Readings for the Topics in Cognitive Science Module (2014/2015)

Articles preceded by a blue asterisk are required reading for that topic.  You will get more out of the course if you read more widely than the mandatory reading.


Dewey, John (1896). The reflex arc concept in psychology.  Psych. Review 3(4):357-370.
Dewey provides a surprisingly contemporary sounding critique of the emerging concept of the reflex arc, that went on to underpin both behaviorist and cognitivist theories within psychology.

Also recommended is Costall, Alan. "‘Introspectionism’and the mythical origins of scientific psychology.Consciousness and cognition 15.4 (2006): 634-654.

Extended Mind

We kick off by spending some time asking what we mean, or meant, by "cognition".  This week and next serve to interrogate this particular term.

The extended mind discussion has to start with this article:
* Clark, A. and D. Chalmers (1998). “The Extended Mind.” Analysis 58(1): 7-19

See also Chapter 3 of Clark, A. Supersizing the Mind. And here is Dave Chalmers' foreword to that book.

Some criticism:

F. Adams and K. Aizawa, (2004?) "Defending the bounds of cognition" In Menary, R., The Extended Mind, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

And Andy Clark's response: Memento's Revenge, from the same volume.  This discussion ain't over yet.  

A blog post by Andy Clark himself, reviewing Adams and Aizawa's recent book.

If that wasn't enough, Jerry Fodor felt the need to weigh in.  I confess, this seems like very poor argumentation to me, and I include it only because others hold Fodor in such high esteem.

Here is a very cogent criticism: The Extended Breath account of respiration, by Paul Thagard, one of the central figures to classical cognitive science.  Discuss this.

Here is a recent lecture (Nov 2014) by Andy Clark on the Extended Mind

Distributed Cognition

We continue our inquiry into the term "cognition" with a consideration of "behaviour" carried out by multiple individuals.

* Here is Ed Hutchins himself on the topic of Distributed Cognition (2000).

Here is "A brief introduction to distributed cognition" by Yvonne Rogers.

*Here is a recent chapter by Hutchins that provides perhaps the clearest exposition i have seen of his approach, though it down plays the collective nature of the activity.  This introduces themes of embodiment and enaction that we will follow up on in some detail.
Hutchins, E. (2010) "Enaction, Imagination and Insight", Chpt 15 of Stewart et al (2010) Enaction: Toward a New Paradigm for Cognitive Science, MIT Press.

*And here is a review of Hutchins' book "Cognition in the Wild" by Bruno Latour.


Most of the approaches we will cover in this module may be loosely grouped under the term "embodiment".  This term means many things to many people, and we will subject it to considerable inquiry.

* Here is a lecture by Rolf Pfeiffer on Embodiment, that contains some interesting lessons from robotics research.

It comes from a useful page of lectures on topics related to this course found at this address

There is much loose talk of the "embodied" approach to cognitive science these days. In fact, there is no such singular approach.  Embodiment is a theme that pervades many diverse takes on minds, bodies, and behavior.  This is just a sampling, and can not claim to be comprehensive.  Concerns of embodiment are relevant to pretty much everything discussed in this module/on this page.  

* You might start by reading this excellent blog post that bemoans the trivial treatment of embodiment.

Then pick one or two of the following:

From the stable of Fred Keijzer, from whom so many thought provoking contributions come, here is an essay on Robotics, Biological Grounding and the Fregean Tradition

A developmental perspective from Linda Smith and Mike Gasser (2005): "The Development of embodied  cognition: Six lessons from babies", Artificial Life 11 (1-2), 13-29.

Louise Barrett contributes this excellent and entertaining article that covers several bases: Why Brains Are Not Computers, Why Behaviorism Is Not Satanism, and Why Dolphins Are Not Aquatic Apes", Behavioral Analyst, 2015.

If rhythm is your thing, this is a great study: MacDougall, H. G. and Moore, S. T. (2005) "Marching to the beat of a different drummer: The spontaneous tempo of human locomotion", J. App. Physiol. 99(3).  It identifies a 2 Hz component as a strong feature of aggregate human movement.  It finds the same bias in our musical preferences.  

A bird's eye view: M. Anderson (2005) "How to study the mind: An introduction to embodied cognition,"  Chapter 5 of Embodied Cognition and Perceptual Learning in Adaptive Development

A rather comprehensive and thoughtful account is provided in Chrisley, R. and Ziemke, T. (2003) Embodiment. In: Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science. Macmillan Publishing, New York. ISBN 0470016191.

The intimate relation between gesture and speech is worthy of your attention.  Iverson, J. M. and Thelen, E. (1999), Hand, Mouth and Brain: The dynamic emergence of speech and gesture.  J. Consciousness Studies, 6(11-12), pp. 19-40.

