Project Description

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Acquired Language of Thought

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The brain’s small-world structure includes many local networks interfaced via hub nodes. The aim of this research it to connect the underlying structure to psychological and philosophical theories of concepts and consciousness. The overarching thesis is that lexical items in natural language are encoded so as to activate hubs, thereby revealing the tight connection between language use, concept possession, and conscious thought.

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR:

  • Christopher Viger (Rotman Institute of Philosophy, Western University)

PROJECT DATES:

2017 – 2022

PROJECT SUMMARY:

Dr. Viger’s research is focused on the relation between language and thought, informed by psychology and cognitive neuroscience. The small-world architecture of the brain is used to explain the underlying nature of concepts as interface structures between specialized, mostly local, processing units. Concept possession is characterized by the way in which information is processed, which aligns this view with Barsalou’s view of concepts in psychology and Dennett’s in philosophy. Mapping neuro-scientific work correlating consciousness with global cortical activation onto this framework, Viger is developing a novel argument for why consciousness is a type of user-illusion. Uniting the threads of research concerning concepts and consciousness is the role of natural language symbols in cognition. Items in the lexicon are neurally encoded to activate concepts whose content they express. Natural language lexical items are vehicles of thought on this view, thereby incorporating insights from the computational and representational theories of mind. Since learned lexical items are essential for certain cognitive operations, notably the composition of conceptual content, the view is called the Acquired Language of Thought (ALOT).

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