Advertisement

Erkenntnis

, Volume 84, Issue 6, pp 1207–1228 | Cite as

Simplicity and the Meaning of Mental Association

  • Mike DaceyEmail author
Article

Abstract

Some thoughts just come to mind together. This is usually thought to happen because they are connected by associations, which the mind follows. Such an explanation assumes that there is a particular kind of simple psychological process responsible. This view has encountered criticism recently. In response, this paper aims to characterize a general understanding of associative simplicity, which might support the distinction between associative processing and alternatives. I argue that there are two kinds of simplicity that are treated as characteristic of association, and as a result three possible versions of associative processing. This provides a framework that informs our understanding of association as a current and historical concept, including how various specific versions in different parts of psychology relate to one another. This framework can also guide debates over normative evaluations of actions produced by processes thought to be associative.

Notes

Acknowledgements

This paper has been in preparation for some time, and has gone through several permutations, so it may not be possible to thank everyone who has helped. Thanks (in alphabetical order) to David Balota, Cameron Buckner, Carl Craver, David Danks, Jan De Houwer, John Doris, Jennifer Gruhn, Steve Horst, Ron Mallon, Lauren Olin, Sarah Robins, and Lizzie Schechter for comments on drafts. Thanks to participants in forums in which this material was presented, including several presentations at Washington University in St. Louis, a brown-bag lunch talk at Carnegie Mellon University in fall 2012 (thanks to David Danks for the invitation), the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology in Spring 2013, and the Society for Philosophy and Psychology in Summer 2015. Thanks to the Philosophy Departments at Washington University in St. Louis, Colby College, and Bates College for support. Finally, thanks to two anonymous reviewers. Apologies to any I may have missed.