If that wasn't enough, here is another thoughtful contribution: Wilson, M. (2002) Six views of embodied cognition. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 9:625-636

von Uexküll and Umwelt Theory

We now trace an interesting development from the early 20th Century, which we might describe as Neo-Kantian.  We begin by considering the origin of the phenomenal world of immediate experience, and its relation to the sensorimotor embedding of an organism in its environment.

Ecological Psychology

It is hard to find good introductory readings in ecological psychology, and an unfortunate amount of discussion within ecological circles can look like self-contained naval-gazing at times.  We shall try to get a sense for the radical shift in perspective that accompanies ecological thinking, without worrying too much about purity of doctrine.  Read the articles with the asterisk, and browse or skim a sampling of the remainder.
This first article is outside the ecological canon, but the relatively simple point it raises is a great starting point for adopting an ecological form of questioning about the nature of perception and the embedding of an organism in its environment:
* Runeson, Sverker (1977) On the possibility of "smart" perceptual mechanisms. Scand J. Psychol. 1977;18(3):172-9.
Harry Heft has done an admirable job of demystifying Gibsonian approaches.
I also want you to read this article, but not necessarily in depth.  It the reconsideration of what vision is about, and how it is to be understood that is crucial.  If you normally think of "images" when you think of vision, then you need to read this a bit more carefully.
Lee, David (1980), The Optic Flow Field: The Foundation of Vision, Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences, vol. 290, no. 1038, pp. 169-179, July 1980.
While far more work has been done in visual perception than any other modality, the fundamental principles of ecological psychology are modality independent.  Here are some papers in ecological audition:
For those wanting to go further, a more complete account of (one view of) perception as understood within the Ecological tradition is available in this book: Michaels, C.F., & Carello, C. (1981). Direct perception. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
A recent book by Tony Chemero is "Radical Embodied Cognitive Science" (MIT Press, 2009). This takes Gibsonian accounts and places them centre stage along with dynamics as the heart of a post-cognitivist view.  Many themes of this module are strongly represneted in this work.


The term 'enaction' is used to pick out a few related, but rather distinct strands in contemporary cognitive science.  Here, we address the sensorimotor correspondence theory of visual perception, sometimes misleadingly called a theory of enaction.  Alva Noe has recently come to describe this approach as "Actionism", which may help to settle the terminological confusion.
The core reading is this article. The article itself is long, but worth your while.  It is followed by many rebuttals and discussion and a response.  You don't have to read all of those, as it is a lot of material, but it is worth skimming to see if anyone raised any objections that seem obvious to you.
*JK O’Regan, A Noë. A sensorimotor account of vision and visual consciousness, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2001. 
The following articles add to that core reading, and are provided for your convenience.
Jesse Prinz provides a dissenting view in Putting the brakes on enactive perception, Psyche, 2006.
This seems like a good time to introduce Sensory substitution and the human-machine interface, by Paul Bach-y-Rita and Stephen Kercel (2003).

Mind and Life 1: Biogenic Approaches

We now start to approach the Mind and Life perspective.  We start by motivating a Biogenic, rather than Anthropocentric, perspective on cognition.  Louise Barrett is quite good here, and be aware that this article is addressed to behaviourists.  You may have already read this when we discussed "embodiment".

*Barrett, L. (2015). Why Brains Are Not Computers, Why Behaviorism Is Not Satanism, and Why Dolphins Are Not Aquatic Apes. The Behavior Analyst, 1-15.

(This makes a similar point. 

Lyon, Pamela, and Fred Keijzer. "The human Wallace, B., Ross, A., Davies, J. and Anderson, T. (eds)  The Mind, the Body and the World: Psychology after Cognitivism (2007) Imprint Academic. 132-165.)

Then a rather more fleshed out introduction is provided here:

*Froese, T. & Di Paolo, E. A. (2011). The Enactive Approach: Theoretical Sketches From Cell to Society. Pragmatics & Cognition, 19(1): 1-36

And here is one more article that covers a lot of ground, spanning the topics of this week and next:

*Cummins, F. and De Jesus, P. (2016) The loneliness of the enactive cell: towards a bio-enactive framework. Adaptive Behavior, 24(3), 149-159.

Mind and Life 2: Sociality and Participatory Sense-Making

We continue the enactive theme with an emphasis on explanation at multiple levels.

*De Jaegher, H. and Di Paolo, E. (2007) Participatory Sense-Making: An Enactive Approach to Social Cognition, Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 6(4):485-507

which can be read in conjunction with the Froese and DiPaolo article above.

and in this article, Tom Froese argues that "the computational theory of mind can indeed be replaced with an alternative framework centered on the notion of life-mind continuity, but only by incorporating the constitutive role played by sociality."

