Dynamical approaches to cognitive science

Dynamical ideas are beginning to have a major impact on cognitive science, from foundational debates to daily practice. In this article, I review three contrasting examples of work in this area that address the lexical and grammatical structure of language, Piaget’s classic ‘A-not-B’ error, and active categorical perception in an embodied, situated agent. From these three examples, I then attempt to articulate the major differences between dynamical approaches and more traditional symbolic and connectionist approaches. Although the three models reviewed here vary considerably in their details, they share a focus on the unfolding trajectory of a system’s state and the internal and external forces that shape this trajectory, rather than the representational content of its constituent states or the underlying physical mechanisms that instantiate the dynamics. In some work, this dynamical viewpoint is augmented with a situated and embodied perspective on cognition, forming a promising unified theoretical framework for cognitive science broadly construed.

Beer, R.D. (2000). Dynamical approaches to cognitive science. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 4(3):91-99.

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