The Year of Open Science: Cognitive science

To highlight the Year of Open Science, we spoke to acquisitions editor Philip Laughlin about what open access means for the field of cognitive science

Philip Laughlin
Senior acquisitions editor Philip Laughlin.

The Biden-Harris administration declared 2023 the Year of Open Science in the United States, offering an opportunity to advance national open science policy and provide greater and more equitable access to research in key areas of scientific study.

The MIT Press centers open access in much of the work we do; we take pride in making high quality, well-researched scholarship freely available to the public. In honor of the Year of Open Science, we spoke to Philip Laughlin, senior acquisitions editor of cognitive science, about the impact OA work has had in his field.

“In his 2012 Essential Knowledge series book Open Access, Peter Suber argued that OA publishing should not be confined to journal articles. He recommended ‘a different tactic: treat journal articles as low hanging fruit, but treat books as higher-hanging fruit rather than forbidden fruit.’ Although amused by the language, I was skeptical of the suggestion,” Laughlin said. “OA might be OK for the occasional book, but it seemed unlikely to me that it would achieve widespread adoption any time soon. Well, a decade later, over 90% of the authors I’ve approached about participating in the MIT Press’s Direct to Open platform have agreed to sign on. Most enthusiastically so. Clearly, ‘any time soon’ is now. I’m delighted to offer this option to so many authors of scholarly monographs.”

Read on to explore several books from Phil’s list, and discover even more cognitive science titles on our website.

The Neurocognitive Theory of Dreaming: The Where, How, When, What, and Why of Dreams by G. William Domhoff

G. William Domhoff’s neurocognitive theory of dreaming is the only theory of dreaming that makes full use of the new neuroimaging findings on all forms of spontaneous thought and shows how well they explain the results of rigorous quantitative studies of dream content. Domhoff identifies five separate issues—neural substrates, cognitive processes, the psychological meaning of dream content, evolutionarily adaptive functions, and historically invented cultural uses—and then explores how they are intertwined. He also discusses the degree to which there is symbolism in dreams, the development of dreaming in children, and the relative frequency of emotions in the dreams of children and adults.

Consequences of Language: From Primary to Enhanced Intersubjectivity by N. J. Enfield and Jack Sidnell

Where scholars have long wondered what it is about humans that makes language possible, N. J. Enfield and Jack Sidnell ask instead, What is it about humans that is made possible by language? In Consequences of Language, their objective is to understand what modern language really is and to identify its logical and conceptual consequences for social life. Central to this undertaking is the concept of intersubjectivity, the open sharing of subjective experience. There is, Enfield and Sidnell contend, a uniquely human form of intersubjectivity, and it is essentially intertwined with language in two ways: a primary form of intersubjectivity was necessary for language to have begun evolving in our species in the first place and then language, through its defining reflexive properties, transformed the nature of our intersubjectivity.

Interdisciplinarity in the Making: Models and Methods in Frontier Science by Nancy J. Nersessian

In this first full-scale, long-term cognitive ethnography by a philosopher of science, Nancy J. Nersessian offers an account of how scientists at the interdisciplinary frontiers of bioengineering create novel problem-solving methods. Bioengineering scientists model complex dynamical biological systems using concepts, methods, materials, and other resources drawn primarily from engineering. They aim to understand these systems sufficiently to control or intervene in them. What Nersessian examines here is how cutting-edge bioengineering scientists integrate the cognitive, social, material, and cultural dimensions of practice. Her findings and conclusions have broad implications for researchers in philosophy, science studies, cognitive science, and interdisciplinary studies, as well as scientists, educators, policy makers, and funding agencies.

The Entangled Brain: How Perception, Cognition, and Emotion Are Woven Together by Luiz Pessoa

Popular neuroscience accounts often focus on specific mind-brain aspects like addiction, cognition, or memory, but The Entangled Brain tackles a much bigger question: What kind of object is the brain? Neuroscientist Luiz Pessoa describes the brain as a highly networked, interconnected system that cannot be neatly decomposed into a set of independent parts. One can’t point to the brain and say, “This is where emotion happens” (or any other mental faculty). Pessoa argues that only by understanding how large-scale neural circuits combine multiple and diverse signals can we truly appreciate how the brain supports the mind.

Constructing Science: Connecting Causal Reasoning to Scientific Thinking in Young Children by Deena Skolnick Weisberg and David M. Sobel

Young children have remarkable capacities for causal reasoning, which are part of the foundation of their scientific thinking abilities. In Constructing Science, Deena Weisberg and David Sobel trace the ways that young children’s sophisticated causal reasoning abilities combine with other cognitive, metacognitive, and social factors to develop into a more mature set of scientific thinking abilities. Conceptualizing scientific thinking as the suite of skills that allows people to generate hypotheses, solve problems, and explain aspects of the world, Weisberg and Sobel argue that understanding how this capacity develops can offer insights into how we can become a more scientifically literate society.

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