Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Blog Review: Mixing Memory

To adapt an idea from evangelical outpost, I think I will begin a series of posts about my blogospheric 'neighbours'. Hopefully this will help readers make more sense of my somewhat bloated blogroll, and perhaps introduce them to sites they might enjoy visiting. It's also a chance for me to express my appreciation to those whose writings I enjoy. Further, a series of quote-heavy posts has, to borrow Russell's phrase, all the advantages of theft over honest toil!

My current plans are to write one of these every few days, in addition to my usual posts. Targets for review will be picked at my whim, so in no particular order. The series will be archived in the 'meta' category. Some later reviews might discuss several blogs at once. I hope to eventually get through my entire blogroll. (Though I might get bored of it, in which case there might not be any 'later reviews'.)

I begin with Chris' blog: Mixing Memory. For those who don't already know, Chris is a cognitive scientist with a background in philosophy. His site is, in my opinion, one of the best expert blogs on the internet. I've learnt about all sorts of fascinating research from it. Have a read of this, for example:
The object was reflected in the mirror so that the patients could see it there. The patients were then told to "reach out and grab" the object. When they tried to do this, they reached with their right arms, not towards the object on the left, but towards the mirror. Their hands repeatedly banged into the mirror, and one patient reached behind the mirror (one even tried to get behind the mirror frame). When asked about what they were doing, the patients said things like, "the object is in the mirror," or "it's not within my reach."

If you browse through his cognitive science category, you'll find several very informative series, on such topics as metaphor, reasoning (I especially recommend this post), time perception, and art. The present series on concepts is shaping up to be my favourite of the lot.

I'm particularly interested by the philosophical significance of cognitive science - something which is demonstrated in Chris' excellent philosophy posts. For example, in How To Study Intuitions, he writes:
[O]ur explicit intuitions do not always accord with the "implicit intuitions" that are reflected in our behavior... This brings us back to the problems with many of the methods used by experimental [philosophers]. These involve presenting participants with scenarios, and asking them to report their intuitions about things like intention and free will. Even if we ignore for the moment the obvious potential for the influence of demand characteristics in these types of studies, we can't ignore the fact that in many cases, the "intuitions" that adults report upon reflection do not accord with their actual behavior. For this reason, we can't be sure that the methods of experimental philosophy are really getting at people's representations of concepts like intention and free will. To do this, we would need to use methods more similar to those used in the study of intuitions in the area of physics, biology, ontology, and mind.

(I'm a bit puzzled by the blog's footnote links, however, as they seem to point to some different page entirely, rather than the bottom of the current post as I assume was intended? Maybe that's just my browser playing tricks, I'm not sure.)

After noting that his blog is fast approaching the milestone of 10 000 visitors, Chris writes:
I hope that at least one person has become more interested in cognitive science from reading this blog, and that two or three have even learned something.

That's certainly been the case with me, on both counts. I was quite interested in cognitive science already - from a philosophical perspective, at least - but now I'm much more looking forward to the 'cognitive psychology' course I'll be taking this year. Thanks for the inspiration, Chris!

To everyone else: head on over to Mixing Memory and help bring that well-deserved milestone one step closer :)


  1. My head is full, there is no room for more science at the moment. Alas, all I can think of is that my essays are due in a month, and I've got some work deadlines coming up. I wonder if cognitive science could help me expand my brain-space a little further?


    Posted by Tennessee Leeuwenburg

  2. Richard,
    Thank you for the kind compliments. I've noiced the footnote problem too. I think it's a blogger thing that happens some of the time (I type in one thing, and then blogger changes it). I may just stop putting links in them altogether.

    Anyway, I'm glad you like the blog.  

    Posted by Chris


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