Learning to bridge between perception and cognition.

Goldstone, R. L., Schyns, P. G., & Medin, D. L. (1997). Learning to bridge between perception and cognition.  in R. L. Goldstone, P. G. Schyns, & D. L. Medin (Eds.)  Psychology of Learning and Motivation: Perceptual Learning, Vol. 36.  (pp. 1-14).  San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

In building models of cognition, it is customary to commence construction on the foundations laid by perception. Perception is presumed to provide us with an initial source of information that is operated upon by subsequent cognitive processes. And, as with the foundation of a house, a premium is placed on stability and solidity. Stable edifices require stable support structures. By this view, our cognitive processes are well behaved to the degree that they can depend upon the stable structures established by our perceptual system.

Considered collectively, the contributions to this volume suggest an alternative metaphor for understanding the relation between perception and cognition. The architectural equivalent of perception may be a bridge rather than a foundation. The purpose of a bridge is to provide support, but they do so by adapting to the supported vehicles. Bridges, by design, sway under the weight of heavy vehicles, built on the principle that it is better to bend than break. Bridges built with rigid materials are often less resilient than their more flexible counterparts. Similarly, the chapters collected here raise the possibility that perception supports cognition by flexibly adapting to the requirements imposed by cognitive tasks. Perception may not be stable, but its departures from stability may facilitate rather than hamper its ability to support cognition. Cognitive processes involved in categorization, comparison, object recognition, and language may shift perception, but perception becomes better tuned to these tasks as a result.

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