Mind, Body, World: Foundations of Cognitive Science
Michael R. W. Dawson, University of Alberta
Copyright Year: 2013
ISBN 13: 9781927356173
Publisher: Athabasca University Press
Conditions of Use
The book contains a very thorough review of the origins and key approaches found in Cognitive Science - as the title claims. The table of contents, list of tables / figures, bibliography, etc. are complete and supportive. That said, the book is... read more
The book contains a very thorough review of the origins and key approaches found in Cognitive Science - as the title claims. The table of contents, list of tables / figures, bibliography, etc. are complete and supportive.
That said, the book is more of a presentation of an argument for a transition in the field - it outlines the field thoroughly, but appears to come from the perspective of demonstrating the importance of the concluding chapter.
There is no index / glossary.
Content is presented thoroughly and accurately, but some of the levels of detail represent the author’s background in the Connectionist approach. The ideas of this approach are more thoroughly explained from the ground-up, while other areas are explained in more of a “survey” approach, and given examples in those sections have fewer details. The approach of music as an area of study and a metaphor for the field are also perhaps over-represented.
The book is clearly targeted towards a current audience at the time of publication. The argument perhaps creates artificial divisions in explaining the field for the purposes of demonstrating the various ideas and approaches, which I would argue are less divided today than they originally were. However, the book is presented as an overview of the foundations of the field, so it should stand in perpetuity, with newer content appended to the ends of chapters and subsections.
Generally speaking, the book is well written and does provide background and definitions for the terms and ideas. However, this level of background / explanation can vary from topic to topic. Sometimes the topics explored are dense, and only given a cursory unpacking or explanation, while others are explained in detail.
The text maintained several threads throughout the book (schools of thought, backgrounds, experimental approaches, etc.) and each one was represented consistently.
The book generally built one argument from beginning to end. There were a large amount of references to other sections, both allusions to future discussion and reference to previous discussion. However, ideas did tend to be reiterated, at least in a cursory manner, when they reoccurred.
The book is clearly structured to flow well within the author’s classroom structure - the argument is cohesive from beginning to end, and reflects an interesting approach for a course in the field.
The chapters themselves were quite long and dense - and while they were divided into subsections, there were clearly at least 3 layers of complexity (e.g. chapters usually had 2 or 3 major sections with their own subsections) that were not differentiated effectively in the book structure.
The book was clearly structured, and provided a strong thread of its argument throughout the work. The chapter beginnings, endings, and certain subsections within the chapters kept tying back to the larger thread of the thesis of the book.
Content was presented in a typical document flow, with a thorough table of contents, etc. and significant breaks for chapters. That said, the chapters were very long and materials (e.g. figures) might be re-referenced 20 pages or more after their initial introduction. Advanced PDF functionality (e.g. document linking) could have been useful.
The book was very well written and edited.
The book was clear about its origins and influences in mostly European sciences and philosophy (mirroring the field of Cognitive Science itself). Examples were mostly drawn from extant work, and contained innocuous materials (e.g. considering the geographical layout of Alberta, Canada).
The author states upfront that this text is not an introductory text to Cognitive Psychology. Instead, it focuses on the interdisciplinary aspects of Cognitive Science and is best for students who already have a foundation in principles of... read more
The author states upfront that this text is not an introductory text to Cognitive Psychology. Instead, it focuses on the interdisciplinary aspects of Cognitive Science and is best for students who already have a foundation in principles of cognition. Because this text focuses on the more computational approaches in Cognitive Science, I plan to use this as supplemental content to introduce students to the newer, more interdisciplinary field of Cognitive Science, and I will introduce this later in the semester so students already have a foundation in Cognitive Psychology for content that overlaps and is extended in this textbook. I think the text does do a good job with introducing students to the newer ideas in the field, for which it may not be as easy to rely on robust methodologies or experimental data.
My expertise as a Cognitive Psychologist does not overlap with all of the topics in this textbook, however for the topics that I do have expertise in I can say that to the best of my knowledge the content is accurate. The book is impressive in its breadth of coverage and discussing themes of Cognitive Science as they relate to many areas, including perception, language and more learning-focused areas of Cognitive Psychology.
