A mental representation (or cognitive representation), in philosophy of mind, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and cognitive science, is a hypothetical internal cognitive symbol that represents external reality, or else a mental process that makes use of such a symbol: "a formal system for making explicit certain entities or types of information, together with a specification of how the system does this". Mental representation is the mental imagery of things that are not actually present to the senses. In contemporary philosophy, specifically in fields of metaphysics such as philosophy of mind and ontology, a mental representation is one of the prevailing ways of explaining and describing the nature of ideas and concepts. Mental representations (or mental imagery) enable representing things that have never been experienced as well as things that do not exist. Think of yourself traveling to a place you have never visited before, or having a third arm. These things have either never happened or are impossible and do not exist, yet our brain and mental imagery allows us to imagine them. Although visual imagery is more likely to be recalled, mental imagery may involve representations in any of the sensory modalities, such as hearing, smell, or taste. Stephen Kosslyn proposes that images are used to help solve certain types of problems. We are able to visualize the objects in question and mentally represent the images to solve it. Mental representations also allow people to experience things right in front of them—though the process of how the brain interprets the representational content is debated.
1 Representational theories of mind
1.1 Strong vs weak, restricted vs unrestricted 1.2 Problems for the unrestricted version 1.3 Responses 1.4 Further objections
2.1 Alex Morgan 2.2 Gualtiero Piccinini 2.3 Uriah Kriegel
3 See also 4 References 5 Further reading 6 External links
Representational theories of mind
Outward directedness: What it is like to be in mood M is to have a certain kind of outwardly focused representational content. Inward directedness: What it is like to be in mood M is to have a certain kind of inwardly focused representational content. Hybrid directedness: What it is like to be in mood M is to have both a certain kind of outwardly focused representational content and a certain kind of inwardly focused representational content.
In the case of outward directedness moods might be directed at either the world as a whole, a changing series of objects in the world, or unbound emotion properties projected by people onto things in the world. In the case of inward directedness moods are directed at the overall state of a person’s body. In the case of hybrid directedness moods are directed at some combination of inward and outward things. Further objections Even if one can identify some possible intentional content for moods we might still question whether that content is able to sufficiently capture the phenomenal character of the mood states they are a part of. Amy Kind contends that in the case of all the previously mentioned kinds of directedness (outward, inward, and hybrid) the intentional content supplied to the mood state is not capable of sufficiently capturing the phenomenal aspects of the mood states. In the case of inward directedness, the phenomenology of the mood does not seem tied to the state of one’s body, and even if one’s mood is reflected by the overall state of one’s body that person will not necessarily be aware of it, demonstrating the insufficiency of the intentional content to adequately capture the phenomenal aspects of the mood. In the case of outward directedness, the phenomenology of the mood and its intentional content do not seem to share the corresponding relation they should given that the phenomenal character is supposed to reduce to the intentional content. Hybrid directedness, if it can even get off the ground, faces the same objection. Philosophers There is a wide debate on what kinds of representations exist. There are several philosophers who bring about different aspects of the debate. Such philosophers include Alex Morgan, Gualtiero Piccinini, and Uriah Kriegel—though this is not an exhaustive list. Alex Morgan There are "job description" representations. That is representations that (1) represent something—have intentionality, (2) have a special relation—the represented object does not need to exist, and (3) content plays a causal role in what gets represented: e.g. saying "hello" to a friend, giving a glare to an enemy. Structural representations are also important. These types of representations are basically mental maps that we have in our minds that correspond exactly to those objects in the world (the intentional content). According to Morgan, structural representations are not the same as mental representations—there is nothing mental about them: plants can have structural representations. There are also internal representations. These types of representations include those that involve future decisions, episodic memories, or any type of projection into the future. Gualtiero Piccinini In Gualtiero Piccinini's forthcoming work, he discusses topics on natural and nonnatural mental representations. He relies on the natural definition of mental representations given by Grice (1957) where P entails that P. e.g. Those spots mean measles, entails that the patient has measles. Then there are nonnatural representations: P does not entail P. e.g. The 3 rings on the bell of a bus mean the bus is full—the rings on the bell are independent of the fullness of the bus—we could have assigned something else (just as arbitrary) to signify that the bus is full. Uriah Kriegel There are also objective and subjective mental representations. Objective representations are closest to tracking theories—where the brain simply tracks what is in the environment. If there is a blue bird outside my window, the objective representation is that of the blue bird. Subjective representations can vary person-to-person. For example, if I am colorblind, that blue bird outside my window will not appear blue to me since I cannot represent the blueness of blue (i.e. I cannot see the color blue). The relationship between these two types of representation can vary.
Objective varies, but the subjective does not: e.g. brain-in-a-vat Subjective varies, but the objective does not: e.g. color-inverted world All representations found in objective and none in the subjective: e.g. thermometer All representations found in subjective and none in the objective: e.g. an agent that experiences in a void.
Eliminativists think that subjective representations don't exist. Reductivists think subjective representations are reducible to objective. Non-reductivists think that subjective representations are real and distinct. See also
Basic beliefs Cognitive model § Dynamical systems Conceptual space Condensation (psychology) Knowledge representation Mental model Mindset Object of the mind Paradigm Perception Representative realism Schema (psychology) Set (psychology) Social constructionism Visual space Worldview
^ a b c d Morgan, Alex (2014). "Representations Gone Mental" (PDF).
Synthese 191.2: 213–44.
^ Marr, David (2010). Vision. A Computational Investigation into the
Human Representation and Processing of Visual Information. The MIT
Press. ISBN 978-0262514620.
^ Mckellar, Peter (1957). Imagination and thinking: A psychological
analysis. Oxford, England.
^ a b Robert J. Sternberg (2009). Cognitive Psychology.
^ Margolis, Eric; Laurence, Stephen (December 2007). "The
Augusto, Luis M. (2013). 'Unconscious Representations 1: Belying the
Traditional Model of Human Cognition.' Axiomathes 23.4, 645-663.
Goldman, Alvin I (2014). 'The Bodily Formats Approach to Embodied
Cognition.' Current Controversies in Philosophy of Mind. ed. Uriah
Kriegel. New York, NY: Routledge, 91-108.
Henrich, J. & Boyd, R. (2002). Culture and cognition: Why cultural
evolution does not require replication of representations. Culture and
Cognition, 2, 87–112. Full text
Kind, Amy (2014). 'The Case against
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Mental Representation
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