The Continuity of Mind

Paperback | August 12, 2008

byMichael Spivey

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The cognitive and neural sciences have been on the brink of a paradigm shift for over a decade now. The traditional information-processing framework in psychology, with its computer metaphor of the mind, is still considered to be the mainstream approach. However, the dynamical-systemsperspective on mental activity is now receiving a more rigorous treatment, allowing it to move beyond the trendy buzzwords that have become associated with it. The Continuity of Mind will help to galvanize the forces of dynamical systems theory, cognitive and computational neuroscience,connectionism, and ecological psychology that are needed to complete this paradigm shift. In this book, Michael Spivey lays bare the fact that comprehending a spoken sentence, understanding a visual scene, or just thinking about the day's events involves the coalescing of different neuronal activation patterns over time, i.e., a continuous state-space trajectory that flirts with aseries of point attractors. As a result, the brain cannot help but spend most of its time instantiating patterns of activity that are in between identifiable mental states rather than in them. When this scenario is combined with the fact that most cognitive processes are richly embedded in theirenvironmental context in real time, the state space (in which brief visitations of attractor basins are your 'thoughts') suddenly encompasses not just neuronal dimensions, but extends to biomechanical and environmental dimensions as well. As a result, your moment-by-moment experience of the worldaround you, even right now, can be described as a continuous trajectory through a high-dimensional state space that comprises diverse mental states. Spivey has organized The Continuity of Mind to present a systematic overview of how perception, cognition, and action are partially overlapping segments of one continuous mental flow, rather than three distinct mental systems. As a result, the apparent partitions that were once thought to separatemental constructs inevitably turn out, upon closer inspection, to be fuzzy graded transitions. The initial chapters provide first-hand demonstrations of the 'gray areas' in mental activity that happen in between discretely labeled mental events, as well as geometric visualizations of attractors instate space that make the dynamical-systems framework seem less mathematically abstract. The middle chapters present scores of behavioral and neurophysiological studies that portray the continuous temporal dynamics inherent in categorization, language comprehension, visual perception, as well asattention, action, and reasoning. The final chapters discuss what the mind itself must look like if its activity is continuous in time and its contents are distributed in state space. The Continuity of Mind is essential reading for those in the cognitive and neural sciences who want to see wherethe Dynamical Cognition movement is taking us.

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From the Publisher

The cognitive and neural sciences have been on the brink of a paradigm shift for over a decade now. The traditional information-processing framework in psychology, with its computer metaphor of the mind, is still considered to be the mainstream approach. However, the dynamical-systemsperspective on mental activity is now receiving a mo...

Format:PaperbackDimensions:448 pages, 9.2 × 6.1 × 0.8 inPublished:August 12, 2008Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195370783

ISBN - 13:9780195370782

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Table of Contents

1. Toward a Continuity Psychology2. Some Conceptual Tools for Tracking Continuous Mental Trajectories3. Some Experimental Tools for Tracking Continuous Mental Trajectories4. Some Simulation Tools for Tracking Continuous Mental Trajectories5. Constructive Feedback for Modularity6. On the Temporal Dynamics of Categorization7. Temporal Dynamics of Language Comprehension8. Temporal Dynamics of Visual Perception9. Temporal Dynamics in Action10. Temporal Dynamics in Reasoning?11. Uniting and Freeing the Mind12. Dynamical (Self-)Consciousness?

Editorial Reviews

"In this fascinating book, Spivey challenges the long-standing practice of focusing on behavior as a sequence of perception, cognition, and action based on discrete stimulus-response events...[using] wonderful, lucid prose. The book is scholarly...but well worth the effort. An invaluable resource for those interested in psychology, cognitive neuroscience, computer science, philosophy, and related fields, this volume will serve both the present andthe next generation of cognitive scientists."--Choice