As the author states upfront, the textbook is focused on the ideas and foundations of cognitive science, so a lot of landmark studies, theories, and models are discussed. Because the text is not meant to focus on methodologies and empirical data, it doesn’t have the most current information, but I don’t think that diminishes the value of the text as that wasn’t its intended purpose. On the other hand, I’m not sure how easy and straightforward it would be to make necessary updates, or for instructors to update content in their course if they chose to go beyond what is provided in the textbook. As I plan to use the text to introduce students to the foundations of cognitive science, the textbook fulfills the role I need it to in my courses.
The text is written accessibly and is very conversational, the author does a good job of guiding you through the chapters as if they were telling a story. I think students will enjoy the summary/overview sections of each chapter, I especially thought they were clear, as well as the elements of connectionist and cognitive science chapter. I’ve always had a difficult time understanding these concepts but they’re discussed in very plain language here, which is great for comprehension.
The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework, as well as its discourse and vocabulary, which makes it easier for students to follow along and create a solid base of understanding as they scaffold in content from one chapter to the next.
I don’t think the text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course. Because the text builds on itself, later chapters won’t be easily understood without having first read the earlier chapters. As an instructor, this makes it more difficult for me to choose selected chapters unless I was just going to have students sample the earlier chapters of the textbook for their comprehension, or use examples from other chapters to interweave with my lectures on different chapters from Cognitive Psychology to provide a different perspective. For example, talking about the semantic network model in another text I have and then introducing other connectionist frameworks from a selected chapter in this text.
The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion. The textbook follows the approach and order of topics laid out by the author at the start in a way that makes sense and fits the themes of the text content.
The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader. I do think more figures could help break apart the large sections of writing and quotes, and offer students the chance to test themselves or synthesize content, digest and apply ideas. It would be nice to have some examples to work into a lecture in this way or an exercise that students could work on.
The text contains no grammatical errors. It is very well written in that respect.
The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way, but it does not specifically make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds. This is not a Social Cognition book and that might be why such environmental/societal context factors like race, gender, etc. are not discussed. Possibly, either the textbook or individual instructors can work to relate the content in the textbook to themes in perception, learning, categorization, decision-making, reasoning, and judgments within cognitive psychology to discuss things like thinking fast and slow, heuristics, algorithms, and more specific differences in cultural thinking (e.g., east and west differences).
This book is not meant to be a standalone textbook for a course, and I would not use it as such; however, as a supplementary text, I think it is rich with information that is presented in a fresh way. I found myself drawing themes from the content that I think would greatly help students understand individual chapters that are so often not grouped together this way on the basis of thematic content and relations.
This text is comprehensive, authoritative, and well-cited. It provides a deep and fascinating tour through the momentous ideas and technological breakthroughs that gave rise to the interdisciplinary field of cognitive science (a confluence of... read more
This text is comprehensive, authoritative, and well-cited. It provides a deep and fascinating tour through the momentous ideas and technological breakthroughs that gave rise to the interdisciplinary field of cognitive science (a confluence of psychology, computer science, philosophy, linguistics, and more). The text's emphasis is on the ideas, the big picture, rather than the nitty-gritty details. It explains the concepts, themes, and approaches of three competing and complementary schools of thought in cognitive science: classical, connectionist, and embodied.
The text introduces readers to many important ideas, such as: levels of analysis, Turing machines, cybernetics, well- versus ill-defined problems, dualism, syntax versus semantics, basics of logic and computation, cognitive architecture, homunculi, algorithms, umwelt, bats, ants, mirror neurons, parallel versus distributed processing, optical illusions, visual pop-out, the Chinese room, the extended mind hypothesis, and so on. It covers the important ideas of major contributors to cognitive science (e.g., Anderson, Boole, Brooks, Chomsky, Clark, Dennett, Fodor, Gibson, Jackendoff, Kosslyn, Marr, McClelland, Miller, Minsky, Neisser, Newell, Norman, Paivio, Pinker, Pylyshyn, Rumelhart, Searle, Simon). Almost everything I could think of that should be here is here (handful of exceptions: heuristics, big O notation, dual processes).
