Compositionality in Thought and Perception
Benjamin D. Young (University of Nevada, Reno)

August 27, 2018, 3:00pm - 4:30pm
Cognitive and Information Sciences, University of California, Merced

Kolligian Library 232
5200 N. Lake Road
Merced 95343
United States


University of California, Merced

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Abstract: Compositionality serves a central role in many nested debates such as the computational architecture of cognition, the nature of concepts, the modularity of mind, and the format of perception. At its most basic conception compositionality is a system relative relation concerning how complex representations are composed from more basic representations. Historically its initial conception might be traced back to Frege who claimed that the meaning of a complex linguistic expression is derived from the meaning of its parts. However, over the past two decades it has become apparent that there are multiple ways in which a representational system can realize compositionality. In this talk I will outline the different types of compositionality, sketch how they impact the debate between classical computationalist and connectionist architectures of the mind, and analyze how the selection of target cognitive phenomena used to infer the structure of thought influenced this debate. The talk concludes by transitioning to contemporary research that employs the different types of compositionality to elucidate the difference between conceptual thought and non-conceptual perception, as well as the rather unique perceptual format of olfactory perception.

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