References

  1. Allen, C. (2006). Transitive inference in animals: Reasoning or conditioned associations. In S. Hurley & M. Nudds (Eds.), Rational animals (pp. 175–185). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, J. R. (1983). A spreading activation theory of memory. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 22(3), 261–295.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, J. R., & Reder, L. M. (1999). The fan effect: New results and new theories. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 128(2), 186.Google Scholar
  4. Andrews, K., & Gruen, L. (2014). Empathy in other apes. In H. Maibom (Ed.), Empathy and morality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bechtel, W., & Abrahamsen, A. (1991). Connectionism and the mind: Parallel processing, dynamics, and evolution in networks. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  6. Bradley, F. H. (1883). The principles of logic. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, & Co.Google Scholar
  7. Bristol, A. S., & Viskontas, I. V. (2006). Dynamic processes within associative memory stores: Piecing together the neural basis of creative cognition. In J. C. Kaufman & J. Baer (Eds.), Creativity and reason in cognitive development. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Brown, T. (1840). Lectures on the philosophy of the human mind. Hollowell: Glazier, Masters, and Smith.Google Scholar
  9. Buckner, C. (2011). Two approaches to the distinction between cognition and ‘mere association’. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 24, 314–348.Google Scholar
  10. Buckner, C. (2013). A property cluster theory of cognition. Philosophical Psychology, 28(3), 307–336.Google Scholar
  11. Buckner, C. (2017). Understanding cognitive and associative explanations in comparative psychology. In K. Andrews & J. Beck (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of philosophy of animal minds (pp. 409–418). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Chomsky, N. (1957). Syntactic structures. The Hague/Paris: Mouton.Google Scholar
  13. Chomsky, N. (1959). A review of BF Skinner’s verbal behavior. Language, 35(1), 26–58.Google Scholar
  14. Chomsky, N. (1980). Rules and representations. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 3(01), 1–15.Google Scholar
  15. Clark, A. (1993). Associative engine: Connectionism, concepts, and representational change. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  16. Collins, A. M., & Loftus, E. F. (1975). A spreading-activation theory of semantic processing. Psychological Review, 82(6), 407–428.Google Scholar
  17. Collins, A. M., & Quillian, M. R. (1969). Retrieval time from semantic memory. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 8(2), 240–247.Google Scholar
  18. Dacey, M. (in prep). Association and the mechanisms of priming.Google Scholar
  19. Dacey, M. (2015). Associationism without associative links: Thomas Brown and the associationist project. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 54, 31–40.Google Scholar
  20. Dacey, M. (2016a). Rethinking associations in psychology. Synthese, 193(12), 3763–3786.Google Scholar
  21. Dacey, M. (2016b). The varieties of parsimony in psychology. Mind and Language, 31, 414–437.Google Scholar
  22. Danks, D. (2014). Unifying the mind: Cognitive representations as graphical models. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  23. Darlow, A. L., & Sloman, S. A. (2010). Two systems of reasoning: Architecture and relation to emotion. Wires: Cognitive Science, 1(1), 1–11.Google Scholar
  24. De Waal, F. (2009). Primates and philosophers: How morality evolved. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Dickinson, A. (2012). Associative learning and animal cognition. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 367(1603), 2733–2742.Google Scholar
  26. Doris, J. M. (2009). Skepticism about Persons. Philosophical Issues, 19(1), 57–91.Google Scholar
  27. Evans, J. S. B. T. (2008). Dual-processing accounts of reasoning, judgment, and social cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 255–278.Google Scholar
  28. Fazio, R. H., & Olson, M. A. (2003). Implicit measures in social cognition research: Their meaning and use. Annual Review of Psychology, 54(1), 297–327.Google Scholar
  29. Fodor, J. A., & Pylyshyn, Z. W. (1988). Connectionism and cognitive architecture: A critical analysis. Cognition, 28(1–2), 3–71.Google Scholar
  30. Fridland, E. (2015). Automatically minded. Synthese, 194(11), 4337–4363.Google Scholar
  31. Gallistel, C. R. (1990). The organization of learning. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  32. Gallistel, C. R., & Gibbon, J. (2001). Models of simple conditioning. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10(4), 146–151.Google Scholar
  33. Gallo, D. (2006). Associative illusions of memory: False memory research in DRM and related tasks. New York: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  34. Garcia, J., & Koelling, R. A. (1966). Relation of cue to consequence in avoidance learning. Psychonomic Science, 4, 122–123.Google Scholar
  35. Glymour, C. N. (2001). The mind’s arrows: Bayes nets and graphical causal models in psychology. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  36. Halford, G. S., Wilson, W. H., & Phillips, S. (1998). Processing capacity defined by relational complexity: Implications for comparative, developmental, and cognitive psychology. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 21(06), 803–831.Google Scholar
  37. Hall, G. (1994). Pavlovian conditioning: Laws of association. In N. J. Mackintosh (Ed.), Animal learning and cognition (pp. 15–44). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  38. Hume, D. (1975). An enquiry concerning human understanding. In L. A. Selby-Bigge & P. H. Niddich (Eds.), Enquiries concerning human understanding and concerning the principles of morals. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  39. Hutchison, K. A., & Balota, D. A. (2005). Decoupling semantic and associative information in false memories: Explorations with semantically ambiguous and unambiguous critical lures. Journal of Memory and Language, 52(1), 1–28.Google Scholar
  40. Kahneman, D. (2003). A perspective on judgment and choice: Mapping bounded rationality. The American Psychologist, 58(9), 697–720.Google Scholar
  41. Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar
  42. Köhler, W. (1941). On the nature of associations. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 84(4), 489–502.Google Scholar
  43. Kutlu, M. G., & Schmajuk, N. A. (2012). Classical conditioning mechanisms can differentiate between seeing and doing in rats. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 38(1), 84.Google Scholar
  44. Landauer, T. K., & Dutnais, S. T. (1997). A solution to Plato’s problem: The latent semantic analysis theory of acquisition, induction, and representation of knowledge. Psychological Review, 1(2), 211–240.Google Scholar