The index appears useful enough, but there is no glossary, which is unfortunate. A glossary would be very helpful for terms that student readers may not be familiar with (e.g., agent, paradigm, proposition, stigmergy).
The text is carefully written and well-cited. I found no obvious errors.
The only potential bias I saw was the amount of space and emphasis given to the work of Zenon Pylyshyn, who was the author's Ph.D. advisor. I don't really see this as a problem, but it's good to keep in mind. Some writing by Stephen Kosslyn on the visual imagery debate could be assigned as a counterpoint.
The text provides an excellent history of the ideas, problems, and approaches of cognitive science. It weaves together various strands in a useful way. It is unlikely to become obsolete any time soon. Reading a synthesis like this may actually mitigate further fragmentation of the discipline.
There is newer work that is not included in the text, but that doesn't diminish its value.
Barsalou's work on grounded cognition and perceptual symbol systems could be a good addition to the embodied school of thought or hybrid theories.
The text is clear and direct from the start, though it does not contain much exposition. This is not a text that uses a lot of examples to help the reader understand concepts. The text can be dense in places (though I think this is unavoidable), and it uses some vocabulary that a student reader may not be familiar with. The writing style is clean and straightforward, but the vocabulary is advanced. In some cases, new vocabulary is explained, or can be inferred from context. In other cases, it's not. A glossary would be very useful. It's hard for me, as someone with expertise in cognitive science, to predict which vocabulary and ideas would be most difficult for a student encountering them for the first time. Any instructor using this text should actively solicit ongoing student feedback to find out which new terms and ideas they need help understanding.
The text returns consistently to themes throughout. The three schools of thought (classical, connectionist, and embodied) appear and reappear consistently. The schools-of-thought framework, as well as a levels-of-analysis framework, guide the text coherently. The text appropriately refers to topics in past chapters and future chapters.
Each of the 9 chapters has well-labeled subsections. An instructor could conceivably omit subsections from required reading.
Chapters 1 and 2 are necessary reading. Chapters 3-5 could each stand on their own, as each of them details one of the three major schools of thought (classical, connectionist, and embodied).
Chapter 6 is an interesting topic not typically covered in texts on cognitive science: music. I think it's a good value-added contribution, as it helps show how the three schools of thought approach a subject. Do note that the chapter works on multiple levels (with music as both as metaphor and a subject of inquiry). It would really benefit from audio clips for students unfamiliar with classical music. If time is limited, this chapter could be skipped over.
Chapters 7 and 9 could go together. Chapter 7 covers some very important ideas that differentiate between the three schools of thought (or do they?), and sets up the possibility of hybrid theories. Chapter 9 ties everything together.
Chapter 8 could be a stand-alone about vision.
Each chapter has a helpful introduction and conclusion section that helps situate it with respect to the rest of the book.
The organization makes sense. The text lays out its structure in the beginning, and sticks to it.
Chapter overviews (introductions and conclusions) provide good guidance to readers. Rhetorical framing questions are asked at transitions between sections, to help guide the reader's thought process.
Let's be clear though, this is a reading that requires effort on behalf of the reader. It is an intellectual journey that will reward dedication.
The PDF is neat and clean. It looks like a book. The text and figures are all easily readable on my computer screen. The PDF does have sections, so it's possible to jump to chapters. But there are no hyperlinks in the textual table of contents (pages v through viii) or in the index, and those would have been useful.
I saw no grammatical errors. The writing style is clear, but vocabulary is advanced.
I did not notice anything culturally insensitive or offensive. The text does not rely on examples from everyday life, so there is little room for bias in terms of direct relevance to students. The chapter on music focuses on European and American music. The research and theories described by the text come from European and North American scholars.
This is an excellent book on cognitive science. The book has a lot of ground to cover and it covers it well. It adeptly weaves the historical threads that combine to form the interdisciplinary field of cognitive science. It helps the reader see the big picture. Almost all of the big ideas of cognitive science are in here, explained and explored patiently, and with appropriate nuance. Though the reader's effort is required.