*Froese, T. (2011). Breathing new life into cognitive science. Avant. The Journal of the Philosophical-Interdisciplinary Vanguard, 2(1): 113-129

My own work is conducted within this kind of framework:

Cummins, F. (2014). Voice,(inter-) subjectivity, and real time recurrent interaction. Frontiers in psychology, 5.


This week we have a guest class from Austin Dwyer, who is working on a PhD on the topic of mutual incorporation and collective skill acquisition.  Here, then, are two papers on the area, one from a radical enactive perspective (Hutto et al) and one from a strongly cognitivist perspective (Toner et al.)  The contrast might be informative.

*Toner, J., Montero, B. G. and Moran, A. (2015). Considering the role of cognitive control in expert performance. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 14(4), 1127--1144 

*Hutto, D. D., and Sanchez-Garcia, R. (2015) Choking RECtified: embodied expertise beyond Dreyfus.  Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 14(2), 309-331

Biology and Cognition

If we take the Mind and Life hypothesis seriously, we still need to re-integrate that insight into our understanding of everything else.  Specifically, we need to inquire into the relation between biology and human life

*Ingold, T. (1990). An Anthropologist Looks at Biology. Man (London), 25(2):208–229.

Ingold leans, in part, on a distinction between implicate and explicate order, which comes from the remarkable physicist, David Bohm.  For those interested, here is 

Bohm, D. (2003). The Essential David Bohm, edited by Lee Nichol.

and we need to think hard about what nervous systems are doing:

Keijzer, F., Van Duijn, M., & Lyon, P. (2013). What nervous systems do: early evolution, input–output, and the skin brain thesis. Adaptive Behavior, 21(2), 67-85.

For our discussion in class, I suggest that we focus on the Ingold reading.


Mikhail Bakhtin was a Soviet academic who published mainly in the field of literature criticism, with important works on the polyvocality with Dostoyevsky's novels, and the role of Carnival in the work of Rabelais.  However his approach has influence far beyond the humanities, and has influenced developments in linguistics and in psychotherapy.  

Here are some quick quotes from Bakhtin, to get a flavour. 

*Gardiner, M. (1988). "The incomparable monster of solipsism: Bakhtin and Merleau-Ponty." Bakhtin and the Human Sciences, Sage, London, 128-144.

Of particular interest is the notion of Dialogism, as it has been developed by Per Linell, within linguistics.  Here is an Introduction to Dialogism by Per Linell.  

Coordination Dynamics

For those with an interest in dynamics, Scott Kelso's theory of Coordination Dynamics is a very well fleshed out scientific theory that is cut from very similar cloth (though wholly independent).  A succinct overview of the theory is given in this article: Coordination Dynamics of the Complementary Nature by Engstrøm and Kelso. We could do with more readings here.


Having reached this point in our reading, some consideration of the notion of objectivity in scientific work is warranted.

*Daston, Lorraine, and Peter Galison. "The image of objectivity."Representations (1992): 81-128.

This article is relevant in this context:

Henrich, Joseph, Steven J. Heine, and Ara Norenzayan. "The weirdest people in the world?." Behavioral and brain sciences 33.2-3 (2010): 61-83.


Languaging is a broad term covering much of what we think of as linguistic behaviour, along with the many kinds of activity that necessarily go along with that, including activity of the whole body.  It thus turns our attention away from the abstract systematics of modern generative and (somewhat older) structural linguistics, and towards an account of how such behaviours alter the worlds of interacting embodied agents.

*Thibault, P. J. (2011). First-order languaging dynamics and second-order language: the distributed language viewEcological Psychology23(3), 210-245.

Further reading:

Joint Action

Hasson, U., Ghazanfar, A. A., Galantucci, B., Garrod, S. and Keysers, C. (2011) "Brain-to-brain coupling: a mechanism for creating and sharing a social world", TICS (16):2, 114-121.

Cummins, F. (2011) "Periodic and aperiodic synchronization in skilled action", Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 5:170; 

Also relevant:

Dumas, G., Nadel, J., Soussignan, R., Martinerie, J., & Garnero, L. (2010). Inter-brain synchronization during social interaction. PloS one, 5(8), e12166.

recent issue of the new journal Topics in Cognitive Science had many papers grouped around the theme of Joint Action.  A sampling:
Another well-known approach stems from Natalie Sebanz and Guenther Knoblich:


We wrap up the module with a discussion session without set reading.  Take the opportunity to reflect on the material we have traversed, and bring along your concerns, observations, objections, protestations, and opinions.


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