  45. Lashley, K. S. (1951). The problem of serial order in behavior. In L. A. Jeffress (Ed.), Cerebral mechanisms in behavior: The Hixon Symposium (pp. 112–146). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  46. Levy, N. (2014). Consciousness and moral responsibility. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Logan, G. D. (1990). Repetition priming and automaticity: Common underlying mechanisms? Cognitive Psychology, 22(1), 1–35.Google Scholar
  48. Mandelbaum, E. (2016). Attitude, inference, association: On the propositional structure of implicit bias. Noûs, 50(3), 629–658.Google Scholar
  49. McCabe, K. O., & Fleeson, W. (2012). What is extraversion for? Integrating trait and motivational perspectives and identifying the purpose of extraversion. Psychological Science, 23(12), 1498–1505.Google Scholar
  50. McNamara, T. P. (2005). Semantic priming: Perspectives from memory and word recognition. New York: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  51. Mednick, S. A. (1962). The associative basis of the creative process. Psychological Review, 69(3), 220–232.Google Scholar
  52. Mill, J. (1869). Analysis of the phenomena of the human mind (Vol. 2). London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer.Google Scholar
  53. Miller, R. R., Barnet, R. C., & Grahame, N. J. (1995). Assessment of the Rescorla–Wagner model. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 363–386.Google Scholar
  54. Mitchell, C. J., De Houwer, J., & Lovibond, P. F. (2009). The propositional nature of human associative learning. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 32(2), 183–198. (discussion 198–246).Google Scholar
  55. Morewedge, C. K., & Kahneman, D. (2010). Associative processes in intuitive judgment. Trends in cognitive sciences, 14(10), 435–440.Google Scholar
  56. Papineau, D., & Heyes, C. (2006). Rational or associative? Imitation in Japanese quail. In S. Hurley & M. Nudds (Eds.), Rational animals (pp. 187–195). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Penn, D. C., & Povinelli, D. J. (2007). Causal cognition in human and nonhuman animals: A comparative, critical review. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 97–118.Google Scholar
  58. Prinz, J. J. (2004). Furnishing the mind: Concepts and their perceptual basis. Cambridge: MIT press.Google Scholar
  59. Quillian, M. (1968). Semantic memory. In M. Minsky (Ed.), Semantic information processing. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  60. Quine, W. V. (1977). Natural kinds. In S. P. Schwartz (Ed.), Naming, necessity, and natural kinds. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Radick, G. (2000). Morgan’s canon, Garner’s phonograph, and the evolutionary origins of language and reason. The British Journal for the History of Science, 33(1), 3–23.Google Scholar
  62. Reid, T. (1872). The philosophical works of Thomas Reid. In W. Hamilton (Ed.). Edinburgh: Maclaghlan and Stewart.Google Scholar
  63. Rescorla, R. A. (1988). Pavlovian conditioning: It’s not what you think it is. American Psychologist, 43(3), 151.Google Scholar
  64. Rescorla, R. A., & Wagner, A. R. (1972). A theory of Pavlovian conditioning: Variations in the effectiveness of reinforcement and nonreinforcement. In A. H. Black & W. F. Prokasy (Eds.), Classical conditioning II. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.Google Scholar
  65. Robinson, E. S. (1932). Association theory to-day. New York: The Century Co.Google Scholar
  66. Schultz, W., Dayan, P., & Montague, P. R. (1997). A neural substrate of prediction and reward. Science, 275(5306), 1593–1599.Google Scholar
  67. Seligman, M. E. (1970). On the generality of the laws of learning. Psychological Review, 77(5), 406–418.Google Scholar
  68. Seligman, M. E., & Hager, J. L. (1972). Biological boundaries of learning. New York: Appleton Century Crofts.Google Scholar
  69. Shanks, D. R. (2007). Associationism and cognition: Human contingency learning at 25. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 60(3), 291–309.Google Scholar
  70. Simonton, D. K. (1999). Origins of Genius: Darwinian perspectives on creativity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  71. Skinner, B. F. (1938). The behavior of organisms. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc.Google Scholar
  72. Sloman, S. A. (1996). The empirical case for two systems of reasoning. Psychological Bulletin, 119(1), 3–22.Google Scholar
  73. Smith, E. R., & DeCoster, J. (1999). Associative and rule-based processing: A connectionist interpretation of dual-process models. In S. Chaiken & Y. Trope (Eds.), Dual-process theories in social psychology. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  74. Smith, J. D., Couchman, J. J., & Beran, M. J. (2014). Animal metacognition: A tale of two comparative psychologies. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 128(2), 115–131.Google Scholar
  75. Smith, L. B. (2000). Learning how to learn words: An associative crane. In R. M. Golinkoff, K. Hirsh-Pasek, L. Bloom, L. Smith, A. Woodward & N. Akhtar, et al. (Eds.), Becoming a word learner: A debate on lexical acquisition (pp. 51–80). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  76. Sober, E. (1998). Morgan’s cannon. In D. Cummins & C. Allen (Eds.), The evolution of mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  77. Stanovich, K. E., & West, R. F. (2000). Individual differences in reasoning: Implications for the rationality debate? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23(5), 645–665.Google Scholar
  78. Stewart, D. (1855). The collected works of Dugald Stewart. In W. Hamilton (Ed.), Edinburgh: Thomas Constable and Co.Google Scholar
  79. Stout, G. F. (1896). Analytic psychology. New York: Macmillan & Co.Google Scholar
  80. Tolman, E. C. (1948). Cognitive maps in rats and men. Psychological Review, 55(4), 189.Google Scholar
  81. Uhlmann, E. L., Poehlman, T. A., & Nosek, B. (2012). Automatic associations: Personal attitudes or cultural knowledge? In Jon D. Hanson (Ed.), Ideology, psychology, and law (pp. 228–260). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  82. Van Hamme, L. J., & Wasserman, E. A. (1994). Cue competition in causality judgments: The role of nonpresentation of compound stimulus elements. Learning and Motivation, 25(2), 127–151.Google Scholar
  83. Warren, H. C. (1921). A history of the association psychology. London: Constable and Company, Ltd.Google Scholar
  84. Watson, J. B. (1913). Psychology as the behaviorist views it. Psychological Review, 20(2), 158.Google Scholar
  85. Young, R. M. (1970). Mind, brain and adaptation in the nineteenth century: Cerebral localization and its biological context from Gall to Ferrier. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bates CollegeLewistonUSA

Personalised recommendations