970s the cognitive sciences have offered multidisciplinary ways of understanding the mind and cognition. The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences (MITECS) is a landmark, comprehensive reference work that represents the methodological and theoretical diversity of this changing field.
A machine for language? Certainly, say the neurophysiologists, busy studying the language specializations of the human brain and trying to identify their evolutionary antecedents. Linguists such as Noam Chomsky talk about machinelike "modules" in the brain for syntax, arguing that language is more an instinct (a complex behavior triggered by simple environmental stimuli) than an acquired skill like riding a bicycle.