abstract: 'This paper considers the question of whether the connectionist approach is an appropriate paradigm for the construction of simulation models of psychological processes. The strongest connectionist claim is that psychological properties simply emerge from interactions among the units of a network; meaningful features are distributed in these units, which therefore are not representions of anything. The problem is then: how such a system can describe a psychological system and be relevant to explain it ? It is suggested that the psychological relevance of connectionist descriptions should not be rejected on the grounds that they are limited to a hardware-like or implementational level. Connectionist descriptions would be best considered as different scientific "objects", constructed from the same prescientific "facts". As different objects they need not be at different levels of generality or abstraction and the translation of one representation into another is unnecessary.
As to the explanatory power of connectionist models, it is claimed that it cannot come from the interaction among units, if this interaction is invoked at the same time to give the model a psychological nature. Neither can the explanatory power come from the fact that connectionist models produce phenomena similar to human psychological processes, since this similarity should refer explicitly to features that have already been accepted independently as psychological. The claim that connectionist analysis is psychologically relevant at a subsymbolic level is eventually considered. There is a possible confusion in this claim: sub-symbolic models may be non-symbolic as to their object but they must be symbolic as models. A non-symbolic model simply would not be a model, since - by definition - it must represent something. Sub-symbolic models, however, may be non-symbolic in the sense that there are no symbols in the modelled reality. In this regard, connectionist systems seem to help in overcoming the idea - encouraged by current AI and Cognitive Science - that any psychological process should be considered as made out of symbols.'
- family: Greco
lastmod: 2011-03-11 08:54:08
publication: Cognitive Systems
status_changed: 2007-09-12 16:32:29
title: Some remarks about connectionism in psychological simulation