Tuesday, February 7, 2006

On the Origin of Concepts

So, a great meeting with Michael today. I knew we'd hit it in stride right from the get-go when he started off our conversation with an update on cognitive resources. One of the major topics of discussion at the first Cognitive Group meeting this semester was the nature of the components of thinking (see my "farewell to p-prims" post). Word from Michael's contancts in the University of Maryland group is that the term "resource" was created with the intent of allowing for larger scale representations of thinking (so, a concept can be a resource for a larger concept), and that they are not necessarily primitive (though they can be). So, I think that pretty much settles it for me: p-prim, while a useful functional descriptor, isn't going to be useful enough for my purposes. Up until this point, I think I've been fairly vague on that - purpose, intent - but I think today was one of those great times in academic life when you really, really refine your work.

So here it is: I'm developing a taxonomy for cognitive resources, and in so doing, I'm also creating a method for determining and evaluating conceptual complexity. I'm doing this because I am interested in developing a model for the concept of biological evolution that is based on a knowledge-in-pieces view of cognition, and I've been frustrated by the formal, functional, and developmental limitations that are characteristic of existing models for concepts and hypotheses on conceptual change. Because of my frustrations in the modeling of biological evolution from a cognitive perspective, I've applied classical biological methods in the cognitive realm: anatomical dissection (identifying the pieces of thinking and their connections), physiological mechanism determination (indentifying the functions and functional mechanisms of pieces of thinking), developmental classification (characterizing changes in thinking over time, the mechanisms for change, and the influences on change), and taxonomic organization (classifying the formal and functional similarities and differences between and among multiple aspects of cognition).

Next - why this is going to be very useful.

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