This text would be good for use with advanced undergraduates or graduate students. Readers will get more out of it if they have any existing background in psychology. Most of the contents of this book will fall within the student reader's "zone of proximal development" (Vygotsky), and thus the reader will benefit from scaffolding provided by an instructor (note the book itself dos not provide any pedagogical tools). This book is best paired with a good teacher.
That this quality of text is available for free is amazing. This is a very valuable resource.
Though the textbook does cover the areas and ideas of the subject appropriately, I believe that it focuses more heavily on the computational side of the cognitive science field. Furthermore, the author states in the Preface that not only is this... read more
Though the textbook does cover the areas and ideas of the subject appropriately, I believe that it focuses more heavily on the computational side of the cognitive science field. Furthermore, the author states in the Preface that not only is this book geared towards senior level undergraduates, it should also only be used as supplementary material, which I completely agree with. The textbook also focuses more on the foundations of cognitive science, rather than the methodologies or recent empirical data on the topic.
Lastly, the textbook includes an index but not a glossary. In my opinion, a glossary would have been helpful as the concepts are more complex than most.
As a graduate student, I do not have complete mastery over cognitive science. However, many of the topics covered were familiar to me as I’ve learned about them in my classes. Therefore, all I can say to that regard is that to my knowledge, the content is accurate, error-free, and unbiased.
This textbook focused mainly on the foundations of cognitive science, therefore many of the texts cited were from before the early 2000s. Though this does not necessarily make the text obsolete, it makes it hard to incorporate later, more recent research. I would have liked to see more integration between earlier works and more recent research. For example, how does work in the field of cognitive science now tie in with the three approaches mentioned in the book? Is there one approach that is more popular than the others? What sorts of works done more recently have been used as evidence for or against some of these approaches?
Though the text is written well, I have strong opinions about the number of quotations used throughout. Rather than paraphrase, the author includes many, long direct quotations. In my opinion, this hinders understanding, especially when there is little explanation as to why this quotation is included. As an example:
“This doctrine has the goal of discovering the trigger features for all neurons (Barlow, 1972, 1995). This is
‘ a description of that activity of a single nerve cell which is transmitted to and influences other nerve cells, and of a nerve cell’s response to such influences from other cells, is a complete enough description for functional understanding of the nervous system.’ (Barlow, 1972, p. 380)”
In this example, the author continues their sentence with a direct quotation. Therefore, the quotation provides the supporting explanation the author needed for their previous statement. However, rarely is it expanded upon further in the text. There is no more information for the confused student who does not understand this quotation. In consequence, the text moves along far too quickly, without taking the time to actually address the topic.
The text is very consistent in its terminology and framework. It referred to things using the same terms throughout, making it easy to follow along.
The book is mainly divided between the three approaches: classical cognitive science, connectionist approach, and embodied cognition. The last section (Chapters 6 & 7) focuses on Classical Music, which ties together the different approaches in terms of one sub-field. However, in order to understand the later chapters, one must first read through the previous ones. In other words, this book builds upon itself heavily; a student would not be able to understand what is happening if reading the last chapters first.
The book follows a logical order; it goes through the three different approaches, starting with classical cognitive science. This makes sense as it came first, hence its name.
On another note, I found it very interesting that the topic of vision is presented last. Many books focus on vision first as we know more about it compared to the other sub-fields.
The text is free of issues, and there was no distortion of any charts, images, or figures. However, I would like to point out the lack of figures in the book. In my opinion, any text could benefit from having more figures, especially in this case where there were so few compared to the total number of pages.
There were little to no grammatical errors throughout the text.
I cannot comment on the book’s cultural relevance as this is an issue that applies to the whole field of cognitive science itself. Because cognitive science focuses on the processes of the mind, there is little emphasis on race and ethnicity (except perhaps in regards to social cognition, which I am not familiar with). As a result, the text has little to no examples that are inclusive of these backgrounds. However, I can say that in no way was the text culturally insensitive or offensive.
Overall, the book was well-written. However, even as a current graduate student I was a bit lost sometimes. There is a huge emphasis on very specific details, which in turn makes it hard to form a larger picture. In my opinion, more summarization and integration are needed in order to fully convey the message this book is trying to achieve.
