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The contextual modularity of complex cognition

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Simon Grant February 1994

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Grant, S. (1994). The contextual modularity of complex cognition. In: Cooper, R. and Grant, S. (eds), Computational Models of Cognition and Cognitive Function, pp 51--60, Leeds.


Modularity in models of complex cognition can be achieved through either functional, or contextual, differentiation. Complementing Cooper's approaches (this volume) to functional modularity, here contextual modularity is examined. The threads in cognitive science about contextual modularity have to varying degrees, on the one hand, clearly defined cognitive modules, and on the other hand, clearly defined means of coordinating or articulating those modules. The present paper argues that the two have not been successfully integrated, and proposes a model embodying that integration. It recapitulates empirical study with a view of cognition as having a clearly contextually modular structure, where at any time the user or operator is in one or other of the contextual modules. Each module has specific rules governing decisions or actions, a specific cognitive representation of the relevant variables in the context, and specific sources of information which are used in the derivation of the relevant variables. How are these contextual cognitive modules coordinated? Here, the hypothesis is that there are two radically different kinds of transition from one module to another, namely, a learned, context-dependent mechanism, and an associative mechanism dealing with situations that have not often been met before. This being a new approach, it is shown how it may deal with some of the outstanding problems in earlier work. A computational model of these processes is under construction, using the language SCEPTIC, already widely used for cognitive modelling.


1. Introduction

1.1 Functional modularity

1.2 Contextual modularity

2. Analysis of previous themes in contextual modularity

2.1 Models where the nature of the modules is clearly defined

2.2 Models that have clearly defined interrelationships

3. Putting together nature and interrelationship of modules

4. Two mechanisms for transition between contextual modules

4.1 A learned mechanism for change of context

4.2 An associative mechanism for change of context

5. Computational modelling

5.1 Overall structure

5.2 Transitions between modules

5.3 How to implement transitions

6. Discussion


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