The Cognitive Revolution | Summary and Q&A

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October 13, 2011
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Harvard University
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The Cognitive Revolution

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Summary

In this video, Steve Pinker, a Harvard College professor, discusses the cognitive revolution and the challenges of studying the mind scientifically. He explains how the school of behaviorism dominated psychology in the mid-20th century, dismissing the concept of mental contents. However, scholars with ties to Harvard started to rethink this idea, leading to the emergence of cognitive science, which incorporates experimental psychology, linguistics, computer science, artificial intelligence, and neuroscience.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the cognitive revolution?

The cognitive revolution refers to the modern scientific study of the mind, which started at Harvard. It marked a shift in psychology towards investigating mental processes and contents.

Q: What was the dominant perspective in psychology before the cognitive revolution?

The dominant perspective in psychology before the cognitive revolution was behaviorism. This school of thought rejected the idea of mental contents and focused solely on observable behavior.

Q: Why was the concept of mental contents problematic for scientists studying the mind?

The concept of mental contents (such as thoughts, emotions, and plans) presented a challenge for scientists studying the mind because they couldn't be directly observed, tasted, or felt. Scientists prefer to study things that can be seen, measured, and manipulated.

Q: How did the scholars associated with Harvard contribute to rethinking the idea of mental contents?

Scholars associated with Harvard in the 1950s challenged the dominance of behaviorism and started to reevaluate the dismissal of mental contents. They questioned whether it was unscientific to attribute internal states to human beings, considering that even computers have similar internal states.

Q: What fields does cognitive science incorporate?

Cognitive science includes experimental psychology, linguistics, computer science, artificial intelligence, and neuroscience. These disciplines collectively study the mind and its processes from various perspectives.

Q: How does linguistics contribute to cognitive science?

Linguistics is a field of study that examines language and its structures. Linguistic theories, such as those developed by Noam Chomsky, who was a Harvard Fellow, provide insights into the cognitive aspects of language acquisition, processing, and representation.

Q: What role does computer science play in cognitive science?

Computer science plays a significant role in cognitive science by providing computational models and algorithms to simulate and understand cognitive processes. Computers allow researchers to test and analyze theories about memory, thinking, and problem-solving.

Q: How does artificial intelligence contribute to cognitive science?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is closely tied to cognitive science as it seeks to develop machines and computer systems that can mimic human cognitive abilities. AI research contributes to understanding cognitive processes and their potential implementation in intelligent systems.

Q: What is the connection between cognitive science and neuroscience?

Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system, including the brain, and its relation to behavior and cognition. It provides a biological foundation for cognitive science, as it investigates the neural mechanisms underlying mental processes.

Q: How has cognitive science evolved over time?

Cognitive science has evolved to integrate findings and theories from various disciplines. It has expanded its understanding of the mind by combining insights from experimental psychology, linguistics, computer science, artificial intelligence, and neuroscience.

Takeaways

Cognitive science emerged as a response to the dominance of behaviorism and the dismissal of mental contents in psychology. It brought together scholars from various disciplines to study the mind scientifically. By incorporating experimental psychology, linguistics, computer science, artificial intelligence, and neuroscience, cognitive science has made significant progress in understanding the complex nature of human cognition and mental processes. This interdisciplinary approach continues to contribute valuable insights into the workings of the mind.

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