The text covers a broad swath of intellectual history in the development of the Cognitive Sciences - beginning with the Greeks and discussing developments as recent as 2010. The discussion interweaves perspectives from linguistics, philosophy and... read more
The text covers a broad swath of intellectual history in the development of the Cognitive Sciences - beginning with the Greeks and discussing developments as recent as 2010. The discussion interweaves perspectives from linguistics, philosophy and psychology, showing the driving influence in recent years of computer science in their development - in a way that allows the reader to better understand the interrelationships between these various approaches to the study of cognition.
As a linguist, I feel myself only competent to judge the accuracy of the author's discussion of linguistic theory. The discussion of Chomskyan linguistics appears to me to be accurate, if not hugely detailed or complete. As a discussion of linguistics by a non-linguist, the text is very good. The presentation of linguistic theory includes X-bar theory and the Principles and Parameters approach, all of which is somewhat dated - but, in my opinion, good background for non-linguists and beginning students of linguistics.
As noted above, the linguistic theory presented in the book is not terribly current, but I don't see that as a problem for students who are using the text as background/history on the cognitive sciences,
The writing is crisp and clear, and very readable. Jargon and technical terminology is defined adequately, and used effectively thereafter.
I found no problems with the book's consistency.
The chapter breakdown of the text makes sense, and seems like it would lend itself well to modular presentation. The chapters are substantial, and the sections within them are also pretty meaty - this would not lend itself to very short reading assignments, but would serve students well as a background text that could be used to situate their current research.
The organization of the text is clear and effective.
The text is a plain pdf, and the images within it all look fine. No problems with the interface at all.
I found no grammatical, spelling or typographical errors at all.
The text focuses on a strand of intellectual history that is not particularly inclusive - it is very much a story of Western academic tradition, told in a way that does not reach out to other intellectual traditions. This is a fact about the Cognitive Sciences, and so it's not surprising (or necessarily bad) that the text is situated in that particular tradition. Within that universe, the author does a very good job of integrating many academic disciplines, including those that are deeply at odds with each other, in a way that is respectful and (to the best of my knowledge) quite well-informed about each. In that way, the text is inclusive and respectful.
If I were assigned to teach an advanced undergraduate course introductory to Cognitive Science, or a beginning graduate level course on that topic, I would not hesitate to adopt this as a primary text. The text assumes a level of interest and scholarly experience from the reader that I think would not be appropriate for a lower-division undergraduate course (at least not at my institution). I would consider adopting this as a supplementary (recommended) text for classes at other levels, and I will be keeping it on my virtual bookshelf as a reference about the intellectual history of the Cognitive Sciences. I learned a lot from reading it!
The book is extremely comprehensive. The history and evolution of the specific field of cognitive science, especially as it relates to information processing is examined here. The field fragmented into three differing views of this notion of... read more
The book is extremely comprehensive. The history and evolution of the specific field of cognitive science, especially as it relates to information processing is examined here. The field fragmented into three differing views of this notion of cognition and the author delves deeply into how the separation developed and the meaning of each of the different frameworks for cognitive science. Cognitive science is related to many different areas of science and research which is well explained by the author. This author further examines the relationship between the theoretical bases for each view and the current state of each area, concluding that the three views may someday come together but it hasn't happened yet. The final conclusion being that the classical framework for cognitive science is "the thesis" while the connectionist and embodied cognitive science frameworks are "viable antitheses". The author has firmly developed the groundwork for this reasonable conclusion.
The content is accurate and the background offered for each cognitive processing area discussed is detailed and appropriate. Each area is well cited and referenced.
The content is relevant to a small population of people and the content is up to date as of now. The nature of this textbook, which is to present a historical overview of how cognitive science has gotten to where it is today, will help push the literature in this area on. Thus, this evolving subject matter may quickly morph past the conclusions made by the author. As the literature expands the detailed explanation of the historical account should continue to be relevant while the conclusions and suppositions will likely become out of date. Only time will tell.
The text is very well organized 10/10 and fairly readable 6/10. In my opinion the amount of detail and frequent use of long quotes tends to bog down the reader and diminish the flow of the text. Also I found the authors frequent use of parenthetical phrases more disruptive than helpful. Dawson's writing style is wordy and it seems like the concepts discussed could be described more succinctly. Some of the chapters become difficult to get through. Psychology is replete with jargon, and this area is no different. Dawson does provide solid contextual background for the terminology used here and explains the history of the terms used in detail.
