The University of Edinburgh -
Division of Informatics
Forrest Hill & 80 South Bridge

PhD Thesis #8709

Title:The Computer Simulation of Syllogism Solving Using Restricted Mental Models.
Date: 1987
Abstract:It is currently believed that the best hope of understanding mental processes, and particularly their predictability in non-physical terms, is to regard them as having much in common with computational systems. Moreover, there is ample evidence that mental life arises from the interaction of a number of independent processing systems, with many of the properties that Fodor associates with modules. This thesis argues for the idea that the communication between these systems should be given a central position in any psychological theory. it also suggests that there are limitations on this communication - specifically, it is restricted to a universally accessible representation of a single situation - an information structure that can be identified with the concept of a Mental Model, as argued for by Johnson-Laird. A psychological theory should always aim account for observation in terms of the cognitive architecture with the least flexibility. To do so, it is important to impose the tightest possible sub-systems. it is suggested that while this is straightforward in the case of world-related phenomena, such as perception and mental imagery, similar restrictions should be applicable to the information structures used to explain more abstract mental phenomena. The task that Johnson-Laird uses to illustrate the application of mental models to abstract thought is syllogistic reasoning. The metatheoretical issues that this raises are set out, and the literature on the task is extensively reviewed. In this context, Johnson-Laird's own account of the performance of the task is presented, and criticised for its reliance on extensions to the representational power of mental models. Finally, a drastically new theory is advanced which uses only the representational power of restricted mental models, and which makes totally different assumptions concerning the nature of the syllogism solving task, which is treated as an exercise in formal problem-solving sk

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