psychology essay

Goals of this course… • Outline the basics of our visuospatial perceptual systems

• Establish and evaluate the two main competing theories of representation and cognition – symbolic and non- symbolic / embodied.

• Investigate cognitive processes and how they relate to the embodied experiences of visual and spatial perception

• Explore the symbol grounding problem and the nature of “understanding” something

• Discuss the current and future state of cognitive science as a discipline

• Expand your mind dude

How to succeed in this course 1. Come to class engaged and prepared to think

2. Ask questions when things are unclear • Do NOT hesitate! If no questions are asked, I’ll assume it’s


3. Don’t get caught up in writing down everything I say – take notes strategically • I will audio record and post my lectures, unless this is abused • A good strategy – one sentence per slide summing up takeaway point • Focus on ENGAGING with the material, not mindlessly copying me

4. Keep up with all readings • Readings are fair game on RPPQs • I’ll make sure to give you a discussion section in between when the

reading is assigned and when it is quizzed on

5. Take advantage of discussion sections • You can go over readings and discuss your projects and homework


6. Get an early start on your project proposal

7. Review material every weekend

Introduction to Visual and Spatial Cognition



Close your eyes and relax…

How did you answer these questions? • Did any visual imagery come to mind while

answering these questions? How much did you “will” this?

• Did you imagine what it would be like to actually be there, or do the action? How real did this seem?

• Can you imagine things you’ve never done?

• Why is blue “cold”?

• When adding apples, did you visualize the apples? Did you intend to do this, or did you just do it?

• When solving the second math problem, how did you keep track of the numbers?



Visual and Spatial Cognition • The idea that our visual perception, bodily

perception, spatial awareness, and sensorimotor abilities are involved with (necessary for?) cognition.

• How “thinking” utilizes perceptual processes, especially visual and spatial ones

• How “thinking” utilizes motor processes, specifically moving through and interacting with an environment

What is mind?

Mind-Body Problem • Dualism – Mind and body are

separate entities.

• “Although I possess a body with which I am very intimately conjoined. . . . it is certain that this (that is to say, my soul by which I am what I am) is entirely and absolutely distinct from my body, and can exist without it.”


• “Since our inner experiences consist of reproductions, and combinations of sensory impressions, the concept of a soul without a body seem to me to be empty and devoid of meaning. ”

– Einstein



Penfield Experiment

Desmurget et al., 2009

Artificial Intelligence

• If dualism is wrong, and mind is not some ethereal quality…

• Then we should be able to build an artificial brain, and therefore an artificial mind.



Turing and Computers

• Turing machine – theoretical computer that can calculate anything calculable.

• Given an input and a current state, provides proper output.

Brains as Turing Machines? • Input comes in • Input represented as

symbols (in this case, binary values)

• Symbols operated on according to rules (and based on state of the system)

• Rules transform input symbols into output symbols

• Information is then output • How your laptop works,

essentially. But is this how the mind works?

Side note: What is a “symbol”? • A symbol is anything that stands

for / represents something else

• This is not a pipe (but it is a symbol of a pipe).

• The digit “2” is a symbol. The quantity two is not.

• A map is a symbol. The actual location is not.

• The word “dog” is a symbol. My dog itself is not a symbol. But this picture of my dog is also a symbol. • Are the symbols “dog” and the

picture of my dog equivalent? Is one less symbolic than the other?



Artificial Intelligence • What sort of things are symbolic processors and

Turing machines good at? What aren’t they good at?

• Original AI using “Turing style” symbolic processing not successful at many “human” tasks. Modern AI works a bit differently, and has had more success.

• Two forms of artificial intelligence • Weak AI – what we currently have – AI that can do

human-like tasks, such as object recognition, driving, or speech processing. Built for one specific task.

• Strong AI – what we do not currently have – AI that is indistinguishable from a human mind and can do all that humans can do to (at least) the same ability as a human.

• What differences exist between modern weak AI and human intelligence?

How can we know that an artificial intelligence has “mind” in the same way

that we do?

• If there were machines bearing the image of our bodies, and capable of imitating our actions as far as it is [practically] possible, there would still remain two most certain tests whereby to know that they were not therefore, really men. Of these the first is that they could never use words or other signs arranged in such a manner as is competent in us in order to declare our thoughts to others . . . so as appositely to reply to what is said in its presence. The second test is . . . to act in all the contingencies of life in the way in which our reason makes us act.

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