The book is well thought out and consistent. The terminology is carefully considered, well referenced and explained thoroughly. Three differing frameworks are detailed and used consistently throughout the textbook.
The organization of the textbook is well thought out and easy to follow. Also there is strong logic behind the outline followed in this textbook. It starts out as simply a chronological account of the concept of cognitive science, and then draws comparisons between the frameworks. The different chapters on the different viewpoints could be broken into modules and studies independently. The relevance of each makes more sense when taken in the full context however.
Organization: excellent. Structure of the overall argument: excellent. Flow: slow moving, less than optimal.
The display features used in this textbook are done well, they are easy to see and understand. Most of them add detail and support the notions that the author is using to describe certain notions. A few of them seem a bit frivolous and perhaps unnecessary, but as mentioned before simply a lot of detail included here.
Technically I found no grammatical errors in this textbook. My problem with the grammar in this textbook is the use of weak connectors. If the authors searched on "It is" hundreds of these phases would pop up. Most of these phrases begin sentences. Likewise excessive use of the phrases "this is" "that is" "there are" weaken the discussion and lengthen the text. Here is an example from Chapter 9, page 419. "However, it is again fair to say that the contributions of world, body, and mind receive different degrees of emphasis within the three approaches to cognitive science." This sentence could simply be reworded to state "Again, the contributions of world, body, and mind receive different degrees of emphasis within the three approaches to cognitive science" if indeed that needed to be restated at all. The excessive wordiness of the additional prepositions occurs throughout the book. The content could be written more succinctly.
There are no culturally offensive references anywhere in this textbook. The references used are not hypothetical they represent actual researchers who have created the frameworks discussed, thus race and ethnicity are not an issue.
This textbook has a place in the clarification of the cognitive science field and of course the subsequent education of all involved. The place is quite specific to upper division psychology students and instructors interested in this specific area. However, this area does contribute and relate to many different areas of research including Neuroscience, Education, Sociology, Linguistics and others.
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1. The Cognitive Sciences: One or Many?
- Chapter 2. Multiple Levels of Investigation
- Chapter 3. Elements of Classical Cognitive Science
- Chapter 4. Elements of Connectionist Cognitive Science
- Chapter 5. Elements of Embodied Cognitive Science
- Chapter 6. Classical Music and Cognitive Science
- Chapter 7. Marks of the Classical?
- Chapter 8. Seeing and Visualizing
- Chapter 9. Towards a Cognitive Dialectic
About the Book
Cognitive science arose in the 1950s when it became apparent that a number of disciplines, including psychology, computer science, linguistics, and philosophy, were fragmenting. Perhaps owing to the field's immediate origins in cybernetics, as well as to the foundational assumption that cognition is information processing, cognitive science initially seemed more unified than psychology. However, as a result of differing interpretations of the foundational assumption and dramatically divergent views of the meaning of the term information processing, three separate schools emerged: classical cognitive science, connectionist cognitive science, and embodied cognitive science.
Examples, cases, and research findings taken from the wide range of phenomena studied by cognitive scientists effectively explain and explore the relationship among the three perspectives. Intended to introduce both graduate and senior undergraduate students to the foundations of cognitive science, Mind, Body, World addresses a number of questions currently being asked by those practicing in the field: What are the core assumptions of the three different schools? What are the relationships between these different sets of core assumptions? Is there only one cognitive science, or are there many different cognitive sciences? Giving the schools equal treatment and displaying a broad and deep understanding of the field, Dawson highlights the fundamental tensions and lines of fragmentation that exist among the schools and provides a refreshing and unifying framework for students of cognitive science.
About the Contributors
Michael R. W. Dawson is a professor of psychology at the University of Alberta. He is the author of numerous scientific papers as well as the books Understanding Cognitive Science (1998), Minds and Machines (2004), Connectionism: A Hands-on Approach (2005), and From Bricks to Brains: The Embodied Cognitive Science of LEGO Robots (2010).